Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Bali & The Kayu Aya

 Anya and I  flew into Bali in the mid seventies and decided to stay at Sanur, and booked into La Taverna which was a beach side resort on the tranquil side of the Island.  La Taverna was managed by a German - Walter Foley who was married to a Balinese Princess, Mahdi Luna, and the both of them ran this magical little hotel of about twenty suites. 

Each suite was decorated in it's own  funky theme and  set in it's own tropical garden,  winding painted concrete paths leading to the restaurant and bar that was all open plan across between Balinese and Italian architecture, high ceilings and the building raised so that their was a total vista that opened to you as you walked into the restaurant, of  their pool, beach, the ocean and sky. As the name indicated the cuisine was Italian and pizzas were the popular dishes on the menu.La Tavern was next door to another small resort called Tandjun Sari equally as offbeat and funky and where the "Stones" stayed when in Bal

Initially we hung around the pool and beach, working on our tans and getting our bearings 
 familiarising ourselves with a different culture, language, food, and environment.We knew
 a  team of Australians already there and became quickly initiated to island life  and Bali time. 
I hired a 250cc motor bike which was mandatory for moving around the Island. We rode up to 
Ubud in the highlands where we knew an Australian artist Ian Van Weirigen who leased a 
spectacular site which looked down over the main gorge that splits the town.He was busy 
at the time with a relationship,though brief, with Lauren Hutton the American Model

Jimbaran and Ulawatu was another area of Bali I liked, the surf was more robust and the sand was white and the sheer cliffs rising upwards were stunning against the turquoise ocean. Jimbaran was like North Head in Sydney except it was larger and like North Head it was   a "tied island" and had its own Eco system to the rest of the island.

Anya had booked her return ticket only for a nine day stay, so  no sooner was she there then she was gone, it was the end of another relationship for me, it was not for long, we parted more as friends than a couple who had been going together for six months. I think of Anya more that way, as a friend than as an ex lover, we got on well,  but we were were not heartbroken about leaving each other, though when we were together we clicked.

After Anya left Walter Foley the owner of La Taverna asked me if I wanted to do some work in Bali, as I  had mentioned to him I was happy to stay around and do something if  there were any opportunities in the offing,  he knew my back ground in hospitality, bars and restaurants.Explaining, that he knew the head tribes person of Seminyak, a village on the Kuta Beach side of Bali, who he would like to introduce me to. As there was a  beach side resort  called The "Kayu Aya"which was built on their village grounds by an American who had taken on a lease and built some villas and lanais.Unfortunately for him he had been thrown off the Island for not using" Batik Diplomacy" - which meant he did n't play by the Indonesian Generals rules as was expected of him - more of that later!! There may be an opportunity for me to help them somehow reopen the resort for trading.

We drove over to Seminyak and met the village head man, I don't remember his name, or him, suffice to say, he had no money and had no idea what to do, with what had landed on their village lap.On our inspection I was blown away right from the start. 

The approach to the Kayu Aya, was a left turn from the main Kuta Beach Road, towards the ocean, on a rutted track which had been bitumined over, that threaded it's way through  rice paddy fields to the ocean and resort. The resort stretched along the beach for about half a mile, there were eight villas along the beach. Four on either end of the property with the main reception area office and waiting lounge in one spectacular high ceiling building, that led into  another open sided restaurant which overlooked the beach and ocean, set back from the beach about fifty yards was a half Olympic sized swimming pool and at one end a small amphitheatre for entertainment. Behind the  main building and villas spread through the gardens were thirty lanais, which is a room with en suite and balcony and their are four in a cluster.The property was deteriorating and the gardens overgrown a lot of the villas were in a state of disrepair, with bougainvillea out of control, strangling drainage and plumbing and pulling down some of the walls which were constructed from local  coral stone. It reminded me of a scene from a  Graham Green novel on Cuba; - th'Our Man in Havanna' except this was Bali.

