The Soul of Nature: Alam Jiwa
Images: Garry Benson
Text: Garry Benson
Nyuh Kuning (Yellow Coconut Village)
For the 10th year I’m home – at blessed Alam Jiwa in the traditional Balinese woodcarving village of Nyuh Kuning. It’s just a short walk through Monkey Forest to Ubud, the world-famous arts and crafts capital of Bali.
Surrounded by shimmering rice fields with a view of sacred Mount Agung, the village is a showcase of traditional Balinese culture. Alam Jiwa translates as ‘the soul of nature’ and is a total of eleven beautiful two and three-story stone ‘apartments’ running along the border of the rice paddies.
The owners of Café Wayan, Ibu Wayan and Pak Ketut have created an ambience reflecting the beautiful nature of Bali. The secluded setting of the six Alam properties in Ubud and a hotel in the Gilis all feel like retreats – yet also a connection to interact with Balinese culture.
It’s just a short walk from Alam Jiwa to the Monkey Forest, the home to over 300 macaque monkeys. The Balinese believe these monkey to be spiritual beings who are protective guardians of the temple ‘Pura Dalem Agung’. They have free reign in the village of Nyuh Kuning.
The overwhelming feeling of staying at Alam Jiwa is being part of a family. On arrival I’m always greeting with a huge vase of tropical flowers with a typical message ‘Welcome home to Garry Benson’. I know the staff and their families, and to see their eager faces and smiles when they welcome me back are wonderful.
My hour long morning daily walk in Nyuh Kuning village is always a buzz. After 10 years I know a lot of the locals who smile & wave and sometimes chat. Just one of the paved streets about half a kilometre long had a total of 126 different sculptures.
Each Balinese compound has its own temple dogs or guards, but the outstanding one for someone with a mudbrick house is this one. Beautiful stone mosaics, and dozens of small sculptures embedded in the walls.
The village is intentionally ‘house proud’ and the villagers vie with each other to have the most beautiful entrances. The main streets of the village abutting Monkey Forest are all paved and decorated, with a soccer field, a temple complex and local school. It’s almost a model traditional Balinese village and a wonderful place to stay, to walk around and enjoy the numerous restaurants etc.
It’s amazing that this traditional woodcarving village has such a wonderful array of stone sculptures, carved wooden doors and offerings, a constant joy to crazy photographers like me!