[I reprint here one of my pieces from Bali Style Magazine]
It’s called ‘glamping’, and to be honest (at the risk of seeming obtuse), I had not so much as heard of the thing until about two weeks ago when Bali Style asked me to stay a night at recently opened Sandat Glamping , in the scenic countryside near Ubud.
‘Glamping’ is a portmanteau word, a combination of glamour and camping, and, as I soon discovered through a perusal of the website (www.glampingsandat.com), as well as other internet info, glamping is a global trend, with sites spreading from South Africa to Europe. The idea is to merge the uniqueness and character of the camping experience — the quality of serenity, a closeness with nature, locale and culture — with the personal luxuries so closely associated with the comfort of a rewarding travel experience — in other words, to enjoy the best of both worlds, nature and luxury.
As a younger man, in another country (long ago and far away), I did a lot of camping — without the ’glam’. While rewarding in its own right, this does come with some minuses. Exposure to the whims of the weather, for instance. Hardships such as wood chopping and fire building. Trips to the outhouse (if there is one). And meals of generally blackened campfire cuisine.
Not so with glamping. At Sandat Glamping you will find five spacious luxury ‘tents’ and three two-storey lumbung huts. Each high-ceiling tent is built on a raised wooden platform and has two rooms — a living room/bedroom and a fully equipped, modern bathroom. Each has, also, a generous front deck with a small, private swimming pool beautifully situated at the verge of a breathtaking, jungle ravine.
The tents are equipped with mesh-screen windows, which may be covered against a chilly night, and a powerful, perfectly substantial ceiling fan, while the lumbung huts have a large living area on the ground floor and a bedroom and balcony on the second level, including air conditioning unit. The lumbung units share the large main swimming pool.
Each dwelling has been lovingly decorated and furnished by Emanuela Padoan, co-owner with her husband, Federico Carrer — each with a welcoming, gracious mood of its own, furnished with cosy antiques, playful lamps and other, friendly little touches which put an accent on the ‘glam’ experience. The bathrooms are fully equipped with modern toilet, sink and shower. Ours even had a chandelier! In the front room is a centrally placed bed for two, a sofa, other seating options, coffee table, side tables, dressers and more — without the slightest hint of crowding. These are not pup-tents, folks! They are family dwellings, perfectly comfortable for three or four occupants. Wifi is also online, and music is available — but no TV.
The idea here is escape. It is a place for quality time, shared with one another and with the natural world — for personal reflection, renewed appreciation, the chance to have a genuine conversation with the world you had somehow left behind while busy in the concrete jungles back home. Here, the voice of the natural world reasserts itself above the noise of man and machine, such that you can hear the wind again in the tops of the trees, the chirping of birds, the buzzing of insects, the whisper of the river far below in the ravine.
I took a cool dip in the afternoon, leaned on the lip of the pool to drink in the breath of the untouched, unspoiled landscape, and then laid on the poolside lounge chair, half-awake, half-asleep to the profound and inimitable dialogue of nature. I had all but forgotten what I was missing, transported anew on the wings of peace and quiet. I felt like a child again, somehow — full of wonder and tranquility, in a place where time, if only for a time, is able to stand still for precious hours on end.
Situated between the glam-tents and the lumbung huts is a spacious dining area — an open-air, A-frame structure made completely of bamboo. This features a long, communal dining table as well as an additional social area with sofas and a large, square-ish table made from railroad ties. As with the individual dwellings, this too has been tastefully attended to by the interior decorating talents of Emanuela, featuring antiques and other conversation pieces, a small library, and one wall devoted completely to mirrors (a particular passion). Each mirror has been sourced from local shops around Bali and has been fashioned from a variety of materials, from bamboo to metal, glass and paper. Well, all but one — a favourite, good luck mirror which has travelled all the way from Italy. I’ll let you guess which it is.
Italy is the home country of Federico and Emanuela, who now spend their year between Italy, Spain and Bali. They are a delightful, friendly and easily befriended couple who will join their guests for breakfast and dinner, for the character here is communal as well as private and peaceful, all in its proper time and place. Sumptuous meals and amity are shared by glampers and owners alike. It is a spirit which extends as well to the surrounding community and its Balinese culture, as the ideological aim is to be one with the surrounding world in every possible aspect, with a compassion for the place, the society and the culture.
In this respect, glampers may easily spend a day exploring the surrounding countryside, with its temples, rice fields and forest attractions, as well as the charming town of Ubud, with its countless shops and restaurants — and still return in the evening to refresh and renew.
Glamping has become a global trend, devoted to eco-structures with zero environmental impact and a sense of responsibility to the land and its people. But it’s more than that, and I, for one, can see why. In a time of increasing concern for the environment, and a heightened drive to find truly fulfilling, personalized experiences in the midst of options that have become common, or even mundane, here is a shiny new key to open beloved old doors and return to the incomparable amazements of the real world.