You know when you wander through a place thinking “I’m not sure what it is about this place, but I really want to know more about where this all began. There’s a lovely story here.”
That happened when I explored Dewangga Ubud. I immediately ditched the remainder of my ‘places to check out to do list’ and settled in to find out more.
Here’s a quick look….
- First impression: More village than villa. Perfectly imperfect. Art meets life.
- Staff: Relaxed. Friendly. Helpful.
- Food & drinks: A blend of classic and new.
- Bed & bath: Bali bungalow style, some with a modern edge, some old style. That’s the charm.
- Location: Kinda hard to believe you’re right in the centre of Ubud.
- What’s the story? Created and operated by the family of one of Bali’s most famous artists.
- In a nutshell: An oasis of calm, with a little quirkiness on the side, it has everything you need. Bungalows, art, spa, food, nature, art and cooking classes, culture, served up with heart and soul.
- Hits and misses: Talking with artist Gusti Suteja on his rooftop workshop was a hit for me. They didn’t get the memo on single use plastic ban. Sad to see a plastic straw in my virgin mojito.
- Worth it – and why? An alternative to the villa/resort scene in an amazing location. Book ahead for amazing prices.
There’s more to the story….
Ubud is no longer the sleepy artist village, bringing in tourists in search of art and culture. An artist working as a driver summed it up for me….. “no one wants to come to Ubud for art now, life would be better if I was a yoga teacher.”
So true. Ubud has become a mecca for the zen seeking yoga crowd. Along with the influx of Digital Nomads, tapping away in the design led co-working spaces, there is a new vibe.
Dewangga Ubud brings a blend of artist style with a modern edge to central Ubud. Eclectic artistic touches are everywhere: original paintings, sculptures, vertical garden walls, a private collection art gallery, whilst an antique sidecar and old fisherman boat add the quirky touches.
Gradually built over 22 years, it feels like it has moved forward without succumbing to the ‘insta’ scene. The past is woven into the story.
The rooms are bungalow style, built before the era of walled in villas with private plunge pools. I love that every one of them is different, as happens when a place is built over 22 years. Thats the charm, such a relief from resort style villas built with standardised rooms to a perfect plan.
The older style stone bungalows have an air of old Bali about them, the newer rooms a touch of minimalism without the harsh edges. All are fitted out with conveniences of today. The website doesn’t show all the room styles, there are too many, the option is to book superior or standard only.
My tip, embrace the individuality, let go of the comfort of ‘standard’, think more village than villa.
The scale of the gardens are grand, yet understated. Natural stone paths are wide, more meandering than direct, designed to slow you down. Family temples and the bales for ceremony preparation, are laid out according to traditional life.
The pool is tucked away behind some trees, a peaceful space. Water temperature is refreshing. Looking for Yoga? Simply roll out your mat on one of the many grass areas. The natural sounds will let you find your Zen without a yoga studio.
The cooking, art and dance classes along with cycling and walking tours are all run by the Dewangga staff.
No stay in Ubud is complete without a trip to the spa for at least a massage, if not one of the famous mandi lulur exfoliating body treatments.
The spa rooms are more outdoors than in, the stone walls and batik clad beds, a reminder that you really are on a tropical island.
I did the green tea body scrub, it was gentle and relaxing. The spa is an easy walk from your bungalow. Prices are very reasonable.
The restaurant is new, built on the street side it’s a play on contrast – between the old and the new, the calm and the chaos. Light and airy, timber and bamboo are used in modern ways without being over designed. Bench seats at the windows overlook the hustle of scooters and people on the street below.
The menu is a blend of Balinese and new influences. The salads look good and I’m happy to find a classic Bali vegetable curry. The tomato soup is so good, full of flavour, my bowl is so clean by the time I’m done, its nearly embarrassing. I love that when I asked about the ingredients, the chef sent up a handwritten note with the recipe.
Seeing my interest in the black and white painting above a lounge chair, the restaurant staff ask if I would like to meet the artist, Pak Gusti Suteja.
They direct me up the stairs to what appears to be Pak Gusti’s rooftop workshop. A colourful old fishing boat looks like a work in progress. (I later find out it will transform into a table.) I see plant cuttings that are not just being nurtured, they’re assembled as art, adding a new dimension to a ‘garden shed’.
Humbleness is meeting an artist who tells his story of learning to paint at 18 with his grandfather… and neglecting to mention that his grandfather was none other than Lempad, one of Bali’s most revered and famous artists.
Famous for his distinctive line drawings, Lempad was an artist, sculptor and architect. He designed many of the palaces and temples throughout Ubud, and was well regarded for his talent for crafting ritual objects such as cremation towers.
My research reveals Lempad is often described as having a ‘quirkish humour’. I can see that at work today. There is constant creation, always a project happening in the garden or on the rooftop. Dewangga Ubud is perfectly imperfect.
Jl Dewi Sita Ubud Bali
22 rooms ranging from $75 – $120 per night (approx.) Book direct for early bird deals.
Refills for your water bottle are available at the front desk, restaurant and spa. In room water is supplied in glass bottles. (Making it easy for you to avoid buying drinking water in plastic bottles).
I Gusti Nyoman Lempad
Reading up on the story of Lempad is well worth it. He lived an extraordinary life, through a very challenging era in Bali. He died in 1978 at the age of 116. Tens of thousands of Balinese and artists from around the world attended his cremation. This article is a good read.
‘Lempad of Bali’ is a famous film by John Darling and Lorne Blair. You’ll find a series of excerpts at this youtube site.
Dropping into gallery at Dewangga Ubud to see the private collection of his work is a must.