Puri Ganesha review | holistic hideaway, Bali
Private Villas For Raw Foodies In North Bali
The Quick Read: This shabby-chic luxury retreat is the creation of charismatic queen of raw food, Diana Von Cranach. Located in the fishing village of Pemuteran in the North West of Bali and as yet marvellously free of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ Ubud-type tourism, it offers just four spacious thatched villas, each individually designed with eclectic interiors and set in an acre of frangipani-scented beachfront garden with its own beautiful swimming pool. Come to have treatments and learn about raw food or just rest, read and feast on Diana’s indulgently healthy dishes in peace and privacy. There’s only wifi in the library – so it’s a great place for a DIY digital detox too. Marvellously, it’s family-friendly, and would make a good place for a retreat with friends or a companion.
Who it’s best for: Hedonists who want to escape the noise, pace and techno overload of Ubud. Foodies who want to explore culinary innovations with Asian flavours and vegan options. Families who want baby-sitting support – couples often leave their young children in the capable and willing hands of the staff here. Burnt out ex-pats – from Hong Kong to Vietnam – have scribbled their delight in the visitor’s book, and honeymooners get their own special villa.
What you can do: You can choose to enjoy a 3, 5 or 7 night Clean Break and ‘Rawfully Good Retreat’ which can be 100% raw or 60% with a 40% cooked vegan option. Diana also offers raw food classes. Or just enjoy her meals – as well as raw and veggie there are delicious meat and fish options too.
There is a treatment centre, painted pink on the outside with coloured glass, and adorned inside with exotic fabrics and a massage table, where very special healer and masseur, Pak Putu, is available for sessions (a mere snip at £25 for an hour).
Or just sink into a much slower existence. Wake up, gaze in wonder from your king size bed at the sea view, then request breakfast in situ. Take a languorous dip in the pool, lounge with a book on a day bed, write a poem, order a speciality big salad for lunch. When inertia sets in, there’s plenty to do. Diana organizes trips to local markets where the produce itself – from rambutans to snakefruit – is fascinating. Diana and her partner Gusti also organize trips out – fantastic snorkeling on nearby Menjangan Island, visits to rice terraces, or treks into the hills behind Singaraja. They can also organize dancers and musicians to come in too.
Where you stay: The four villas were designed inside and out by Diana, who originally bought this land in the late 80s when it was desolate, windswept and an unlikely location for such extraordinary splendour. She used the traditional Balinese meeting place – the Wantilan – as architectural inspiration. Diana is an interior designer (as well as cook) with a degree in Egyptology, and lavish attention has been paid to the style. The huge coconut-wood French windows on the master bedrooms upstairs, the height of the ceilings and the furnishing details truly impress. Fabrics for the covers and cushions on the day beds have been specially created in East and Central Java, there are triumphant lampshades in the sitting rooms, and Dutch colonial rattan chairs add a cosiness and warmth to the décor. Divine outside bathrooms have funky showers, shell-inlayed doors, sunken baths and glass paintings of voluptuous women receiving massages.
How was it for us: I’d had a big year, for my grown up son had to have open-heart surgery and my partner Asanga was recovering from an illness. Puri Ganesha was the perfect retreat place to unwind and heal in idyllic surroundings. We both felt thoroughly pampered and nourished by Diana, Gusti and the staff. Our villa was called Sepi, which means quiet, and that is exactly what the house and garden provided. We didn’t feel the need to go anywhere else.
The long breakfasts were a highlight, with our Earl Grey served in a blue elephant teapot, and marigolds adorning the table. At the beach end of the garden, there was a luxuriantly cushioned platform where we could relax and let the sea breeze ripple over us in the heat of the day. If we wanted a change of scenery for lunch or our evening meal, we wandered over to the library – open on two sides, with lots of books including Diana’s recent ChilliTime and Rawfully Good.
One evening, we risked skinny-dipping in the moonlight with a sparkly statue of Ganesha watching over us. We even managed to avoid the security man’s torch. This place inspires a bit of naughtiness with the tranquility, and is all the better for it.
What we took home: A ceremonial Balinese box with sarongs and local mosquito cream, but also a deep sense that we’d been spoiled beyond reason on all levels – they are so good at going the extra mile here.
Would we go back: Definitely – with a group of friends and family for a special group retreat. What a blissful thought.
People watch: The staff have perfected the art of discretion. If you go out snorkelling early in the morning, the rooms will have been cleaned and tidied in your absence. They are an invisible and much appreciated presence – ever willing and smiling at any requests. Their English isn’t great – which means they can’t explain the subtleties of the food which they’re serving – but that’s a tiny niggle.
Food watch: Diana is one of the leading lights in the Raw and the Slow Food movements, and her amazing food is worth the visit here alone. Choose raw, vegetarian, or from a selection of delicious meat and fish dishes. There is no red meat, no canned drinks in the fridge, no frying and a policy of using local produce wherever possible. Gusti apparently does all the shopping. Breakfast is fruit salad including purple dragon fruit, apple pancakes cooked to perfection, multi-grain home-baked bread plus Diana’s Scintillating Strawberry Jam. For lunch there are huge salads – Flavours of Asia consists of heaps of raw vegetables with noodles in a coriander, lime and peanut dressing – or go for the Avocado, sesame, spinach and swordfish salad, which is light, nourishing and very tasty. Guests are excited on a daily basis at 6pm when the new dinner menu is delivered into their willing hands. Diana’s evening dishes – she’s always inventing new ones – combine Asian and vegan options as well as chicken, pork and fish if you’re not on the Clean Break.
What’s lowly: The rubbish-laden state of the sea – which apparently only happens in January (when we visited). Staff can be seen every afternoon picking up detritus from the beach, but the actual water itself is badly polluted with plastic bags and more.
Insider tip: It takes three and a half hours in the car from the main airport in Bali, so consider breaking up the journey, or Diana can organize an adventurous arrival via Surabaya, Java, where they pick you up and take you to a batik shop, restaurant and then on to the ferry, so avoiding the traffic gridlock in the south of Bali. You can also choose to arrive on the back of a Harley.
Price: 525 (£365) to 625 (£435) US dollars a night for a two bedroom villa depending on whether it’s high or low season.
Value for money: Excellent, when you consider the level of luxury, service and food that is offered.
Reviewed by Rose Rouse
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