Bali is a haven for many Australians, a home away from home. However, Melbourne couple Elise Curinier and Liam Murphy made the change a little bit more permanent when they opened their hotel, Melali.
How is Bali life treating you?
Bali life is great. It only gets better and better. The first year and a half was a very hectic time with the build and opening of the business. However now that we’ve somewhat streamlined our systems we’re settling into a nice island groove.
Is there anything you miss from Melbourne?
In all honesty there isn’t much we miss about Melbourne at all, other than good quality wine and cheese and family and friends of course. Though occasionally we miss the idea of spending a cold night in front of the fire drinking a bottle of Rouge with rain on the roof.
So we understand you had the dream of creating a retreat from the moment you set foot in Bali.
It was originally Liam’s idea, his dream. During his first surf trip to Bali in 2004 he fell in love with the Bingin/Uluwatu area. He saw other expats had built their own villas and thought, ‘Why can’t I do the same?’. Initially it was to be something private, something small, a place to escape the cold winter months. Of course we quickly realised this wouldn’t be possible, we’d have to have an income to support our island lifestyle. So we decided to create a way in which we could live here.
What do you think made the place incite such ideas in your mind?
The climate, the waves, the Balinese people, the simplicity of island life. We love that Bingin is still largely rural. It’s quiet and life is low key down here, just the way we like it.
And from the moment of having the dream, how did the process play out into making it a reality?
We started looking for some land back in 2011. We came to Bali for a two month trip before heading to work in Sardinia for a summer. We planned to have an initial look and come back again later in the year to get serious about a purchase. We didn’t expect that we’d be making a handshake deal over Fantas and signing a contract the day before we flew off to Italy.
Two years passed in the blink of an eye. We were working and living in Melbourne, victims of the daily grind.
It was time to stop putting it off. One of our close friends is an architect (Thomas McKenzie of Thomas Winwood Architecture) and over beers on a balmy summers night in the city, we all agreed to later meet to draw up some ideas. A year later we quit our jobs, sold everything and jumped on a plane to Bali. We’d decided if we were going to do it, we’d do it right. Being on site.
We hired a local Balinese builder to do the work. Liam was on site most days project managing the build with Elise on the road buying bits and pieces for Melali – furnishing, decorating and sourcing materials.
We understand you had a friend in Bali check the location for “good spirits”, is this quite an important thing to be checked in Balinese culture?
Yes, we believe this to be absolutely important. The Balinese are a very spiritual people. They are heavily connected to their environmental surroundings. We being foreigners wanted to respect and uphold their spiritual ideals, appeasing the Gods in the process.
Are you able to give our readers a rundown of the style and feel of the place?
We are a small property with only three rooms offering boutique accommodation. A secluded, peaceful retreat with all the modern day comforts to ensure those that stay really enjoy being on holiday.
We cater for a maximum of six guests at any given time to ensure tranquility is maintained. To further provide peace and quiet for our guests, we only accept children if all three rooms are booked to one group.
Every finish – from the hooks and lamps to the tiles and furniture has been carefully considered and chosen. People often remark that they love the little details around the property. It gives Melali a uniqueness that sets it apart from other accommodation. We try to support the local community as much as possible – other than the wallpaper in our Sunset Suites, almost everything here was crafted in Bali.
We are conscious that we are visitors to this beautiful island and try to reduce our impact on its environment any way possible. We pride ourselves by using high quality local produce. We buy organic wherever possible. Nearly all of our fresh produce is grown in Bali and neighbouring islands in the archipelago. Our soaps, shampoos and conditioners are ethically crafted here in Bali using only natural ingredients. We recycle and clean all of our waste water which we reuse on our gardens to keep them green, healthy and lush. To reduce our impact on landfill, we recycle all of our plastic, glass, cans, tins and paper with ‘Eco Bali Recycling’ and our food scraps are given to local pig farmers.
You’re both lovers of yoga and surfing, now that you’re hosts of Melali, what does an average day look like for you?
Our day usually starts with a surf for Liam and Elise walking our dog Dippy, followed by a delicious breakfast with coffee and slow pressed juice made by our amazing staff.
We will then mingle with the guests around the breakfast table helping them plan their day. Whether it be food, massages, beaches or surf lessons we try to ensure guests have detailed information to thoroughly enjoy their experience. After this Elise will generally tend to office work, answering pending emails, taking bookings, collecting deposits and organising transfers.
We’re usually free by early afternoon, so often we head out for lunch together at one our favourite little cafes. An afternoon siesta is not uncommon followed by a cliff top sunset drink overlooking the ocean.
Dinner is usually spent at home together with wine and a movie or heading to a restaurant with friends.
You’ve said to have fallen in love with the location from the moment you saw it, has the same been true for those who have stayed at the accommodation?
Based on the feedback we get from guests, yes. Often they comment about the location and its peacefulness. We’re literally off the beaten track at the end of a quiet laneway dotted with local homes. There is no through road, so no noise from passing cars or bikes.
Guests often note the property feels like an oasis tucked away from the outside world.
What kind of background did you have in hospitality that you were able to translate to your business?
We were both raised in the accommodation industry. Elise’s parents ran a motel in country Victoria for 15 years before going on to run a luxury Bed and Breakfast at Mt Buller for over a decade.
Liam’s parents have run a coastal holiday camp in the beautiful Bay of Plenty, New Zealand for over 30 years.
We both worked in restaurants, cafes and hotels throughout our careers before venturing to Bali to establish Melali.
Being raised in accommodation businesses you naturally are surrounded in its everyday happenings. Subconsciously you learn to understand the wants and needs of guests. Essential to success is having a quality product, genuine customer service, an eye for detail, consistency and most importantly a passion for your work.
For those who are to stay at Melali, what are a few of the things they have to do/visit in the area?
Surfing is probably right up there at the top of the list. This area is world famous for its variety and power of breaks. If you’ve never tried get a lesson with one of the local instructors down on Bingin Beach they’ll have you returning to the water each and every day after.
Renting a scooter and getting lost is essential. Explore the myriad of laneways around Bingin, then the beaches and villages of Padang Padang, Uluwatu, Balangan, Ungasan and Nusa Dua further afield.
Spa treatments whether you require a massage, facial, pedicure or reflexology are a must. Their are a multitude of choices, some offering ocean views others infrared saunas and ice baths.
The beach clubs of Karma Kandara and Finns are definitely worth a day or two of your time. These secluded private beaches have their own restaurants and bars. Relax on sun loungers, bean bags and day beds or opt for the more active snorkelling, kayaking or stand up paddle boarding, they’ve got something for everyone.
Sunset is a popular time of the day here in Bali. Head down to the beach at Bingin for a beer and some freshly caught seafood at one of the beach BBQ’s. Facing west, it’s the perfect spot to watch the sun go down.
Eating & Drinking – whether you’re up for eating like a local or after something a little special we’ve got a multitude of recommendations to satisfy the most discerning of diners.
Yoga is popular out on this part of the Bukit Peninsula. It complements the carefree surfing lifestyle of the area. There are a number of studios offering different levels of practice from the beginner to the vastly experienced. Take a class, be enlightened.
If you’re in need of a Bali holiday, visit the website to find out more. All images supplied by Melali.