Like many Australians I have become a regular visitor to Bali. The heady mix of culture, climate, surfing and business has given me many reasons to return to the island and over the years my love of all things Indonesian has grown dramatically.
During a visit to Bali in 2003 I was introduced to the well-known and well-respected Sumatran teak merchant, Pak Aulia. I had previously heard of Pak Aulia and was familiar with his furniture, plus I had seen a book containing pictures of the beautiful home that he had built in Seminyak. Shortly after our meeting Pak Aulia put the house up for sale and motivated by curiosity more than any intention to buy, I decided to have a look.
As is the case with most visitors to Puri Angsa, I fell instantly in love with the place and halfway through my tour I decided to buy it. This was in spite of my long held belief that there is absolutely no need for a person like myself to own a house in Bali due to the ready availability of so many large and very comfortable rental properties.
Along with the buildings on the property I also bought most of the contents. The main house, a two hundred year old traditional Sumatran structure, was a virtual museum, full of old and very beautiful Indonesian artifacts. There were also several traditional Indonesian houses that Pak Aulia had collected over the years and had ‘dropped’ around the property.
It was while I was showing my friend and architect Robert Weir around Puri Angsa that I decided to make a few changes. After recent battles with several ‘creativity challenged’ Sydney councils and the NSW Land and Environment Court, Robert was only too happy to extend his visit and help out with the project.
It was decided early on that the main objective of any renovation would be to simply improve Puri Angsa’s amenities and service capabilities while retaining the integrity of Pak Aulia’s original vision. To that end, we dismantled, repaired and relocated several buildings, upgraded electrics and plumbing, filled-in the original pool and built a new one, installed a satellite internet access system and put air-conditioning in all the major bedrooms. We also landscaped those areas of the garden that had been affected by the renovation. The changes took two years to complete with all the work being done by traditional Balinese builders.
An old friend once told me that his ideal living situation would be a grass hut with high-speed internet access. While we may have overshot the popular image of a grass hut we have, I believe, managed to adhere to the spirit of that thought, more or less.
With so many things to love about Puri Angsa I still struggle when trying to decide exactly what it was that made me decide that I had to own this house. Maybe it had something to do with that feeling that children seem to experience when discovering Puri Angsa’s various huts and nooks and crannies for the first time. I have no trouble recognising that look of wonderment on their face as if they have discovered the world’s biggest cubby house. And I still get that feeling every time I walk over the front step.