A Blissful Retreat in the Forest at Tira Vilagna

Photography By Gede Geni

Tucked in a pine forest in Bali’s quiet Kintamani is the newly opened Tira Vilagna Suites & Spa. A perfect hideout amidst tranquillity, this cascading resort overlooks the mountain range in the highland of Bali and offers a magical view enriched with detailed and thoughtful designs.

The cascading design as an adjustment with the land contour

Managed by Arjava Hospitality, Tira Vilagna has its own story to tell. Most of us would probably think of ourselves as free people. We may not realise it, but we live our lives in some sort of confinement. It is not always a bad thing, as confinements exist in the forms of a house, a religious community, a society, a country, and so on. John Chang incorporated such a deeply rooted idea of confinement in the design concept of Tira Vilagna, his very first resort.

“A confinement or a cage indirectly is also a symbol of the Balinese life. Many Balinese make use of cages, for example to keep their chickens. The name Tira Vilagna itself loosely translates as ‘come ashore’, where ‘tira’ literally means land and ‘vilagna’ means a confinement in Sanskrit. So, Tira Vilagna is an enclosed place that welcomes people with open hands,” John explained. The use of chicken cages is carried through many areas in the resort, such as for lighting in the meeting room and at the Koi bar by the Koi pond, and as the dome at the amphitheatre.

Coming from a business consultancy background, John decided to do something useful with the land presented to him in Kintamani. “I wanted to build just three buildings for volunteer workers who need to transit,” he said. One thing led to another. The plan developed into Tira Vilagna, a resort with 22 room keys for rent in seven Joglo houses and two pendopo-styled buildings. Although John has no architectural background, he is the mastermind of the project. He worked together closely with two architects in the preliminary and design development.

Bali has a distinctive architectural style. Many business establishments adopt the style to enhance the Balinese character, but John decided to adopt the Javanese Joglo style to merge with the Balinese architectural concept. For example, the amphitheatre, koi pond and fire pit are common areas surrounded by the Joglos representing Balinese home inner yard called natah.

The resort consists of refurbished Joglo houses, which were carefully selected directly from the previous owners in Central Java. The use of the Joglos was chosen for environmental reasons and to preserve the heritage value of vernacular architectural buildings.

Due to the unique contour of the site, the project required considerable modifications to build two- and three-level Joglo houses. The alterations took the buildings’ style from the typical one-level house to finally increasing the number of rooms created.

Most of the materials used in the project are locally sourced and some of them are by product or recycled such as railway sleepers for bridges and stairs; ploughs for outdoor lamp posts and hand railings; lava temple stones for the landscaping and flooring, including timber cuts for cornices, plints or mosaic.


Upon entering the resort, passing the uniquely designed main gate known as gapura, you will find a crafted timber building which is not revealing the overall resort itself. An angkul-angkul or a smaller gate with a roof on top welcomes guests before reaching the lobby, which is connected by a wooden bridge.

The stairs that connect the lobby, restaurant and bar

Arriving at the lobby, guests will find an uncommon wooden feature cocoon shape structure, which accommodates the service requirements of a resort lobby. Guests are served with a welcome drink while completing a quick registration process following health protocols. They can sit comfortably on sofas having a laid-back moment, their eyes feasted on the view of Mount Catur and Mount Batukaru in the distance through the valley of pine forest.

As in most hotels and resorts, the lobby of Tira Vilagna is on the street level. But instead of stacking up, the floors are in descending order, adjusting to the land contour. Beneath the lobby is the Piano Bar provides a selection of coffee and other beverages where guests can relax, play darts and other games in a homey atmosphere.

Below the Piano Bar is The Tree Top Restaurant. The warung façade and open kitchen setting offer relaxed informality. The other areas of the restaurant are the alfresco and the Pendopo. The menu gives you various options from continental to creatively modified dishes from across the archipelago.

Both the Piano Bar and the restaurant have an open view of the pine forest valley and the mountains. For guests who are up for some more drinks, the open-aired Koi Bar awaits at the Koi Pond Piazza. The bar’s canopy thatched roof will remind them that they are still in the tropics even though Kintamani, situated 1,400 metres above sea level, often blankets the resort with mists and cool weather like springtime.


