Michi Retreat. Ubud, Bali.
Words and photos by Vivan Tang
The Michi Retreat in Ubud, Bali was recommended by a friend, and upon arrival I was greeted with wide smiles and a refreshing pineapple smoothie. I was immediately intrigued by each of the 18 guest rooms that are designed to reflect the different countries where the owner has lived. Since I was traveling on a budget, I inquired about one of the three artist studio complexes for $35USD. The rooms were small but adorable and opened onto a patio overlooking the river on one side and a collection of open artist studios and workshops on the other. The only drawback to these affordable and sweet rooms is that they only offer a fan, so after some negotiation and a promised discounted rate, I decided on the air-conditioned Feng Shui room. The Chinese-themed room has framed floral paintings and family portraits throughout with red and gold wooden decorative trimmings. A beaded curtain separates the room from the stone bathroom. From the bed, you look out to a wall of windows and a door leading you to a private patio where a Buddha head statue sits perfectly on the patio wall so that the sun rises directly behind it from the east.
After settling in, I received a very detailed tour of the grounds, guest rooms, zen hall, meditation temple, spa with a river flowing beneath, spring water collection room, infinity pool and the cafe. After the tour, I met the caretaker known as “Professor” who was hunched over a walking stick and wearing an imperial matching top and bottom set and donning a weaved hat. He invited me to join him for dinner the following evening in the Michi Café where we had a delicious meal of Vietnamese, Japanese and Indonesian influences. During our conversation, I revealed dreams of one day having a bed & breakfast of my own and he suggested that I stay in a different room each night for the remainder of my stay.
After having stayed in the China-themed room, I journeyed next door to Turkey in the Anadolu room. A long atrium guides you into this room and opens up into an unexpected much larger room with an even more open bathroom, much like a Turkish bathhouse. Blue and white ceramic mosaic plates are hung decoratively throughout the room. A water pitcher sits in a bowl by the tub. Mediterranean lamps hang from the ceiling. The only things missing were the beautiful sounds of calls to prayer and the scent of sucuk, Turkish sausage, outside the window.
From Turkey, I went to Japan. Upon entering the Hotaru room, a zen state of mind overcomes you as you are transported into a traditional Japanese ryokan. Paper sliding doors separate the bathroom from the main room. A bamboo shelving unit lines the wall next to a miniature Japanese rock garden below a landscape painting of mountains and clouds. The bed rests on a platform low to the ground. I find myself getting attached to each room I encounter and wanting to stay there another night, but I knew that more adventures awaited in the Mekong room.
The Mekong room actually felt the most comfortable of all of the rooms because of my affinity with the South East Asian art and décor. You are surrounded by hand paintings of Thai goddesses, statues and images of Buddha in every corner and elephant figurines of all sizes. There are photos of monks, Cambodian Buddha statues in Siem Reap, and an antique photo of Vietnamese girls in their ao dai, the traditional dress.
On my last night, I stayed in the Only Yesterday room, an homage to American nostalgia. Being in Bali and having stayed in all these exotic rooms, I actually felt the most out of place in this room. Ironically, I’m American but perhaps given the time I’ve been spending in Asia, an American-themed room seems so distant from my recent reality. Though being exposed to these images is probably a good start for my transition back into a Western world full of pop culture and iconic celebrity imagery. Marilyn Monroe, Louis Armstrong, Clark Gable, a vintage trumpet, old cameras, Coca-Cola, Debbie Harry, a framed Diana Ross record and a 1950′s photo of the New York skyline all remind me of home.
My unique around the world lodging tour has added additional perspective to my own personal around the world journey. I’m in admiration of the Professor for curating such a whimsical place filled with relics and antiques from his own personal travels that allows his guests to take their own journey through his cultural experiences. The sounds of the river, the sunrise behind the lush green rice terraces, the early evening spring water swims and the scent of freshly burned incense from the turn down service will all be missed.
Vivan has been traveling around Southeast Asia and Europe for last six months visiting Vietnam, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, England, France, Spain and Portugal. You can follow her journey on her blog here: http://suprduprfriend.tumblr.com/.
And you can read more about Bali from our friend Star Eyes here.