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KeithMEL 25th March 2011 12:15 PM

W Retreat & Spa, Bali
Seductive, glamourous, fantastical, and totally electric... welcome to the latest chapter in the Worldwide WOW sensation that is W Hotels, the all new W Retreat & Spa Bali. Central to all that is trendy, happening and SO now and surrounded by all that is 'it', the W is set to be rockin' Seminyak's premier playground to see and be seen at.








Report coming soon...! :)

KeithMEL 25th March 2011 04:53 PM

Serious Wheels
As the W was rather new, we thought it’s best to organise an airport transfer to guarantee our arrival at the resort with minimal fuss. A VIP Arrival service to bypass the queues for Visa on Arrival and immigration was also offered for a nominal fee but we didn't feel that this was necessary as we arrived rather late into the evening, and thankfully we were right as we simply breezed through the arrival formalities. The W has a big fleet of cars, ranging from BMW X5s to the more humble Toyota Innovas. Wanting to start our trip in serious style, we booked the X5 for USD49 for a one way transfer.

We were met at the arrival hall by a W staff member holding up an iPad emblazoned with the W’s name, which I thought was a totally cute touch. He seemed to know who we were even prior to any introduction. We were soon whisked along to Wonderland in our X5, customised with little W touches like apples, W branded bottles of water, a selection of reading material, and wet wipes. The ride to the W in Seminyak took approximately 35 minutes, and driving in Indonesia is certainly inadvisable for the faint hearted!



Seminyak – Whimsical ‘it’ capital of Bali
A cool zone of style, trends and happenings, what better place to open a W than Seminyak? An eclectic selection of fine dining is within a short car ride from the W, as are a vast array of top drawer cocktail bars and designer nightclubs. Evening cocktails in the sunset at Ku de Ta is a must-do and a mere 5-10 minutes’ (depending on traffic) drive away (alternatively you can walk along the beach which can be faster but I’d rather cab it as the beach is rather dirty in parts), follow up with the sick foie gras menu along with an extensive wine list at Metis and more cocktail bar hopping, and you’re all set for a massive night at The Living Room (not to be confused with a W Living Room which must have been re-named W Lounge here for that very reason) well into dawn. Stay in Ubud if you’re a culture vulture, Nusa Dua if simply wanting to be comatose, or Kuta if completely lacking in taste or class or just want to observe bogans on their first overseas trip made possible by a Jetstar *Jetsaver fare – but if you want to have a damn good time Seminyak is ‘it.’

*OK I do own up to flying Jetstar but in StarClass at least. Suffice to say that if Qantas Platinum benefits weren’t in the picture, and StarClass wasn’t on sale – we’d have strongly considered Garuda in J

Warm Welcome
Upon our arrival, we were met by the Night Manager and his assistants, and greeted enthusiastically by our first names – the relaxed, familiar and down to earth style is what I love about Ws rather than the stifling deference and genteel affectations one often gets at too many luxury hotels. We were led to the W Lounge for a welcome drink. If you get the Rolls Royce, apparently their signature cocktail, be prepared for a liberal dash of alcomahol – it is STRONG! It was certainly a fab welcome! The W Lounge was completely dead on a Thursday evening, possibly because the resort had only opened 9 days before and hadn’t yet spread the word about its delish cocktails and wicked DJing. We felt so sorry for the DJ who was spinning his tunes to no one and would’ve stayed a while but all the booze on the flight conspired with the Rolls Royce to render us completely knackered. We’d hoped that the weekend would see more action at the bar. We were offered a tour of the hotel but declined as it was getting rather late.



A good thing that the bar was so empty I suppose, as we were looking rather bedraggled after putting up with Jetstar’s stuff-ups (that’ll be a whole thread in itself).

We booked the one bedroom Fantastic Villa Retreat at a fantastic promo rate of USD299. A smart marketing decision – we were told how they wanted to get people talking and spread the buzz about their villas. Check-in formalities were completed in-villa. We were ferried to the villa in a buggy along with our luggage (or rather the OH’s luggage as mine were left in Melbourne by Jetstar!), and along the way we were wondering if we’d need a map to navigate our way out of the complex as it seemed like we went a long way. We later found out that we went down a rather convoluted path, presumably because there are designated routes for the buggy on safety grounds.

