By now we all know what to expect from a Balinese resort: a walled-in modernist villa, either with or without thatched roof, but otherwise sticking closely to the contemporary-Zen formula of the modern minimalist luxury hotel. But at Desa Seni you’ll find not some sleek and monumental luxury hotel, but something that looks for all the world like a traditional Balinese village, a sprawling assortment of antique-style Indonesian houses, peaked roofs, stone walkways and all.
The name means “art village,” and you could make a case that the village itself is the artwork here, equal parts installation and performance. While it’s a short walk from the beach and a short drive from Seminyak (and not much farther from the airport) it’s separated enough to offer guests a little taste of Indonesian rural life — those rice fields that surround Desa Seni aren’t just ornamental, and those are real farmers hauling around bushels of grain.
And while the twelve guest houses decorated with an eye toward their very traditional exteriors, they lack for nothing when it comes to modern conveniences. They’re perhaps not the most wired of hotel rooms, but they do come with the basics — entertainment centers and free wireless internet — and anything else, one imagines, would interfere with Desa Seni’s all-encompassing wellness program. There’s a spa, of course, whose menu ranges from slightly decadent to downright life-affirming, and the yoga classes run three or four times a day. And here traditional stylings go hand in hand with ecological concerns, which means while you’re looking after yourself and the local culture, you’re leaving a small footprint on the environment as well.