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Ubud's New Design Boutique

As Bali continues to grow, one designer is leaving his distinct imprint on the island. By IAN LLOYD NEUBAUER.

Published on Oct 27, 2017


ONCE EVERY FEW decades, an architect creates such a large body of work that their designs become interwoven with the mantra of the place. For Ubud, the spiritual and creative capital of Bali, that architect is Popo Danes. From the Hanging Gardens of Bali Resort, with its split-level infinity pool that seems to float above the jungle, to Natura, where all 14 tree-villas are oriented towards sunset, the Balinese-born, Dutch-trained master draftsman now has eight resorts in Ubud under his belt. The Samsara, opened in September 2017.

Samsara Ubud
Danes's design feels as timeless as its forest surrounds. Ian Lloyd Neubauer.

Twenty minutes by car north of Ubud on the knife-edge of a jungle gorge riddled with waterfalls, Samsara, like the rest of Danes's resorts, is all about the views. The foyer, like the entrance to a modern luxury home, is understated, sleek yet dramatic, drenched in 270-degree misty-mountain vistas. From there, the property steps down a steep hill, where manicured terraces, little laneways and tropical shrubs conceal 17 villas. Each is dressed in Macassar marble, handmade teak furniture and oxidized brass faucets. Outside, on private wooden decks, heated plunge pools literally swim with views of the jungle and Samsara's nucleus: a gravity-defying infinity-edge pool that hangs over the jungle.

A case of architectural déjà vu? Yes and no, Danes says: "We specialize in this kind of work, building on steep slopes, so our projects will naturally have a sense of continuity. But each site is different." And here, the continuity between destination and design is striking: an artificial waterfall descends from the main pool into a water feature and faces a real waterfall across the gorge.

A villa room
A villa bedroom. Courtesy of Samsara Ubud.

Samsara's public spaces have the same drop-dead gorgeous views while hidden in plain sight. Below the pool, in a semicircle enclosed in glass, are the gym, sauna, yoga studio and day spa where ageless hot-stone-massage techniques are rejigged using heated bamboo.

Below the lobby is Kelusa, Samsara's 52-seat restaurant and dining destination in its own right. Executive chef Iwan Sutrisno is trying Mediterranean-Balinese hybrid cookery. Think betutu (roast and spiced) chicken cannelloni with lemongrass pannacotta for dessert or, for breakfast, grilled river lobster and eggs.

Breakfast from Kelusa. Courtesy of Samsara Ubud.; one-bedroom villas Rp4.2 million.



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Special delivery at Samsara. Courtesy of Samsara Ubud.
  • Samsara Ubud.
  • Samsara Ubud.
  • A villa bedroom. Courtesy of Samsara Ubud.
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