VILLA CITAKARA SARI, BALI
| LUXURY FAMILY TRAVEL
VILLA CITAKARA SARI, EAST BALI, INDONESIA
Text Kit Heathcock
Photography Patrick Heathcock, Kit Heathcock and courtesy of Villa Citakara Sari
‘Mum, when are we going to see our cousins?’ It had been four years, an eon in growing child years and Skype video calls just aren’t the same. But what do you do when one family lives in Australia and the other in South Africa. My mother, based in England and the ultimate in travelling Grannies, came to the rescue. With the dream of having all her children and grandchildren under one roof she decided to invest some of our inheritance in the now and organised us all into the grand plan of renting a villa somewhere in Indonesia: a shorter flight for the Australian family with a six year old and a toddler and a welcome adventure for the rest of us.
We chose the Villa Citakara Sari, a beautiful private villa on the east coast of Bali. Arriving there after an all night flight, bemused by the transition from South African winter to tropical warmth and the bustle of Bali traffic, we found an oasis of peace, calm and welcoming seclusion. Intricate carved wood walls and wide open doors lead the eye through into a light and airy living room and then straight out again to soft green lawn, towering palm trees, a rim flow pool and restless waves breaking on the reef beyond the lagoon and private beach.
In no time our kids were swimming in the refreshing sparkling waters of the pool and the holiday had really begun. My brother’s family arrived on a late evening flight so it was only before breakfast the next morning that the cousins were able to eye each other up. A dip in the pool together broke the ice and they were soon happily playing with a herd of Schleich horses (the indispensible travelling companions of our two girls) on the wide front verandah or in the shade of a palm tree.
Two villas share the grounds, sleeping 10-12 people altogether. Joglo is the larger villa and was built using antique carved wooden walls and ceiling from a traditional Javanese house. Intricate carved wood delights the eye at every turn and is combined with wide glass doors on two sides to create an interior that is at once rooted in island tradition and modern and light filled. Beautifully decorated with a mixture of contemporary artworks and quirky traditional craft, every piece of furniture is individual, carefully chosen and comfortable as well as beautiful.
Floors are smooth local stone tiles, tactile and pleasing to bare feet – there is no reason to wear shoes at all at the villa, inside or out as the grass lawns are soft as deep pile carpet. Soon little groups of abandoned shoes were to be seen at each door as we removed shoes to enter the house and never bothered to put them back on again.
Upstairs in Villa Joglo the stunning carved ceiling is the architectural focus. The three bedrooms are divided by sliding wood and glass panelling doors, curtained at night, so that each room can enjoy the ceiling. This makes for a slight lack of privacy – no problem if one family is sharing, as we were, but perhaps not ideal for two couples. Our kids loved the high carved four posters, almost like rooms within rooms. There are two beautifully fitted bathrooms with soft fluffy towels, huge granite tubs and stone sinks. All three rooms open onto a wide wrap-around balcony with an upstairs sitting area and stunning views through the palms to the sea and the island of Nusa Penida.
Balinese thatched villa Yoga Bale has two large bedrooms and its own spacious open living room with soaring thatch ceiling. It is designed for island living with two sides open to the garden, closed in only by rattan blinds when windy and at night. The downstairs family bedroom with two large carved wood beds and plenty of space for a cot is the room most suited to toddlers (stone stairs and balconies in the other bedrooms would need more watching). The two bathrooms are open air, like small private courtyards with plants and greenery as part of the furnishings.
Beautiful carved wooden beds, soft linen sheets and well chosen pillows make for comfort in both villas with a choice of air-conditioning or ceiling fans for still nights. One thing we missed initially was mosquito nets to allow for sleeping with doors wide open to the night air, but we soon discovered that with the sea breezes blowing most afternoons there were very few mosquitoes at all. The roaring of the breakers on the reef was a constant white noise background, as was the breeze in the palm trees.
Days happily passed by without even leaving the villa grounds – a morning snorkel in the lagoon off the small sand beach, exploring the coral beds and floating above shimmering schools of fish, was repeated day after day without losing its magic. The lagoon is perfect for kids and adults just learning to snorkel, with shallow waters, safely protected by the reef from anything large and scary, and plenty of fish varieties to look at within meters of the shore. Toddler and six year old splashed energetically in the shallow waters while the rest of us took turns supervising them in between our own mesmerising fish viewing.
