Bali is a place full of stories spun by foreigners who were the “first” to discover “Bali.” When I first arrived (in Kuta, mind you…), I was pretty turned off by this over-the-top find-yourself consumerism. The further we trekked from the airport, however, the more I grew to appreciate that many folks really do discover their own little slice of paradise.
It seems this is exactly what Carla et Josep are cultivating at Desa Atas Awan or A Village Above the Clouds (also on Trip Advisor). We felt like some old friends had invited us to stay at their vacation home; not like some strangers had just rented us a room for the night. As we explored the area on our scooters, the local residents treated us in a similar, if not bewildered, fashion- Western tourists must be few and far between. Exactly what I pictured when we first conjured a trip to Bali.
The grounds of the hotel are stunning. My camera lens had trouble panning away from the rice terrace and jungle vista, but was not disappointed in any direction. We stayed in the Cloud House Sunrise Suite, and our friends stayed in the Sunset. It was great way to spend some quality time with good friends as both suites are upstairs in the Cloud House with a nice common area and deck in between. The plunge pool just outside the Sunrise Suite was nice to relax in after dinner, but was not super warm. We visited VAC during their “soft opening” in November 2012, and there were a few things that still needed work like the best way to utilize the plunge pool. We definitely don’t fault them for it because we were some of the first to stay there. I am certain that they are well on their way to a perfect “hard opening.” =)
Carla, Josep, and their amazing staff bent over backwards to help us celebrate the US holiday Thanksgiving. Somehow, they tracked down a turkey, and flawlessly pulled off the entire meal in traditional fashion. There are a few warungs (small, family-run cafes) along the road nearby, or in the markets near Bedugul, but I would definitely recommend opting for the meal inclusive package. Every meal we enjoyed was tasty, fresh, and healthy.
Most importantly, I’d like to share with you the once-in-a-lifetime vow renewal ceremony that the VAC family set up for us. I sent a simple inquiry with our reservation confirmation to see if it was something they could accommodate. After a day or so, they responded that they thought they could make it happen. My lady and I were blown away with everything they prepared for us. A 90+ year-old Hindu priest conducted a traditional ceremony, while the staff humbly helped us through each ritual. Following the ceremony we made some beautiful photos, and enjoyed some local Arak cocktails (the “good shit”).
Then came a delicious, locally sourced dinner, and a special traditional dance performance from a beautiful young local dancer. I don’t think my words, or any pictures could really do justice to the energy in the air that day.
Realize that this joint is a good jaunt from the main tourist highways. You will want to spend at least 2 to 3 days exploring this region of Bali, and will need motorized transport to do so. Also, read up on the other projects that Carla and Josep are building. They have created a school to teach the local youth about everything from AIDS awareness to permaculture. Maybe you can lend a hand with some skills of your own!
Have you been to Bali? Plan to head there in the future? Let me know your thoughts or tell me a Bali story in the comments below! While your at it, why not check out another tale from the Far East like this one?