whether by room or by the entire villa, The longhouse is a beautiful to enjoy Indonesia’s mystical island
Ordinance in Bali stipulates that buildings can be no taller than 15 metres – corresponding almost exactly to the height of a coconut tree. This arguably improves the skyline, but does also prevent a view of said skyline. That is, unless you’re standing at the lounge of The Longhouse, perched on the north side of a hill in Jimbaran, where the scale of this mystical island unveils itself. Appreciate it, for it is rather therapeutic – planes elegantly landing and taking off from Ngurah Rai Airport, polymorphous clouds casting shadows on red roofs and green fields, Mount Agung stoically standing watch on a cooperative day and, in July, squadrons of colourful kites fluttering mesmerisingly in the wind for the annual kite festival.
Some of the kites hover quite near, flown by children in the village at the foot of the hill. Many of these children know The Longhouse, perhaps because their parents work here or because the owners, Linda Nederkoorn and her husband, have been here since 2009, when The Longhouse (and their own private residence) was first built. That might seem long, but the Nederkoorns’ relationship with Indonesia stretches back further – Linda’s father-in-law served as the captain of a supply ship connecting islands during the Dutch colonial era. And since history informs the present, The Longhouse is the Nederkoorns’ physical love letter to the country that shaped them.
Designed with the eminent Balinese architect Popo Danes and undergoing an extensive revamp last year, The Longhouse (from US$975++/RM4,010 a night for the entire villa) approaches the subject of inspiration subtly. While each of six rooms can be rented separately, villa bookouts are preferred as it gains the party unfettered access to the property, stretched out across three storeys along the ridge of the hill. Accessed through a deceivingly small driveway, an elevator whisks guests up to the lounge on the second floor, where requisite thatched ijuk roofs crown a space that encourages the wind to explore. Geoffrey Bawa would approve. Here, a clean layout becomes a canvas for restrained ornamentation – alcoves along the pale stone walls evoke painted scenes from the Ramayana epic, while colourful gasing (tops) are turned horizontal into decorative pieces.
The anthropology lesson goes for a deeper dive in the rooms. Named after emblematic Indonesian islands – Bali, Lombok, East Java, West Java, Sumba and Sumatra – each evokes its namesake’s endemic culture. Therefore, you’ll find Sumbawaneseikat fabrics, urat masks from Lombok and Javanese shadow puppets – plucked from Linda’s extensive collection – to anchor each room with a sense of place. Each overlooks the lush garden, where the yoga pavilion is situated, and unified by dark stone staircases that lead, inevitably, to the lounge. Here – where the view is the grandest – is where guests can laze the day away with cocktails, floating on a beanbag in the swimming pool.
To the left of the lounge is the dining room, with an adjoining kitchen where meals are made fresh. There is a daily menu (including the scrumptious gado-gado with hand-ground peanut sauce), but a cooking lesson – complete with a trip to the local seafood market – is recommended. Dinner is, after all, sweeter when it is the fruit of your own labour. A stay comes with a driver at your disposal, and Bali is yours to explore from here. But one need not venture too far for spiritual fulfilment, as the village balian priest can start the day right with a morning water purification ceremony, after which you can walk over to the next house to say hello to the family of Hepy, the beaming host of The Longhouse. And then? Well, there is no shortage of pursuits available in Bali. Sun, sea, sand or sky. The choices are endless. But if you do need inspiration, simply stand at the lounge of The Longhouse and pick a point in the stirring vista that stretches before you.