“Extraordinary eco-chic retreat: a cluster of antique Javanese houses set in a rice field garden with magnificent views across the Sayan Valley”
The 13 houses are made from teak wood hand-carved by Javanese tribes over 100 years ago. Expect thatched alang alang roofs, verandas to sit out on, and daybeds. All are individual, charming and decked out with traditional Javanese furnishings and a smattering of collectables from the owners' travels - from Tibetan rugs to African wallhangings. The rustic décor masks more modern touches: comfortable mosquito-netted beds, WiFi, hand-beaten copper basins, open air rainshowers, even Japanese washer-drier-high-tech loos. This is not a place you'll need to rough it to enjoy. At the top of the pecking order is Afrika. You're on the outer edge of the garden so it feels the most private, and you get superb far-reaching views of the valley from your veranda and bale. It's also the largest of the houses with a four-poster bed plus a large daybed, making it a good option for families or those wanting twin beds. There are no fussy curtains or glass windows, just the original wooden blocks to close you in. A constant reassuring sound from the natural pool lulled us to sleep. We loved the enormous handmade copper bath - a true and unusual work of art, filling from patterned holes at its base. Roll up the bathroom's junk-style blinds to get the best "view from a loo" across the paddy fields. Elora and Orin House, a 2-storey iron and redwood house (an exterior spiral staircase leads to the upper floor) is popular for longer stays. Its higher ceilings and glass windows give a lighter, airy feel and there's a desk station on its second floor. The other houses are slightly smaller, but are equally charming, and we'd be happy to stay in any. That said, Udang offers the rather unusual experience of not only walking, but sleeping on water. The bedroom floor is made up of glass panels allowing guests to gaze down at the shrimp pond beneath the house. There are 2 houses designed specifically with the solo traveller in mind; Manis has a veranda with a table and a colourful seating area, while the slightly smaller Kuda is tucked in amongst the surrounding foliage. We’re yet to see the 2 newest additions, both of which are very unique: bamboo Sumba House resembles an Aboriginal Indonesian tribal house, while glass-walled The Pagoda is spread over 4 floors and was originally created for John and Cynthia’s 2 daughters. Both look incredibly inviting and have 2 double bedrooms. The Pagoda can also be booked with a third double bedroom. Most rooms have views across the valley or food garden, with the exception of Kolam, which you reach via a giant pebble pathway. Set in its own small walled garden with a pond and a stylish bale, it provides a more enclosed feel.
Meals can be taken in the on-site restaurant, or alternatively in the Minang House, on your veranda or on the small deck area overhanging the ravine (request in advance of your meal). Breakfast is served between 7am and 11am, and includes fruit (pineapple, watermelon and papaya), fresh juice, local coffee and homemade bread, as well as something hot - perhaps Balinese rice porridge or boiled eggs and toast. The restaurant remains open throughout the day, serving light lunches - mixed vegetables with prawns and rice, nasi campur chicken - as well as cocktails and other drinks. In the evening dinner is simple but delicious. The daily fixed menus use organic ingredients fresh from the garden: we enjoyed a tasty Balinese chicken stew with just-harvested rice and vegetables, washed down with some cool beer. Last orders for dinner are taken at 9.00pm. With Ubud being just a 15-minute drive away, there are plenty of options for eating out from chic contemporary restaurants to traditional warungs (staff can advise and arrange taxis). A favourite lunchtime spot for fresh organic salads and juices is Bali Buddha, which also doubles as a healthfood store.
Children are welcome. Baby cots can be provided and daybeds can be made up for older children. The proximity of the Sayan gorge and the old wooden balconies, plus the meandering pool, makes it unsuitable for toddlers. However, older children will love the adventure of staying in a wooden house with nature all around.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Afrika villa has an extra double bed suitable for 1 older child or 2 younger ones. Elora and Orin House house is a great option, as it has a double room downstairs with a private garden bathroom, and one upstairs also with its own bathroom; both bedrooms can fit an extra bed or baby cot, too. Sumba has 2 double bedrooms, and The Pagoda can be booked with either 2 or 3 double bedrooms so is a good option for a family of 4 with older kids. A chest of board games is provided for family time together.
Watch out for the steep gorge which is unguarded in parts and the bottom of the rock pool can be very slippery.