We arrived at our villa and found my Facebook profile picture in a nice little photo frame along with a personal note from one of the W Insiders! I thought this was totally trippy! I’d liked their Facebook group to keep tabs on the property and posted on its wall a few times, and they must have put 2 and 2 together. These Insiders really live up to their job title. Our welcome amenity was a mad DIY cocktail set which we thought was pretty cool.



More to come. Up next:
Wow Style
Let’s get WET
Who are the hotties?
Who wants grub?
Woo, wink and sip

UMD 25th March 2011 09:10 PM

What a report! It has been a while since we have the privilege of reading any TR from KeithMel. Keep it coming!

W Seminyak looks very nice. Love the idea of having our own facebook profile picture greeting us in the room. Wish it had been open back in December when I was visiting Bali.

CHG89 27th March 2011 07:40 PM

Another classic Keithmel TR. Really enjoy reading it and don't keep us waiting too long for the next instalment.

KeithMEL 28th March 2011 10:11 AM

Wow Style
In keeping with Bali’s casual vibe, the W is laidback and comfy. Yet in the hip surrounds of Seminyak and in line with its design-focussed provenance, the W is also infused with a playful, fun-tastic and fashionable touch. The look is clean line, contemporary and cool, which should come as no surprise if you’re familiar with the brand’s signature style. Local features are incorporated subtly and tastefully, and certainly not to the point of being chintzy like the wood-heavy, quaint designs in other Balinese hotels. The design is steadfastly and unashamedly culturally agnostic. You do feel like you’re hanging out in the hottest WeHo nightspot, with little cutesy, tropical, ‘exotic country’ features to remind you that you’re somewhere different. Ws have certainly encapsulated the desires of a significant niche amongst travellers like yours truly – we simply want fashionable design and gourmet cuisine. We party hard and even harder when travelling. The brand is a successful convergence of the typical boutique design hotel experience and the functionality of a large chain hotel. The W is in many ways a destination unto itself. Glitz up Seminyak even more with international and avant garde fashion boutiques Robertson Avenue and Rodeo Drive stylie and I could literally live in the W. (In fact, their villas are actually available for purchase!)

The magic begins as you cruise up the rather lengthy picturesque driveway. The W tells you to ‘escape hectic philosophies’ and you do feel like you’re leaving the mundane behind and entering your own secret, magical hideout. Every cab driver we had, whilst undoubtedly annoyed by time spent driving up and down the long driveway, were simply blown away by the W and there were lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as they navigated the driveway up to the main building.




The W Lounge has rather a nice, chilled out vibe with a reassuring amount of glitz and whimsical touches like hanna paintings on the ceiling, wind chimes and the funky egg couch. The W Lounge is in-touch with natural elements –bathed in natural light as well as refreshed by the sea breeze.








KeithMEL 28th March 2011 10:12 AM

Our Fantastic Villa Retreat (translation: one bedroom villa) is similarly set up to capture natural light. The design religiously follows the latest trends in home decor, and incorporates natural elements like granite in the bathroom. Ample space all round – you can swing a cat in the massive bathroom. Super comfy bed. However I felt that the designer could have been more daring, like introducing more vivid colours as in the W Lounge rather than the rather soft, neutral tones used. Like the W Hong Kong, they’re generous with Bliss sinkside six amenities with large 125ml bottles supplied daily with another miniature set in the shower.










KeithMEL 28th March 2011 10:22 AM

Let’s get WET
The best bit of the villa was of course its private 49sqm infinity pool! We loved the daybed by the pool, a classic Balinese feature that’s been stylishly incorporated and re-interpreted W style. The set up was perfect for an arvo of lounging around in the sun when too lazy to do anything else. The large, purple W beach towels were liberally supplied and replaced daily.



Alternatively, for some people watching, head to WET which features several beautifully landscaped pools with stylish water features. ICE bar ensures that guests by the pool are suitably hydrated by providing an uninterrupted flow of yummy cocktails.







KeithMEL 28th March 2011 10:36 AM

Who are the superstars?
Every member of the staff treated us like absolute rockstars! It is hard to single any of them out. From WHEELS to the W Lounge to the concierge to the restaurants, the service and attention we received from start to end was nothing short of flawless. It is especially impressive when you consider that the resort had only opened less than 2 weeks prior!

