Step into Tugu hotel and you step into romance and history. Designed to bring the romantic and forgotten tales of Java and Bali back to life, Tugu has certainly fulfilled its objective. From the friendly staff, tranquil surrounds and astonishing displays of artefacts and antiques one can easily drift off and get lost in the romance of it all. As one who loves both history and romance, to say I was delighted to be there would be an understatement.
Tugu is one of five hotels owned by an Indonesian businessman who has a passion for both his country and the arts. He has been collecting art and antiques since the 1960’s and subsequently, Tugu is home to one of the largest original art collections in South East Asia. I was blown away by the majesty of the décor, with chairs which once were seats for royalty and a completely restored ceiling of an ancient Chinese temple. It seemed that around every corner there was a touch of magic and nostalgia.
The main building, the Bale Agung, features a distinctive architecture inspired by a secluded village in Central Bali, whereas some of the public areas are original hundreds-years-old structures moved in entirety into the property.
The waterways linking the buildings and lining the footpaths are alive with hundreds of Koi and I am told that according to Feng Shui principles, if you were to keep Koi, they should be in multiples of nine. There are only twenty suites, which ensures both exclusivity and a very personalised experience. Housed in individual buildings tucked in lush tropical gardens and natural lotus ponds facing the Indian Ocean, each suite has a charm and elegance all its own.
With their traditional thatched-roofs, the grounds appear as a tranquil Balinese seaside village of days gone by. All ground floor suites (Dedari Suites) have a private plunge pool and open air bathroom and my goodness, how beautiful these are. Second floor suites (Rejang Suites) have ocean-views and a private spa area with a unique sunken tub. I was sold at the sunken tub, even though I had injured my ankle and had to climb stairs to get to it, I was in love with this room. As you enter, the smell of the sea, wood and frangipani assails your senses and you are at once on holiday. Nothing about Tugu is expected, it is not modern in the sense of the word but all modern amenities are available. But why would anyone want it to be, the charm and romance of Tugu is exactly as it should be. The small details, like having the sink and bathtub half filled with water and floating frangipani and the Kinangan box on the patio have you feeling like you’re in a period movie. The Kinangan box is a box of dried tobacco, betel leaf and injet (white chalk), this is based on an old tradition of chewing tobacco which we are told is addictive and makes your mouth red. Of course, my beloved just had to try, after two chews he could not wait to spit it out.
There are two other suites on the property – red Puri Le Mayeur villa is dedicated to the passionate love story between the Belgian painter Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, who made Bali his home in 1932, and the model of his paintings, the famous, beautiful Legong dancer Ni Polok. Ni Polok was his muse who later became his wife and In order to preserve her beauty, she never bore any children. With it’s large, red-canopied-living room, a romantic bedroom, a semi-outdoor bath, a long balcony, a plunge pool and a sundeck for two. The Puri Le Mayeur is roughly 200 m2 which ‘floats’ on about 700 m2 of natural lotus pond, with view of the breaking waves and the burning sunset, where the sky meets the Indian Ocean. Through a bridge, Puri Le Mayeur is connected to an intimate dining hut for two, alone above the lotus pond, only lit by torches and candles.
The Walter Spies Pavilion is dedicated to the legendary artist Walter Spies, who had lived in Kampoeng Djojodipoeran in Jogjakarta between 1924 and 1927, and contributed greatly to Balinese art. In this suite one finds various memorabilia of Walter Spies, such as his old camera, his paintings, pictures of his youth , original letters to his family members in Germany, and others. In contrast with the passionate Puri Le Mayeur, the artful Walter Spies Pavilion is romantically subtle, characterized by the art deco era of Central Java. The Walter Spies Pavilion has a private plunge pool, an outdoor dining pavilion, a private garden and a beautiful outdoor bath.
Tugu Hotel is a special place, not only for its collection of art, beautiful setting and fabulous staff, but it has a certain feel to it that cannot be explained. Sure, if you’re looking for modern, high tech, glass and mirrors you are not going to find it here. But, if you’re looking for an experience, a trip into the heart of Balinese culture and something so different and unusual you would be hard pressed to replicate the experience, Tugu is a must stay.
Even their meal options are different, you can choose where you want to dine. From a secluded dining room just off the Bale Agung, or a private dining room with chairs fit for a king in the Bali Puputan, a dining area decorated and styled with antiques from Balinese royalty some dating as far back as the Puputan wars which were fought against the Dutch who had occupied Bali,
or a romantic picnic dinner entitled “Aphrodisiac” on a comfortable bed outside on the grass facing the ocean with the wind in your hair and a private waiter to attend your every need and so many more and each with an air of indulgence, unique in its own way. We chose the picnic dinner and were not disappointed, in fact, my husband loved it so much he says he will recommend to any visitor to Bali to try and book the dinner even if you’re not staying at the hotel. We also had the opportunity to dine at Ji, the newly opened Japanese restaurant in the hotel overlooking the street.
Tugu is an experience not a hotel, a place to allow yourself to drift off into a different reality not a destination, a sensual and exotic embrace that leaves you with a feeling of peace and tranquility where your senses and imagination come alive and one we thoroughly enjoyed. Tugu is pretty popular amongst American and European visitors so early booking is advised.
I must admit though, that it makes me a little sad that with all the development going on in Canggu, Tugu is also bearing a bit of the brunt of it, as a restaurant is being built almost right on their property, almost obscuring some of the views and beach vendors renting out loungers have taken up occupancy on the beach right outside the hotel. As all beaches in Bali are public beaches, there is not much that can be done about it, but still, it seems that these intrusions are interfering with the idyllic ambience that Tugu represents.