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June 2022

Experience a Bali You’ve Never Seen Before at Capella Ubud

We went camping in a tent in the middle of a rainforest in Bali, Indonesia, and it’s not what we imagined it would be like. Capella Ubud tells an adventurous fictional story in which you are one of the protagonists, and the story stays on your mind even after you return to reality.

We clasped our hands in front of our chests and closed our eyes, as the Culturist whispered words of blessings in Bahasa as she sprinkled holy water over our heads. “Are you ready,” she asked, and handed us walking sticks. “Let me bring you on an orientation of the Camp. Be careful of your steps and follow me.”

With excitement and trepidation, we walked in single file behind her as we navigated cobbled pathways, steep inclines, and wet mud slopes. Past the entrance, we were greeted with a large expanse of foliage and greenery, and although it was drizzling slightly, birdsong was echoing around us from above. The path was winding and undulating, and stopping to admire the scenery for a few seconds meant that I would lose sight of the Culturist as she turned a corner. I hurried to keep up, nearly slipping down the steps.

At last, the Culturist stopped in front of a wooden gate well-hidden behind a wall of leafy trees. Above the gate, the sign read, “The Horn Collector’s Tent”. The Culturist pushed the gate open, revealing a wooden suspension bridge that lead to a large, sturdy hut. “Welcome to your tent,” she said ceremoniously, before making her way across the bridge.

Image of the lobby from Capella Ubud, Bali Image of the landscape from Capella Ubud, Bali Capella Ubud BaliThe wooden suspension bridge leading to our tent

Most people know what to expect when they visit Bali – amazing Uluwatu sunsets, happening Seminyak beach clubs, soothing Ubud rice fields… Despite knowing exactly what they’ll see, international and domestic tourists flock to Bali every year to revisit during the peak seasons, and it will be difficult to find a self-proclaimed lover of travel in Singapore who hasn’t been to the Land of the Gods.

Well, I am one such person.

Because I have heard and seen so much of Bali from friends who make their annual “Eat, Pray, Love, and get Really Drunk” pilgrimage there, I didn’t think there would be anything new for me to discover. I am, however, a big fan of architecture and interior design, so when an opportunity to visit Capella Ubud presented itself, I knew I had to make this trip happen.

Bill Bensley is the architect and designer behind more than 200 of the hospitality industry’s most beautiful and interesting luxury properties. After walking for the first time into one of his projects several years ago, I became a big fan. You always knew you were in a Bill Bensley project because it feels like you have stepped into a different, fantasy world. As a follower on his Instagram, I watched as he posted updates about Capella Ubud, all the way until its opening in 2018. All his projects are special, but Capella Ubud is especially so because it is his first tent-style property.

I know what you’re thinking now. You don’t wanna fly to Bali for your honeymoon just to go “glamping” in a tent. Let’s start over.

Refined Tent-Style Camping

Image of Capella Ubud from across the valley from Capella Ubud, Bali Capella Ubud BaliImage of a tent shrouded by foliage from Capella Ubud, Bali

Capella Ubud is a 23-tent luxury property hidden within the village of Keliki in Ubud, Bali. Resting gently upon lush green forests, the tents are built “around the forest”, meaning that there was minimal intervention to the flora that already exists during the construction of the Camp. Apparently, not a single tree was cut, nor was the existing contours of the landscape altered, resulting in a property that is fully integrated with the forest.

All the tents in the Camp are one-bedrooms, except for one two-bedroom Lodge that can host families or up to 5 people. Unlike the typical tents you see at Camp sites, the tents at Capella Ubud are inspired by the living quarters of early European settlers in mid-1800s Bali, with themes like The Photographer’s Tent and The Baker’s Tent, so no two tents are alike. You step on smooth, dimpled teak floors instead of the hard ground. Each air-conditioned tent has a large living area and an oversized four poster bed, as well as a spacious “ensuite” and its very own outdoor shower area. Beyond the spacious deck is a good-sized private salt water pool that boasts spectacular, unspoilt views.

