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Finding your Chi at Michi, a ryokan-inspired eco-retreat in Bali

August 29, 2009
The solutide of Yoga at Michi Retreat

The solutide of Yoga at Michi Retreat

When choosing accommodation on Indonesia’s premier travel destination of Bali, the greatest challenge one is faced with is not where, but rather what type of stay experience one is seeking. From opulent resorts to quiet rustic havens of eco-balance perfection, to retreats that celebrate wellness and new-age organic treatments of monastic quality that touch your soul… a place customized for one’s whims awaits somewhere in Bali. One such place, interestingly fashioned after a Ryokan (Japanese traditional Inn) sets it apart from Bali’s common tropical vernacular design language, is Michi Retreat. A distinctive place where you can re-align you your Chi.

Michi Retreat, Meditation Center

Michi Retreat, Meditation Center

Michi Resort-Nausicaa Suite-edd2x_1941web1
It starts out as an aimless drive, undertaken purely for the pleasure of being out and about on rural Bali roads on a clear blue afternoon. One glimpse of the sign, however, and the day has a new sense of purpose. It is discreet, simple, a smallish slab of wood engraved with a Kanji character that, we later discover, represents Michi: a Taoist word denoting “The Journey and ultimately the Way towards one’s Great Integrity.”

Little knowing what awaits, but happily idle and intrigued, we look at each other, reverse, and take the turn that will lead us through Jukut Paku village, past a magnificent banyan tree and down to the Michi Retreat.

Once there, we are confronted by a mosaic marvel. Gaudi in Bali? The restaurant dazzles with its playful mobiles and claw-footed, mirror-studded pillars. Across the valley, distant figures are discernable in the lush padi, where a terrace of intense green drops down to the rushing river below.

Wayang decor elements. Michi Retreat, Bali

Wayang decor elements. Michi Retreat, Bali

View of swimming pool and valley beyond. Michi Retreat, Bali.

View of swimming pool and valley beyond. Michi Retreat, Bali.

The Founder – who, with a combination of modesty and mystique, does not wish to be named – appears shortly after our arrival. A former professor of cultural anthropology, he is in his late seventies and walks with the aid of a silver-capped stick, his canine companion Bubu by his side. While he consults with staff, someone presents a brochure.

Towards the back of the booklet is a page entitled ‘The Tale of a Nomad: Freedom from the Spurious and the Specious.’

Zen bamboo bathroom. Michi Retreat, Bali

Zen bamboo bathroom. Michi Retreat, Bali

Traditional Indonesian spices. Michi Retreat, Bali

Traditional Indonesian spices. Michi Retreat, Bali

The Tale reads as follows:
Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931 was a thunderclap to an infant living near the Russian border of inner Mongolia. After seven decades of a peripatetic existence, the founder was able to unearth a strip of the land in Ubud, an art & craft center of Bali. The place was a providential “Canaan” for him…

The Founder approaches us, then listens appreciatively to our story of how we were inexplicably drawn along the path to Michi. “You’re not staying here? You can’t afford it,” he surmises, with some sympathy, before we have a chance to respond.

Swimming pool, Michi Retreat, Bali

Swimming pool, Michi Retreat, Bali

His sympathy is sincere: we are treated to lunch. The meticulous care taken over every detail here soon becomes apparent – every item of cutlery and tableware is unique, and beautiful. The chilled water is delicately flavoured with hints of fresh mint and lemon. And, as we discover from this and future meals, the food is divine. “Food is my obsession,” the Founder remarks. So much so that he has sent his chef, Ayu, for training abroad: she has had the opportunity to enhance her culinary skills in Italy, France and Japan.

Michi is a cooperative, built and run by the people of Jukut Paku, under the guidance of the Founder. It has now been almost ten years in the making, a process of design, training, construction and reconstruction. The workers will share in any profits of the retreat and, ultimately, it belongs to them. “I found my heart in harmony with the local people,” says the Founder. “I want to leave something good here.”
"Only Yesterday" Suite, Michi Retreat, Bali
Each room or villa is different to the last detail (and of details there are many). One suite is inspired by the story of Odysseus, the rest by the Founder’s own lifetime of wandering, taking in the friends he met along the way (one suite is dedicated to Man Ray), his passions (coffee and Coco Chanel), and the good old days (the glittering Only Yesterday is replete with old cameras, typewriters, contemporary art and jazz memorabilia). There is a temple, a meditation hall, a library dedicated to Gandhi and Tagore, and a dance studio dedicated to celebrated Indian classical dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai.

While guests have been visiting the retreat for some time now, it has most often been by chance or invitation – “the longest soft opening in history,” as the Founder would have it. Now, however, the time has come for Michi to be discovered.

Source: Kabar Indonesia

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