A Faultless Space: Space Villa
Published 03 August 2012
For Sydney-sider Ian Neubauer on holiday at Space in Seminyak, design and service came together to create a faultless villa experience.
It was only a six-hour flight from Sydney to Bali, but it really took it out of us. But when I saw our guy pushing his way through the airport crowds and holding a placard with my name on it, everything changed for the better. His name was Gede, and for the next four days he would earn his stripes as our trusty driver, even when he was commandeered by my girlfriend for yet another Seminyak shopping trip.
“Welcome to Bali, Mr Ian,” he said. “I am so happy for you to be here.”
An hour later Gede pulled into a narrow driveway leading to Space Villas at Jalan Drupadi, a quiet backstreet in Seminyak. As a seasoned travel writer I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at some of the most opulent, over-the-top and ridiculous properties on earth, and while our two-bedroom villa at Space with private pool, cabana, monsoon shower, traditional Balinese furnishings and every modern convenience under the sun held its ground among them, it was the service, and the way our stay was packaged, that left a lasting impression.
Gede led us straight into our villa to wind down and seconds later two female staff materialized with tropical cocktails and canapés, followed by Mudana, our butler, a wide-eyed 20-something, father of three from Ubud.
“The villa business is extremely popular in Bali and there are now hundreds of them on the island,” says Space Villas manager, Stephen Michie from New Zealand. “But they tend to be a bit hit and miss. You may find a stunning villa in the middle of a rice field but they may not have backup generator in case the power goes out, or the internet’s no good, or the staff don’t speak English, all things that can put a dampener on your stay. Here we match the hardware – design and construction – with great software – the staff. Our staff members are highly trained, well motivated, good English speakers and know exactly what the guest wants,” he remarks.
We watched in fascination as a conga line of staff made there way through our villa.
The next day we awoke to the sound of Mudana and his staff preparing breakfast in our kitchen: scrambled eggs, bacon, croissants, fresh fruits, percolated coffee, and juice. We watched in fascination over the course of the meal as a conga line of staff made there way through our villa. There was a gardener who clipped the lawn even though it was immaculate; a pool cleaner, even though there wasn’t as much as a stray leaf on the water; and more cleaners than we could count. And when I mentioned to Mudana that we may want some privacy, he clapped his hands and the staff were gone as quickly as they appeared.
After a lazy mid-morning swim we were whisked away by Gede to Canggu to visit a friend from home who was now living in Bali. Our friend’s directions, however, were less than foolproof, and Gede had to stop and ask five or six times until he got us there.
Dinner that night was at Metis and at La Lucciola the night after. Both came on Mudana’s recommendation and both were amazing. But both these meals were trumped by dinner on our last night, prepared in house by Mudana himself. He’d spent the day shopping for fresh ingredients at various markets and prepared for us a traditional Balinese banquet comprising homemade sate sticks, fish curry, rice, lots of vegetable and, on my special request, beef rendang. I’d become addicted to this recipe when I spent three months backpacking around Indonesia in my youth and was dying to try it again, but failed to find a warung in Seminyak that could cook it well. Mudana’s, however, was cooked to perfection and accompanied with a jar of fresh sambal (homemade chili). And if that wasn’t enough, he spent the next three hours playing with our guests’ five-year-old boy while concurrently serving us and clearing dirty dishes.
But, as is always the case, Mudana wanted something in return. And with two young children to care for, it wasn’t hard to guess what he wanted. Or so I thought… “When you write your magazine story,” he said, “can you please tell everyone who comes here that I will look after them the same way I looked after you?”