Paul W. heads to the beach and finds a resort that resonates contemporary Bali.
BALI is, and always will be, a treasure chest full of hidden surprises for those willing enough to discover them – the further you go the more you get to know.
And so it was I set off to find Yeh Gangga village and the resort that sits above its dramatic black sand beach, WakaGangga.
For me one of the best parts of any journey is actually getting there and this particular one certainly didn’t disappoint. Meandering along the main trunk road to Java the traffic in both directions is heavy and so my driver decided to throw caution to the wind by taking the back roads to Tabanan and eventually the sea.
I am glad he did as along the way we passed through charming villages set amidst impossibly emerald green rice fields that filled the valleys and the surrounding undulating hills.
It is nearly the holiday period of Rahinan Galungan and so the small village stores are bursting at the seams with their wares of brightly coloured penjors that will soon decorate the footpaths and entrances of the homes in Bali.
WakaGangga resort has come full circle with the re-opening of Waka Hotels & Resort’s signature property after three years of imaginative design and construction.
The first thing any arriving guest will experience is a massive conical structure complete with an alang-alang roof.
From afar it almost resembles Africa’s village rondavals and provides a dramatic entrance point to the unashamedly minimalist reception area.
Built with distinctive rustic features the spacious and garden and pool villas are almost a home away from home. The resort will have 27 villas in total, 15 with private swimming pool. Designed by renowned Ketut Siandana all are luxuriously understated and positioned so that each villa makes maximum use of garden and ocean views.
Siandana has used primitive objects and pieces worn down by nature’s elements or human hands and incorporated these into all aspects of the architecture.
Equipped with romantic four poster beds, desk, sofa bed and dressing room all finished in crafted timber, stone and tiles the expansive glass ensures each villa is flooded with light. Indoor/outdoor bathrooms have been lovingly finished in palimanan stone and handmade tiles all offset by clever use of timber surrounds. The rooms flow seamlessly through a separate dressing room or an alternative route to the main bedroom.
John Pettigrew’s ingenious landscaping has integrated the surrounding rice fields and brought them right into the heart of the complex so that each villa feels part of, rather than away from, the terraces.
After settling in it’s almost a crime to leave the sanctuary of the villa with its large private pool and inviting terrace complete with pillows and comfortable furniture but the resort has invited me to experience the Waka Spa.
Deliciously understated, the design once again is complimented by Ketut Siandana’s spiral designs and conical roof giving the building an airy tranquil feel re-enforced by the water features at the front reception. Offering traditional Balinese and modern treatments it also boasts state-of-the-art steam shower rooms a gymnasium and a beauty treatment room with jaw-dropping views of the ocean beyond.
The grounds are lavishly planted and although the trees are in the early stages of growth one can imagine that within a few months this will soon be a tropical oasis.
Heading to the beach past the huge swimming pool is the unique, or some might say, quirky, restaurant and bar area. Set high above the ocean, affording breathtaking 180-degree views, again Siandana’s conical roofs are the dominant feature. These have been incorporated into renowned Japanese architect Nobuyuki Narabayashi’s spacious and open-plan design.
Covering the outside of the building are scaffolding like wooden beams that follow no discernible patterns giving the impression that it is still under construction. Personally I thought this a bold architectural statement and a stunning piece of design, which is the first thing one sees when walking on the beach.
The elevated position of the restaurant allows guests and visitors alike to experience the breathtaking beauty of miles and miles of beach stretching all the way to the horizon.
The beach runs true and flat as the sands of the Sahara even though the grains are jet black which somehow adds to the drama of the location. Sunsets here are so sublime they resemble a majestic Turner water color with vibrant hues of every colour imaginable. Nature’s palette provides guests one of the most incredible backdrops to be seen anywhere while sipping on an evening cocktail.
Putu Yudana, WakaGangga’s executive chef, is amiable and easy going and was generous enough to share with me his experiences of having spent years in Thailand and the sub-continent learning his craft.
Not being a great dessert lover I was however persuaded to try his ‘special’ black rice pudding and apple pie.
I am now a committed fan.
A stay at WakaGangga can be as leisurely or energetic as you wish it to be, it’s that kind of place.
A call to reception and they will organise a variety of excursions or day trips across the island.
Closer to home, horse riding along the beach is not to be missed for any budding or experienced equestrian.
For those wanting something a little more extreme try the quad bikes that will allow you to travel miles up and down the beach.
My stay at WakaGangga was all too brief but even so it gave me another glimpse of Bali’s magic and one I shall never forget.