Bambu Indah, Bali, Indonesia
Bambu Indah is a magical intimate boutique hotel perched on the side of a ridge in Sayan, outside Ubud in Bali. It has breathtaking views of the Ayung River and across the emerald padi fields that encompass the area. Originally built by Green School founders, John and Cynthia Hardy, to house visiting family and friends. In 2005 they decided to open Bambu Indah to anyone who wanted to come and stay and experience this unique rustic chic retreat.
The property consists of eleven Javanese bridal homes or joglos that were handpicked and decorated by the Hardys. A majestic black bamboo Minang House in the traditional Sumatran style is the focal point overlooking the largest natural freshwater pool in Bali, which lies in the middle of the various handcrafted houses, surrounded by permaculture gardens. The atmosphere is relaxed and homely and it has managed to retain the laid back atmosphere of simply going to stay with friends.
Upon entering you can tell there is something that sets Bambu Indah apart. Touches from their daughter Eloras designs at the Green School mix with the old Javanese and Sumatran architecture. The reception area is a distinct basket shape that has been turned on its head to create a little cocoon while you check in, enjoy cooling coconut water at the restaurant, a traditional rural Balinese structure, behind the reception area before being led to your room.
Enchanting artisanal joglos are all individually painted so each room in Bambu Indah has its own identity. The Africa House is decorated with a personal artifacts collected by the Hardys on their travels throughout the continent and has commanding views across the rice fields, evocative of the plains of Africa. Another unique house is the Udang House (udang means prawn in Indonesian) that has a glass floor so you can see the beautiful stream flowing beneath the room creating glittering illusions inside. The Manis House, manis being sweet, sleeps one, as does one other house. Each house seems to have its own playful yet sophisticated personality, so there is a bridal house to cater to every taste and the solo traveller or accompanying older children.
Another joglo houses the delightfully diminutive spa where you can enjoy a number of traditional treatments. All the products used are organically made using ingredients concocted from the gardens and surrounding areas. The shampoos, conditioners and soaps in the rooms are all a secret blend devised by Cynthia Hardy. These are not only an olfactory pleasure sensation, but also leave your skin and hair heavenly smooth. So fresh are the products that have to be replaced every five days and are not available for sale, so sadly you have to indulge extravagantly in the eclectic bathrooms during your stay.
This is really a place to relax and unwind, leaving memories of hectic life behind. Laying outside of Ubud the little village of Sayan, at the end of the lane, is a place that takes you back in time and is full of smiling faces and children playing in the street. Many will be familiar as the staff that look after you so wonderfully during your stay. Ubud is a very short drive away where you can visit the market and the palace and indulge in a bit of town life. If you are more eager to explore the vicinity of the hotel then Ms. Dewi leads 7am treks down the fairytale spiral staircase to the Ayung River across the padi fields and through the village where you can get a real taste of rural Bali.
One thing that is noticeable from arrival and is intrinsic to the ethos of the property, are the gardens that utilize the space between the bungalows. Apart from flowers, it is a flourishing vegetable and herb garden. The garden provides 80-90 percent of the vegetables that are used in the restaurant, Dapoer. The restaurant prides itself on its traditional Indonesian home cooking, which is all organic. Local women who have cooked for the family for years make all the delectable aroma filled meals. It is about empowering these women to have a belief that their cooking is perfect in its untainted form. Often hotels bring in foreign chefs or try to modernize traditional Indonesian food, but this is purely traditional and left to the women to cook as they would at home. The Sumatran curry in either tofu or chicken is probably one of the best taste sensations on the island.
It is this lack of pretention that makes Bambu Indah so appealing. The laidback luxury of the hotel is its main appeal. This theme runs throughout. A dip in the pool is in itself a completely natural and different experience as small streams run into a large freshwater rock pool. Cool down or hang off the rope swing before dropping in, reminding you again that this is not just a hotel, but also a place that evolved from a home for adults, children and grown up children alike. The individuality of the joglos conjures up different experiences. Lying in the copper bath looking over the valley in the Africa House you could be there, but let the oilskins down and suddenly a very oriental mood overtakes the room and it is reminiscent of an old Chinese junk.
Bedtime can be as open or closed as you want and the bedrooms are all air conditioned, but the doors and windows can also be left open to sleep with the clean gentle breeze blowing through a mosquito net. The private verandas are the perfect spot to enjoy a quiet dinner or breakfast if you are in search of privacy or solitude. A reclaimed deck also has tables or bales (pagodas) to enjoy a drink or meal with commanding views over the sublimely stately lush padi fields and mountains.
Bambu Indah is a welcoming unaffected hideaway that is near to Ubud, but feels a million miles away. It is a natural and comforting experience with no polluting noises, apart from some vocal frogs, or distractions. The special individual antique houses create a recycled splendor set off with the stately sustainable Minang structure and the elegant organic restaurant. It is a responsible and relaxed property with incomparable views where one can be completely calm in sumptuous comfort.
Photos Courtesy of Bambu Indah & Words by Electra Gillies