The Kayu Aya Hotel was built by Charles Osborne, whom I met in London five months later and who I will give the background story now, as I learnt  about him and the history from him, over the preceeding months ahead.

Charles was an American,who was a fighter pilot during the Korean War and an officer out of   Anapolis- the Naval Officers Academy. He put great stead on his blue blood Virginian ancestory. He was an imposing person, physically six foot five and large in personality drunk or sober. He married  Katinka Frisk who was the cousin of Carl Gustaf the King of Sweden they had two children, boy and girl. Charles owned a French Company that built hospitals to 'turn- key' in under developed countries, mainly Africa for national governments. It was a high powered life and he was away from home constantly. His marriage was fucked and they decided on Bali  for a holiday to try and reignite their marriage.

Which is where he met up with some high Indonesian military generals who in turned introduced him to the opportunity of leasing the land at Seminyak and decided to  build a compound for family, friends and business connections.   One of his  contacts was Herman Schaefer a bigwig at Pepsico, they decide that they should build a boutique resort and he would get Pepsi to fund some of it and use it for their conferences. Which  leads to them to retaining Peter Muller an important Australian Architect, who is residing in Bali at that time. 

Peter Muller who has an organic perception of architecture is provided with 'a dream brief ' resulting in his design and the construction of the 'Kayu Aya'. He responded to the site with an ethos in his architectural rigour that was at that time new to Bali and to be the fore runner for other developments. His interpretation in using sustainable materials and innovative architectural solutions, materials in the construction process was local as were the crafts people who made the  furniture and fabrics and architectural features through the grounds and buildings who interpreted Peter's design process . The form was Balinese and function was Western interpreted to the Balinese culture, such as each entrance to the rooms and villas, all were dog legged, when you entered you turn left then right, this prevented evil spirits entering.

I offered a proposal of bringing the property up to a standard where it could accomadate paying guests, my payment would be free board initially and once funds were being generated a percentage. I housed myself in the Presidential suite and brought on board to help me  another Australian, Terry Stanton who was there with his wife Anna-Marie Winchester an Australian actress. They had arrived from Sulewesi where Anna-Marie who was eight months pregnant had been bitten by a dog In Ujang Pandang and had to stay there for rabies shots for which she was then cleared.Terry had worked for me before at "Fantales" as a carpenter and was extremely creative and capable in leading a team to commence maintenance and repairs through out the resort. 

My Task were numerous, organizing the villagers on cleaning bees; cleaning up the gardens, the swimming pool, beach and making the place respectable for guests.Deciding how many rooms were in a fit state for use for  renting out, as many had not been completed internally. The plumbing did not work in most, there was only a small supply of linen. The refrigeration in the kitchens was so basic that it was hardly worthwhile trying to provide a breakfast menu.  The rooms did not have bar fridges and the Kayu Aya in 1976 was a long way from any shops.

There must have been a lot of thieving of property, as at one stage from reports the 'Kayu Aya' had functioned as a  Resort, to what extent it never became clear, so I banged ahead and posted rates on the notice board at 'Poppies' a garden restaurant in Kuta, where most young travellers hang out. 

Over a couple weeks we gradually started filling up the villas and the Lanais close to the swimming pool.It was a mixed bag of guest that found their way there as in those days it was off the beaten track. There were some Spaniards and Greeks who had stores in Mykonos and came to Bali for crafts to take back and sell, took two villas. several Australian women traveling independently rented the lanai's.A couple of scammer / surfers from Australia and California took a villa for a month which lead to my undoing and leaving Bali.

1 comment:

  1. Nice way to end a relationship and keep a friend.
    I went to Bali in the mid 70's and loved it.
    Stayed at Kuta beach,in a little cottage and the restaurant was a separate Bali hut,where I ate lots of Gado-gado and Indonesian food.
    Drove around to see the old temples,and visited
    the markets local style,and the beach was clear and beautiful to enjoy.