by Nicola Trup, The Independent, March 31, 2017
Concrete might not seem the obvious choice of building material for a hotel amid the lush green hills of Bali, but that’s part of Bisma Eight’s attraction – it combines the traditional with the unexpected.
Designed by Singapore architect Jasper Chia, the building is unapologetically grey and blocky – you won’t find any thatched villas here, but there’s still plenty of Indonesian charm. Art exhibitions and low-key soft furnishings are the perfect foil to the angular lobby’s raw concrete walls – as is the shrine to Hindu elephant-god Ganesh, to which guests are encouraged to make an offering of flowers at check-in. Yes, it’s a bit Eat Pray Love, but a nice touch all the same.
Adjoining the lobby is The Library, a coffee shop serving excellent flat whites surrounded by shelves of books you can borrow and swap.
Meals are served upstairs in Copper Restaurant and Bar, which boasts vast terraces if you fancy dining outside. There are often special dining experiences with set menus – on my visit this meant a farm-to-fork theme, with delicately cooked dishes like tuna sashimi and aubergine with tamarind relish.
Every Friday the bar hosts a free cocktail hour for hotel guests – apparently to give them the chance to raise any gripes with the managers, but in reality a great chance to sip a lychee martini and have a few canapés on the terrace as you watch the sunset.
Bisma Eight’s most spectacular feature, though, has to be its infinity pool, which – thanks to the hilly location – comes complete with views over the jungle-clad valley below. All you need is a fresh coconut from the poolside bar and you’re living the tropical holiday dream.
The hotel is a 10-minute walk from the heart of Ubud, a busy tourist town that – for now – is just the right side of commercialised. The hotel also offers a free transfer, though given the traffic this can often take longer than walking.
If you want to pick up some souvenirs, elephant-print trousers or cheap sunnies, the huge market should be your port of call, but if you have an aversion to tat and you’d rather escape the crowds, it’s easy to do so by bike or on foot.
There’s a short signposted loop through the rice terraces, which starts down JL Kaleng. Stop off along the way for a fresh juice or a snack at Sweet Orange Warung, a lovely open-air cafe in the fields. Prefer more dramatic views? Opt for the slightly longer Campuhan Ridge Walk.
For dinner, Warung Biah Biah is cheap and cheerful, with a relaxed, friendly vibe and brilliant food – try the lawar sayur (vegetables tossed with coconut and spices) or tempe satay.
The entry-level Garden Suites and Canopy Suites overlook the hotel grounds, while the larger Forest Suites come with sweeping views of the jungle-clad hillside. Interiors are traditionally-inspired, but modern: think dark wood and rattan-panelled cabinets alongside low-rise sofas and statement lamps. Carved sliding doors separate living room from bedroom, and bedroom from bathroom. Speaking of the bathroom – the huge wooden barrel of a bath is an unexpected addition, and one that’s definitely worth trying once. I say once, because it’s so big it takes around 45 minutes to fill.
Bisma Eight, 68 JL Bisma, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia (00 62 361 479 2888; bisma-eight.com). Doubles from £160, B&B. STA Travel (statravel.co.uk) offers one-stop flights from Gatwick to Bali Denpasar starting at £349.
Access: 28 wheelchair-accessible rooms