A Magical door to Bali
The Tandjung Sari is an ageless beauty. At more than fifty years old, this small hotel on Sanur Beach, shaded by huge trees and quietly sheltering treasure at every turn, remains serene, discreet and elegant. It is described by many as Asia’s original boutique hotel.
In the early 70s, there were no electricity or phone services in Sanur; roads were not paved, and most people were making a living from by farming and fishing. I arrived in Bali in the mid 80s, tired and sleepy after a long trip. A driver was waiting for us at the airport to take us to Tandjung Sari and when we got out of the old-fashioned car – a better one not seen anywhere on the island – I looked for the reception.
All I could see in front of me were three steps that led to a long narrow table and three Balinese natives, dressed in orange sarongs and yellow turbans, smiling to welcome us. This setting, framed by tropical vegetation, was just the exotic reception I was seeking. When, later, I had adapted to the style of this hotel, which in no way resembled a hotel, I realized that everything was so arranged, as if to emerge from a luxuriant nature. The following morning, while I was walking on the beach, I saw the fishermen… a scene that I wonder is still in existence today.
The truth is that the Tandjung Sari did not intend to become the seminal boutique hotel of tropical Asia. It began in 1962 as a place to spend the night for its owner Wija Wawo-Runtu and his English wife, Judith, when they came to Bali from Jakarta on shopping trips for their antiques business. Soon, extra bungalows were built to accommodate friends, and then friends of friends. It became a hotel almost without anyone noticing it; but within a few years it was internationally renowned among people in the know as the place to stay.
For the lovers of Bali, I warmly recommend the book Tandjung Sari - A Magical Door to Bali, written by Diane Darling. It celebrates the hotel’s 50th anniversary by telling us the story of how Tandjung Sari grew, its challenges and triumphs and the people who were charmed by its blend of simplicity and sophistication.