Bali sets the stage for any tropical, jungle retreat. With the panoramic treetop views and lush greenery abound, Bali certainly outdoes itself with the selection of beautiful places to sightsee and stay overnight in a beautiful oasis. The Panchoran Retreat is another one of those sacred beauties, and it’s entire space is filled with a combination of indoor/outdoor combined areas.
Irish Designer Linda Garland came to Bali in the 70′s and has been sculpting her way around her little parcel of the island, and it’s safe to say that this is a retreat to visit. The plot of land has 5 separate houses on it that are available to stay in, each with its own name according to the unique accommodation. Two waterfall homes, Coconut, Bamboo Garden and River Homes are all unique in their appearance and all are the pinnacle of relaxation.
The massive estate, Garland’s home-turned-hotel-turned-vastparty- villa, uses more bamboo than a Chinese construction site – from the food to the furniture and the floorboards, there’s not much that escapes the bamboo stick. Exploring Balé Gede – the main house, with a communal lounge and outdoor dining area – one discovers avant-garde bamboo chandeliers, rickety bamboo rocking chairs on the porch, and Deco-esque tables crafted from reclaimed bamboo panels. And it’s all designed and crafted by Garland herself.
The six very separate villas, each aptly named (Waterfall, Bamboo, Coconut, River House, etc.), are well spaced out, tiered down a lush hillside overlooking a small river and, yes, a grove containing 100 different varieties of bamboo. Spring-fed swimming pools, encroaching vegetation teeming with wildlife, and outdoor decks capture the very essence of Ubud. Whether it’s one bedroom for honeymooners, or three bedrooms for families or sleeping for 20-plus for a party, Panchoran has something for everyone.
Shabby chic is the best way to describe the décor, with a mishmash of objets and furniture giving each space the ambiance and character of a cosy, somewhat eccentric, country house. Four-poster beds overhung with mosquito nets, huge ceramic vases overflowing with stems of ginger and dragon flowers, and Javanese carved panels characterise the bedrooms. There’s very little spit and polish: the outdoor bathrooms are overgrown with moss and ferns, the floorboards creek, the vases are chipped, and there are cobwebs in the corner. But that’s all part of the charm.
The best moment to arrive at Panchoran for the first time is at dusk. Shadows lend mystery to the carved façades of Hindu temples along the main street leading through Ubud, Bali’s thriving cultural capital. Lights flickering in windows of studios and homes offer up a lantern slide show of Balinese sculptors, painters and weavers at work. Panchoran itself lies at the end of a narrow, winding road, hidden behind a towering barrier of trees.
At nightfall oil lamps made of coconuts harvested from the estate’s own groves lead the way to the bale. Thatch seems to drip off the sharply pitched roof and eaves of the big house. On the 2,500-square-foot deck, under a dome of stars, Garland leans back into a planter’s chair (made of bamboo, naturally), sips an icy mint tea and expounds her quirky approach to architecture.
She first staked out the parameters of the bale with bamboo poles, getting a sense of the proportions and altering them as she saw fit. “I used no blueprints,” says Garland. “I just stood back and waved my arm sand told the workers to move a little here, then over there, until they got it just right. It would drive a real architect crazy.” Besides the aesthetic effects, her criteria were the need for natural ventilation, rainwater runoff, just enough sunlight and the preservation of as many trees as possible on the bale’s periphery.
She also designed all the furniture, using bamboo for the frames. Outdoor chairs—large enough to make any adult feel like a child—are upholstered with parachute fabric because it is durable and weather-resistant yet silky soft; they were made by the same man who fixes her bicycles. “The Balinese are Renaissance people,” says Garland. “A mechanic can double as artist.”
In all of Panchoran’s buildings, Garland strove for what she half-jokingly calls “beachcomber” décor. She recycled abandoned utility poles to support the raised floors of the houses. In bedrooms, cotton draperies are pulled and knotted on either side of windows. White muslin bed canopies double as mosquito nets, swaying and billowing in the breeze. Low tables are fashioned from old batik looms. Bathroom faucet handles don’t match: Some are made of prewar porcelain and others of 1950s chrome. Metal pipes are wrapped in living vines. And everywhere there is bamboo—split, plaited, woven, in black and blond hues, and shaped into wall matting, tables, benches and candleholders.
But Panchoran is designed above all to draw people outdoors. From the windows of the guesthouses perched on stilts along the river’s edge, visitors can caress a giant fern or pick a plump papaya off its tree. Over breakfast on a covered bridge, they can gaze at the river rushing below or watch a three-foot-long monitor lizard scamper into its lair behind a waterfall.
Garland calls her estate an “edible landscape” because it provides most of the vegetables, fruit, spices and herbs served at Panchoran. The more decorative flora is meant to be unappetizing for mosquitoes and other pests. The lemon grass and palm grass that blanket the hilly acreage are plants that insects don’t particularly like. The only flowers near the guesthouses are those varieties that don’t collect enough water to harbor mosquito larvae.
Besides the guesthouses, the estate is dotted with structures whose seemingly haphazard placement disguises careful planning. A bamboo gazebo overlooks an isolated, curving stretch of river that turns out to be a favorite haunt of iridescent blue kingfishers diving for prawns. The pergola—an arbor of thunbergia with thousands of cascading white and blue flowers—is a perfectly shaded space for lunch.
One of the more intriguing structures is constructed of black bamboo and palm thatch, with eaves that curve like fishhooks. Called the Gateway, it serves as quarters during the day for the housekeepers and at night for the watchmen, who can sit within earshot of a guesthouse or slide open small panels to see if everything is in order.
Located in the forest, close to Ubud, Bali-Indonesia, is the breathtaking Panchoran Retreat. It is inspired by nature, creating environments it is difficult to distinguish the interior from exterior. Only recycled or sustainable materials were used to create this haven. This private hideaway has 6 houses scattered amongst nature with magical views of the valley and bamboo forest.