When the taxi turns off onto a dirt track we look at each other with questioning eyes and then ask the driver: “Is this the way to Tugu?” “Yes, Yes”, he assures us with a smile. A few minutes later we indeed pull up to the gate and within moments we realize that we have arrived at a laid-back luxury hideaway in Lombok, which rightfully sits on Conde Nast Traveller’s 2009 Hot List.
Starting with Tugu’s best attribute: its location on a tranquil stretch of white sand at Sire is exquisite. The beach slopes gently into translucent blue waters, which change shades as the sun plays with the waves. Take a stroll to the left to peep at the neighbouring luxury villas and finish with a pretty sunset over the Gilli Islands. Walk to the right and you will find yourself in a crescent-shaped cove where a few fishermen may be at work. Other than that, Tugu has one of Lombok’s prettiest beaches all to itself, with an excellent view of Mount Rinjani to boot.
The owner of the hotel is an Indonesian collector of arts and antiques, which is intensely reflected throughout the property. The masterpiece is the stone dragon that covers the soaring bale by the pool that is shaped as half a cross. Together they form a magical sight when they are lit up at night. The spa temple is another impressive creation with a high dome ceiling and enchanting vistas to the ocean, so don’t forgo their complimentary welcome massage.
While the bungalow rooms are the cheapest option, they still deliver on luxury. Their amazing semi-outdoor bathrooms with copper tubs are decorated nightly with fresh red hibiscus and a repellent coil is lit preventively against any wandering mosquitos. The room itself is very spacious and prettily decorated in heritage style. A good night’s sleep is assured in the sumptuous four-poster bed and aromatic oil essence that is also part of the turndown service.
Food can be served anywhere you like, from breakfast on the beach to a romantic candlelit dinner atop their temple. Complimentary snacks include a mid-morning fruit kebab and afternoon tea with traditional Indonesian treats. Without any dining options nearby you are confined to Tugu’s menu, but with plenty of Indonesian and international options you are spoilt for choice. While the food didn’t quite match the perfection that the rest of the Tugu experience delivers, they probably colored my review by setting an extraordinary standard throughout their other services. The personalized dinner table messages written on green leaves are an endearing detail.
A late afternoon bike ride through the neighbouring communities is highly recommended. Just take the Tugu bikes back to the paved road, turn left and keep on going straight till you tire and return the same way. Crossing through rice fields and small settlements against a palm tree backdrop, you will be warmly welcomed with curious looks, big smiles and a wave or two.
If you are doubting between Tugu and its neighbour, the Oberoi, then please don’t. Tugu is the way to go if you are in search of that poster-perfect beach far away from the crowds. The pool and lounge area at the Oberoi are up on a cliff and don’t seem to have easy beach access, if at all. Of course the view from the Oberoi across the cove is beautiful, but I would still go with Tugu any day, especially if this is a romantic getaway or perhaps even your honeymoon. With only 19 rooms, gracious service and tasteful celebration of Lombok tradition, Tugu exceeds its promise of a luxury boutique hotel by far.