Mulia Resort in Bali opened its doors in 2012. Less than 1 year later it won the coveted Condé Nast Traveler USA - Readers' Choice Awards for #1 Beach Resort in the World.
Ummm… is that cray cray or is just me?
How does a brand new independent resort in an uber-competitive location like Bali instantly stand out as not only this island’s most prestigious beach resort, but the entire world?
That question has been plaguing me since I first heard about Mulia Resort, and I’ve been yearning to experience this resort first hand so I could find out if the frothy hype matched steak-on-the-plate reality.
Well… I can say it sure did.
Now that could be the end of this article, but it would be a pretty short and boring article. So for your reading pleasure, I’ve expanded on my experiences. Here’s what 2 nights in world’s best beach resort really looks like.
Hold on, hold on. Before you get your #baligasm on, I just need to reiterate that the awards Mulia Resort has won aren’t from some rinky-dinky no-name websites or organisations. These are widely respected travel industry juggernauts - Condé Nast Traveler, CNN, Travel Weekly, TripAdvisor, FlightNetwork, Travel&Leisure, ForbesLife, Agoda, and Booking.com amongst many others.
Ok, you get the idea. On with the show.
Let’s Get This Straight
Now, the first thing that confused me was the name. I’d read about “The Mulia” and “Mulia Resort”. Was this the same place or different one? I tried reading TripAdvisor forums and fellow travellers were equally confused. Turns out there are 3 different luxury properties in 1 location. All of this is spread over 30 hectares along the coast of Nusa Dua.
Mulia Resort – this luxurious resort houses the majority of the facilities (pools, gym, restaurants) and offers 526 guest rooms. Some of these have garden views, others have pool and ocean views.
The Mulia – an adjoining more private resort which offers 111 larger ultra-luxurious rooms with ocean-front vistas. It also has a separate lobby, exclusive pools, and an exclusive dining room (but these guests can use the facilities of Mulia Resort as well). Oh, and you get a personal butler. Yes, I said butler.
Mulia Villas – in a completely separate section of the property, accessible via golf cart, 108 stand-alone villas have their own private swimming pools and Jacuzzis. If this looks like where royalty stays, then you’re right. Vogue.com reported that a Middle Eastern queen stayed in the 6-bedroom Mulia Mansion villa for a month, along with her entire staff in tow. This option is the ultimate in privacy and seclusion, but naturally comes at a higher price tag. The demi-gods that grace these villas are allowed to use the facilities of Mulia Resort if they wish. After all, it’s just a golf cart ride away.
Did I Just Die And Go To Heaven?
The word “opulent” or “sophisticated” doesn’t begin to describe this 5-star luxury paradise. From the perfectly pristine white sandy beach to flawlessly manicured gardens to hand-selected artworks adorning the corridor walls, attention to detail is apparent at every turn.
Pride in Indonesian culture is reflected in the selection of tasteful pieces of furniture, paintings, sculptures and even light fittings (if it is fit to call such extravagant chandeliers “fittings”). I was quite fond of one particular sculpture near the main lobby staircase which was created from a collection of stacked sewing machines.
The iconic statues that adorn the pool area are inspired by Balinese women observing religious customs, holding an offering basket.
The décor in cuisine-specific restaurants receive a unique treatment to reflect a consistent theme. Framed decorative kimonos adorn the Japanese restaurant, Edogin. Table8, the Cantonese restaurant, features beautiful porcelain pagodas and oriental inspired flowers. Not one art piece or decoration looks out of place. And that’s quite the feat considering this is Bali’s largest resort.
Service With A Smile
Don’t get freaked out when everyone smiles and greets you all day, every day. From the pool staff to the gardeners. I noticed each one of Mulia’s 1,500 employees takes pride in their job, demonstrating the highest degree of respect and appreciation.
At each restaurant, wait staff remembered my name and dining preferences. I’ve experienced that before in a small boutique hotel, but never in a resort of this magnitude. I found that wait staff mastered the balance between making sure guest needs are met and leaving them to enjoy their meals in peace.
I stayed in the Mulia Signature Ocean Court suite, overlooking the pool area. The entire 57m2 suite felt luxurious, from ornate furniture to the custom-designed bed to the standalone granite bathtub to the high-tech toilet.
In a resort which delivers perfection in every detail, I struggled to find anything that fell short of my lofty expectations. But if I had to nit-pick, I would have liked the in-room safe to be wider (to more easily accommodate a 15-inch laptop), and a Bluetooth music player included in the suite so I could jam out to my favourite tunes on my phone.