Depending on which part of the forest your tent is situated, you are either treated to a view overlooking the rainforest or rice terraces, on flat or sloped terrain, or located near the Wos river, and at no point will you feel you are in a “tent” because of how beautifully decorated each tent is and how pampered you are with Capella Ubud’s curated, organic amenities. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong at all to call it a “villa”.

Our neighbour, the photographer Our tent Image of Keliki Valley Tent from Capella Ubud, Bali Image of Keliki Valley Tent from Capella Ubud, Bali Image of Keliki Valley Tent from Capella Ubud, Bali Image of Keliki Valley Tent from Capella Ubud, Bali Image of Terrace Tent from Capella Ubud, Bali Outdoor shower built around a tree Capella Ubud BaliHand-carved wooden doors

Unlike a typical hotel room, sleeping tent-style means going to bed with the chorus of crickets and waking up with sunlight peeping through the Balinese hand-carved wooden doors. You are surrounded by nature, with only thick, colourfully printed canvas between you and the elements. On our first night there, we were treated to a one-hour head, shoulder and foot massage. I fell asleep midway through and didn’t even hear the therapists leave. I did wake up a while later, as the night was still young, to take in the view of the tent at night and enjoy a few cups of chamomile tea they had prepared before they left.

We were also able to view the two-bedroom Lodge while we were there. The Lodge is very spacious, with a living area, a master bedroom and a twin bedroom, both with their own ensuite bathrooms featuring a wooden bathtub and a hand-hammered copper bathtub. There is even a heated indoor pool, and a view of the Keliki Valley. It’s perfect not only for a small family, but also a super luxurious hen’s party! Think Araminta-style bachelorette party in Crazy Rich Asians, except more intimate. You can bond over a spa session or sign up for a more adventurous activity with the Camp Culturist, then spend the night away making your own cocktails with the fully-stocked bar in the tent.

Activities and programmes at Capella Ubud

Although it is perfectly fine to stay within your tent all day—you can spend an entire afternoon exploring the refurbished vintage furniture and art objects sourced from second-hand craft stores and upcycled by Bill Bensley’s team—there are many adventures you can experience within and outside of the Camp. Capella Ubud also curates unique and immersive experiences for anyone (you don’t have to be an in-house guest) to experience the different cultures and heritage of the many villages in and around Ubud. You get to decide what you want to do, whether it’s trekking or biking around Keliki, or creating your own unique Keliki-style painting at Keliki Art School, or hand-picking ingredients from the in-house Organic Garden to make Jamu with the locals.

We slathered on the sunscreen and went on a customised guided tour around Keliki and its neighbouring villages with a Camp Ranger in a 1970s classic Volkswagen Safari. The friendly and knowledgeable Camp Ranger is an Ubud native, so he was able to give us eye-opening details and insights about the village that we would never be able to find online anywhere. We stopped at quiet village-owned rice terraces, watched rice harvesters in the fields, visited one of the oldest temples in Bali, and trekked through uncharted paths to our last stop, a secret picnic location with the view of a hidden valley.

Image from Capella Ubud, Bali Driving out of Keliki Village Farmers harvesting rice the old-fashioned way Our vintage Volkswagen Safari parked outside Bali’s most revered Temple Picnic at a hidden spot high up a valley after some trekking Capella Ubud BaliThoughtful and delicious menu prepared by Capella Ubud, Bali

If you prefer a private and romantic experience for your honeymoon, there is a 24-hour Confined to Quarters programme that involves a Balinese blessing ceremony at your tent deck, a two-hour relaxing and Chakra-balancing massage, an in-tent feast, and ending the next morning with a purification ritual performed at the sacred Wos River located within the premises. Imagine spending 24 hours in solace together, away from distractions, immersed in nature.