The 2 W Insiders went out of their way to make our visit as fun and eventful as possible. They’d planned our daily itineraries and made some great suggestions on things to do or see, and the best restaurants and bars to go to. They were also very easy to talk to. We’d canvassed topics as diverse as travel, Louis Vuitton, interior design, our fave nightspots – they could easily become your new BFFs or at least drinking buddies. They really lived up to their job title of ‘Insiders’ by knowing the ins and outs of their guests with their gutsy and ‘can do’ attitudes – being welcomed by my own Facebook profile picture was truly on the cutting edge of wow and demonstrates some great intuitiveness. We were also given interesting insights into the Retreat’s design features and their passion for their work shone through with their enthusiasm.

Special mention must also go to Whatever/Whenever who looked after us proactively. As I mentioned previously, Jetstar had left my luggage behind in Melbourne. One of the Whatever/Whenever phone agents made sure I had something fresh to wear by providing a set of fresh clothing, compliments of W The Store. The concierge staff liaised with DPS ground staff in ensuring the swift return of my suitcase and provided regular updates.


Members of the Retreat’s senior management were also keen to impress. I wasn’t sure whether it’s because of my SPG Platinum status or because we were villa guests, but all were very concerned to see how we were doing.

We also did a day tour to Ubud and Tanah Lot for some sightseeing and were able to book a 6 hour tour with our own driver in a BMW X5, per an itinerary carefully constructed by one of the Insiders. We loved the attention and constant stares as we cruised about in our BMW, and the size of the X5 made us feel rather safe in the midst of Bali’s rather, um, thrilling drivers, and our driver managed to deftly maneuver his way through the perilous looking roads and menacing drivers. There’s a saying amongst expat Aussies that sane drivers don’t get anywhere in Bali, which is rather sage advice – not that either of us are planning to try driving any time soon in Bali! Our drivers also kept us entertained along the way with indepth and knowledgeable explanations of stuff we saw. As Bali is massive and it took at least an hour to 90 minutes to get between destinations, we were also comfortably supplied with quality magazines like GQ (US edition – personally I think the production value of the US edition is far inferior to the Aussie one edited by the fab Nick Smith and his capable team).


KeithMEL 28th March 2011 10:52 AM

Who wants grub?
The W has 2 fab restaurants on its premises – Fire and Starfish Bloo. We tried them both for brekky.

Fire had a nice, cozy feel. Breakfast goes from 6.30-10.30am daily, and we actually managed to wake up in time for it on the first morning of our stay, having gone to bed early the night we arrived. As you arrive, you get to choose your own cute little coffee mug. The cuisine was electic, and like all Asian hotels had an amazing egg station that made the best poached eggs. Some of the options were a bit odd for breakfast, such as duck curry, but maybe the locals like heavy brekkies. At 300 000 Rupiah per pax for an All You Can Eat spread, the cost is in line with most high end hotel breakfasts but the quality choices and ingredients made the price rather reasonable.


Whereas Fire is homely and warm, Starfish Bloo is breezy, chillaxed and uptempo. We tried Starfish Bloo for Sunday Brunch, and enjoyed the creations of chef Jack Yoss. Brunch was once again All You Can Eat Style, with additional items that can be ordered ala carte (but included in the advertised cost). The staff kept piling us with food to ensure that we could hardly walk out of the restaurant by the end of Brunch! The cuisine was once again electic, and ranged from from croissant with foie gras, to cured Iberico ham, to black truffle porridge with pork or lobster (alas no lobster for me – aren’t shellfish allergies super annoying or what?!), to both Asian and local faves. Oh and one of the best eggs Benedict I’ve ever had! Sunday Brunch was truly several different kinds of awesome, and both Jack and the Director of F&B (a delightful Scottish chap named Ian) must be congratulated for putting out such an impeccable spread. Washed down of course with an unlimited and liberal supply of bubbly and wine.







KeithMEL 28th March 2011 11:02 AM

Woo, wink and sip
If you choose not to imbibe at Ku de Ta, the W Lounge is simply the place to be in the evenings. Abundant views of the beach mean unhindered spectacles of beautiful sunsets, weather permitting. Sip on delightful cocktails like the powerful Rolls Royce or my personal fave the uber yummylicious Lavender Martini whilst you watch the sun disappear behind the horizons. It’s the perfect prelude to a night out in party central Seminyak. The vibe was a little subdued however, as there were no more than a handful of guests at the W Lounge at any one time, and on more than one occasion it was just the pair of us. However it is still early days and hopefully in due course the W Lounge will attract a big crowd of regulars and ensure its status as a happening place to be.




