Is Villa Sungai one of Bali’s most perfect family holiday destinations? Carla Adams and her family think it might be so…

The morning after our midnight entrance to Villa Sungai, located in the village of Cepaka in the Canggu region of Bali, we were enjoying our first family swim in the incredible lap pool, its celadon-hued interior reflecting the jungle above and framing river views below.

The previous evening, our exhausted arrival in Bali had been seamlessly managed by an airport host who met us at the luggage carousel, helped to collect our bags, and tucked us into a waiting air-conditioned van. Our Villa Sungai experience had begun. We’d been dropped off at a dreamy candlelit oasis, edged by dark forest, found an immediate appetite for a midnight supper of freshly cooked blue cod spring rolls and decadent chocolate mousse, showered in a luxurious outdoor ensuite under a full moon and tumbled into crisp white pillows. Sorry, beds.


Just about the dreamiest room we’ve ever stayed in…and we’re not even showing the incredible outdoor ensuite behind the door.

The next morning’s breakfast – a seated a la carte affair featuring garlic sautéed mushrooms with garlic and spinach, eggs every way and tropical fruits – was settling, as were the indulgent chuckles after Miss 10 announced “Mum! You wouldn’t believe this but TRUST me, bacon dipped in maple sauce tastes amazing!”

Breakfast at Villa Sungai

That moment when the girls discovered maple syrup on bacon tastes really, really amazing.

Villa Manager Made (pronounced ‘Mah-day’) greeted us, ‘Selamat Pagi’, and sat cross-legged down at the edge of the pool. “You’ve got some white paint on your forehead,” I said, trying to be polite.

“Actually, it’s rice, because I prayed this morning, and to mark that, I place some rice on my forehead,” Made replied, without making me feel foolish.

We’re a spiritual family, and we welcomed Made’s explanations of Hinduism, a religion observed intently by 95% of Bali’s population. Dotted around Villa Sungai are a number of shrines, where guests and their children are welcome to make offerings. The villa will even arrange to have traditional outfits made for children or guests to wear, and many are invited to join local village ceremonies or events. According to Made, the purpose need not be to worship, but simply to show respect that there ‘is something more powerful than us’, although his own beliefs go a lot deeper.

Cultural performance, Bali

Interested in learning about Balinese culture and religion? Villa Sungai is just the place to ask the big questions.

Bali Villa Sungai is by no means a religious retreat, although the atmosphere is so tranquil, it easily creates an almost meditative environment.

The passing of time is softened, pillowed, soothed, in a palatte of vanilla stone, rattan, lime-washed wood, white-washed walls and soaring thatched roofs. The sense of luxury is immediate but not overwhelming, and our daughters felt just as welcome as we did.

There were giant daybeds calling us to play scrabble, marble-topped dining tables, and the best pool-side sun-beds I’ve ever seen, thickly padded and fringed by the rainforest. Oversized mirrors on every spare wall reflected the greens, creams and authentic celadon green of the pool, and an occasional glimpse of my most relaxed face in a very long time.

Amazing pool and lounges at Villa Sungai

Relaxation station.

On day one I couldn’t stop turning my head, taking in the beauty and serenity of the villa. It’s not brand new but in some ways that is more appropriate for a place which was built to embrace the timeless magic of its environment. Very old, very tall trees tower above an L-shaped structure with three bedrooms opening into an outdoor lounge, edged by the 18-mt wet edge pool. The open dining and lounging area has its own bathroom and dedicated library-music room, and across an open courtyard, a private spa room for up to three lucky recipients is where gorgeous massages take place.

The staff are almost all long-term ‘members of the Villa Sungai family’ and it shows, their service not forced, more as if they are genuinely pleased to be of assistance, whether you have questions about the menu, your activities, life in Bali, or just ‘how to say thank you in Indonesian’.

The incredible team at Villa Sungai.

The incredible team at Villa Sungai.

That first morning by the pool, Made, who has worked at the Villa since it opened in 2001, told our family of a personal dream fulfilled three years ago when he started hosting English classes in his home twice a week, for the benefit of a spirited and cheerful group of 10-20 local children, one of them his own son.

To get the classes up and running, Made found a good teacher ‘one who loves to make English exciting for the kids’, and then made a presentation to the village women’s group, to encourage them to send their kids.

Made funds the school through his own salary and with the support of guests, some who have visited Villa Sungai only once, or, more often, visited time and again. It’s sustainable tourism in action.

Made's school

This class is funded by guests of Villa Sungai and gives additional English learning opportunities to local kids.

During our four-day stay we rode hired bikes out in Cepaka alongside daily village rituals – mum’s on motorbikes and scooters with tiny toddlers clinging tight around their waists – giant pigs in the back of tiny pick-up trucks. Roosters strutting and tiny chicks scattering. Lazy dogs every few metres, none of them bothered by us, and village ladies in their traditional checked Balinese attire. Huge bunches of grass for thatching, baskets full of fruit from the morning market and piles of fabric almost overbalancing motorbikes driven by locals.

13 family bike ride

Biking our way through Cepaka village.

The girls also learned about growing rice, right in the fields, from Made, who had become, by the end of the week “sort of like our Uncle,” according to Miss 10.

Learning about growing rice.

Learning about growing rice.

A bit more Bali, please.

Villa Sungai is located in the village of Cepaka in the Canggu region, about 30 minutes from Seminyak. There are two private villas available with a personal 24-hour staff, including a private chef, and bookings for large groups or individual families are warmly welcomed. You will want for nothing here – check out the Trip Advisor testimonials if you don’t believe me, and visit as soon as you can

The writer and her family received a reduced rate for their stay at Villa Sungai.