TUGU: BALINESE CULTURE – UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

Editor in Chief Richard Barnes visits the Tugu Hotel and Villas in Bali’s coastal town of Canggu. It’s one of Indonesia’s most extraordinary properties in the most “up and coming” district of the Island of the Gods, and winner of countless awards.

Tugu, in Indonesian, means “monument”. Tugu Hotels are small privately owned and designed collection of luxury art hotels born out of one man’s love and passion for Indonesia’s romantic history. Tugu is the creation of Anhar Setjadibrata, a one-time medical student-turned-lawyer, and now the owner of the biggest collection of fine Indonesian art and cultural antiquities in Indonesia, sharing with the world the romantic stories and legends of ancient kingdoms of Indonesia.

The Geographic Context

Located 45 minutes from Ngurah Rai Int’l Airport, 20 minutes from chic downtown Seminyak, and from a golf course voted to be the best in Southeast Asia, Canggu is situated on Bali’s south-east coast, (almost) a stone’s throw south-west of the legendary sea temple of Tanah Lot. While Kuta and Seminyak are seething with tourists year-round, Canggu has only really begun to develop over the past five or ten years, and its beach is one of the island’s top surf spots.

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The beach adjacent to the Tugu is a great place to observe spectacular sunsets.

Nestled among lush paddy fields near Batu Bolong Temple, one of Bali’s most sacred temples, the town hosts a growing number of trendy bars and restaurants and has a more “mature” atmosphere than its southerly neighbours.

A Trip Back in Time

Arriving at the Tugu, one is led down a long entrance walk into a massive hall. This is in fact a Wantilan Agung (Grand Ceremonial House) – setting for numerous cultural events that attract visitors from far and wide. It’s a gigantic hall, with very high ceilings supported by giant wooden columns, inspired by the ceremonial house in a Balinese ancient village and is filled with antiques and cultural relics. Every pillar is topped with a giant Boma carving – a mythical animal that is believed to protect the village from bad spirits. A feeling of authenticity and cultural immersion swathe the visitor – comfortably installed in the welcome lounge – aided by the friendly greetings of the staff members as they bring cool cocktails and cold towels to the travellers.

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Wantilan Agung (Grand Ceremonial House)

One Man’s Passion and Dreams Become Our Reality

The “Tugu mission” is to bring back to life the art, soul and romance of Indonesia’s yesteryears. This “truly Indonesian” experience is achieved not only through the artful design and themed décor, but also from the various cultural experiences that guests can only have in this place.

Over the years, the owner, Anhar Setjadibrata, has become Bali’s largest collector of fine Indonesian art – a priceless collection of cultural antiquities. Today, he and his two daughters pilot a small group of very unique properties in Indonesia.

The Tugu Canggu property houses its own museum where the traveller can also purchase objects.

The Wantilan Agung (Grand Ceremonial House), houses an art gallery featuring Setjadibrata’s exclusive collection of historic Indonesian artwork, antiquities and cultural artefacts

Setjadibrata’s passion for Indonesian art and history began while he was a young, and very poor, medical student in Java. He began collecting antiques in 1972 at the age of 25 years old. At that time, he had completed his medical studies and was waiting to complete the last year of his hospital internship, but as fate would have it, political turmoil caused him to change his plans, and he was sent out to visit outlying areas of the archipelago. During these travels, Setjadibrata had the opportunity to explore Java, Bali, Nusa Tenggara, West Timor, Kalimantan and Borneo. He came across many people of these regions who were discarding priceless antiquities and cultural relics, innocently believing these historical treasures to be out of style, old-fashioned, or simply not “modern”.

I never thought of collecting for profit… I was only thinking of a way to save these treasures because they are related to Indonesia’s history, a part of history that I can touch and feel

Learning of the essential value of these objects as time went on, Setjadibrata began collecting antiques, carefully documenting the precious histories that surround them, piece by piece. As his passion grew, he went on to compete with scores of antique dealers from abroad who flock to Indonesia to buy its priceless antiques – and pieces of its history. He dropped his medical career and entered into law, while all the time gathering more and more pieces of the great puzzle that made up his nation’s cultural past.

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A veritable museum in the hotel basement enables guests to purchase artefacts

“I never thought of collecting for profit,” remarks Setjadibrata. “I was only thinking of a way to save these treasures because they are related to Indonesia’s history, a part of history that I can touch and feel”.
Through the years, his vast collection of antiques continued to grow. “I began to realise that my collections must no longer speak only to me, they must also speak to all mankind as a symbol of my country’s rich history and cultural heritage,” added Sedjadibrata.

