Been on the high seas a little too long? Need a little green and quiet? The little village of Nyuh Kuning in Ubud, Bali has many claims to fame and quiet and green are only the beginning. In the 70s and 80s David Bowie and Mick Jagger would land their helicopters on the football field in the centre of the village to visit their friend, the British designer Linda Garland. It is even rumoured that some of Bowie’s ashes are strewn in the river that glides through this beautiful part of the world. In 2007, the film ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem was filmed in and around this picturesque village. Ubud has never been the same since the release of that movie which has raised hope amongst many around the world of finding love in Bali. Traditional healers have become superstars and vegans have found their mecca.
Hollywood and pop royalty aside, Nyuh Kuning (literally translated as Yellow Coconut village) is also home to Robin Lim, CNN’s Hero of the Year 2012, who founded a birthing clinic (Yayasan Bumi Sehat) that dramatically reduced maternal and child mortality rates in Bali. There is an orphan day care centre, Permata Hati Foundation which brilliantly enlists visitors and expats as sponsors for children who have lost their parents.
It is this mixture of glamour, spirituality and community spirit that makes Nyuh Kuning one of the most interesting village in Bali.
Villa Beji Indah embodies this spirit and style. A socially conscious eco-resort and the residence of Dr. Steve Wignall, a retired US Navy doctor who came to Indonesia 27 years ago and never left. He has adopted Indonesia as his country along with 17 children some of whom are deaf, blind or burnt. All of whom he found while he worked in Papua and Java and saw they needed a helping hand.
In 2007, Dr. Wignall acquired and renovated the first of the three villas which now forms Villa Beji Indah. Although built with the intention to retire and have his children visit him regularly Dr. Wignall, a renowned activist did not slow down. In fact today at 70 years old, he runs two foundations that provide treatment through 4 medical clinics, he advises the government and consults for an American development organisation on access to medical treatment in Asia.
The second and third sections of this sprawling riverside property were acquired three years later in 2010. Together they now form the magical Villa Beji Indah with 11 individually styled rooms, 7 ponds, 4 meditation pavilions, 3 swimming pools, 2 Yoga-Shalas and one stunning river (with Bowie’s ashes) in the lushest suburb of Ubud, Bali. What started as a humble home is now a stunning venue for weddings, retreats and life celebrations. True luxury is in having, and being in large open spaces like the open seas. As land prices skyrocket in Bali, Villa Beji Indah quietly occupies one of the most stunning valleys on the island.
Villa Beji Indah operates less like a corporate entity and more as a social enterprise. Investment in staff welfare, commitment to the local communities and supporting sustainable tourism is at the core of it’s operations. The staff are from the yellow coconut village or not too far from it. No one is hospitality trained and yet they create an unforgettable experience for those who visit. It’s a simple management formula implemented well, “take care of your workers and your workers will take care of the guests” says the Villa’s charming General Manager, Palani Narayanan. “The Villa pays above the minimum wage set for Ubud, everyone has the highest level of health insurance for themselves and their families and we contribute to their retirement funds.” Staff are encouraged to take up new skills and studies. “For anyone who is studying we work out a schedule which allows them to attend classes and workshops. We ensure that they know we genuinely care about their present and future. At the end of the day, this is where they spend 8 hours, sometimes more, of their day. And it’s a small team. It is critical there is a sense of family, of support”
The result is felt by almost everyone who spends a little time in this magical place. One feels a sense of entering a Balinese home and being greeted by friends almost immediately. It is no wonder then that it is attracting international attention. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has visited Villa Beji Indah a few times in recent years. This place combines luxury and spirituality very very well.
Set your autopilots and head to this hideaway immediately. It’s an experience you will long remember…