My first contact with the Balinese village of Penestanan was in 1983 although I had no idea that there was a village with that name back then, 40 long years ago. It was my first trip overseas, we brought our young family to Bali albeit a Bali with far less tourists, a Bali bereft of flashy places and foreign entrepreneurs.
We stayed at The exotic Hotel Tjampuan just west of Ubud perched in a valley between Penestanan and Ubud. There were subsequent trips in 1986 and 87, trips that cemented my love of the island described by Nehru as “The morning of the world.”
I didn’t return to Bali again until 1996, once again with my two kids who were now teenagers. My wife Melanie had left me a year earlier so I decided to bring Paul and Allissa to Bali to escape from the fractures that still lay open in Melbourne.
I have always gravitated to Ubud. It’s ravines and ridges, culture, temples, gamelan, warungs and especially the people epitomise the spirit and beauty of Bali to me. I’ve been back in 97, 98 (3 times), 2000, 2007, 2008, 2018, 2019 (twice), 2020, 22 (3 times) and 2023.
Penestanan has always been central to my love of Bali but it wasn’t until 2019 that I fully immersed myself in the “village of the young artists” as it is known.
In 2019 my wife Georgie and I took a leap of faith and took a 20 year lease on a rather dilapidated joglo on 5 are (pronounced ara) of land not more than 5 minutes walk from The Hotel Tjampuan where my Bali love affair began in 1983.
It has now been over 3 years since we leased our villa and subsequently renovated it, converting it into our very distinctive and unique home in Bali.
We have just spent 6 weeks in Penestanan with our 22 year old son, Finn. The time to return to Melbourne is fast approaching. My heart is heavy but we will return again in August for 2 months with a trip to Spain and Italy wedged in between now and then.
Little did I know 40 years ago that my destiny would be tied to the spot where the the jungle still glistens in the morning sun next to Hotel Tjampuan and Gunung Lebah temple which is located at the junction of the Wos and Oos Rivers before they become the Tjampuan River and flow under the 2 bridges, one old and the other relatively new and then past Muni’s Warung and on to the Sacred Monkey Forest.
This is the location where I generally start my day with a brisk and sweating trek up the Tjampuan Ridge.
I am in love with this spot, it holds some magic for me. I feel at home and at peace when I am here.
Penestanan is now my second home. My links are consolidated and will remain so for the balance of my life.