Desa Seni, Bali, Indonesia
Nestling in the rice fields, on the way to Canggu from Seminyak, lays an oasis of peace and tranquility, a small eco village, called Desa Seni. It is a unique and spiritual retreat, beautifully crafted and overflowing with rustic charm, that is a scenic hideaway in this bustling part of Bali. Built around Balinese spiritual philosophy, a dynamic yoga scene and solid eco ethos, the resort embodies the perfect balance of eco chic and community.
The village is decorated with reclaimed antique houses from Java, called joglos, dotted around perfectly kept gardens, full of secret spots to relax around the salt water pool. In amongst the organic gardens is the restaurant, spa and two yoga studios that have lots of lessons throughout the day. The atmosphere is of a small village and community where guests mingle with locals, both Balinese and foreign, all in a magical traditional space set amongst the surrounding rice terraces.
Each room or joglo is decorated in an eclectic style true the roots of Indonesia. Bright details and antiques mingle to create a joyful warmth that flows through the living space, onto the terraces and into the gardens. Careful thought has gone into the décor and each house tells a story and comes with its own booklet to describe it. Rumah means home in Indonesian, so Rumah Wisnu is the house named after the Hindu God better known as Vishnu. The house was carved in the 1800’s with adornments, known as gebyok, in the traditional Indonesian way of representing the masculine and feminine through the carvings. This is said to represent balance, fortune, fertility and health.
The décor is vibrant and colourful, evocative of the Balinese Hindu culture and traditions throughout Indonesia. Pieces are carefully sourced and each tells a tale, such as the brightly painted bed head that is a traditional decorative piece from a similar dwelling to the house and the traditional musical instruments on the terrace that are part of the Gamelan, or traditional Balinese orchestra. Even the bathroom sink is made of a lesung that is where the rice is soaked after harvest. Inside each house is a carefully thought out quirky chaos of pieces meaning you are staying in a room that embodies the multi cultural and religious heart of Indonesia and Bali. The most magical touch is the small altar in every house where the staff leaves a tray of offerings each day so you can bless your dwelling in keeping with the Balinese Hindu culture throughout your stay.
Desa Seni revolves around the two yoga studios during the day, that are host to numerous classes following a host of yoga traditions. Classes in Anusara, Hatha, Vinyasa Bhakti Flow and Ashtanga are all available, along with Kundalini, mediatation and Ecstatic Dance. The practice hall is a center of calm and the heart of this little community. The tranquility of the space is designed so that there is little distraction from focus and form throughout the practice. It is a deeply relaxing space and students of all abilities are welcome. The classes are an intrinsic part of the spiritual aspect of Desa Seni as not just a place to stay, but somewhere also to rebalance. It also creates a flow of people and adds to the community feeling of this property.
A vital part of this is providing Panca Maya and Sad Angga Yoga lessons in Indonesian for the local Balinese community by Pak Made that are free of charge. The very essence of the Balinese culture is dance and drama, which is performed during temple festivals and in ceremonies. At the weekend classes children learn this beautiful dance. The classes are taught in Bahasa Indonesia and free of charge for the community. This encourages the practice with the local villages and creates an opportunity for many people to come and unwind with the support of Desa Seni, the one and only property in Bali that offers this wonderful opportunity to local Balinese.
Wellbeing is of utmost importance at Desa Seni and this translates through to the heavenly menu full of fresh and organic food. As you wander around the resort you will see beds of vegetables, overflowing with magnificent specimens of cabbages, chillies, herbs and all sorts of fresh produce. Eighty percent of this goes into making the food on the menu and the rest is all sourced from sustainable fishing and farming practices. Harnessing the rainwater and the use of the subak system, used for paddy field irrigation, they grow a huge array of ingredients.
There is a fantastic selection of mouthwatering dishes with Indonesian and Italian accents running throughout. Sawi Spring Rolls are made with a fresh almond, tofu paste and fresh vegetables all wrapped in edible Sawi leaves. Main courses create a fusion of flavours, such as the Red Snapper with mango chutney and polenta. There is a huge variety of salads, sandwiches and snacks as well as wonderfully crafted main courses and a dedicated menu for children. All this can be enjoyed in the warm wooden restaurant or in a small bale, or traditional gazebo, dotted around the saltwater pool. These stunning small structures are dotted around and the pool is a soothing place to relax and soak up the sun and calm.
Or if you are really looking for a complete escape into serenity then book yourself into the Svaasthya Spa, a little corner for comfort and healing. Housed in another antique building, there is a range of relaxing and rejuvenating treatments on offer. The traditional Javanese Lulur is an exceptional escape into indulgence in the style on Indonesian nobility. Aromatic spices are combined into a scrub that follows a soothing deep massage and is followed by a turmeric mask. An invigorating shower means your skin feels smooth and renewed, as does your mind. If you need a little deeper healing then you can book a consultation with the in house acupuncturist, Dr. Thomas Sladek, who is an expert at alleviating many conditions.
Nights are a very peaceful affair here. The resort is designed to blend with the surrounding rice padi fields and the gardens flow into the surrounding area seamlessly. Dinner can be taken in your room, restaurant or one of the secret spots hidden in the gardens. It is the details that define a property and set the truly special apart. Desa Seni is one of those truly magical and special places. Filled with smiles, colourful details like the flower mandalas made each day, offerings, life and most of all an embodiment of Bali with an eco conscious core.
Even though this coast of Bali, from Seminyak to Canggu, is getting a bad reputation for over construction and congestion, places like Desa Seni retain a peacefulness and integrity that will stand the test of time. Money from your stay and contributions go towards community projects, and orphans are often placed on work experience here. It also maintains the organic gardens, and the local economy through farmers, projects and employment. If you are in this part of Bali, this hidden gem is a taste of old Bali, and a beautiful place to spend a few relaxing days or even hours.
Photos Courtesy of Electra Gillies & Desa Seni
Words by Electra Gillies