Home Turned Hotel

A Celebrated Architect Turns His Private Family Hideaway Into The Ultimate Island Resort
Soo K. Chan, owner and designer of Soori Bali. Photo courtesy of SCDA Architects.
Soo K. Chan
Owner & Designer, Soori Bali

It all began with a simple mission: the quest to build the perfect holiday home.

When celebrated architect Soo Khian Chan and his wife, Ling Fu, were looking for just the right stretch of Bali where they could build a private haven, they were simply hoping to construct a peaceful idyll where they could unwind with family and friends. Chan took a helicopter ride to survey the island and immediately pinpointed the western reaches of Bali. “I wanted to find an area that has a real sense of place, and that has some spirituality to it,” says Chan, the founder of SCDA Architects. "I wanted a place that was not too crowded, and an authentic village that’s still very much the way it was. That was a major draw."

Overlooking Soori Bali. Photo courtesy of Soori Bali.
Paradise Found

In an island that’s become crowded with holidaymakers and lost some of its bucolic appeal as it’s evolved into a blue-chip tourist destination, the Tabanan region remains the holy grail: an untouched swath of paradise in Bali, if paradise came cloaked in rice fields. Chan and Fu acquired the coveted land piecemeal and immediately set about building their home overlooking a black-sand beach that was well off the beaten path; despite the challenges of accessing this remote area, they managed to bring in all the necessary amenities, from water and power to internet and food. "At the end we said, 'Let’s make a cluster of houses for friends and family.' And after that we said, 'Let’s just make it into a hotel.'"

The Soori estate by twighlight. Photo courtesy of Soori Bali.
Soori Bali

The result is an alluring retreat with 48 villas and one sprawling 10-bedroom estate, where guests experience Chan’s sleek architectural vision married with his personal approach to hospitality. Chan visits Soori Bali as frequently as possible, interacting warmly with guests and showing them around the property himself. “The satisfaction I get out of it is fantastic,” he says. "I’ve done many projects, but to be able to own and operate it—it’s a totally different feeling." But more than anything, he lets the property speak for itself, leaving visitors to experience what he felt when he first glimpsed this special place. "The location feels right. It feels very personal."

Local Recommendations

Explore Paradise With Architect And Hotelier, Soo K. Chan

From whitewater rafting to pottery-making lessons, Soo Chan plays the ultimate host, sharing his favorite places in western Bali.

Centuries-Old Traditions

Learning About Local Ceramics

Soori Bali abuts Pejaten, a slip of a village that is known across Indonesia for its striking terracotta ceramics. Guests will recognize some of the distinctive pottery found across Soori Bali, including the tiled walls at the Soori Spa, as being the work of Pejaten artisans commissioned by Chan and his team. In Pejaten, the Tanteri Museum of Ceramic Art (Banjar Simpangan, Desa Pejaten, Kecamatan Kediri; +62-361-831-948) was founded two decades ago as a studio where local artists could work on their pottery; it’s since evolved into a museum, where visitors can spend an afternoon seeing the work of potters from across the region and learning about the generations-old tradition that continues to thrive in Pejaten—some of the ceramics displayed are more than 400 years old. Be prepared to get your hands dirty: you can stay on to try your hand at wheel-throwing and decorating with Balinese motifs, making your own piece to bring back home.

Pejaten terracotta tiles at the Soori Spa. Photo courtesy of Soori Bali.

Scenic Settings

Picnic With A View

You might think you know the color green, but a visit to western Bali’s distinctive rice terraces, a striking feature of the landscape, will make you wonder if you’ve ever really seen the color properly before—the verdant fields are a lush contrast to the blue sky, and make for a stunning photo op. An hour northeast of the hotel lie the Jatiluwih rice fields (2 Jalan Jatiluwih Kangin, Desa Jatiluwih, Penebel; +62-362-701-3999), part of a region protected by UNESCO because of its ancient subak system of irrigation. The undulating emerald fields are a scenic setting for cycling or hiking. Chan and his family like enjoying relaxing picnics on the terraces—the hotel is happy to pack a lunch for guests.

Jatiluwih rice fields. Photo courtesy Soori Bali.

Tour And Tea

Ride A Segway Through An Authentic Village

Soori Bali lies on the outskirts of the traditional village of Kelating. Chan suggests guests eager to experience authentic Balinese village life should pay the hamlet a visit, making stops at temples, markets, the 17th-century Puri Anyar and Puri Gede royal palaces, which sometimes host cultural events, and to visit with local musicians, artists, and dancers keeping the region’s distinctive artistic traditions alive. Hospitable locals love welcoming guests into their homes for tea. Chan has fond memories of taking his sons to explore the village on Segways—the hotel has its own fleet as well as rechargeable electric scooters, and can arrange excursions for guests.

Riding a Segway through a nearby village. Photo courtesy of Soori Bali.

Adrenaline Adventures

Barrel Down Bali’s Longest River

The Ayung River is Bali’s longest and widest; when Chan and his family are feeling more active and adventurous, they like to hit the river’s Class II and III rapids (they rise to class IV in the rainy season) for some adrenaline-spiking whitewater rafting. The scenic course takes you through the rainforest and past waterfalls and emerald green rice fields, making a thrill-seeking mission a sightseeing tour as well. There are many operators across the island to choose from; Bali Adventure Rafting (+62-361-721-480) and Bali Sobek (+62-361-729-016) are two of the most popular.

Whitewater rafting on the Ayung River with Bali Sobek. Photo courtesy Bali Sobek.

Eco-Friendly Education

A Jewelry Designer Goes Green

Legendary Canadian jewelry designer John Hardy and his wife Cynthia moved to Bali more than 40 years ago to work closely with local artisans, making the island both their creative inspiration as well as their home. After selling the business a decade ago, they decided to give back to the community in a different way, by opening their innovative Green School (Jalan Raya Sibang Kaja, Banjar Saren, Abiansemal, Badung; +62-361-469-875). While the focus is on academics, the 400 students learn through an environmentally friendly way, in open-air classrooms and bamboo structures; the curriculum includes gardening, building, and sustainable living, raising a generation of environmentally conscious leaders. Chan likes to visit to see for himself what new discoveries in green living and design are being made. Afterward, pay a visit to the stunning John Hardy workshop and showroom (Kapal Bambu Boutique, Br. Baturning, Mambal, Abiansemal Badung; +62-361-469-888), set in a striking bamboo building in Ubud, where you can watch jewelry being made in an open-air design center.

Inside John Hardy’s Kapal Bambu boutique. Photo courtesy of John Hardy.