At sunrise, on a morning in 1954, the then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru looked East from the beach in Sanur, and declared Bali “the morning of the world.” Not far from that very spot is Wantilan Lama, one of the last properties to remain in its original state since it was laid out in 1968. Of course, modern updates mean that all the latest conveniences, including Wi-Fi and air-conditioning, have been installed, however, the old-world magic still lingers. Walking along the beach, one is drawn immediately to the lush, tropical garden, punctuated by the villas, each with its own unique, “Bali-style” characteristics
The first ever “Bali-style” house, Wantilan is a two-story, two-bedroom villa, situated just metres from the beach. From the master bedroom downstairs, guests can open the curtains in the morning to see the most evocative sunrise in the world. The upstairs bedroom offers a panorama of the sea on one side of the house, while the other side gives a treetop view of the whole garden. The house has been the location for countless legendary parties, attracting the great and good from all around the world. Whether for a wedding, a cocktail and dinner party, a traditional Balinese dance, or anything else that can be dreamed up, this is surely the most atmospheric gathering space on the island.
Frog Cottage is a charming one-bedroom villa, recently renovated, with an outdoor bathroom. The most cosy of all the villas, this little cottage never fails to bring a deep sense of intimacy. A private garden sits behind the villa, complete with its own bale (traditional gazebo), and is the perfect space to escape from the worries of the world.
The pond house is a two bedroom, two-bathroom bungalow, located just behind the swimming pool. With its own outdoor seating area, this is the perfect place for a family to stay and relax together. Perched on the corner of the terrace is a wonderful dining space, with an uninterrupted view through the gardens, all the way to the sea. Surely this must be one of the most serene breakfast spots in the world.
A Lumbung is a traditional raised rice barn, and, indeed, there is one that can be used as a bedroom, complete with its own bathroom and air-condition. For those who prefer a little more luxury, the adjacent house, Lumbung Pavilion, is a small patch of heaven. Surrounded by a fish pond, this one bedroom house has a large terrace for relaxing outdoors, with a dining table for private meals, and a small kitchenette. The bedroom, complete with four poster bed, opens onto the main gardens in front, and a small private garden behind
Named after the Flamboyan trees that surround it, the Bale Flamboyan must be one of the most beautiful multi-purpose facilities around. With the glass doors fully opened, the main room evokes a sense of a platform floating on a lotus pond.When the doors are closed, the house is transformed into an air-conditioned environment, perfect for meetings, conferences, yoga lessons or dinners, while never reducing the impact of the majesty of the gardens outside.
Over the years, numerous world-renowned architects have made their mark on Wantilan Lama, and have added to its rich heritage. Geoffrey Bawa, the father of the “tropical colonial” architectural style was the first. Having made his name in his native Sri Lanka by blending traditional buildings with western functionality, Bawa took the Wantilan, a traditional Balinese meeting place, and, by adding rooms, created the first liveable Wantilan. Since then, countless other properties have copied the style, all over Bali.
Next, Wade Wijaya, Bali’s most famous landscape designer, laid out the gardens to showcase the extraordinary local plants and flowers, working in perfect harmony alongside the villas.
The swimming pool, with its waterfall and cave, was the first independent creation by Bill Bensley, architect of the most exclusive spas and boutique hotels in South East Asia.
Most recently, Yew Kuan, the darling of modern tropical style, designed the subtle, yet stunning Bale Flamboyan, as well as taking on the delicate task of renovating Wantilan in such a way as to preserve the original character of Bawa’s seminal work.
To see the work of all of these luminaries in one place is to witness a snapshot of the progression of Bali’s architectural heritage, and there is nowhere else on earth quite like it.