After arriving in Ubud, Bali, I just wanted to leave.
I wrote an article questioning whether Bali had lost its luster. Traffic was awful. The infrastructure could hardly handle the influx of tourists. I had been to Bali twice before. But it was changing. As my friend and travel writer Dave Fox said after his recent visit, “I had never seen so many white people outside of the United States.”
The trouble was, our departure date was a month away.Where would we stay? I have nothing against streams of Australian tourists that don Bohemian outfits and align their chakras with a perfect blend of yoga, meditation and beer. But I didn’t want to swim in those streams.
So we rented a scooter for the month. It cost $2.30 per day. Costs are higher when you rent short term.
The scooter broadened our accommodation options. We chose Villa Sakura. It’s in Kedewatan, roughly a 10-minute ride from the madness (and magical restaurants) of Ubud.
The villa grounds are much like a cross between a private resort and a large home estate. The entrances to two large units sit 12 feet from the swimming pool.
Each of the rooms has a king-sized bed. The bathrooms are massive, each with outdoor showers and Jacuzzi-sized bathtubs. It’s like showering in the jungle.
Guests of these two rooms share an outdoor kitchen, equipped with a blender, plates, cutlery, glasses and a large table that easily seats six.
On the other end of the swimming pool, there are three other units. The largest is on the ground floor. Step into it from the swimming pool deck, and you enter a large bedroom.
Again, the bathroom is massive. There’s a large Jacuzzi-sized tub and a waterfall of sorts, run by an outside pump that sends water trickling down the wall behind the round tub. This unit has a separate living room, with couches and–as with all rooms–a large television.
Pass through the door in the living room, and you enter a second shared kitchen.
We stayed in one of the two units above this one. The window from our bathroom faced undeveloped greenery. We had a large, shared upper patio from which to eat our breakfast. But here’s the magic part. We were the only people here.
When we arrived, a German family stayed in the suite below us. They left a few days later. But they had stayed a total of 2 months. They gushed about the couple that runs the place, Agung and his wife Rai.
During their 2-month stay, the German woman got sick. “The family that runs this place is amazing,” she said. “When I was sick, they took my kids to their house. They also looked after them when I went to the hospital. I never even asked.”
Agung’s family has owned their land for years. Agung and his sister inherited it. About six years ago, Rieko Shimizu, a Japanese businesswoman, offered them a partnership.
Ms. Shimizu wanted to build 5 small, secluded villas. Indonesian law prohibits foreign land ownership. So she built the villas on Agung’s property. They called it Villa Sakura: Japanese for cherry blossom. Agung and Rai take care of the property and share in the revenue.
Long-term expatriates say that many of the locals have changed. Western dollars have eroded the once-legendary Balinese hospitality. If that is the case, it hasn’t touched Agung and Rai.
Twice, Agung and his cousin, Oka, took Pele and me cycling. The first time, we rented a van to take us to the top of Mount Batur. From there, we cycled back to Ubud, through rice paddies and tiny villages.
Plenty of businesses charge for such a tour. But Agung and Oka didn’t. They just love to ride.
On another occasion, we cycled with them to the town of Gianyar. We joined hundreds of other local cyclists on an organized (free!) ride around the area.
Rai is a masseuse—a good one. After the ride, Rai gave me a massage on one of the two comfortable massage tables that sit by the pool. She charges less than $14 USD for one hour, something similar to what you would pay in town. But unlike a downtown spa, you’re in a natural environment.
Running water is the theme. It trickles down the side of the swimming pool. A Hindu statue stands with a cup of water. From it, water pours into a small ornamental pool.
Most places in Ubud offer free Wifi. That’s what Agung was working on when we arrived. Because I work online, however, I needed the Internet right away. We bought a data plan at a shop. It cost about $20 for the month.
Towards the end of our stay, Agung showed us videos of a Bali-style wedding that he hosted at Villa Sakura. To see the elaborate traditional costumes, burning incense candles, traditional dancing and the procession of barefoot attendees coming up from the river made us wish we had been guests.
If you’re looking to party and walk to restaurants, Villa Sakura won’t be your kind of place. But if you want to escape the madness of Ubud, Villa Sakura would be perfect.
Price Daily: 200,000 to 300,000 Indonesian rupiah per day ($15 -$23 USD)