Unfortunately Woo Bar, located right by Seminyak Beach, wasn’t open in time for our visit but it promises multi storeys of pumping nightlife. With such renowned venues as Ku de Ta, Huu Bar, SOS or The Living Room nearby, WooBar has massive shoes to fill. But I’m confident that in time, with the amount of talent and energy put into the W, WooBar will draw the crowds and give the other venues a serious sprint for their money. Situated next to WET, I can see WooBar hosting many a glamourous pool party.


KeithMEL 28th March 2011 11:07 AM

As with any brand new hotels that are in the early stages of opening, the W did suffer from some teething problems that guests that are planning to visit in the short term should take note of. A lot of these have been passed on to senior management and were either resolved immediately or assurances that they’ll be fixed in due course were given. It has to be stressed that the basic product is simply fabulous, and these minor issues are inherent to most hotels in their opening days.

- The water pressure was rather low, rendering the rainforest shower pointless. We also ran out of hot water on the first morning of our stay but this was immediately fixed upon complaint.

- The night lights in the bathroom were a bit too bright. They’re designed to be a helpful feature to ensure that klutzes like myself do not trip over stuff or end up with bruised knees on the way to the toilet (voice of experience), but the OH is a light sleeper and found the night lights excessively bright. The staff responded by modifying the lights in such a way that the lights in the bathroom were eliminated and only our under bed lights turned on.

- The path to the villa was quite poorly illuminated, with a complete absence of light in some bits. This can be rather dangerous given the uneven and stony floorings.

- We tried to place a reverse charge call to AMEX in Australia to enquire about our level of travel insurance coverage for delayed luggage, but staff at WIRED had no clue as to the number for Indonesia’s international operator. We ended up using my cell and thus incurred global roaming charges.

- As abovementioned, W Lounge was rather quiet and thus the vibe was a little un-W. But understandably, it’s still early days and the W has to work on spreading the buzz.

- As the W is rather new, a small number of cab drivers (probably about 15%) aren't aware of where it’s located. As is conventional in Bali, street numbers aren’t used. To direct cab drivers to the Retreat, simply tell them to go down Petitenget and the Retreat is located next to Barcode and BCCO.

- Like every other new hotel in their early days, staff can be overenthusiastic. Having to answer to “Hello, how are you? How’s your stay?” a million times in a row got a little exhausting. But in time, with more experience and confidence, I am sure the enthusiasm will come a little more naturally.

- The W vehicles played the W CDs (The Sounds of Wonderlust and Symmetry) on a constant loop and this got very old especially as we own both albums along with Warmth of Cool. A better suggestion would be to take advantage of the BMW’s iPod connectivity or hard disc space, and have one of the staff spend some time each month to upload new music for long car journeys.

- At the risk of opening a can of worms, sparkling wine rather than champagne at Sunday Brunch is unacceptable, given the massive additional premium for alcohol.

So what’s the deal?
Despite the minor teething problems, the W Retreat & Spa, Bali has to be lauded for putting out such a top drawer product and extending the brilliance of Worldwide WOW to this corner of the world. As someone who’s passionate about the success of the W brand, I wish the team well in spreading the word and making the W the number 1 choice for travellers to Seminyak.

As I persevere in my overly ambitious goal of covering all Ws around the world, which has been made more and more impossible by the brand’s ever expanding portfolio, I am at least ecstatic to be able to sample my first W Retreat&Spa – a fab concept that turns pre-conceived notions of a resort on its head. Perhaps sampling all W Retreat&Spas instead is a more achievable goal... which is why after such a fantastic experience with the W Bali we’ve immediately inserted the W Maldives next on our list of Ws to check out!

So rad, so fab, so hip, and so totally and utterly NOW and WOW... the W Bali is ‘it.’

Until next time!

calvinoeh 28th March 2011 12:19 PM

Thanks for sharing! Love the "facebook picture" touch. That's something very unique..

kaysquare 28th March 2011 03:39 PM

An excellent writeup, Keith! Thanks for posting this TR!

jhm 29th March 2011 06:25 AM

Thanks very much for the writeup and pics, Keith! :smile:

IIRC, the W Maldives is somewhat more subdued (less like the W brand as shown in the pics above) but I will look forward to your thoughts when you go there.

Re reverse charge call: couldn't you have simply used Skype on your laptop ?

KeithMEL 29th March 2011 06:32 AM


Originally Posted by jhm (Post 144100)
Re reverse charge call: couldn't you have simply used Skype on your laptop ?

That completely slipped my mind...:redface: Also we were going to head straight out after brekky and weren't inclined to go all the way back to the villa.

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