Food & Drinks
Come for the pool, stay for the food. In some resorts, it almost feels that the food offerings are an after-thought. But at Mulia Resort, the attention to detail definitely does not stop at dinner time. Nor lunch. Nor breakfast. Nor brunch.
This is where I enjoyed most meals. To call this a “café” is like calling the Sistine Chapel a finger-painting. But I appreciate the tongue-in-cheek humour. Every meal was a struggle to decide what to eat, as each cuisine was more tempting than the next – Indonesian, Thai, Indian, Korean, Japanese, on-demand salads, freshly-made pasta, seafood, western dishes and even an entire room dedicated to dessert. I wish had two stomachs. This wasn’t the typical resort buffet line, every single dish would have been at home on a Michelin star a la carte menu.
Chefs made sure every serving plate, spoon and bowl looked perfect once a guest had taken their fill. So even if you made it to the breakfast buffet after a sleep in, it didn’t look like a horde of stampeding Mongols had raided the food. It still felt like you were the first one all day.
I enjoyed a magnificent dinner here one evening, feasting on sumptuous world-class Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine. I ordered a noodle dish at the live cooking station (delish!) along with fresh pork buns that would make Sir Mix-A-Lot salivate. If you don't get that joke, just keep reading.
When I say this is one of the best Sunday brunches in the world, I’m not exaggerating. Soleil has won multiple awards for their weekly feast that would bring any food-lover to their knees with the sheer variety of mouth-watering dishes. Let alone the world-class execution.
Guests can choose between the a la carte menu or the expansive buffet… or a little of both. My waiter was keen to show off the chefs’ masterpieces and doled out Vietnamese spring rolls, homemade pasta, escargot pie, mi goreng, fresh donuts and the pièce de résistance… an ice cream ball wrapped in chocolate and smothered with melted chocolate. I don’t even know what it was called, but it was beautiful. Ugh, just looking at this added a few centimetres to my waistline. But it was sooooo worth it.
Afternoon tea at The Bar is not just scones with jam and cream. It’s a delight for the eyes and taste buds, with more food than you can poke a stick at. It’s available in 2 varieties – classic and Indonesian – and is served from 3pm. And just in case you think you can fit more food in your belly, the tea includes access to The Café’s dessert room. It will be a minor miracle if you can walk away from afternoon tea. Rolling is the preferred method of transport. Or just do the sensible thing and share one tray with friends.
Upon check-in at the resort I was handed a free welcome drink voucher for Sky Bar. This was promptly put to good use. Located on top of Soleil, with sweeping views of the Indian Ocean, Sky Bar was just what the doctor ordered – a chill spot to grab a drink, put up the feet, and soak up a spellbinding sunset. Well, if I was a doctor, that’s what I’d prescribe.
ZJ’s Bar & Lounge
Get your groove on from 9pm each night with the latest tunes dished out by the resident DJ. The sound-proofing is impressive, as the beats stay contained within the lounge walls and unnoticed by other guests. Oh, and I had a free welcome drink voucher to use here as well. You can thank me later for all this tough hands-on research I did just for you.
If you’re feeling romantically inclined, Mulia Resort offers 3 wedding chapels. Or if you’d like to get your adrenalin pumping, water sports are available on the beach via a 3rd party operator. Youngsters are also welcome at the Mulia Kidz program. I can’t say I tried these offerings first hand, but if my other experiences at Mulia Resort are anything to go by, likelihood of satisfaction is very high.
If you have ever experienced Nyepi, the annual Balinese “silent day”, you’d know that the entire island completely shuts down and no one can roam the streets for 24 hours. I had the pleasure of spending this day in Mulia Resort. Guests were encouraged to observe Nyepi traditions by turning off the lights and keeping noise to a minimum. Staff organised a range of activities for children. Once the sun went down, under the cover of night, pathways were lit by candle light and staff readied with torches to direct misguided guests.
But the highlight of Nyepi was looking up into the night’s sky. Without the ambient light pollution dulling the atmosphere, even the most distant stars twinkled with vivid vigour.
The Bottom Line
I’ve seen a lot of hotels and resorts all over the world. And I have to admit that it takes a lot to impress me now. But after all these years of travelling the world, I didn’t expect to be wowed in the way which Mulia Resort can only do.
I can attest that every single award it has received is duly deserved. The entire team works tireless to find ways to improve their service and put a smile on guests’ faces. This resort sets a sky-high standard for ultra-luxury accommodation in Bali.
Perhaps I’ve been ruined for life. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve experienced the closest thing to heaven on earth.