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  • Vanessa Liwanag

Gaya Villas: A Harmonious Fusion of Art and Zen in Bali

These days, it is a challenge to look for that special place where we can find ourselves and be back in Zen-mode, away from the constant beeps of news and updates on our mobile phones and a string of emails following us everywhere we go. We can be lost in this world and for the few who can make it to Bali, Indonesia, life becomes more bearable, changing one’s perspective in tranquility and delighting one’s visual senses through various art and cultural pieces that are unique in this little island in the South Pacific region.

Looking for much needed rest and inspiration, there are a lot of options for luxury resorts and spas in Bali. One particular place that caught our attention was Gaya Villas, located in the middle of the jungle in Ubud, between the banks of a river and the greenery of a vast rice field. A real trek for someone who wants to be away from it all, and I was assured that it was all worth it.

From its conception as a haven for artists, Gaya Villas, started as a collective of bungalows that housed the artisans and painters of Ubud, a little village in the outskirts of Bali. It has evolved into a luxury enclave that welcomes visitors all around the world looking for an authentic experience immersed in a natural environment and surrounded by true Balinese works of art.

As we checked in, a vast space full of Balinese paintings and ceramics welcomed us, under a thatch roof called alang alang,that majestically crowned their lounge area. We were served fresh coconuts upon arrival with bright-colored hibiscus flowers that instantly injected a smile to our weary faces after a long 20-hour flight. The swimming pool is an oasis in the midst of a jungle, a wonderful surprise for anyone who has been used to the usual eternity pools in many luxury resorts. We did not hesitate to have a refreshing dip amidst the chirps of the birds and the surrounding Balinese idol stone gods, which transported us instantly in a world that seemed to be out of this era, a place back in the time where nature was God and everyone worshipped every leaf or every insect. This is Bali, where traditions from long ago still exists, nature is respected in all its glory and art is truly alive. This was just the beginning of our mission to find Zen.

We had the generous option of checking in to each villa that surrounded the resort. Each villa is unique with its own statement in an elegant fusion of contemporary line and traditional aesthetic, referencing elements of Balinese decor. We had the pleasure of staying at the spacious Villa Papirus, a vast space of 110 square meters with a surrounding garden of 192 square meters. We found ourselves in luxurious seclusion, as if we just moved in a real Balinese home built around nature, where old wood flooring and beautifully carved doorways fuse traditional and contemporary design.

Absolute freedom in our welcomed seclusion started our waking hours filled with the first rays of sunlight emerging over rice fields spread in front of the villa. We made the most out of each precious moment, strolling around the garden space that spread through the jungle that encircled the whole resort. We checked the other villas and saw that each one had their own magical experience to share, with its own unique view, either of the vast rice field, or a collection of trees and a flowing river that kept all visitors of the resort in a world of peace. The usual luxury showers we were accustomed to in hotels were definitely incomparable to the vast bathroom and shower space, laid out amidst natural stone and bamboo grasses. It was like we had our own waterfall filled with nature and light, starting our day right.

Lunch was served wherever you wanted to have it, either at their beautifully decorated restaurant or at your own villa. We were served traditional Balinese cuisine that included grilled meats, served with spicy sauce called satay paired with nasi ayam - white rice served with mixed vegetables grown locally, and a dab of the iconic spicy hot sauce called sambal matah. Our favorite pick was the betutu, an iconic Balinese dish, which consisted of a whole chicken stuffed with traditional spices, wrapped in banana leaves. It was a rich and juicy, succulent feast with all meat easily separated from bones after 6 hours of slow roasting in coal fire. Dessert was excellently laid out on a beautiful ceramic plate with a variety of local fruits that included fresh mangoes, pineapple, banana and slivers of coconut. It was a delightful fusion of flavors and we continued to be in heaven.

Gaya Villas has an art space in their lobby, which showcase paintings and sculptures of local artists - an objective that their Resort Manager, fondly known as Yanti, informed to us since the inception of Gaya Villas. Yanti shared that they wanted to continue promoting the local artistry by continuing their art exhibitions and events, which is a delight to any visitor as every month, they have new artists participating and showing different art pieces. We found this very unique and inspiring, being used to the usual art pieces that welcome us in many hotel lobbies around the word. Gaya Villas evolves and beats with its local culture and art scene and we felt that we were in the pulse of it all, speaking with the artists who were exhibiting at the moment and visiting their ceramics atelier.

Stepping in the ceramics workshop of Gaya Villas we found ourselves tuned in to the artisans who explained the process of how each and every plate and bowl in the resort is made. Not one piece is identical from the forms and textures that each artisans molds into each piece of ceramic. At the end of our stay, I found myself bringing home a unique ceramic plate, made especially by the local artisans. As I write about the amazing experience that we had, I take a glance at the ceramic plate, now a treasured souvenir of a memory that reminds me that Zen is not far and is within reach, that we can be there when we want to. And this inspires me in planning for future travels, knowing that true luxury and a new place of serenity is waiting to be discovered once again, as what we have discovered at Gaya Villas, in Bali.

CTW Luxury recommends staying at Gaya Villas in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. Go to to plan your visit.

All photos courtesy of the Gaya Villas, Vanessa Liwanag and Commons Wikimedia

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