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Into the Hills

BY Lisa Lindblad

January 8, 2014

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Early morning we head into the hills to Ubud, the artisanal heart of Bali.  A good friend of mine, who is married to a Balinese and lives on the north coast of the island, says, “You are leaving the Dark Side for Middle Earth,” warning me that what I will find along the Ayung River and in those gorgeous rice fields of Sayan is only marginally better than the crush of the coast.  We head off at 8:30 under our first really blue, clear sky and rejoice in roads that are virtually empty.  As we leave the motorcycles and trucks of the coastal strip and ascend through thick bamboo stands and perfectly carved rice terraces that shimmer in the sharp morning light, a great sense of well-being rolls over us. I cannot remember another place whose vegetal profusion is matched by such cultural elaboration. Family compounds and temples, enclosed by low brick walls covered with emerald lichens, line the country roads.  But there is nothing simple about these walls.  Some are solid and capped with fantastic volcanic stone figures, others have brickwork as delicate as lace,  and there are those with bas relief tales running their length.  Bali has always been thus – a dizzying combination of fantasy and ritual, disorder and discipline, played out in daily life.

We made a few stops along the way, the first being to the family compound of Ida Bagus Tilem, the great wood carver.  While his and his son’s carvings are masterful and always worth seeing, there is much more to this stop than watching his quiet carvers at work.  The compound, itself, is a glimpse into a Bali that seems very far away and not easily within the grasp of the average visitor.  If you arrive early before other tourists, you can wander the compound quietly, accompanied by the easy talk of the women on the verandah and the singing birds in their oh-so-beautiful, antique bird cages.  Peek through a door to see a lovely – and valuable – painting of Bali’s own master, Gunarsa, under which, in a morning sun ray,  sleeps Chino, some mixed breed charmer who is very old and very deaf.  Glass fronted cupboards are stacked with Ming dishes and bowls and, through the window of the gallery, you glimpse famous pieces of father and son – the mudra hand, the yogi, the dancing Balinese girl, the fisherman with his net.

In the family temple, relatives are bringing the ancestors fresh offerings of  marigold petals, sticky rice and incense.  The ritual is timeless and striking in this age of fast commerce, mass tourism and facebook.

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Livingdiningtomaintent-tb25-YF2G0881-EDITED2Bali 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.

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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.

http://www.escapenomade.com/

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Living Without Walls