We may live in the tropics, but chances are, most of us rarely spend time exploring the lush bounty of our natural landscape.
Enter Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape, which might just inspire a love for the tropical rainforest even in the most ardent city dweller. Located in Buahan Kaja Village, about 30 minutes’ drive from Ubud, the resort – for guests aged 18 and above – is located on the slope of a mountain that overlooks a verdant jungle and the Ayung River carving its path through the valley below.
Most intriguing is its tantalizing “no walls, no doors” concept, featuring 16 villas – or bales, as the locals call them – where all that separates a guest from the wilderness are a series of sheer, light drapes.
While I do not harbor Bear Grylls-esque (wo)man versus wild ambitions, I appreciate the opportunity to commune with nature every once in a while. Plus, given Banyan Tree’s well-deserved reputation for offering top notch service, I did not hesitate in signing up for a two night stay out in the Balinese wilderness.
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The Living Room, the resort’s lobby and main social and gathering hub, makes an impressive first impression. It takes a few minutes of earnestly trying to capture the jaw dropping views of the bucolic paddy fields and majestic seven mountain peaks in the distance on camera before I realize this natural grandeur is best savored by living in the moment.
Wholeheartedly embracing the “naked experience” that the resort espouses – not in a nudist kind of way, it must be clarified – the two-storey open concept space houses the Botanist Bar and Open Kitchen, where the team bustles around in full view of guests. At check in, I am presented with a chocolate bonbon made with cacao grown on the estate, paired with a carefully brewed herbal libation spiked with local arak liquor.
I later discover this eat and drink local ethos permeates the culinary approach at Open Kitchen, where Buahan-born chef Eka Sunarya oversees the kitchen. The ever-changing multi-course set dinners feature beautifully plated, highly refined dishes made with seasonal harvests, ethically sourced meats, and foraged herbs, all replete with the fascinating flavors of Indonesian food. There is also an all-day menu of hearty Indonesian dishes for those who want an authentic taste of the region.
Each of the 16 bales which are inspired by traditional Balinese homes, are discreetly dotted across the hillside. The villas are designed as a spacious single-roofed open deck incorporating a beautifully furnished living room, bedroom, and bathroom – with no walls or doors. Instead, during the evening turndown service, the staff will let down the gauzy drapes to keep small critters out. There are also thicker bamboo blinds to keep the rain out during a tropical thunderstorm.
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A closer inspection reveals all manner of little luxuries that an adventurous, yet pampered jetsetter might require in the middle of the jungle. There is electricity, hot water, excellent Wi-Fi, and a private infinity pool at each villa. The king-sized bed is equipped with an ingenious overhead Evening Breeze air cooling system while the bathroom is built with double sinks and an indulgent hand-hammered copper bathtub.
The tiny details, such as the well-stocked mini bar which comes with two types of freshly ground local Kintamani coffee, taro chips, and homemade cookies, as well as amenities like sun hats, rain ponchos, and torchlights. For everything else, the discreet and efficient butlers are a short message away via the in-house cell phones.
As for the elephant, or shall we say mosquitos in the room, well, there are barely any. To keep pests at bay, the team planted lemongrass among the greenery and implemented measures such as a sonar soundwave system. The system is not foolproof of course – I did get a few bites on my legs – but compared to how I was eaten alive by bugs in Ubud a couple days later, my Banyan Tree Escape stay was practically a walk in the park.
The gauzy drapes also do a satisfactory job of keeping most insects out, though I was delighted one night to welcome an unannounced visitor in the form of a lost kitten while sipping my aged Bali-groni nightcap, another delightful amenity. I fell asleep effortlessly to the soothing buzz of cicadas and was gently roused awake when the birds began their morning symphony at dawn.
Bright eyed after a restful slumber in the cradle of the rainforest, I was ready to explore my wild environs. There are various activities such as a foraging walk and a visit to the firefly conservatory to educate guests about life in the jungle. But for me, the highlight was undoubtedly the trek down to the riverbed, where the majestic Tjampuhan waterfall is located.
Lucky for us, the conditions were just right for frolicking at the base of the waterfall. Within minutes, us grown adults were darting in and out through the veil of falling water like children, squealing happily as water crashed around us. No doubt about it, the jungle was showing off. This time, there was no stopping me from snapping away happily for the ‘gram.
For more information, visit escape.banyantree.com