The benefits of being connected to nature was a common realisation during the pandemic lockdowns of recent years. At Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape, in Ubud’s tropical wilderness, guests are offered an unforgettable experience immersed with their surroundings in a unique ‘no walls and no doors’ concept that will expand the mind and rejuvenate the soul.
Written by Iman Hidajat
Photos by Banyan Tree Escape
Located on the highest point in the Gianyar area of Bali, Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape is about a 40-minute drive north of Ubud. The resort is nestled in a lush forest on a steep valley, just behind the village of Buahan Kaja. This location deviates from the circle of resorts in mainstream Ubud. Here, you can interact directly with nature, listening to the sound of the sacred Ayung River, enjoying its picturesque beauty throughout the resort. Just 16 villas tucked amongst the jungle of the various local vegetation ensure complete engagement with the natural surroundings.
The resort is designed with a sustainable indoor-outdoor living concept by Dharmali Kusumadi, Head of Group Design Services at Banyan Tree Group. He collaborated with Gede Krisna, a local, sustainable building architect. Both architects worked closely with local artisans using traditional construction techniques.
ENTERING BANYAN TREE ESCAPE
This untouched piece of jungle had been owned by Banyan Tree Group for many years before this new development began. The team ran a study to anticipate how the resort would impact the surrounding area in social, agricultural, and cultural terms. These findings became the basis of the Buahan concept, providing the guests with a new level of immersion into the Balinese way of life.
It is unique; on arrival at the resort, there is no reception desk. Guests are welcomed at an open post where a large wooden kentongan is located. Each guest must knock the kentongan three times to announce to the universe they have arrived. After this greeting, the staff will inform you of your villa number, and escort you to your accommodation.
A BALÉ WITH MODERN FACILITIES
All 16 villas overlook the lush green valley. The villas are designed like open-air pavilions, more like a balé: a house on stilts with a roof supported by wooden pillars. Almost the entire pavilion – including pillars, furniture, floors and roof – is constructed from recycled ironwood, a type of hardwood from Kalimantan that endures wet terrain and is usually used for docks and fishing boat decks.
Each balé is 165 sqm, designed without walls, just breezy curtains for privacy and roll-down bamboo shades for protection against heavy tropical rain. The facilities are at five-star standards, with an intelligent air conditioning system for the sleeping area. There is a plunge pool with views, a lounge place in the garden, and an attractive hand-ornate copper bathtub inside. The views look out to lush forest scenes, green valleys, terraced rice fields with some vistas of central Bali’s majestic mountains on the horizon.
Nature feels close in these serene forests with no boundaries between inside and outside. The result is a feeling of oneness with the surrounding landscape. At night, the rainforest’s symphony of singing cicadas, crickets, and geckos accompany you to sleep.
The best moment at this resort is waking up in the morning embracing the atmosphere of the cool morning air, the patter of tropical rain and the lyrical nature sounds will recharge your body and soul. Refreshed from a good night’s sleep, admiring morning mists in the valley and the sunrise lighting up the majestic peaks along the horizon is a remarkable experience.
To encourage further engagement with the local area, there are various activities available; such as yoga amidst the jungle in a bamboo pavilion or trekking to the foot of the resort to explore private waterfalls where the Ayung and Santang rivers meet. For the less actively inclined, the open-air Toja Spa offers traditional treatments for wellbeing and relaxation.
THE PLANT-BASED OPEN KITCHEN
In keeping with the holistic approach, the resort offers open dining and lounge spaces where guests are encouraged to learn about the farm-to-table method. The menu is 70 percent plant based and the kitchen uses predominately local ingredients sourced within a one-hour drive of the property. Some ingredients such as garlic and flour which were imported from Java and other regions of Indonesia. The resort works closely with Chef Eka Sunarya and emphasises zero waste, where unused food ingredients, are processed into supporting ingredients for cooking instead of being thrown away.
Chef Eka also likes to experiment. Have you ever tasted Moringa butter, a mocktail blended with Moringa leaves and soy juice, or a cup of coffee kombucha? Wild plants from the forest feature on special menus. For dinner, you will be invited to try western food, but during the day, try Balinese food with unique food ingredients and processing techniques known only at The Open Kitchen.
‘When we explain the concept of ‘without walls’ to potential guests, many people find it difficult to understand’, explained Puspa Anggareni, the Resort Manager of Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape. ‘Maybe because it’s something new. But we believe this design makes people feel close to nature’.