THE BLOG
08/05/2013 06:14 pm ET Updated Oct 05, 2013

Bali: Getting Culture and a Tan by the Pool

In a recent issue of the magazine NOW! Bali - Life On The Island, one of its writers was despondent that many tourists chose to lounge by the pool rather than seek out Bali's cultural attractions. Granted, the pool is an undoubtedly important element for most people vacationing on a tropical island. But if the culture was right there on the premises it would be much easier to combine the two.

Twenty-five years ago Arifin Olii, whose family concrete business has helped construct many five-star tourist destinations in Bali, saw an antique wooden building he loved. So he bought it. The architect and painter continued to add to his collection and now visitors to what eventually became a hotel can stay in examples of rumah adat, vernacular (i.e. built with local materials for local needs) architecture of Indonesia.

Formerly known as the Oasis, Alindra Villa recently re-opened on July 26 after refurbishment, the addition of facilities such as a spa, and with new management. While guests can lie by a pool, they are also surrounded by centuries of local craftsmanship.

Despite his role in modern construction, Olii's love is antiques. His interest in them was originally triggered by tourists -- he watched more coming to Bali as the island's antiquities disappeared with them. He said construction was booming in 1989 as Bali prepared itself for "Visit Indonesia Year" in 1991, and as the collectors' market gathered momentum so did his determination to retain Indonesia's heritage, preventing at least one building from export to Europe.
Sitting in the Joglo, which is used as a large, open-air sitting room, he explained that alindra, derived from Sanskrit, is an architectural term used for Hindu temples that means height. The first building Olii purchased, the Joglo is not Balinese, but domestic architecture from Java. He shipped the 300-year-old Joglo to Bali, where we admired its imposing ceiling of tumpang sari (essential layers), carved from one piece of wood, held up by four central pillars, the soko guru.
The local villagers apparently were not impressed with the Joglo when it arrived as a pile of lumber, thinking it was fit only for roasting some suckling pig. But when the structure was reassembled, they could appreciate its elaborate carving.

As Olii fell in love with more buildings and the collection grew, he grouped them to create his own little village of indigenous architecture. On the other side of the pool, the Balinese wantilan, once used by a local community for social activities, has a "double roof," with the gap between to allow hot air to pass out to aid cooling.

It's number I of four wooden "Ethnic Villas" that have been restored and fitted with modern amenities. Mainly Balinese, it has an ornate wantilan ceiling, and a joglo bed watched over by a large wooden ayam (male chicken). Balinese men are very fond of roosters and cockfighting, and ayam are considered to be a symbol of many good things.
Ethnic Villa IV was once a traditional Balinese home, and Ethnic II is a double-storey minahasa dwelling from Sulawesi with Balinese elements built originally on stilts (to guard against floods and termites) that is shot frequently by film crews from Jakarta.

Ethnic III is a Makobang tribal dwelling from Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi.
Now used as a Library, another structure near the pool was once a pavilion for Balinese ceremonies such as potong gigi, the ritual tooth-filing that signifies the transition from child to adult for Balinese youngsters around the age of 17. The pavilion features traditional carving and bale tiang sanga, nine supporting poles.

Then there is the traditional silo on stilts for storing rice, known as a jineng in Balinese, or lumbung in Indonesian. Its role in the compound is largely decorative, but guests have demanded to stay in it.
Apart from the traditional buildings, Alindra Villa also has three large modern pool villas, good for the family or group who want to relax privately. In one I counted seven places to shower, including three outside. The complex also includes Terracotta, a popular venue for weddings.
Located just south of the popular beach area Jimbaran and its sand-side seafood restaurants, Alindra Villa is also close to the beaches of Nusa Dua. But here there are plenty of reasons to stay just where you are.

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