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Weightless in Space

THE NATION, THAILAND | by Phoowadon Duangmee - Original URL

No pressure at the pool villas in this Baliness hideaway - families and lovers get garden romance and seclusion and seclusion in a famously chic beach area

"Originally, we built the villas to give friends a place to chill out in Bali," begins Laurent Kuenzle, explaining the story behind "Space" - a "rustic-chic" resort the Swiss expat and his partners at Asian Trail have put together on the island.

The first friends' hideyhole was quickly joined by a second, and it wasn't long before Kuenzle and his busy buddies had given birth to six connecting pool villas. The time had come for the kids to earn their keep, or as Kuenzle puts it: "We want to make the villas pay."

Space is tucked away on Jl Drupadi lane amid the chic culture that's built up behind Seminyak Beach on the west coast of Southern Bali. Jl Laksmana, the lively strip of enticing eateries and boutique shops, is a five-minute stroll, while Ku De Ta restaurant, the island's most talked-about among young travellers, is a short ride further.

Through one of the Balinese carved wood doors that connect the villas you find yourself in a garden wafted with the tropical scents of plumeria, bird of paradise and Balinese blooms. First comes the private checkin, then you can step back to take in the villa's of Balinese styles - the thatched roof atop white-washed walls is inspired by North-African mudbrick abodes. Inside is a spacious and airy living room sandwiched by two bedrooms - one with double bed, the other with twin singles - suitable for a family or two couples.

I share the twin with Bill, an American writer, while our travel companion Toei bags the spacious double room. The first night, Bill and I sleep like babies, but Toei turns up for breakfast looking tired and frustrated.

"What a waste - sleeping alone in a beautiful villa like this," he sighs, as we check out at the inviting pool, daybeds and gazebo in the corner of the garden.

"Well, Toei, you can sleep with Bill tonight," I generously offer, poking fun over the dining table. No deal - the romance of listening to another man snore obviously doesn't appeal to him.

Happiness is only real when shared, as I've heard someone say, and I can't blame Toei for missing his girlfriend back home. He's right, too - Space makes for an ideal romantic hideaway.

"We called it Space because we want it to become the guest's own space," Kuenzle explains. The idea has worked: if you like privacy, forget the honeymoon suite in all-inclusive hotel, Space has the seclusion you're looking for. With no restaurant, and staff only around when you need them, it feels more like a holiday home than a resort.

Leave a note on the menu the night before and your personal butler shows up to prepare breakfast at the villa in the morning. Or you can make it into a romantic refuge, storing food and wine in the villa's kitchen with fridge and spending your time between the pool and a daybed. There's even a loft at the top of the kitchen's spiral staircase, giving kids the option of clambering up for an afternoon nap on the cosy daybed. Adults might find it useful, too, for "rest and recreation".

But for a taste of Bali's natural and cultural splendours, you have to get on the road and out to the rice terraces, enchanting temple ceremonies and lively dance performances. Leave in the morning for Ubud, the centre of Balinese arts and culture, and you can be back in time for a late-afternoon massage at the resort.

Dinner arrangements are pretty simple, too.

"We can arrange a private dinner at the villa," says Kuenzle. Most guests, though, stroll the short distance to Jl Laksmana Street and take their pick of the cosmopolitan cuisine at the string of restaurants.

Space in a nutshell? Comfort and serenity just a short walk from a vibrant street, or a fiveminute drive to the beach. A villa for four guests costs US$350 (about Bt12,600) per night.

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