If there’s one place that exemplifies the current wave of ”Instagram experiences”, the pool at Hanging Gardens of Bali might be the perfect example. Unfortunately, many seem to take the 40 minute taxi drive from Ubud and into the jungle just to grab a midday picture by the pool and have an overpriced generic hotel quality coffee in the lounge.
What they should do is fork up the money to actually stay at Hanging Gardens, and not just for one night either. Sure you can have a bucket list moment without spending to much money, but this is a magical place that you only truly experience once you’ve put away your camera and can forget the time. It was at dinner the first night we started poking ourselves and asking ”is it possible that a place like this really exists?” Looking out over the valley at night, seeing the jungle forest and realizing the amount of work that has gone into creating the resort just for us to be able to sit there made me feel special.
While the address says Ubud, the Hanging Gardens is located in the middle of the jungle in a deep valley that goes down to the Ayung river. The reception area is at the top and the spa at the bottom, with the restaurant and pool somewhere one-third from the top. Two cable cars provide transportation up and down the valley sides as the suites and facilities are spread out over quite a big altitude difference. The entire area is terassed and gardened and I can’t start to comprehend the amount of work that has gone into creating the resort.
We stayed in one of the larger suites at the highest level and best views over the valley. It consisted of an outdoor area with a sunbed, a covered lounge area, the infinity pool and two cottages. One was for the bedroom and the other a living room. The booking said it was 160 sqm, which must include the whole outdoor and indoor area since the two rooms actually felt quite cramped. We didn’t really see the point of the living room either, it would’ve been much better with a proper master bedroom instead.
The air condition wasn’t quite able to chill the room to a good sleeping temperature (or remove enough of the moisture from the air) which could possible be attributed to the straw roofs which also leaked a little during one of the nightly rain storms. I also can’t understand why they chose to install a bathtub and no proper shower in the master bathroom. I’d much prefer the private outdoor infinity pool any time of the day anyway.
But, our private pool and sunbed could be worth the price in itself. Being able to enjoy the views in solitude, take a dip when the temperature rises and just relax and unwind is a quite something.
The main pool is not too shabby either, and just like sitting in the restaurant looking over it, when you are in it seeing the sun rise you are at a magical place where it blows your mind that someone has actually built this for you to enjoy.
The pro tip is to get to the main pool when it opens at 07:00 in the morning if you want to take photos. Before that the sun haven’t climbed over the surrounding hills and it quickly becomes harsh after it has risen. So take your photos, enjoy breakfast and then leave the camera to enjoy the pool as it was meant during the morning. By lunch guests start to arrive, so after eating you might use your private pool instead.
Due to the location it’s a bit of a commitment to get into the Ubud city center, so you might as well stay at the hotel while you’re there and move to a city center hotel if you want to do other things in Ubud, such as having dinner at Locavore or having drinks at the Night Rooster. There’s a free shuttle bus going a couple of times per day, but the 40 minute drive makes it quite time consuming.
The food at Hanging Gardens is of international class and you can see that someone really cares, but the prices are steep and of international class as well. This wouldn’t be so bad apart from the fact that all other food on Bali, including truly world class experiences, are dirt cheap and available at many places. With the relative price level compared to other Bali hotels I had expected the service level to be next level, but while they tick most of the boxes there’s something missing when it comes to the attention to detail.
We lacked soap and shampoo in our bathroom when we arrived, they failed to clean our room before lunch one day even with the ”please clean” sign on the door, Jessica was greeted as ”Mr. Langberg” on the welcome card (and actually note spoken to by some of the male staff members) and then there was this soliciting for ”romantic experiences”. They have a lot to learn from Rosewood Mayakoba, where you feel that someone makes sure your entire world is just perfect.
This is not enough to make the Hanging Gardens of Bali a bad experience, far from it, but it’s not the unequivocal effortless, perfect experience I would expect at this price. It’s still a unique place and a destination that should be in the bucket list of every traveler. Just make sure you have the budget to experience it properly and don’t fret over the small details.