Zen Hideaway A one-of-a-kind house

Published 26 November 2016   


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‘Wabi-sabi’ is the quintessential Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature. It is the beauty and charm of things impermanent, incomplete, and unconventional.

zen-hideaway-6The two-storey house is open to the elements
The teakwood upper floor is reminiscent of a treehouse.

‘Wabi’ refers to peace, harmony, and balance, and has come to mean simple, humble, modest, and in tune with nature. ‘Sabi’ means ‘the bloom of time’, celebrating aged wood, cracks, crevices, and all the other marks that loving use, weather and time leave behind. It is the kind of quiet, undeclared loveliness that can come only with age, and waits patiently to be discovered.

zen-hideaway-7The two-storey house is open to the elements
The teakwood upper floor is reminiscent of a treehouse.

This philosophy personifies a rare find known as Zen Hideaway, a 150-year-old teakwood house, constructed and redesigned by its Japanese Zen Master owner with the wabi-sabi aesthetic. Enveloped deep within the tranquil ambience of Bali’s innate beauty, this hidden retreat is perched on the edge of the Ayung River Gorge, with a jaw-dropping vista of the valley, the river, the jungle, and the peak of Mt Agung on the eastern horizon.

zen-hideaway-1The two-storey house is open to the elements
The teakwood upper floor is reminiscent of a treehouse.

Strangely, it was neither the house nor the spectacular location that initially drew me to Zen Hideaway – instead I was lured by the appeal of another attraction: A YouTube video, which was circulating on the Internet, drew my attention to a ‘backyard swing’ that flies out over Bali’s longest river. It looked amazing, “I want to do that”, I thought, “I HAVE to do that!” So you can imagine my disappointment when the video ended with the words, “Unfortunately, the swing is on private property. But we can still dream about it…”

zen-hideaway-2Swing right out
Your dreams are within reach.

A little bit of research established that the property was available as a holiday rental, and such was my desire to rock that swing I booked in for a short stay with a visiting friend. The on-line photos of the house looked charming, but nothing prepared us for the extraordinary WOW factor combined with the air of serenity that greeted us as we stepped through the entrance gate one late afternoon.

zen-hideaway-13For less the adventurous guest
The swing theme extends into the house.

With its alang-alang grass roof and uneven teakwood floorboards on the upper level supported by asymmetrical teakwood pillars, Zen Hideaway proved to be rustically enchanting. The main building is almost entirely open to the view, allowing the cool breezes and perpetual sounds of the rushing river and the weir in the valley below to wash across its terraces. There are two semi-open-air bedrooms, one of which captures the feeling of a tree-house, while the other is a bamboo-walled, standalone guesthouse/meditation room, accessed via a wooden footbridge. An air-conditioned study room in the main building serves as a third bedroom and is the only room with a glass window. In the living and dining area, we discovered a pair of seats – appropriately fashioned as swings – hanging next to a simple kitchen, while upstairs we were surprised to find another open-sided living space. The only bathroom is situated on the lower level, with stylish modern fixtures and an alfresco hot-water shower. Although sparsely furnished, the chic simplicity here ensures that nothing detracts from that spellbinding view. In fact, waking up in the comfort of my bed to the dawn chorus and the first light of day over Mt Agung, followed by the sun rising over the ridge on the opposite side of the valley, is a memory that I will always cherish.

Yet, in the midst of all this magic, the pièce de résistance was the swing, which is dramatically suspended on strong, 15-metre-long ropes from the upper trunks of two parallel coconut palms. Swinging out over the banks of the river gorge was a truly awesome experience, initially a little bit daunting but with a pumping adrenaline rush that compelled me to do it again, and again, and again.

So where exactly is Zen Hideaway? Ssssshhh, it’s a secret.

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