I’d like to introduce the perfect escape from the commotion of Kuta and the ubiquitous touts of Ubud. Just four kilometres from Monkey Forest Road, hidden in the rice paddies and accessed through a coconut grove, UmaJati invites you to live in harmony with nature while offering every comfort your heart could desire.
Two, 100-year-old wooden Joglo homes, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joglo
, have been transported from Java. They are named after the villages where they were originally built, Wates Bangbau and Bugoharjo. The villas were reassembled using recycled wood when needed, and their distinctive, ceramic-tiled roofs create an interesting landmark on the narrow road from Petulu Gunung. The passive solar design of these traditional Javanese houses ensures a cool, breezy living space at all times of the year. The villas are surrounded by one acre of beautifully landscaped gardens designed to complement the villas and blend into the rice paddies beyond.
I stayed in Wates Bangbau, which has two bedrooms, one queen and one twin, each with a private bathroom. Bugoharjo has one bedroom with a queen-sized bed. Both villas have day beds in the living room that can be used for extra guests.
Owners Jean Howe, William Ingram and Made Pung were determined to build an ecologically sound resort, and they have incorporated many innovations to ensure minimal negative impact on the environment. Plastic, glass and paper are recycled. The villas are installed with LED lighting, which use only one quarter of the electricity used by ordinary lights. There is a small organic vegetable and spice garden and a wastewater garden to allow used water to be cleaned by the roots of plants and return to the earth.
Jean, William and Pung are no strangers to sound ecology and charitable initiatives. In 1997 they founded the fair-trade-certified Threads of Life Gallery in Ubud, www.threadsoflife.com
, and the villas are decorated with weavings, batiks, pillows and baskets from the gallery. In 2002 the Bebali Foundation was created to initiate community business for the rural poor, to encourage community forest stewardship and to nurture traditional culture.
What a delight to wake to a peaceful morning amidst orchids, heliconia, frangipani and hibiscus with coconut fronds swaying in the background. Breakfast on the terrace was relaxed and unhurried, with more than enough delicious offerings…fresh fruit, home-made muffins, breads, granola and yogurt along with a choice of eggs.
There is a lovely “bale” (an open-air pagoda) in the grounds, which I found to be perfect for reading, drawing and contemplation.
A short walk down to the Tawar River brought me to a sacred place where clear, clean spring water flows from the surrounding rocks. This is where villagers collect their drinking water, perform holy cleansing and take a mandi (shower). I spent close to an hour meditating beside the spring, and can attest that this is a special place where the kindly spirits of Bali are welcoming and supportive. For the remainder of my stay I felt a sense of awareness and rejuvenation that filled me with deep contentment.
UmaJati is indeed an extraordinary retreat, and I wanted to know the meaning of its name. I have taken this information straight from their comprehensive Visitor’s Directory: “Jati means teak in Indonesian, and “spirit, soul or inner essence” in Balinese. Uma means rice fields in Balinese or “brightly shining” in old Javanese. UmaJati is thus the meeting of land and forest, nourishment and home, generosity and creative spirit, and a place of personal reflection, contemplation and renewal.”
I was certainly nourished both spiritually and literally. Breakfast is included in the room price, but set menus for lunch and dinner are also available. As you can see, the meals were divine; imaginative creations of fresh, organic produce that could not fail to please. I loved everything I tried, and ate every last crumb.
The afternoon was ideal for a dip in the 15-meter lap pool, and before I knew it, the time arrived for afternoon tea. How perfect… tea and cakes beside the water. The day meandered along so prettily, and as darkness fell I was lured back to the house by intriguing aromas.
We had a Western style dinner on the first night and Balinese food, on the second day. It was all very decadent and beautifully presented and served. The staff members at UmaJati are totally charming and completely committed to ensuring their guests are afforded every comfort. I have to say that I was treated like a queen, and I loved every minute of it!
The next morning we took a walk in the rice fields, eventually cutting through to Petulu village, famous for its heron rookeries. Every evening, thousands of Javanese Pond Herons and White Egrets come here to roost and I gather it’s quite a spectacle. I’ll save it for next time, and I certainly hope there is a next time. The enchanted isle of Bali is always delightful, but staying at Umajati Retreat made my holiday exceptional.
Reason to Visit: To luxuriate in this beautiful haven whilst nourishing body and soul.
Br. Desa Petulu
Ubud 80571, Bali, Indonesia