The guestrooms are dispersed throughout the Joglo houses. The suite categories include Tira Vilagna Suite, Deluxe Suite, Premier Vintage Joglo, Premier Classic Joglo, Studio Suite and Two-Bedroom Apartment Suite. Each is designed to meet the highest level of privacy and comfort. No TV in every guestroom, but a stable Wi-Fi connection is provided throughout the resort. An IP phone is available in the room and coffee and tea facilities, hair dryer, yukata and sandal, mini fridge and electronic safe. The resort caters to all variety of guests, from solo travellers to couples and families. You can choose a suite that meets your preference.

Spacious bedrooms for all suite type

The Tira Vilagna Suites are all nestled on the ground level, wherein some of them have an adjoining private garden. The suites on mid-level and top floors are all complemented on three sides of wide balconies. Each of the Apartment Suites is equipped with a pantry and a seating area. The Two-Bedroom Apartment Suite is complete with a well-equipped kitchen, a dining table and washing machine. All the suites are spacious, have large wardrobes and Kartini colonial-style chaise lounge sofas making them pleasant for a long stay.

John is also very particular about interior design. The selection of vanities fittings for the shower and washbasin gives the utmost comfort for the guests while they are doing their daily ritual in the spacious bathroom. The coffee, tea and sugar containers are specially designed with the concept of the property, in the form of tiny cages. The wooden furniture is all made of teak wood. “For the wooden furniture, we use natural colours with some touches of emerald and turquoise. They are quite common in the design of Javanese and Balinese furniture. I also thought it was best to add a bit of colour in the room to make it cosier. So, when guests enter the room, they don’t feel like simply going through a wooden box.” You will also notice that more colours are added to the upholstery to liven up the atmosphere.


Consistently giving surprises, John decided to add a red Japanese-style bridge replicating the Taiko-bashi bridge that serves as the only entrance to the Yoga Pendopo. “Red is the sign of love. It also makes a nice shocker amongst the monotonous forest view,” he said of the reason.

As Bali is rich with performing arts, guests can enjoy performances at the resort’s uniquely designed amphitheatre surrounded in culture. Two rows of seats facing one-third of the stage with an unusual dome or stupa made of nearly 500 traditional chicken cages. The bamboo chicken cages are custom made in different sizes by a father and son, craftsmen in Bangli, the regency where Kintamani is located. The amphitheatre, which you are most likely to view as the iconic landmark of Tira Vilagna, is, in fact the main natah of the property.


The very last design development in Tira Vilagna is the Sarala Spa and Sento located at the lower part of Yoga Pendopo and The Tea Room. At the Spa & Sento, guests can soak your troubles away in the Sento hot pool and indulge themselves in various spa treatments. Afterwards, the Tea Room offers you the enjoyment of afternoon tea. Bring your own books or enjoy the selection of books provided in the Tea Room library to enrich your lounge time.

While Tira Vilagna is all about relaxation and serenity, you can also choose to do some exciting activities. To name a few, going for a morning walk in the natural conservation valley, visiting the nearby Pura Ulun Danu Batur and the smaller pura at the rear where you can enjoy the incredible view of three mountains, Batur, Abang and Agung with low fog covering up the inner caldera. Or, hiking to the summit of Mount Batur volcano to pamper your eyes with the beautiful sunrise. Another option is going a further nine kilometres north to the village of Pinggan to catch sunrise in close and personal with Mount Batur and see at a distant away of Mount Rinjani in Lombok Island. Expect magical views as well as some encounters with the thick-coated, plume-tailed Kintamani dogs, an internationally recognised breed and the free-roaming keepers of the mountain.

Having finished building Tira Vilagna partly in the pandemic did not make John settle for anything less than what he aspired to do. “For every area of the resort, I thought about how to make it comfortable for the guests. It’s not about what I wanted but it’s all about what’s most suitable for all the areas and what’s best for the guests and the team members,” he said.

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Vira Tanka
Having her bachelor degree from Visual Communication Design of Bandung Institute of Technology, she explored her other interest in writing by being a writer for TV programs and travel magazines. Always keeping her love for the art, she actively sketches just about everything, from urban landscape to nature, in between writing projects.
Gede Geni