A Room With A Theme, Ubud, Bali
"Will that be café au lait or cappucino this morning with your breakfast?" a member of the staff asks me, as I am greeted at the door of my bungalow with a broad smile and a hot morning towel. I step out of the silk indoor slippers provided in my room and onto the beautiful hardwood porch, taking in the colorful garden before me. It is the second day of my stay at Matahari Cottage Bed & Breakfast, in Ubud, Bali. In this wonderland that seamlessly blends together old and new, East and West, I encounter bridal heirloom Damask linen tablecloths juxtaposed with foreboding Timorese tribal masks, and Japanese-style soaking tubs with Americana folk art. Each room carries a different theme. The fun, and the task, is in the choice.
I was, in fact, spoiled for choice, upon arrival. Congenial staff ushered me into the Elizabethan library, where I was handed a refreshing drink and a photo album of the rooms, to assist in my choice. The swanky Barong Room is perhaps the most modern, with its stunning marble and stone bath. The adjectives exotic and striking best characterize the Primitive Room, which boasts an intricately carved Timorese four-poster ebony bed frame, black and white pebble bath, and a faucet that shoots water through the mouth of a tribal mask. The more mellow atmosphere of the Indian Pasha room, with its soft, velvety floor rugs, nature mural, and satiny sheets, conjures up images of drinking hot chai on a cold morning in the hills of Northern India. Recalling my one year of living in Japan, I finally settle on the Cinnabar Tea Room, feeling cozy familiarity in the sliding shoji screen doors, lacquer accents, a tokonoma display area, tatami floors, and a bamboo water feature, creating the sound of falling water so treasured in Japan.
Gourmet breakfast bonanzas are the order of the day. Menus change daily, and vary from eggs benedict with fresh basil in a mushroom and heavy cream sauce to quail eggs enrobed in a ginger chicken and pastry shell, always accompanied by homemade yogurts and fruit compotes. All breakfasts are served with real coffees (i.e. not standard fare Nescafe), in the form of cappuccinos, espressos, and café au laits. The afternoon teas are no less of an affair, featuring scones with real cream and homemade jam, tea cookies, and such delectables as banana rum cake or Bavarian cream cake with avocado filling. Treats and tea are served on Steven's diverse collection of silverware, china, and linens, collected during his days as an antique dealer in Taiwan. All of this is accompanied by impeccable 5-star service, in the traditional Balinese style.
A study in all things elegant and whimsical, the colorful cottages are the brainstorm of American designer Steven Lemmon and Taiwanese travel consultant Sean Huang. The intent is, as Steven explains, "to delight the imagination and to pamper guests in the eclectic, artsy setting that so typifies Ubud."
If, for some unknown reason, you are not relaxed enough in this comfortable setting, Matahari offers in-room massage, ranging from the standard one-hour massage (60,000 rupiah) to the full Mandi Lulur, double-attendant Balinese massage, boasting all things white, from the white clay scrub to the yoghurt to the white gardenia flowers in the bathtub to the white fondue dessert served during your bath (150,000 rupiah). If you are staying in a room with a tub, Matahari offers two bowls of flower petals and your choice of custom-mixed essential oils for your bath nightly.
So don't be surprised if you wake up one day, during your stay, glance around the room at the antique chandelier hanging from the traditional bamboo and reed thatch ceiling and temporarily can't recall if you are in 19th century England or Kobe or Bombay or, indeed, as is written on your recent airline ticket, Bali. I know, as this happened to me. And, who knows, perhaps Mata Hari herself would enjoy such a place of irresistible deception.
Ubud is reachable by car from Denpasar International Airport (100,000 rupiah) or by shuttle bus, from Kuta (about 30,000 rupiah per person). Call ahead to have Matahari staff arrange transport. Matahari can be booked out for weddings and special occasions. Rooms range from a very reasonable $22 to $60, including breakfast, afternoon tea, and tax.
Matahari Cottage Bed & Breakfast
Jl. Jembawan, Ubud, Bali.
Published on 10/2/02