BY Lisa Lindblad
January 3, 2014
“Ibu Lisa,” called Sempan, “can I help you?” I’m on crutches and am learning fast that there is no better place to be handicapped than here, where simply the smiles – let along the many proffered hands – could keep me upright. Sempan and I are going on an excursion today to Candidasa in the East where AmanResort’s second property, Amankila, is located. The drive is lovely after you pass Sanur, 30 minutes away. Old Bali warungs reemerge, replacing the Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks and a thousand shops. The highway gives way to a two-lane ribbon pressed in upon the sides by unruly vegetation, bales, the omnipresent roadside warehouses of stone and wood carvings and stands piled high with bananas. The going is easy, tailing a sand truck that labors along, giving me time to appreciate the landscape changing from flat and built to hilly and vegetated.
Amankila is gorgeous, settled against the mountain in a cascade of villas that fall gracefully to three magnificent pools and then, further down, to the beach club with its private black sand beach and award-winning lap pool. This is no place to be on crutches for the property is linked by a lovely skein of steps that, for any normal person, would substitute just fine for the gym. Amankila is beautifully positioned for the active set – water sports that include the use of their boats to snorkel, visit bays, dive and surf (a major international surf competition will be held this summer just down the road at Karamis, a break that, until now, is little visited by tourists); hiking through rice paddies (just further along are the famous rice paddies of Sidemen) or, at 1AM, up the mother mountain, Gunung Agung, to arrive by sunrise; and cultural visits to Tanganan to see their unusual weavings and traditional village life, or to the palace of Kertagosa to see the wall paintings. And the best part of it all is that Candidasa and East Bali are relatively little changed, thus giving you a real sense of the island’s true face.
After getting a good look at the Bali starlings that have recently been housed in lovely enclosures on the rise behind Amankila – this in an effort to breed and repopulate the region with these pretty birds – we headed back towards Sanur where I had an afternoon appointment with Bruce, an expatriate art dealer. I am passionate about textiles and, during my years in Indonesia, I collected both ikats and batiks. Batiks speak to me, and I particularly love the sunny colors of those that come from Pekalongan on Java. I met Bruce in his house cum showroom off a tiny lane that threatened to have me hobbling to the gate, for the car barely passed. And there, on the ground floor, were his carvings and objets d’art, old photographs, a beaded shroud and framed textiles. Bruce is half and half – New Yorker by way of England and a British mother – who went walkabout in the mid 70’s and cast up on these shores. He explained it this way: “India seemed too spiritual, and Bali felt like spiritual on a beach.” How right he was. 28 or so years later, he is still here with his wife and two grown sons (one lives in the States), and he is still curating beautiful objects, writing books on his subjects and selling here and there. He is the go-to person for signed batiks which he often sources outside of the country and brings back to sell to local collectors. His storeroom is fascinating, and I spent an hour with Asih, his Balinese assistant of 20 years, who lovingly unwrapped Sumatran and Timorese cloths, Peranakan beaded panels and finely stitched bags and belts. As extraordinary as this treasure trove was to discover, it was her love of each object, her appreciation for the fine stitchery, the dyes and the glass beads that enchanted me. Asih has become a designer in her own right and sells, she tells me, to various hotel shops. She credits Bruce for his years of teaching.
The evening return to Amanusa was a coming home. Already.
Some of the most beautiful sailing areas on the planet occur on the Seven Seas - Banda, Timor, Celebes, not to mention gorgeous Raja Ampat. This has traditionally been the lurking ground of the ruthless seafarers of South Sulawesi, the Bugis, who dogged the routes of English and Dutch trading ships. European sailors may have feared the Bugis for their piratic ways, but was that fear mixed with a touch of admiration when , through the spyglass, they marked the tall mainsail and wide hull of the Phinisi ship bearing down on them?
The Alila hotel chain has added to its property inventory in Indonesia a beautiful, 46-meter Phinisi-styled boat, Alila Purnama. With 5 well-appointed suites over its three decks, Alila Purnama, translated as The Full Moon, is gracefully furnished with traditional teak and rattan furniture and locally sourced fabric, offers delicious food and, most importantly, sails you to the Seven Seas.