Immersed in the scent of tropical flowers and sounds of nature, amid the mist lifting from the white water breaks of the Ayung River, Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan eclipses Ubud’s many other five star resorts on the scale of theatrical experience.
Checking-in at night after the journey from Europe, we were too worn out to appreciate at first just how much is the experience of the resort at Sayan designed to offer moments of delightful surprise.
It starts with the arrival experience. Think of coming to halt in a somewhat nondescript arrival station, always staffed, but with barely a standing desk. You’d ask, it’s surely not the last stop?
It is not. From there you’re taken, on foot, onto a long sky-bridge leading directly to the tour de force of the hotel’s architectural vision: the infinity-edge rooftop pond, suspended over the misty valley of the Ayung River. This is when it becomes clear that all this, so far, is simply part of the gradual unveiling of the hotel.
It’s a welcome visually choreographed, almost theatrical. It fits this property well but it is only the first act—and the hotel’s building is not really the central stage. That role is filled by something else entirely.
In the Ayung River Valley
The name of Frank Lloyd Wright is sometimes invoked to describe the postmodernist, futuristic architecture of the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan. This is to draw the supposed link between the landscape-focused Four Seasons and Wright’s most famous private residence project, the iconic Fallingwater house. Less known is the fact that by building over a waterfall, the architect made the house unliveable in the long run, due to the constant noise of the falling water.
All the better then that the comparison to the Wright’s 1930s icon is superficial. The Four Seasons at Sayan does take chances with the main building’s bold architectural forms, but it’s not a purely formal exploit—though it very much works as the device that delivers the first “wow” impression.
Crucially, once inside, we realised that high ceilings and vast open spaces looking out to the valley serve as an auditorium to the real subject of the drama: the beautiful landscape.
The breakfast provided the best opportunity to appreciate the sights. From the restaurant terrace we’d stare in wonder upon the morning mist lifting from the river down below, and the first confident sun rays flooding the hotel gardens with their brilliant streaks.
The hotel grounds are extensive and an electric buggy is needed to move about, unless you fancy a stroll at the bottom of the valley, where the landscaping is the most beautiful. We did fancy the stroll. From the riverside infinity pool, through manicured rice paddies studded with tall palms, down to the spa villas with their lily ponds, the gardens are utterly enchanting.
Natural beauty aside, the hotel’s living spaces never compromise on comfort and luxury.
There are good few types of guest accommodation (including the suites in the main building), but the most sought-after are the Riverfront Villas with pool and rooftop ponds, reminiscent of the drama on top of the hotel’s main building.
Ours was a beautiful and spacious Sayan Villa placed at the highest point of the resort, with large swimming pool. Surrounded by well-maintained, mature greenery, it’s a picture-perfect sight… with the sound of a cascading brook and birds elevating it another level still.
The old trees and tall bushes betray the hotel’s age, but so does the high level of service. All members of staff display the level of confidence and training indicative of the well-established resort and brand the Four Seasons is.
From butlers to front desk, from restaurants to spa, smooth operation in every moment adds to the sense of a well-rehearsed theatrical play—all focused on making the guest’s experience perfect.