Here ecotourism assumes cultural and even spiritual dimensions. The resort’s arrival area, restaurant and common spaces were inspired by the village’s wantilan (outdoor pavilions). A swimming pool echoes in form the rice terraces on which the resort is built. About 250 feet below, the Ayung River rushes through a gorge. Villagers take a sacred path through the resort to the river to bathe and play.
The layout of the eight-acre resort mimics that of a Balinese community. The “main road” is a stone-poved central path, oriented, as in tradition, from the mountains to the sea. The 29 pavilions front this pathway and its connecting lanes.
Amandari’s architect Peter Muller worked with his anthropologist wife Carole and landscape architect Mechail White (a.k.a. Made Wijaya, a Balinese name he also uses), a veteran of dozens of hotel and resort gardens. The Mullers and White are Australians who have lived or still live in Bali.
To build Amandari (it means “peaceful spirits”), the team rekindled craftsmanship among hundreds of Balinese. Master artisans taught villagers how to cut bamboo in the ritual fashion, thatch roof’s and piece together the palm-post and teak-beam pavilions with straps and joints instead of nails or bolts. The same workers were trained in hotel skills; many now work at the resort.
When landscape architect Michael White’s plans are complete, former rice terraces will be replanted with rice, fruit trees and gardens, healing erosion in the gorge. White was inspired by Balionese courtyards.
Amandari’s owners also hired artists and artisans to revive traditional arts and crafts. In the evenings the resort holds concerts and performances featuring villagers. Thus Amandari preserves native music and dance while providing a living wage – an example of truly “sustainable” development.
White’s raw material for gardens was a deforested mountain area with rice fields. He based his concept on “classic Balinese romantic courtyards”, which include ponds, statues and style a “frothy” variety of flowers. He describes his “commando-style approach” as creating “magic” from gluggy rice-paddy soil.” To make this garden space, White also had to override a confusion of cultural/political issues that embraced “past landowners [villagers], new owner, architect and anthropologist, [and] ghastly old hippie neighbors,” he says.
Flowering shrubs and trees featured in Balinese ceremonies also appear in Amandari’s gardens. White calls hi design “high cozy/low precious.” He combined native hibiscus with species such as frangipani, guava, Poinciana and bougainvillea, many brought from South America long ago and now considered local. Tended by the village priest, Hindu shrines are woven into the resort’s landscape. Each day employees garnish statues in the shrines with offerings of food, flowers and cloth.
Amandari is not entirely low-impact, as Western tourists generate more waste than villagers. And when the compact sewage treatment plant is occasionally overtaxed, less-than-fully-treated water reaches the river. Otherwise, rainwater and seepage collects in channels and drains through the rice terraces. When these terraces are replanted with rice, fruit trees and gardens, the erosion now marring the gorge will be healed.
Says owner Adrian Zecha (an Indonesian-born Buddist)of Hong Kong’s Amanresorts, Amandari creates a platform for tourist to absorb “the emotive, cultural context, the feeling of old Bali.” The company is now completing Amankila, another resort on the northeast coast. Bali may soon see a second example of tourism expressing a high level of stewardship. – Ian Oelrichs
Oehrichs is a landscape architect with Voux, Oehrichs Partners in New South Wales, Australian.