If you could drop work and disconnect all your devices in order to reconnect with nature or a loved one, would you? Assuming your answer to that is, “Yes, I would love to spend 24 hours confined inside a luxury tent in Bali!”, then Capella Hotels & Resorts might have the solution for you. However, if letting go of your phone isn’t really your bag — don’t worry, I’m right there with you — but culture is, then the luxury hospitality group has a range of activities from their new immersive cultural program, Capella Curates, for you to choose from.
The new activities engage local experts from each of Capella’s eight locations, and they’re designed to enrich your travel experience. After all, experiential travel is the new luxury travel. Intrigued to give these experiences a go myself, I headed to their Singapore and Bali properties. I have visited both destinations before, but never like this. Here’s how it went down.
Many of us have been to the Lion City numerous times, strolled along the Marina Bay waterfront, shopped until we dropped at Orchard Road, and maybe even frequented their many hawker centres for authentic Singaporean cuisine. But at Capella, we explored the city in a way that spotlights new adventures and uncovers the city’s hidden gems.
But first, let me set the scene: Located on Sentosa Island, Capella Singapore is the group’s flagship property in Asia which makes use of two gorgeously restored colonial bungalows dating back to the 1880s, along with landscaped gardens and sweeping views of the South China Sea to impress its guests. It’s a lush hotel fitted with 112 rooms, suites, villas and manors with modern Asian touches across the board. It also happens to be one of the most dog-friendly hotels I’ve ever visited, which makes it a hit with many resident Singaporeans looking for a luxury staycation.
After warm greetings and an ice-cool towel while I checked in, I’m given a golf buggy lift to my spacious private plunge-pooled villa. It’s relaxing, so much so that I began to zone out while staring at the flourishing greenery. That was until a certain feathered visitor decided to stop by and gave me a sight I never thought I would see in Singapore: Roaming the island freely, peacocks can be seen at the hotel gracefully parading the grounds regularly.
Meanwhile, the food is just as lush. With lots of fresh fruits and variety for breakfast, The Knolls also offers a Mediterranean-inspired menu for lunch overlooking the cascading pools. Cassia, the Chinese restaurant, looks incredibly familiar thanks to interiors designed by acclaimed Hong Kong designer André Fu; it offers contemporary takes on traditional Chinese cuisine. The Chef’s Table is great fun too, with a bespoke-style service that gives guests a chance to get stuck in and help prepare dishes for dinner.
As for the exclusive activities, one took us for a spin in a sidecar around Singapore to learn about the foundations of feng shui that the modern cityscape of Singapore was built on. And by sidecar, I mean the one-wheeled seat attached to the side of a vintage Vespa. Chinese metaphysics aside, it really does give you a new perspective of the city as you zip around from Marina Bay and the Singapore Flyer to the ArtScience Museum, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and more. Another experience had us walking through the Botanical Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a passionate guide that took us through the history and heritage, providing fun facts about the 160-year-old tropical flora and fauna.
Over to the uplands of Bali and we’re suddenly in rainforest territory. When they told me I’d be staying in one of their tents in the forest, I had visions of rustic camping and the great outdoors in mind. Fortunately, no holes needed to be dug. Instead, Capella Ubud is a luxury retreat hidden in the cool valley of Keliki. It’s built in and around the rainforest, with not one tree cut or removed in the process, and is a unique experience in itself. Look up and you’ll see stars so clearly and in such abundance that it seems like an illusion. Look around and you’ll see Bali’s untouched natural surroundings with the refined tented rooftops, or maybe I should say lodges, popping up through the trees.
There are a total of 23 tented suites dotted around, separated by stairs and footbridges and all with private pools, at Capella Ubud. Each is individually designed and themed by none other than Bangkok-based luxury hotel designer Bill Bensley, who was inspired by the Dutch settlers from the 1800s for this project. His designs show off interiors filled with European glamour blended with touches of Balinese life and all the eclectic flair that he is known and loved for: Think dark woods, rattan walls, soft drapes, a whimsical mix of colours and furnishings, along with a copper bathtub, indoor and outdoor shower. My only issue with this impressive ‘tent’ was the throne-like toilet that really was just not for me. But if you’re feeling a little Game of (Toilet) Thrones, then off you go.
Dining doesn’t disappoint either, with sustainably-farmed and fresh produce offered at Mads Lange in the form of healthy yoghurt bowls, avocado toasts as well as classic Indonesian nasi campur. There’s also authentic Asian barbecue at Api Jiwa, which blends the traditions of Asia and the finesse of western dining with smoke. Our meal here was centred on seafood and produced some stunning dishes with takes on beef rendang sprinkled with coconut snow stealing the show. This was followed by some marshmallow roasting by the campfire — nostalgia at its best.
At Capella Ubud, more active experiences awaited and it didn’t take too long for us to meet with our Capella Culturist (local expert) to discuss the bespoke activities ahead. For us, a cycling tour around the local area and through rice paddies geared us up for a dance class, which combined both Balinese dance and yoga to really burn some calories. This all lead up to the climbing of Mount Batur, which is an active volcano no less, to witness the sunrise. It’s no easy feat with its call time of 3am and steep 1,717-metre incline on slippery volcanic powder and rock, but thanks to our expert guides that literally pushed and pulled us up, we made it to the summit. And if the magnificent view wasn’t enough, a splendid little picnic spread had been laid out for us to enjoy. So there I was, with hot coffee and croissant in hand, in awe of the rising sun. Then it occurred to me that had I not stayed at Capella, I never would have experienced the destinations this way, walked away with this particular memory, or have this story to tell you all.