Finding Your Home Away From Home In Bali
“Bali is a place you can easily stay in for a long time. But to stay in any one place you have to be able to afford it.”
Krystal Adams is not making an offhand remark. She knows exactly what she is talking about having lived in Bali for 17 years and creating a home away from home for thousands of Australians over the past 14 years.
The New Zealander, who now calls Melbourne home, is one of the directors of My Villa Holiday (MVH), a villa rental business that sees the owners of Bali’s most beautiful villas opening their homes to strangers. The business was an opportunity that serendipitously fell into Krystal’s lap and which she grabbed with both hands.
“I had originally set up an advisory business to help expatriates moving to Bali to maneuver through the minefield of licensing requirements, work permits, lease agreements on properties and so forth,” she explained.
“Many of those clients soon bought their dream home in Bali to build their utopia. Then realised they were only in Bali for four months of the year and wondered what they could do to cover the running cost of the villa for the remaining eight months. So they decided to share their home by renting it out and asked me to help them manage this. It evolved from there.”
In the first year, Krystal had eight villas under her belt. As word got out, that number grew to 22 in the next year and 46 in the year after that. At one point she was managing 260 villas and an average of 400 bookings a month. Since moving to Melbourne, she has scaled back on the number of villas she manages but has held on to her early favourites.
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How did word of villa holidaying spread without the presence of social media those many years ago?
We had a website and a presence at trade shows and travel expos in Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong. It did not gain us immediate bookings but it planted the idea that staying in a villa rather than in a hotel could be a new way of holidaying. Then it was word of mouth.
Guests would tell family and friends about their villa that had a private pool, a personal chef and in-house staff, and how it was like a home away from home but without having to clean up after yourself.
Renting a villa initially appealed to many families because their children could have a bit of space to run around the house. Then it got popular among expatriates on a weekend trips who wanted seclusion. Now it has become a hit for ladies only trips.
Tell us more about that segment.
The ladies who go on a women’s weekend away are an interesting group. Most of them do not go to Bali for the nightlife. They go there to recharge.
They read books because they do not have time to do that in daily life. They take a couple of cooking classes or go hiking or take surfing lessons. There are so many women who are revamping themselves in terms of fitness, and there are many boot camps and cross fit in Bali now.
These sorts of trips appeal to women because then they do not feel guilty about going away and indulging in something that does not add value to their lives.
What is the real appeal of a villa holiday?
The properties themselves and the accessible luxury. A lot of people feel they are not entitled to such luxuries. But a luxury like this is very different in the West where the cost can really creep up. In Bali, it can all be done on a very manageable budget. So the appeal for women is being able to afford an experience that they once thought was a distant dream.
How do you tailor their holiday experience?
We need to know three things – the price bracket, the number of people and the preferred activities. The villas are spread across Bali, each with its own unique experience. If someone wants to hit the beach every day and go shopping and clubbing, we would recommend Seminyak, which is the shopping mecca and home to fine restaurants, bars and clubs.
If they want a couple of days to unwind, we suggest staying in Ubud. Bali is not such a big island that it takes a long time to travel between areas. We also give them a profile of the area and what it has to offer. The only place we rarely recommend is Kuta only because it is hotel land and does not have many villas.
Do you have your favourites.
Oh, it is hard to choose! But definitely Villa Istana in Uluwatu. It is an expansive villa with beautiful grounds and a spectacular view being on the cliff front. Its interior is outfitted with state-of-the-art technology that is in-built and unseen. The furnishing is bespoke, plush and everything you would imagine a movie star’s house to be.
There is also Villa Mana in Canggu, which is very cool and chic. It has dark polished concrete floors, which sound a little odd with the tropical architecture, but it has open pavilions, hanging vines and a rock star-themed interior. It is very contemporary and has been designed so to invite the outdoors indoors without it being too obtrusive.
I also love Villa Batavia, a colonial villa in the style of Singapore’s Raffles Hotel. It is so beautiful and elegant. When you step into that villa it is almost like you have gone back in time. The furnishing is reminiscent of a bygone era. There are not too many of these types of villas around because everyone is going for the straight-edged, contemporary, minimalist look. So this really transports you. And it is also more Indonesian in look and feel.
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