Bali, traditionally hailed as the 'island of the Gods', has not faired well in the eyes of the more discerning traveller in recent years. Criticised as over commercialised and guilty of pampering to mass tourism, it has lost its lustre for many a seasoned traveller, together with its place as the world's number one dream destination for lovers and honeymooners.
However, these critics could not have discovered Begawan Giri, the inspirational creation of English owners Bradley and Debbie Gardner. Set in the mountains, just outside Ubud, the celebrated arts and crafts city, Begawan Giri (Wise Men's Mountain) is a secluded, private estate in eight hectares of beautifully landscaped gardens and consists of five luxurious residences that hug the hillside overlooking the Ayung River. It is fed by three holy springs that converge into a natural waterfall, which flows down the hillside and into the river below.
What to Expect
A truly exotic and idyllic place which when shrouded in early morning mountain mists makes your heart skip a beat with the mystic tranquillity of it all.
The Gardners, together with Malaysian architect Cheong Yew Kuan, spent nine long years producing what has developed from a simple garden retreat into an architectural masterpiece that is not only aesthetically pleasing to the eye but takes into account the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape, with the result that the estate fits in harmoniously with the jungle. Their successful endeavour to avoid the traditional trappings of a hotel means that in place of a numbered room, staying in one of their villas feels like staying in your own private retreat and everywhere you look the art and culture of Bali surround you.
Each residence has either four or five bedrooms and can be rented either as a whole or by suite. Named after the elements each is architecturally different, from traditional Balinese embellished with woodcarvings and delicate batik paintings to Dutch colonial style with the use of dark woods with an interior of rich colours and fine fabrics. Wanakasa, high above the forest, resembles a tree house for honeymooners while Umabona, with its carved-stone friezes, evokes a Majapahit palace. Each villa has its own pool, living and dining pavilion, library/study room, kitchen and a 24-hour butler who discreetly serves your every need.
Begawan Giri is a wonderful expression of the Balinese belief in a harmonious and balanced interaction between man, the spiritual and the natural world and if you're looking for the typical resort and spa activities, then this is not the place for you. Of course the estate can arrange tours or excursions and white-water rafting on the Ayung River is close by, but to come here and not experience the miles of superb walks would be a crime. The 30-acre mountain has been terraced by the Gardners and more than 2500 rare trees have been planted throughout, never mind the wealth of orchids that climb the trees, the firecracker hibiscus, fragrant sandat and varieties of thunbergia that sweep into view as you pass along the trails, under a bright blue sky.
This is a true chance to harmonise with nature and to achieve a feeling of physical and spiritual well-being. The focus here is holistic and body treatments are part of the experience. These are offered in the privacy of your suite or villa and include Balinese massage, skin scrubs, baths and wraps, all based on traditional methods, using natural ingredients in the oils and lotions.
'Our masseur and masseuse scatter petals of frangipani and tuberose over our bodies. The scent of a tender incense drifts from bowls of flowers they've brought as offerings for the spirits ...The opening prayers finished, Wayan and Ibu place our heads facedown in the clefts of the tables over small vases of orchids, nasturtiums and hibiscus set on the dark ironwood floor. The Ayung River roars through a gorge far below. It is the best massage I've ever had', recounts one guest who visited the estate last year.
You can dine anywhere you choose on the estate; either in your suite, in the gardens at the residence pavilion, under a bright orange moon or in the restaurant 'Biji Biji'. Chef, David King, creates delicious New World cuisine with Indonesian influences, using the ingredients from the poultry, fish and prawn farms, the vegetable gardens and tropical fruit trees from the estate's grounds. Nothing could be simpler or fresher than that!
With the accent on simplicity, balance and a return to nature, the staff go out of their way to ensure your stay is filled with those special touches. Don't be surprised when you return to your suite to find a tray full of edible treats and fresh gardenias floating in bowls by the bed. This is the way to experience Bali.
Begawan Giri Estate
P.O. Box 54, Ubud 80571, Bali, Indonesia
Tel: +62 361 978888
Fax: 62 361 978889
Web site: http://www.begawan.com
Ground transportation from Denpasar to Ubud provided by Bagawan Giri Estates
Best time to visit: April to mid-November
Flights to Denpasar Bali:
Singapore Airlines, China Airlines, Korean Air and Qantas.
All travellers to Indonesia must be in possession of a passport that is valid for at least six months after the date of arrival and must have proof of further or return passage. Visas are not required for nationals of many countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, The United Kingdom and The United States of America. For others, tourist visas can be obtained from any Indonesian Embassy or Consulate. The maximum stay permitted for tourists is two months (60 days). Those intending a longer stay must contact the Indonesian Embassy or Consulate in their home country before leaving.