Capella Ubud BaliImage from Capella Ubud, Bali Auriga Wellness Capella Ubud BaliSpa tent for a couple

Immersive Dining Options

The easiest-to-spot landmark inside the Camp is the two-level restaurant Mads Lange, named in honour of Mads Johansen Lange, one of the first Dutch settlers in Bali whose entrepreneurship and mediation skills during the Dutch Expedition earned him the nickname, the White King of Bali. The menu is not extensive, but the culinary team, helmed by Chef Nicola Russo, has managed to curate a very palatable range of dishes sourced sustainably from the nearby farms and waters, with many organic ingredients taken from their own Organic Garden.

Around the corner from Mads Lange and just beside The Cistern (the big, shared pool) is the Mortar and Pestle Bar. If you’d like a change of environment from your tent, you can hang out in the pool and have the bartender mix you a bespoke cocktail or their signature, The Cucumber Rita.

One of our most memorable after-dinner activity was hanging out at The Campfire, right behind Mads Lange. An expert at campfire building will start up a fire quickly while you watch silent black and white movies depicting Bali in the 1800s. Once the fire is ready, you can toast marshmallows while you enjoy the films or simply gaze into the crackling fire. The pulled hot chocolate was one of the best I’ve ever had!

Breakfast at Mads Lange Image of Cistern and Mortar & Pestle from Capella Ubud, Bali Image of Mortar & Pestle from Capella Ubud, Bali Preparing our drinks The Camp Fire Capella Ubud BaliImage from Capella Ubud, Bali

We also spent some time on both days at The Officer’s Tent, the social heart of the Camp. The charmingly decorated tent is where you can spend time in the evening socialising with fellow campers (like the Baker or the Librarian) and indulging in pre-dinner cocktails and canapés, courtesy of Capella Ubud. You can also stop by The Officer’s tent in-between activities to cool down from the heat and have some tea.

Spend a few hours reading at The Officer’s Tent if it’s raining outside Or socialise with fellow campers Complimentary canapés when you hang out at The Officer’s Tent Capella Ubud Bali

In other words, you will not go hungry and your options are plenty!

Even if you don’t intend to spend a night or two in Capella Ubud, you can still get to experience the picturesque landscape of the Camp. On our first night there, we spotted a couple having a three-hour photography session within the premises. A basic Beauty In The Wilderness package (IDR 3000,000++) includes use of one of the tents, food and beverage credits, access to the Camp grounds, and the assistance of a Wedding Whisperer if you’re thinking of having a pre-wedding shoot there. I think it’s a really good deal! If you’re honeymooning somewhere else on Bali, you can still dine at any of the restaurants inside Capella Ubud or book a spa treatment at Auriga Wellness. If you want to get to know Bali better with the expertise of Capella Ubud, book one of their experience from Capella Curates.

Because of my stay in Capella Ubud, I read up about Bali’s history and became fascinated with her glorious past. If it weren’t for Bill Bensley who pushed for this “out-the-box” concept and for Capella to embrace his vision, Capella Ubud would have been just one of the many beautiful but conventional luxury properties you can find in Bali, and what a waste it would have been! One of my favourite memories of Capella Ubud is waking up at sunrise and watching the mist from the across the valley make its way rhythmically towards me, as if it were putting on a traditional Balinese dance. If you don’t want beach parties and white-walled villas for your honeymoon and are ready for a fantastical adventure of the mind and soul, an experience at Capella Ubud is exactly what you need.

Floating Breakfast at your tent upon request Capella Ubud Bali

Starting price for Capella Ubud, Bali is USD 916 +21% tax and service charge per night at the One-Bedroom Terrace Tent, and USD 3,120 + 21% tax and service charge per night at the Two-Bedroom Lodge. Outside visitors may also visit Capella Ubud for dining, as well as the spa at Auriga Wellness, and many of their cultural experiences from Capella Curates. A basic Beauty In The Wilderness pre-wedding photography package (IDR 3000,000++) includes use of one of the tents, food and beverage credits, access to the Camp grounds, and the assistance of a Wedding Whisperer. If you’re thinking of hosting a wedding at Capella Ubud, you can check out the offer here. For more information, email [email protected].

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Featured image courtesy of Capella Ubud, Bali.

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