Bali People’s Party

Interview by Stephanie Peh
Images courtesy of hu’u

Even those who have never set foot in Bali have heard of Seminyak. If you had to name the most famous stretch in this bustling neighbourhood, it’d be Jalan Petitenget, lined with innumerable dining, drinking and dancing hotspots.

Enter Sean Lee, who had the foresight to migrate the already infamous hu’u bar from Singapore to Bali way back in 2000 when Seminyak was marshland, way before the gentrified tourist destination that it is now. Since then, hu’u Bar has been synonymous with legendary celebrities, DJs, stars of pop, rock, till you don’t stop, and why would you anyway, when you’re in Bali. And now with the recent addition of hu’u Villas Seminyak-Bali, a 10 villa resort of luxurious proportions, within a minute of a drunken stupor’s walk, we find out from Sean the real reasons why the sun never really sets in Bali.

Why and how was hu’u created?

I was a banker searching to enrich my life away from analytical reports and computer screens. hu’u started in Singapore in 1998 at the Singapore Art Museum—a gorgeous location; and the idea of partying in an old Catholic school building really pushed up the hip factor, as Singapore had never seen anything like it. While pitching the idea to the museum authorities, we mentioned it’d be a jazz bar, neglecting to tell them it would be acid jazz. The vision was to bring back to Asia what it was lacking, a good bar to hang out at with good music.

Back then, the landscape in Singapore and the region was either local drinking holes in the suburbs or big discotheques in hotels or above shopping malls. I guess we indirectly introduced the segment of bars and restaurants everyone is familiar with today. Then, in 2000, we spotted an opportunity to offer a unique experience once again. We chanced upon a piece of padi field, had a vision of being able to sip lychee martinis in the middle of the rice field, and hu’u Villas Seminyak-Bali was born.

Did your personal background influence your unique point of view?

Actually, the black sheep spawns a black sheep. My father was the only one in his family who was a professional liquor salesman. He was regional Managing Director of Seagram Singapore, forerunner to the present-day Pernod Ricard Asia Pacific. So, I grew up in a household where there was a house party every week.

This gave me direct insight into knowing how to run a hospitality venue intimately. You can say hu’u is like a house and every guest that walks through the door is a houseguest. In the hospitality line, nothing can beat that; it surpasses any six- or seven-star hotel. Every culture knows that inviting someone to stay at your house is a privilege reserved for the closest friends and associates, and that’s how we treat our patrons.

My professional training as an analyst gave me the tools to understand business landscapes from a macro and micro perspective. It also gave me the know-how to manage my finances, and to manage any company I run like a tight ship.

hu’u has achieved by natural evolution what all the Ws and their respective copy-cat brands are struggling to achieve. That is, to be a hip and chic hotel that offers party elements. For hu’u, we already had the party, so adding the villa accommodation raises the bar on the fun factor and completes the uniquely hu’u experience.

On a cheeky note, it is best to think of the hu’u experience as “involuntary confinement”. All the loft villas have interconnecting pool decks so the “cellmates” can sneak over and visit.

Of course, this is a maximum security facility, considering our target audience is low-key, prominent but hip. Nobody is planning to break out of our commune anytime soon.

Read more in The U Press N˚6 (Singapore edition).