A luxurious Indonesian eco-resort with new cooking classes is a beautiful experiment in sustainability, plus 4 more incredible places to rejuvenate on the breathtaking island of Bali.
For anyone who travels to Bali with a desire to learn about the culture as well as to practice sunrise savasanas, the Bambu Indah wellness resort in Ubud is a dream scenario. This sprawling wellness retreat, founded by jewelry designer John Hardy, has 14 guest suites, all 100-year-old “bridal houses” that Javanese noblemen had built for their new wives. Rustic but luxurious, the property also includes newer construction like a yoga pavilion. It’s one of Hardy’s early experiments in building unique, durable structures out of bamboo treated with saltwater, a traditional but neglected preserving method (the sap in untreated bamboo attracts beetles, which devour everything).
Hardy’s daughter, Elora, now runs her own Balinese design and construction firm called Ibuku that specializes in open-air bamboo buildings with jauntily off-kilter tiers and swooping thatched roofs. One such project is a whimsical but utterly functional new building at Bambu Indah: a kitchen that hosts Indonesian cooking classes. Working at counters cut from a slab of Javanese boulder, guests learn to make dishes like chicken satay with roasted jackfruit. Ingredients are grown on-site by a collective of farmers organized by Elora’s brother Orin; once harvested, produce is stored in the kitchen in brass baskets rigged on a pulley rope.
Elora wanted the open kitchen to bring cooks and guests together. What she didn’t want was for the kitchen staff, mostly women from the village, to feel uncomfortable on display. She explains: “Balinese women are empowered in the kitchen; they’re sometimes chatty to the point of being raunchy. So I had to make a beautiful space where they could feel like themselves and not be self-conscious.”
The larger goal of the project was to continue the Hardy family’s work promoting bamboo as the future of sustainable building in Bali. “Bamboo is a weed; it just keeps shooting up new growth without having to replant,” says Elora. “It’s a ridiculously obvious building material in the tropical world.”
Bali: Where to Stay
Combining antique Indonesian architecture with modern and sustainable practices in a luxury environment. Resort restaurant Saoper offers guests local and organic slow food, prepared with vegetables and herbs from the resorts own garden. Villas from $125; bambuindah.com.
Set on a serene hillside, away from Jimbaran’s popular beaches. You can take cooking classes and unwind in one of the best new spas in Bali, overlooking the terraced gardens. Doubles from $180; rimbajimbaran.com.
Fairmont, Sanur Beach
In a less touristy area than nearby Kuta, this property of only 120 suites and villas feels more like a boutique hotel than a beach resort. Suites from $260; fairmont.com.
Chedi Club, Jimbaran Bay
There’s an emphasis on clean eating at this highly anticipated new wellness retreat, where each of the 34 villas comes with its own pool. Inquire for pricing; ghmhotels.com.
Ritz-Carlton Nusa Dua
Opening in April on the southern tip of Bali. This food-focused clifftop resort will have cooking demos and five restaurants, including a high-end Indonesian chef’s table. Doubles from $480; ritzcarlton.com.