After 12 years, Setjadibrata left his law practice and decided to make his dream a reality.
tugu-sculpture-2In 1989 he built his first boutique museum hotel, Tugu Park, in the East Java city of Malang, to showcase his overflow of treasures from Java and beyond.

His efforts were soon rewarded. In addition to being the only hotel in Indonesia to win a national award for architectural excellence, Tugu Malang is a home to one of the largest collections of Javanese, Chinese and Dutch colonial antiques in Indonesia and is ranked among the 101 Best Hotels in the world.

In 1997, Hotel Tugu Bali and Villa Tugu Bali, Setjadibrata’s new luxury museum boutique resort was built in Canggu. Hotel Tugu Bali’s architecture and interior reflect the art, culture and history of Indonesia in general and Bali in particular.

The Wantilan Agung (Grand Ceremonial House), houses an art gallery featuring Setjadibrata’s exclusive collection of historic Indonesian artwork, antiquities and cultural artefacts. Wantilan Agung is decorated with wooden Boma Head (mythological giant guardians) carvings on the top of crossbeams, and columns inspired by the ancient ceremonial house in the ancient village of Bayung Gede. Among the antiquities displayed here is the precious Cupu Manik. The main entrance leads to the resort’s 21 villas and suites, amidst tropical and a tranquil pool of wild lotus.

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Close-up of the biggest Wooden Garuda in Bali

Among Hotel Tugu Bali’s artistic and cultural highlights are guardian statues from the 12th century; a 150-year-old wooden well; an immense 19th century marble table; two suites built in memory of distinguished individuals who contributed to the art and culture of Indonesia; a vast collection of Indonesia art located throughout the resort and its exclusively gallery; a 19th century meeting room decorated with royal antiques and other works commemorating Bali’s greatest heroes; and Bale Sutra (The Palace of Harmony), an elegant dining room recalling an 18th century Kang Xi period temple.

Setjadibrata adds, “We want Tugu Bali guests to not only enjoy the amenities of the hotel, but to become involved in Balinese tradition”.

20, Going-On 100

Entering the property, one has the impression that many of the buildings date from the early part of the 20th century. In fact, while much was built only 20 years ago, many of the elements are a great deal older, and ancient building techniques were the also order of the day.

The main building, the Bale Agung, features a distinctive architecture inspired by a secluded village in Central Bali, whereas some of the public areas are original hundred year-old structures moved in entirety into the property. The suites are housed in individual buildings tucked in lush tropical gardens and natural lotus pond facing the Indian Ocean.

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Tugu garden and villas

Guest Accommodations

All guest accommodations are within steps from the beach, housed in traditional thatched-roof buildings. All ground floor suites (Dedari Suites) have private plunge pool and open air bathroom, whereas the second-floor suites (Rejang Suites) have ocean-view and private spa area with unique sunken tub. The author had the chance to stay in a Rejang suite, with a sea view. In some ways, it also felt to me like something out of a Hemingway novel, due to the colonial influences. The all solid timber structure is highly appealing to those with a taste for the rustic and the authentic.

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Rejang Suite

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Rejang Suite

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Rejang Suite

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The welcoming touch – Rejang Suite

The Honeymoon Villa

The Puri Le Mayeur villa (the “Honeymoon villa”) is dedicated to the passionate love story between the Belgian painter Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, who made Bali his home in 1932, and the model of his paintings, the famous, beautiful Legong dancer Ni Polok. Some of the items are originals of Le Mayeur, inherited from Ni Polok, and the rest were crafted by a blind carver who used to be employed by the couple.

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The Puri Le Mayeur villa

There is a large, red-canopied-living room, a romantic bedroom, a semi-outdoor bath, a long balcony, a plunge pool and a sundeck for two.

Puri Le Mayeur Bis.jpgThe Puri Le Mayeur occupies an area of roundly 200 m2 (or 2,100 sq. ft), and is at the centre of a 700 m2 natural lotus pond, with views over the breaking waves and the sunset, where the sky meets the Indian Ocean. Through a bridge, Puri Le Mayeur is connected to an intimate dining hut for two, alone above the lotus pond, only lit by torches and candles.

Walter Spies Pavilion

Another exceptional suite – the Walter Spies Pavilion – is dedicated to the legendary artist Walter Spies, who had lived in Kampoeng Djojodipoeran in Jogjakarta between 1924 and 1927, and was giving a great contribution to the Balinese art. In this suite one finds various memorabilia of Walter Spies, such as his old camera, his paintings, his youth pictures, original letters to his family members in Germany, and others.

