I’d heard of the Hotel Tugu Bali long before I went there, and always spoken in tones of admiration. ‘Tugu’ and ‘beautiful’ were always mentioned together, as in: “Tugu! It’s gorgeous!”, “The whole place is filled with antiques! And it’s right on the beach!”, everyone gushed. Yes gushed. People always seem to get excited when they talk about Tugu.
When I’m in Bali I’m usually in the artsy hill town of Ubud, where my friends live, and don’t spend much time in the southern beaches. So it took me a while before I finally got to the Tugu Bali to do my job and check out the spa.
In Indonesia the name Tugu Resorts is synonymous with Indonesian antiques belonging to one of the country’s biggest collectors. Anhar Setjadibrata created Tugu Resorts as living museum to showcase his collections and celebrate the art, history and traditions of Indonesian culture. There are a few Tugu Resorts properties scattered across the archipelago and the most popular has to be the Tugu Bali, renowned for its extraordinary interiors and perfect location right on popular Canggu Beach. I’d heard so much about Tugu Bali’s beautiful antiques for years, and was eager to see it for myself.
The resort is managed by the owner’s daughter Lucienne, whose name I’d also heard of for ages as she’s a friend of some of my friends who have houses in Bali. So I was delighted to finally get to meet charming and funny Lucienne as we sat in the lobby during check-in. While listening to her tell us a crazy and complicated story of a con woman who had tried to steal a hotel car, I was mesmerized by the lobby’s centerpiece, a spectacular garuda carving that loomed over us like a massive gargoyle. In fact, a garuda is sort of an Asian style gargoyle, and is the national symbol of Indonesia. I later found out during the hotel tour that this is the biggest garuda statue in Indonesia, and was carved by a famous sculptor.
The statue looms dramatically over a vast platform where traditional dancers perform at weekly dinners. Keeping Indonesian heritage alive is the mission of Tugu Resorts, so their cooking school, spa and various guest activities offer traditional cultural experiences as a way to preserve these traditions and share local culture.
Even the daily afternoon tea consists of a daily changing selection of fascinating classic (and delicious) Indonesian desserts. You won’t find a cucumber sandwich or English scones in sight.
Ancient antiquities are just lying around everywhere. I just love this pair of massive Garuda heads that I came across on the beach lawn. Did they just fall out of the sky in mid-flight? Where are the rest of their bird-man bodies? You can’t tell from the photo, but these heads are as tall as a person. (meaning as tall as a petite person like me).
They have so much personality! Even though garudas are supposed to have bird heads, this pair have lots of teeth and look like they’re in mid conversation as they casually survey the beach scene.
Garuda 1: “Leonard, did you bring the sunblock? I told you to bring the sunblock. My skin is peeling”.
Garuda 2: “Uh-oh”. (looks blank)
The resort’s guided tour revealed an in-house museum featuring more exquisite treasures, starting with this amazing array of Indonesian puppets in the entrance.
Among the myriad artefacts that lay within this Aladdin’s cave was an ornate, curlicued life-size brass pig, probably a temple relic. Someone had thought to put a fresh flower in its ear, which I found adorable. I love the way you find little fresh blossoms and petals sprinkled in the most unlikely places in Bali – on your pancakes in the morning, in your soap dish, on doorsteps as part of daily offerings to the gods, and tucked behind ears of stone sculptures and brass pigs. It’s part of the endearing charm of Bali that makes this culture so delightful.
The resort had recently launched its new Ji Japanese restaurant, which was housed in the front courtyard in an ancient Chinese temple transported from Java. Lucienne invited us to join a party at Ji that evening and I have to say evening is the best time to see its extraordinary interiors and antique finery displayed in its most dramatic light. There’s a separate and spacious bar, an upstairs rooftop dining area, and the impressive red temple dining room, not to mention cozy seating niches everywhere.
Nestled among the cushions in our plush corner sofa seat, we enjoyed our sushi and cocktails under the presence of the spectacular Goddess of Mercy statue that loomed over this splendid domain, surrounded by paintings and photographs documenting Indonesian history and royalty lording over the space from high on the walls. With so many deities and royalty stuffed into one very, very, red, red space, there seemed to be a lot of powerful energy in this room. Any meal or a drink here leaves a lasting impression that you’re likely to remember for a long time.
Tugu Bali’s Warong Djamoe Spa reflects its Indonesian traditions and specializes in ancient Indonesian healing therapies. Five exotic spa suites, each with an enormous romantic spa bathtub, are decorated in different styles, including one with an inner sanctum that’s a private meditation chamber where a gorgeous giant Buddha head presides in serene tranquility. (Much of the statuary is giant-sized at Tugu).
It was only fitting that in such a place I was able to try a mystical Indonesian spa experience. One of the signature treatments here is the intriguing Purnama & Tilem Massage, or Energy of the Bali Moon Massage.
