Many times, I have mentioned that my wife and I are what you’d call pool-villa “addicts”. It goes without saying that it is too expensive and close to impossible to own something like this in Singapore. You know what they say – absence makes the heart fonder. Something a little light-hearted and less “heavy” for the weekend then! 😀
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There is ALWAYS a starting point for everything. If I have to pin-point the source that led me down this vicious path of no return (hahaha), then it would have to be two of the earliest destinations that I travelled to, with my then-girlfriend-and-now-wife.
Honest opinion? They were nothing fanciful at all. Just humble beginnings that evolved into quite something else.
The first property that influenced us was a lagoon-view, over-water suite in Langkawi. It was simple and comfortable, yet calming and soothing at the same time. The zen feeling of living above a pool of water.
The second property is a cozy (ex-Relais & Châteaux) resort located on Tioman Island called Japamala Resorts. We stayed in a little sea-cliff chalet but the truly mind-blowing aspect of the resort was the level of service they provided. We had booked a massage at the spa in the morning — the service staff at the restaurant addressed us by name and asked whether we enjoyed the experience. We were treated like friends and staff knew what their guests were doing, every single day.
Armed with a very good idea of what we wanted to enjoy (non-city vacations) when we’re not at work, we started our journey of staying at some of the very best resorts in the region. There were other villas (see end of blog post) I have stayed in, but I have decided to stay true to the theme and focus on pool villas, for now.
And now, the list of all (OK, I might have missed a few) the pool villas we have been to.
Mulan | Taipei, Taiwan (2010)
Water Dance Suite
This was our post-ROM trip and we stayed in the most-overlooked segment of Taiwan’s accommodation : the pool-villa motel. Caution : avoid these during the cold seasons, because common sense! You would freeze in the pool!
Alila Cha-Am | Cha-Am, Thailand (2010)
One Bedroom Pool Villa
Jesseca Liu had a photoshoot at this resort and I saw it in a magazine. The contemporary design looked awesome and was VERY affordable. We ended up on the eastern coast (Cha-Am) of Thailand and got acquainted with the Alila brand! Learnt that one can never go wrong with Alila. (The resort has since rebranded and is currently managed by Sofitel.)
Alila Uluwatu | Bali, Indonesia (2012)
One Bedroom Pool Villa
Back to Alila, this time on the southern coast of Bali. Perfect everything – loved the spa treatments. Especially the massage. Plus the service level is almost on par with what we had at Japamala e.g. the service crew would remember what we had for breakfast the previous day, and asked whether we would like the same or try something different.
Mulan | Taichung, Taiwan (2012)
Water Dance Suite
Yes, we have a knack of returning to known brands. Besides, motels in Taichung are known for being even more extravagant than those in Taipei. The Water Dance suite covers an average of 165 to 264 square meters 😛
Amana Villas, Seminyak | Bali, Indonesia (2014)
Started doing deep dives into pool villa paradise with these villas. Nowhere else (nope – Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines etc) in the region can one get better quality villas at such amazing prices, plus we very much prefer contemporary looks. The Waterfall Villa has a very unique design. (The resort has since rebranded to Equilibria.)
One Eleven, Seminyak | Bali, Thailand (2014)
One Bedroom Villa
On the hunt for a really huge pool for our second villa of the trip. Same contemporary design that we really love.
Sala Phuket | Phuket, Thailand (2015)
Sala Pool Villa
One of the slightly disappointing trips we had, not because of the hardware/property (gorgeous white design) but because we failed the number one rule (we were really busy and overwhelmed) of booking pool villas – avoid the monsoon season! It kept raining!
The Banjaran | Ipoh, Malaysia (2016)
Pool Villas aren’t really what people would associate with Malaysia, but we found a gem in The Banjaran! The property is awesome but it has a nasty mosquitoes problem.
Pantai Indah, Holiday Villa | Bintan, Indonesia (2017)
One Bedroom Pool Villa
Right in our backyard (Bintan) is a pool villa of decent quality.
Cempedak Island | Bintan, Indonesia (2018)
The sister of Nikoi Island. A funny story : I dislocated my elbow on Nikoi Island in 2009, so a member of the crew ‘S’ and one of the watersports guy drove me on a speedboat to a sinseh/guru house to get my elbow set. Nine years later, I reacquainted with my benefactor ‘S’ on Cempedak and we took a photo together during our reunion 😉
Umah Sunset Villa, Ubud | Bali, Indonesia (2019)
Pool villa paradise – rice field edition. Read More.
Villa Wahah, Seminyak | Bali, Indonesia (2019)
Pool villa paradise – party edition. Read More.
The Residence by Cenizaro | Bintan, Indonesia (2019)
One Bedroom Beach-front Villa
We knew that the Residence brand has resorts all over the world, including Maldives and Maritius. I even considered the Maldives property although we eventually ended up at Gili. Nevertheless, we decided to test the waters by trying a one-night stay. It was superb! Good enough that we booked a 3-night stay, which was upended by the pandemic.
My visits/stays at the below properties didn’t come with any pools, but their villas deserve special mentions for the exceptional quality.
- Nikoi Island | Bintan, Indonesia (2009)
- Volando Urai Spring Spa & Resort | Taipei, Taiwan (2012)
- Villa 32 | Taipei, Taiwan (2016)
- Gili Lankanfushi | Maldives (2017)
Before I Go ..
If not for the pandemic, I would have clocked another three pool villas .. and that’s life.
I know, personal finance and the frugality aspect doesn’t seem to gel well with pool villas, doesn’t it? It is all about the budget! I allocate money for travelling and vacations. Savings and investments continue on a separate track. Not the slightest guilt over splurging on them.
The cool thing about my research and frequent trips to Bali is that we get to learn about geo-arbitrage and how it can work in our favour. Cost of living and eating out in Bali is generally low. Pool villas, for example, may seem pricey and that’s because tourists usually stay at the convenient/touristy spots and pay on a nightly basis. Get away from the expensive spots and rent on a monthly/yearly basis, and you can potentially get the price down by a lot – and I mean cheaper than a 4-room HDB monthly rent in Singapore. Tired of the area after a few months? Hit a new spot! 🙂