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Walter Spies Pavilion – Interior

In contrast with the passionate Puri Le Mayeur, the artful Walter Spies Pavilion is romantically subtle, characterised by the art deco era of Central Java. Other than original memorabilia of the artist, the Walter Spies Pavilion has a private plunge pool, an outdoor dining pavilion, a private garden and a beautiful outdoor bath.

Dining and Cultural Experiences

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High Tea by the pool

At Tugu Bali, the local cuisine is quite frankly part and parcel of the “authentic” experience.

One may choose from a number of dining venues, or pick a most favourite romantic spot anywhere – in the garden, at the quiet beach, private dining pavilion for two above the lotus pond and so on… only surrounded by nature, torch lights and candle lights.

How one dines is not only about food, but it also involves many other aspects such as theme, setting, ritual of service, atmosphere, presentation, traditions, and history.

Cultural Evening in Bale Agung (Lobby)

During my stay, I was able to witness an exceptional evening of Balinese dances – as provided every Thursday at the Tugu – and attended by many people from surrounding areas. On this occasion, three main dances were performed: the Margapati Dance, the Topeng Keras Dance and the Nelayan Dance.

WATCH VIDEO:

All menus are available here: seafood, gourmet continental cuisine, traditional Balinese, Javanese, and Chinese Peranakan menu.

garuda_bis_1In the middle of the room, crowning the stage, there is a gigantic 4.5 metre high wooden Garuda statue, carved from a 120-year-old tree trunk.

The carving is said to have been rescued by Setjadibrata from the garden of a sculptor who had abandoned it when the man (purportedly an Indonesian politician) who had commissioned it cancelled his order when he saw how big the bird was.

Indeed, still today, this is said to be the biggest wooden Garuda in Indonesia.

Spa

The Waroeng Djamoe Spa at Hotel Tugu Bali brings back to life the authentic, rich history of spa in the islands of Java and Bali. Every spa treatment is based on the wellbeing secrets of the East, some of which does not exist anymore nowadays. Indulging and pampering, the Waroeng Djamoe Spa presents rituals that are not only focused on relaxation and beauty, but also bring peace and relaxation not only to the physical body, but for the mind and soul alike.

tugu-poolHOTEL FACILITIES & SERVICES

 Complimentary return airport transfer

 Quiet surf and sunset beach

 Business Services + Fibre Optic WIFI

 Bike rental

 Baby Sitting Services

 Dry Cleaning/Laundry Services

 Complimentary Car Park

 Wavesurfing

 Daily Afternoon Tea with local delicacies

 Swimming pool

 Library of books, films

 Boutique, jewelry, art and antique gallery

 Meeting Room

 Safe Deposit Boxes

 Postal & Shipping Services

 Secretarial Services

 Foreign Currency Exchange

 Sunset Horse-drawn Bendi ride

 Welcome relaxation foot and shoulder massage

Notable Awards

  • “Winner of Tripadvisor’s Hall of Fame: 5 Consecutive Years of Certifgicate of Excellence 2011-2015”
  • “One of the most Impressive Art Hotels” by Millionaire Living – Netherlands
  • “Haute Spots” by Harpers Bazaar
  • “Havens of History” by Asia Spa
  • “World’s Very Best Luxury Hotels & Resorts” by Forbes Travelers
  • “The 10 Best Asian Hotels” by Stern, Germany
  • “Indonesian Charm” by Tatler ‟ Indonesia
  • “The Hot List” by Conde Nast Traveller
  • “Tranquil Paradise” by TIME Asia
  • “Cool Restaurants Top of the World” by Taschen, Germany
  • “World’s Greatest Hotel” by Travel + Leisure
  • “Top 100 Most Beautiful Hotels of the World” by L’Officiel Voyage
  • “One of 101 Best Hotels in the World” by Tatler Travel Guide A&K, United Kingdom
  • “World’s Best of The Best” by Robb Report for the luxury lifestyle, United States
  • “Sexiest Suite in the Island” by Tatler ‟ United Kingdom
  • “Sampling of Paradise” by Architectural Digest, United States and Italy
  • “Best of Asia” by Luxury SpaFinder
  • “No 1 The Most Romantic Thing to Do” by Asia Spa
  • “Paradise on Earth” by Tatler Indonesia