Afternoons drifted away dipping in the pool, which has a well designed children’s pool attached, or with an energetic game of tennis on the hard court. Long involved board games of Catan or Scrabble, a good supply of books and the occasional DVD filled in any empty stretches of time. There were two very comfortable hammocks to loll in, a secluded day bed in the tranquil walled spa courtyard, or full body massages to soothe away any residual tension from the flight.
With seven staff running the villa all the daily chores are taken care of and babysitting is spontaneous – our token toddler was whisked off and adored any time her parents needed a break. Ayu, the lovely manager, was on hand to help make the most of our stay, whether that meant booking a masseur or planning a sightseeing trip, advising on restaurants or brewing up a potent ginger tea to fight off an ill-timed bout of flu.
Madé, our driver, was always available for short trips to the local town of Candidasa and full of ideas for places to go and information about the area. There are plenty of sights within an hour’s drive of the villa if you can tear yourself away from its idyllic setting to brave the traffic on the main roads. The town of Ubud, of Eat, Pray, Love fame, though rather crowded in the July peak season, is a veritable shopping mecca if you have an almost teen with spending money burning a hole her pocket; those less shopping minded could visit the king’s palace and take a scenic stroll through paddy fields, instantly leaving the crowds behind. Boat trips from the villa are also an appealing option, with even better snorkelling to be found a little further down the coast, but with an active toddler in the party we left this for another occasion.
We ate in at the massive wood dining table on our first two evenings: a lovely chicken sautéed with lemon, beef with a garlic sauce and lemongrass infused fish satay. Then we ventured further afield exploring the local warungs and restaurants, where there was plenty of choice, most offering some Western style cuisine alongside the traditional Balinese dishes, so that even picky eaters could find something to their taste.
Our favourite was a small warung in the local village, within walking distance through the palm plantations, where the girls discovered a new favourite dish, fish fillet in garlic sauce, which they professed themselves happy to eat every night for the rest of the holiday. And if the kids tired of trying new dishes, then sending out for a pizza is always an option! Ours arrived still hot on a moped from a restaurant in the local town ten minutes away.
Breakfasts straddled Western and Balinese tradition with lovely plates of fresh fruit, and eggs any way you choose them, including pancakes, or Bali style with stir fried rice nasi goreng or noodles. Bread and coffee aren’t strong points on Bali generally, so coffee aficionados may prefer to take their own. Altogether we were impressed with how child-friendly the food was overall, even our pickiest eater managing to find enough sustenance without too much trouble and chicken noodle soup being a winning dish for the six year old.
This is a villa for those seeking a quiet and secluded escape away from the night life and surf spots of the south coast and perfectly suited our family get together plans.
VILLA CITAKARA SARI, EAST BALI, INDONESIA
Style Traditional Indonesian with contemporary twists.
Setting Palm fringed beach overlooking coral reefed lagoon outside the town of Candidasa.
Why you'll love it An oasis of calm and comfort decorated with cleverly chosen local antiques, artwork and crafts you’ll want to take home with you.
Good to know All meals can be catered at the villa or you can eat out in a wide variety of local restaurants, but with kids in tow it’s a good idea to stock up on snacks and favourite foods for light lunches. Groceries can be ordered in for you, or have the driver take you to a supermarket in one of the larger towns at the beginning of your stay to stock up on necessities. There is a German baker in the local town for fresh bread and rolls.
Wonderful massages can be booked in the spa courtyard, private yoga sessions or tennis lessons can be arranged on request.
For kids: the pool and the beach with rewarding snorkelling in the warm lagoon even for beginners.
For adults: the peaceful ambience and beautiful decor; the tranquillity of a massage in the secluded spa courtyard.
Best rooms or suites: Book both villas together to have the whole property to yourselves.
Room for improvement Breakfasts were fine but lacked the wow factor – we would have liked fresh baked breads and muesli to be added to the lovely fresh fruit platters and egg dishes.
Address Villa Citakara Sari, Jalan Pura Dalem, Banjar Mendira, Sengkidu, Karangasem, 80871, Bali – Indonesia.
Tel +62 852 381 08076
How to get there Fly into Bali Denpasar and the villa will have their driver or drivers to meet your flight. It’s about a two hour drive to the villa through crazy traffic and self-drive is only for the intrepid.