There’s a mental image I snap every morning after coming to. On most days, it’s the familiar four walls and hard concrete of my apartment bedroom, but on a rather peculiar occasion, I find myself waking to an unrestrained capture of natural light filtering in through a mosquito veil that envelops my bed. These first few seconds feel strange, if not rather incongruous to the usual beat of my drum. The air feels different: thinner for sure, but refreshingly unpolluted. And a draw of the curtains reveals why; I’m engulfed deep within the lush Balinese jungle—with no distinct barrier between me and the verdant green.
Buahan, Banyan Tree Escape is poised like a hidden forest gem. The uphill drive into Buahan gives me an inkling as to just how high up we might be perched; a suspicion I was able to quickly confirm shortly after we disembark from our mode of transport. Spanning across a sizeable plot of unreclaimed land in northern Ubud, the resort boasts its expanse: the rocky terrain meanders downwards from where we’ve left behind our last reminder of urban life—towards a central Living Room and Open Kitchen area—the closest thing to the main check-in lobby you might find at other hotels and resorts.
It’s a considered choice to have no visible demarcations of specified counters or predetermined staff, instead, the open ‘no-walls and no-doors’ concept of the living and lounge spaces welcomes you to share in the beauty of the Buahan family. They linger around like natural dwellers of the forest; their quiet, self-effacing presence blending into the background for you to fully immerse yourself into the wondrous landscape that towers before you.
The flourishing greenery that consumes Buahan isn’t just the heart of the enclave, it serves as its guiding principle—akin to the philosophy that the local Balinese adopt in their daily lives. It is a tune reflected in the vernacular architecture of the resort as all 16 balés or villas were built differently to assimilate into the unpredictable topography and fabric of the forests. Ulin wood—or ironwood from the Kalimantan regions—make up the primary source of Buahan’s structures, and traditional methods of construction were opted for over the use of heavy machinery. What was important to its architects became starkly clear: preserving its surrounding natural environment was of utmost priority.
It’s a profound sentiment I gleaned over and over (and over) again during my stay at Buahan. On innumerable occasions, I found myself stopping in my tracks; gunning for a feeble attempt at capturing it to the best of my ability. After the first few instances, I conceded and my handphone returned decisively to my back pocket; no device could quite possibly capture the majestic view before me. Instead, I lose myself in the only moving image I would ever need there: the lone cow grazing the rice paddy fields, the subtle sway of the canopy, the mist hanging over the seven mountains in the horizon. And needless to say, I enjoyed it all the better for that.
Assimilating into the lifestyle accorded at Buahan is hardly an issue. All it requests for, is your undivided attention—to the present. For most of us city dwellers, everyday life involves endless tasks at hand, digital distractions and a constant stream of thoughts that seem to encroach on our every moment. But retreating into the quietude of the resort necessitates a constant hyper awareness of your own surroundings. Commuting from one’s balé to any other part within Buahan—be it the spa, yoga pavilions or the dining area—requires one to either tickle your memory of which gravelled path to go down or use the paper map provided, considering there are no directional signages throughout the area. The terrain alone allowed me to clock in my minutes of exercise for the day, but it was evidently clear that I had to be careful trekking along these paths. The natural environment, hence became the very means by which Buahan demanded I focus on the task at hand and forget everything else—it’s simple, but it works.
For those seeking to take their disconnect from the outside world further, the resort offers up an additional line-up of experiences you can opt for. The Soul Freedom Journey is one such option: bringing you all the way down to the enchanting waters of the Tjampuhan waterfall—the exact juncture where the Santang and Ayung River that beds the resort conjoin. Time flows on a different clock here, as I found myself letting go of any negativity steeped within me—even if it were only for those brief few minutes—via a guided meditation ritual and momentous walk into the waterfall. A refreshing respite, after an invigorating hike that roused the senses.
For a more relaxing form of releasing one’s inner trepidations, the resort’s Toja Spa offerings are truly something to behold. For someone who usually shies away from a full body massage (they’ve almost always either been too painful or too ticklish for my liking), it was a welcome shock to the system. The unassuming and genteel disposition of my massage therapist set the stage, with nimble fingers into my muscles, releasing the immense tension caught up in the knots of my body—leading me into an hour of sweet pleasure like no other.
But the unexpected highlight came at the most humble hours of the day: the meal times I shared with my companions. Every tabled menu welcomes a reinvention of the fresh, farm-grown ingredients put on the table everyday: a process we can observe and interrogate from start to finish in the Open Kitchen. Mornings at Buahan might begin early, but it is easily transformed into a sanguine occasion upon a first sip of the smooth oat white I make a point to request for every AM. A plethora of egg, fruit-led and even more traditional rice options are free for you to pick from, but from our experience? You might be left completely spoilt for choice.
At dinner time, Buahan-born Chef Eka Sunarya’s deft skills shine through; each meal is a five-course offering that showcases a culmination of his culinary knowledge with the kitchen’s zero farm-to-table concept. Locally-grown natural ingredients are elevated into dishes of exquisite textures, botanically-infused colours and bursts of unpredictable flavour—all delightful proof of the sheer freshness of the ingredients used. It’s hardly a feat possible without a constant stream of creative juices in the kitchen, a trait also recognised in the mocktail and cocktail concoctions whipped up at The Botanist Bar, housed up in The Living Room.
As the sun disappears into the horizon, it’s the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a glass or two straight from their drinks repertoire. Refreshingly sour options that infuse the botanical ingredients picked right from the Balinese jungle offer themselves up as a contemplative juxtaposition to a smoothly refined Espresso Martini—both with their own complexities that intrigue the palate. Should you prefer to have your drinks back in the quietude of your balé instead, Buahan provides you with their locally-made arak: a sublime, rum-like liquor that sits like the perfect end to your night when served directly on the rocks.
With the noticeable drop in temperature, the evening is also when I found myself leaning into every bit of luxury afforded to me by my villa. I requested for the early turn-down service: where a thin, translucent curtain is dropped around the entire interior of my villa—a perfect combination of veiled privacy that still afforded me the breathtaking view come morning. It was also a useful prevention against the invasion of some harmless forest friends: think squirrels, frogs and the ever so odd bird that had otherwise easily waltzed (or hopped) their way into my balé on some of the afternoons.
The evening’s induced solitude meant luxurious hours that I could spend in the tub with a solid read—after exfoliating myself with the natural boreh rub I had whipped up for myself, under the guidance of the staff earlier in the afternoon. But as I turned in for the night, the curious jungle noises that resounded all through the valleys of the forested mountains served as a full circle reminder of just how entrenched I was in unknown territory. Yet unfamiliar as it was, it was a change I realised I could welcome with open arms.
After all, what Buahan offered on the surface was a life filled with thoughtful intention—a matter of reconnecting to one’s soul. It showed through every touchpoint of the resort: from its architecture to the staff’s endearing hospitality and the cultural experiences you could opt for. But what Buahan hid like its best-kept, yet wholly open secret? It was an escape, a sanctuary, a place to hide when you needed it most. For in an urban, digital world, the untouched forest sits assuredly—like the perfect place to be. And it was a comfort I let myself indulge in, as I sunk into my luxurious bed enclave, zoning out in-between the not-so-distant croaking of a wide-eyed frog, slowly drifting off to sleep.
Book your stay at Buahan, Banyan Tree Escape here.