Sometimes, we discover a place that is truly one of a kind. Nihi Sumba is a spectacular new resort located on the remote Indonesian island of Sumba, which lies an hour by plane to the east of Bali. Owned by New York-based entrepreneur and billionaire investor J. Christopher Burch, the estate comprises 550 wooded acres that slope gently down to the Indian Ocean. Sumba began to attract a flicker of international attention in the late 1980s, when surf enthusiast Claude Graves discovered a wave on the southwest coast that soon came to be regarded as one of the best left-hand breaks in the world. After a period living on the beach, Graves built a shack, which turned into a low-key bohemian surfing resort. Burch purchased the property in 2012 and has since invested a reported $30 million to build 27 lavish villas (with 38 rooms), which overlook a mile and a half of tide-swept sand, edged by aquamarine sea and backed by thickly forested hills.
Although there are few places that are more perfectly suited to complete indolence, Nihi Sumba provides an exhaustive list of activities, a significant proportion of which involve surfboards or horses. Other diversions include spa treatments, yoga and meditation, jungle hikes to waterfalls and lagoons, and deep-sea sportfishing. Nihi Sumba will not appeal to everyone. It is hard to get to. And in general, it is a place best suited to people who are fit and active. But there is nowhere else quite like it. Despite being extremely sophisticated thanks to the Burch millions, it continues to embrace its bohemian surfer past. If ever a $2,000-a-night resort could be accurately described as “cool,” then this is it.
Bali has changed out of all recognition over the past two decades and now attracts around 6 million foreign visitors a year, 20 percent of them from China. The island still has an unusual number of superior hideaways, however. On this trip, we stayed at Alila Villas Uluwatu, set at the edge of a 300-plus-foot cliff, on Bali’s southern Bukit Peninsula. The resort proved to be an oasis of calm, with two excellent restaurants and a superlative spa. Stylish, private and well-managed, this is a fine place in which to recover from a long flight or unwind at the end of a demanding Asian itinerary.
This issue also contains an account of a recent visit to Amsterdam, where we were impressed by the new 16-room Hotel TwentySeven, housed within an art nouveau structure in the heart of the city. Recently, Amsterdam has emerged as a gastronomic destination, and we found several exceptional new restaurants. And the Dutch capital has also become a center for shopping, with charming concept stores that provide an antidote to the global brands that line the streets of most of the world’s great cities.