BY Lisa Lindblad
January 2, 2014
You could have blindfolded me, turned me around in both directions 100 times before leading me outdoors, and I would have known exactly where I was. Not all tropics smell the same. This magic isle mixes the humid, the decay, the lichens and frangipani into a concoction that, to me at least, seems unmistakeable.
Good morning Bali.
I spent my first evening in the company of the incomparable General Manager of Amanusa, Sean Flakelar. I have known Sean for years now, having spent some of my most meaningful travels at Amanjiwo, the lovely property in the Kedu Valley that Sean ran for many years with such creativity and style. Now he is here, in Bali, close to his passion, the surf. He has also expanded his responsibilities to oversee all of the five Indonesian Aman resorts, resorts that are the classics, the originals. And, say what you will, it is hard to outdo a classic. What is it that Claude Levi Strauss says in Tristes Tropiques — something to the effect that only the first effort is really of value, that everything thereafter is but a pale comparison. There are lots of comparisons here on Bali..I can see them already, and I have not left the property. The views from my bale are studded with rooftops and lights and even a very large crane in the distance erecting yet another 5*. I will visit some of them during this trip, and I am sure I will be enchanted by many. But my heart is here with a staff that takes you into its tender care, with an aesthetic that everywhere speaks of the maker’s hand, with the profusion of Aman’s iconic flower, the fragrant tuberose, with a simplicity that never falls short of comfort and, yes, the luxury of everything being just perfect.
We laughed a lot last night, sharing stories that featured mutual friends. Bali has always had this very tight community of expatriates which is one reason why it has always been so easy to leave, come back, and to feel totally at home. In fact, that is one of the hallmarks of some very special places – they allow you to step away and then to slip back – an evening of story catchup providing the missing beat – into a seamless reentry. Of course people move and die and so the configuration of the group changes. Not long ago mystery and storytelling attended these leavings, but social media has changed all that for every movement is known now instantly. And something else struck me last night. There are friends I will see on this visit to Bali who Sean may not see for another year. The reason is not lack of desire but, very simply, traffic. It can take hours to drive along the coast and many more to go up country. No longer is a spontaneous cup of tea an option unless you want to stay the night. Traffic has interrupted the fabric of casual interaction and, as a result, this tight little community of expatriates has become more a loose collection of friend cells. The glue that binds is now a combination of old school interaction and the mobile device. Does it matter? Probably not, but I liked that tight group and, at one point in my life, it had my back.
Bali is a wellspring of creativity. It all starts with the Balinese themselves who, from childhood, are committed to adopting one art form or another. Painting, carving, dancing, playing a musical instrument -- each child is tasked with learning an artistic skill which he or she continues to practice in to adulthood. And so it is no wonder that the island, blessed as it is with beautiful landscapes, a rich spiritual tradition, and creatively skilled locals, has always drawn to its shores creative souls from elsewhere.
Anneke van Waesberghe is one of these transplants. Resident of Bali for the last 15 years, Anneke started Escape Nomade in 2004.
The reason for designing and manufacturing tents is to create a sustainable elegant, affordable, safe and self-sufficient mobile living space in nature, delivered by knowledgeable People and their enthusiastic family members for a fair Profit to all stakeholders. To educate and enlarge people’s environmental awareness by opening doors to remote areas that would otherwise be inaccessible; conserve both nature and culture by protecting the environment and its cultural heritage.
I went to visit Anneke in the hills. Leave the overbuilt town of Ubud, and bump along a dirt road that leads through rice terraces and bamboo-lined gullies. Turn left on a virtual pathway and arrive at a beautiful carved gate. You are met with a cold, scented towel, escorted along a stone pathway to the portals of a magnificent tent, and offered a tray of assorted melon and ginger juices. Bali never ceases to amaze..where else in the world would you find such perfection, such style - simple and lovely - in the wilds? Anneke is there to show us around the interior of her first tent which is composed of a living room and a bedroom. The interiors are, of course, stunning, with furniture, linens and accessories of her own design fabricated in Indonesia or sourced from India.
Not only does Anneke make all manner of tents - kitchen, spa, sleeping, bathroom, portable picnic tents - as well as the interiors, she ships them around the world in containers, provides Balinese staff to set them up and sends videos that assist in their maintenance. She also receives guests at her installation in the rice terraces where she provides a delicious high tea or even a celebratory dinner.