Wisna House Review

Visuvalingam Bali Travelogue - stayed at Wisna House 12-25 July 2017

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If you're are looking for a rapid immersion into Balinese life and culture, even while staying in a quiet, non-intrusive and serenely comfortable environment, then the new Wisna House at #4 Jalan Pantai Sindu, just off laid-back Sanur Beach is the place for you (as contrasted to the more touristy and crowded Kuta beach that caters above all to the partying set). Instead of staying in different cities for sightseeing purposes, we made the—in retrospect wise—decision to spend all 13 days (July 12-25, 2017) of our first visit to the exotic island in this small three-roomed but very clean, modern, well-furnished and cozy guest house owned and managed attentively by Ketut Wirawan, a man of few but only hospitable words, and his friendly wife and family. Located a few minutes' walk from (the boardwalk along) Sanur Beach in one direction and with the main tourist street, Jalan Danau Tamblingan, around the corner in the opposite direction, everything is within easy reach. The small gate leads into a well-maintained garden with three adjacent spacious rooms up front to the left and the family quarters at the far end and to the right (album).

Ketut's cousin Made Romi (photo: Made left with Ketut), who picked us up at the airport arriving from Kuala Lumpur, was so outgoing and informative about Balinese customs, that we retained his services at standard rates as driver-cum-guide for our many day-trips to Uluwatu, Besakih, Tanah Lot, Gunung Batur, etc. By the time he saw us off at the airport to Yogyakarta, he was already like a friend. The room we stayed in and the immediately adjoining one had (breakfast-) porches separated (only) by a low wall that allowed and even encouraged communication with a succession of neighbors, who did not stay more than 2-3 days in Sanur. This way we got to meet couples from Russia, Poland, London, France, etc., from whom we learned about attractions across Bali and things to try out, and with whom we could share our insights into its Hindu-Buddhist culture.

Ketut is always around, attentive to the slightest needs of his tenants. An artistic Balinese touch to his room service is the daily transformation of fresh bath towels into a welcoming pair of loving white swans on the double bed, a 'small' detail that seems to have won the hearts of guests more than any other (Google search results for images of "Wisna House"). The simple but nourishing and varied breakfast with fruits is freshly served whenever you want. Once we tasted the Balinese option (sticky rice, banana pudding, etc.), we gave up buttered toast and eggs. You can also count on him to help solve any outside difficulties. Soon after arrival, I was ripped off about one million rupiah (about US$75) by a dishonest moneychanger, who was juggling around the bundles of notes as I was counting them. Ketut immediately insisted on accompanying me back, offering to take me on his motorbike, to the fraudster, who was so embarrassed that he returned my US dollars in full.

Sanur is the regular haunt of the plentiful Dutch expatriates, who have chosen to live out their retirement in Bali, prized colony of Holland for three hundred years on account of the spice trade. The owner of the restaurant across the street, for example, is Dutch and its menu is in that language. There are also several parlors nearby offering inexpensive Balinese and Western forms of massage, especially after an exhausting day of exploring some nook or cranny of the island. Other amenities are nearby, though the Wisna garden is shielded from the noise and bustle.

For us anthropologists of religion, Wisna House turned out to be a living museum of sorts. The courtyard annexed to the garden was a 'Hindu' temple complex dedicated to the ancestors of the extended family (photos #01-13).). Every morning and evening we could observe from our porch the women make offerings to the shrines in the garden (album). Noticing the two offerings (chanang) left daily at the foot of the tree immediately before our room, we learned that the placentas of their two children had been buried there at birth and the worship would continue until they matured. Every evening, right around the corner of Jalan Pantai Sindu and Tamblingan, on the way to dine at one of the many international restaurants lining Jalan Danau Tamblingan, we would stop to enjoy the gamelan orchestra of small boys assiduously practising at the neighborhood community hall for an upcoming competition (composite video clip from different days). We seemed participants in an evolving laboratory of how well Balinese have managed to conserve, adapt and nurture their age-old community traditions even while being caught up in the global economy, increasingly dependent on tourists for their livelihood. Excellent value indeed, and in more than just the monetary sense.

One of our simple daily pleasures, while relaxing on the porch through our fortnight there, would be to observe their little daughter playing with her pet cat before leaving for school in the morning and immediately upon her return home late afternoon, even before getting out of her neat uniform. She would carry the overwhelmed feline around, tantalize it fondly with various alluring objects, swirl it around with both hands, to incessant squeals of joyous laughter, so much so that the poor creatre would often flee around the garden to escape her clutches. However, the kitten would not fail to seek out her company when it got tired of being alone.

Unfortunately, by the time we returned to Chicago and took the time out from constant traveling to do justice to Wisna House and Ketut's hospitality, we are already past the 28-day deadline for posting this review at Booking.com. We are however delighted--and not at all surprised--to note that since we took the chance of confirming our booking in early June, its verified customer rating at the site has now risen as of this writing to an "exceptional" 9.7 (out of 10), far exceeding the scores of its peers and more luxurious full-fledged hotels.

Sunthar and Elizabeth

September 2017, Chicago