In Balinese, Purnama means Full Moon, and Tilem means New Moon. These two days are very significant to the Balinese, and during these periods, the Balinese practice purification ceremonies to wash away sins, and celebrate “Rwa Binneda” – the two energies of life, the good and evil, darkness and brightness. The Balinese believe that bathing in water perfumed by frangipani flowers under the light of the full moon will wash away your impurities.
To begin my session, the spa therapist came to fetch me from my pool suite and led me to the beach, where we stood in the waves and began with a small blessing ceremony with blessed water from the Batu Bolong Temple.
We then went to the resort’s beachside outdoor spa villa, where cooling sea breezes swept in from just beyond the hedge. The 75-minute massage with frangipani oil began with long, soft strokes to mimic waves under the moonlight, and gradually became stronger, turning into strong, rotating circles using wrists and knuckles, depicting the energy of the full moon. The massage ended with long strokes again, followed with a delightful herb and frangipani outdoor foam Jacuzzi bath, and ended with a closing ceremony of blessed water at the hotel shrine.
The Tugu Bali Spa menu offers a vast selection of Indonesian treatments, including traditional herbal health drinks, called Jamu, in the herbal apothecary – an ancient Indonesian health practice, as well as spiritual and energy healings.
The Kamar Mantra Spa Treatment is another of Tugu’s recommended signature spa treatments, inspired by the Hindu mantras – verbal formulas repeated to reach a state of enlightened awareness. The therapist chants mantras during the massage using heated herbal oils. These healing mantras as said to open the chakras, putting both the mind and body in a state of bliss and harmony.
Indonesian style massages, exotic traditional herbal beauty treatments for the face, body, hands and feet, meditation classes, energy healing therapies, yoga and yogalates on the spa menu sounded so enticing that it’s hard to decide which one to pick.
I seriously wanted to try them all. There’s even a surfer’s massage to knead the shoulders, back and neck that get sore from surfing. You can spend an entire day experiencing the 8-hour Kamar Dandang Goela signature treatment, comprised of water treatments and massages based on traditional Balinese dance movements.
It had been a hard year for me. I had lost loved ones and was emotionally exhausted, so while looking at the amazing spa menu I was drawn to the Theta Healing session. The 60-minute session was said to remove blockages and clear the emotions and I knew I needed that. The therapist was a gentle local healer lady dressed in white, and told me she came from a family of traditional Indonesian healers. Her father had passed the traditional healing practices down to her and in addition they both practiced contemporary energy healing such as Theta and Reiki. This sounded absolutely wonderful to me. I knew I had made the right decision to choose this session.
We started sitting face to face with guided meditation led by the therapist, and within the first minute I found a flood of tears pouring down my face. It was as if all the sadness and grief of the past months were being released in a natural and cleansing way, through tears. Then she gave me a deeply relaxing Reiki healing followed by Theta healing which cleared the blocked emotions. I felt deep relaxation and physical tiredness at the same time. Over the next few days, I gradually felt lighter, while a sense of calm replaced the heavy sadness and worry that had previously burdened me.
I also loved my beautiful, spacious pool suite with private garden and fish pond in the front with a private pool, sitting area and another small garden in the back. I loved soaking in the semi-outdoor bathtub that opened onto the fish pond. I was taking a lot of baths here.
In contrast, my friend was ensconced in antique splendour in an upstairs suite in a more traditional style with lots of oversized wooden furniture and a massive sunken bathtub that was located in middle of the sitting room. The upstairs suites are huge and funky, though I was very happy in my modern pool suite and garden.
Our rooms were located at different ends of the resort – mine was villa number 2 next to the pool and the beach, while my friend’s suite was in the gardens in the back, near the spa, and was reached by a winding walk through the lotus ponds.
Over the course of my stay, I found various paths to reach this back area which meant I spent a lot of time wandering around lost among the villas and stone paths trying to find the shortest way to the back gardens.
This was my first time staying on Canggu Beach, and it seemed to me that the Tugu Bali resort is located on the most beautiful part of the beach, with the most gorgeous sunsets. Am I starting to sound like Donald Trump – everything is the bestest and the mostest – but really, it’s lovely here! Located between two beachfront temples, this section of Canggu has broad stretches of sand that make it just wonderful for taking long walks at sunrise and sunset. We had the gorgeous early morning walks before breakfast. Did I say gorgeous again? I should be capable of using other adjectives but honestly, this place is….gorgeous. These are my own beach photos snapped with my iPhone!
People could easily sit here for hours just enjoying the changing colours of the sea and sky, watching the surfers stroll by with their boards, and breathe in the sunset. That’s exactly what I did.
Have you been to Tugu Bali or other Tugu Resorts in Indonesia? How was your experience?