Set within a quaint village of ancient Balinese architecture and verdant paddy fields lie two vintage Javanese teak villas making up the Umajati Retreat. Sustainable architecture, homage to tradition, and a spirit of barefoot luxury defines this wonderful vacation haven.
A Beautiful Beginning
I arrived in Bali two days prior to my stay at the Umajati Retreat, wanting to see the island on my own terms, I decided to rent a scooter. After all, this was my very first solo travel experience. I'm so happy I opted for this mode of transportation, it felt so freeing to just drive wherever I chose to. No schedule...no worries. Just me...Bali...and my bike.
The drive to the Umajati Retreat was pure magic, zigzagging through tiny backstreets, over narrow ravine bridges, and through lush paddy fields, I couldn't have painted a more scenic route. The closer I got to the retreat, the more pronounced its signature terra cotta roofs rose from a sea of greenery. Stepping onto the retreats grounds, I was equally enamored. I meandered through the coconut grove entry path, filled with spectacular blooming orchids of varieties I had never seen. Waiting to welcome me at the paths end were proprietors, Jean Howe & William Ingram (Made Pung 3rd founder). They are the kind of people you want to sit with, have some tea, talk of distant places, rich cultures, and stories of their well-traveled lives. Jean and William are apart of Umajati’s authentic soul; this wonderful environment they’ve painstakingly crafted is a true gift to experience.
The retreat's century old villas, the Wates Bangbau House (pronounced “wah’tas bang’bau”) and the Bugoharjo House (pronounced “boo’go har’joe”) were transported from the neighboring island of Java. Both villas were masterfully preserved and conciously updated onsite.
I stayed in the Bugoharjo House, it's a wonderful open-plan villa that sleeps three persons. It includes a master bedroom, spacious living area, kitchen, two full baths, and a lovely Balinese teak day bed to accommodate a third guest. The living room has a wall of wooden sliding glass doors that open onto a wrap around veranda; this design creates a calming indoor-outdoor atmosphere. The Bugoharjo House also has its own private garden space that features a bamboo waterspout, a lotus pond, and a relaxation pavilion at the jungles edge. There is a shared 15-meter lap pool at the center of the property.
Bugoharjo House Interiors
The slightly larger Wates Bangbau House is surrounded on two sides by rice fields. It has two air-conditioned bedrooms, an expansive living area, a kitchen, two full baths, and can accommodate up to 5 people. Like the Bugoharjo House, it features wooden sliding glass doors that partially open the entire living space onto a private garden and a wide wrap-around veranda.
I chose to stay at the Umajati Retreat because of its honest commitment to sustainability. Construction materials were locally sourced, and over 99% of structural timber is recycled. Furniture has been purchased from local craftsmen, and construction off-cuts have been refashioned to create custom pieces. Due to Bali’s burgeoning local and tourism populations, water supplies are limited; Umajati has implemented beautiful wetland filtration gardens that purify gray and black waters for reuse. Umajati’s signature terra cotta roofs and wrap around verandas are strong examples of vernacular architecture. They help passively cool interior spaces; hot air naturally rises inside the voluminous roofs, and as a result cool air is drawn from the veranda into the interior spaces. LED lighting has been installed throughout, and performs at 80% efficiency. Additionally Umajati’s food scraps and garden cuttings are composted onsite and reused to naturally fertilize the garden.
Umajati takes sustainability beyond its four walls and engages its local setting, Petulu Village. By supporting the village farmers and their rice fields, Umajati helps to sustain the livelihood of so many families. Umajati also ensures cleanliness of the village by organizing plastic pick-up from the nearby Tirta Tawar sacred river temple (as seen in video tour below). Umajati also sponsors a children’s traditional dance class, and make donations toward temple ceremonies.
For the Culture Lovers
A percentage of Umajati's sales are committed to conservation and livelihood development across Indonesia, giving targeted, long-term mentoring to community groups for sustainable change. This work is done through the Bebali Foundation and the network of communities with which it works. Umajati owners founded the fairtrade-certified Threads of Life gallery in Ubud in 1997 and the Bebali Foundation in 2002 with three inter-related aims: to initiate community business for the rural poor across Indonesia by establishing women’s weavers cooperatives to make high-value traditional textiles; to catalyze community forest stewardship by encouraging weavers to work sustainably using natural dyes; and to nurture aspects of traditional culture that strengthen contemporary society by supporting the integrity of heirloom textile motifs, dye recipes, and traditional knowledge. Their work in the field frequently confronts them with the environmental and social costs of climate change and deforestation. At different times of the year a partner community may be left poor and hungry by either extended droughts or severe flooding. In the face of these overwhelming problems, Jean, William and Pung, have developed a new enterprise that shares the values of both Threads of Life and the Bebali Foundation and can also lend financial support to help mitigate some of the problems so many of these communities face. Umajati is the result.
I highly recommend the Umajati Retreat to anyone visiting Bali; it is so much more than a vacation villa. Not only is your stay a sustainable option for the perseverance of the earth, it is a conscious charitable effort that helps sustain the livelihood of so many Indonesians. When you close your eyes here, you know you are in the right place.
Hi I'm Quinn, creator of Traveller's Bazaar. I'm an architectural designer on a mission to inform, inspire and help travellers like you, plan the trip(s) of a lifetime. Thanks for visiting!