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Hearing the word, “Bali”, immediately makes me think of an exotic, natural place…not quite the beach bars and packed streets you see when you first arrive on the island. If you’re searching for the Bali filled with lush, terraced rice fields, wild jungle and middle-of-nowhere feel — this is it.
At the edge of a small (small) village, Village Above the Clouds is unlike anywhere you’ve ever stayed, or will ever stay again. Fortunately Victoria, from Bridges and Balloons, tipped me off to this special eco resort in Bali and I ended my stay on the island with two nights nestled in one of the hotel’s bungalows looking out over Bali’s central highlands.
The resort calls itself an ‘eco boutique hotel’ featuring just five rooms (three separate bungalows and two rooms housed in the hotel’s main building) perched above a valley of terraced rice fields and jungle mountains that feature stunning views in rain or shine – you can even see out to the ocean on a clear day.
With an emphasis on sustainability, eco-friendly practices (including growing a nearby organic garden) and community involvement, the hotel is not only a unique and beautiful retreat, but an excellent example of environmentally- and socially-responsible tourism.
While I’ve been to a fair share of boutique hotels throughout Southeast Asia, Village Above the Clouds is something special. Within minutes of arriving you feel yourself sinking into the incredible atmosphere and slower pace of life while being in awe of your room (the two-story bungalows pictured above have four beds, two bathrooms and floor to ceiling windows) and stunning view. Of course the staff, all from the local village, treat you with the unique Balinese charm and hospitality and the food isn’t shabby either. You know you’re lucky to be there.
Aside from simply relaxing and soaking it all up, you can explore the surroundings rice fields visiting the neighborhood water temple and some hidden hot springs.
But the scenery and attention to detail aren’t all what makes Village Above the Clouds unique.
Though only open for less than two years, the hotel’s owners are making a huge impact in the local community by building an after school program, known as Freedom School, where village children can come everyday for different activities and classes including English lessons, yoga and movie nights at no cost.
Proceeds from the hotel not only go to support Freedom School, but also help sponsor some of the local children’s regular schooling and implement other programs throughout the village like a recycling system and water sanitation system. Everything that the hotel does has been approved by the village and the owners are an integral part in the community, making sure all programs and initiatives are accepted and welcomed by the villagers. In a time and place where it often seems like NGOs provide misguided assistance, Village Above the Clouds and its related projects are making sure everything they do is accepted, relevant and effective.
Guests can support these programs simply by staying at the hotel, but there are also volunteer opportunities available to work at Freedom School for those who want to stay longer and become more involved.
Village Above the Clouds is located an hour northwest of Ubud in Munduk. As with most accomodation in Bali, the hotel can arrange a driver to pick you up and take you to your next location.
Rooms go for 1,100,000 – 1,600,000 Indonesian rupiah (about $94 – 137) and include free breakfasts and Wi-Fi (which surprisingly works better than the other places I stayed in Bali). You can view all the rates here. It’s suggested that you stay in the hotel for at least two days and nights simply to give yourself time to adjust and soak up the way of life surrounding the village. I was able to stay for just over a day and a half which was not nearly long enough.
If you won’t be visiting Bali anytime soon but still want to support the hotel and school through monetary or product donations, you can find more information here.
Note: I was a special guest of Village Above the Clouds but, as always, all opinions and recommendations are my own and I will definitely return!