Visiting friends in the UK recently, I was struck by how every piece of furniture in the house was suffused with memories: the distressed leather armchair, sole survivor from post-student, pre-living-together days; the Ercol coffee table salvaged from a London skip in those tentative first days of home ownership, that Victorian drop-leaf table inherited from a long-gone relative, the lacquerware cabinet acquired during an overseas stint in Shanghai. Every piece is a repository of memories, a trigger for stories. It got me thinking. What memories does the furniture in my Bali home hold?
Most of us lucky enough to be here either live with what comes with our rental or, if starting with a blank canvas, embark on a glorious shopping spree — worshiping at the likes of Warisan and Pondok Padi, and pouncing on increasingly hard-to-find Dutch antique furniture. I only know a handful of people who brought a (carefully curated) lifetime of home items with them when moving to Bali in recent years… giving us a fascinating glimpse of their former lives in the process.
The furniture we have acquired in the decade since we first took up residence in our ravine-edge home, is a mix of custom-designed (yes, I am proud to say our dining table was designed by Jesus), and ‘finds’ in Kerebokan. I am particularly fond of an over-sized Javanese daybed over-burdened with cushions. It’s impossible to sit in stately formality on this ‘antique’; instead, it’s designed for sprawling, for whittling away the hours watching the dragonflies hovering over the pond and kingfishers patrolling the ravine edge. But by far my favourite piece invites even more indolence; a hand-woven hammock in my favourite colours (green and orange, if you ask) — a gift from our daughter years ago following a trip to Bolivia. Stretched between two coconut-wood pillars in the living pavilion, it swings (perhaps too precariously for some delicate souls) over a 1.5-metre drop into the garden. I swear this has magical powers; the ability to settle the mind and induce a serene Zen state within seconds. Lazily swaying in the frangipani-infused breeze, suspended mid-air in a dream-fuelled state, is as close to heaven as it gets.
Every Bali home deserves a hammock or two. Not any hammock, mind you; not those garishly coloured ones made of parachute ‘silk. But the kind that evokes thoughts of toe-curlingly delicious siestas on a white-sand beach, Tequila Sunrise in hand, blazing sunset on the horizon followed by a canopy of stars high above. And there’s only one hammock that will do: a made-in-Bali Muntigunung hammock.
Arguably the best in Asia, these supremely comfortable creamy confections are the stuff of gossamer dreams, just as at home in a starkly contemporary villa as in a more traditional setting. They come with a wonderful back story too, as Ubud’s ‘walking angel’ Daniel Elber, the Swiss ex-banker behind the phenomenal Muntigunung project and non-profit Future for Children, explains. “I love hammocks, and wondered if it was possible to create hammocks up in Munti, as a sustainability project to provide work and income for the villagers. A Swiss volunteer researched this, and presented the concept to create hammocks in Muntigunung in the same way as Central America. It was a convincing paper, so I suggested she head to central America to find a teacher. She found the ideal candidate in El Salvador – the ‘Land of the Hammocks’ considered to produce the best in the world.” Somehow she persuaded macho master hammock-maker Walter Cruz to travel to remote Kul Kul to teach 35 Munti women his ancestral craft. “Walter put his heart into teaching them to produce top quality hammocks — it was a nine-week party,” Daniel chuckles. “He spoke only Spanish, my Swiss volunteer had a little Spanish, English and basic Indonesian, and a Balinese team member had a little English. But somehow they all managed!”
The result is a stunning collection of high-end hand-woven hammocks. Top of the range is the statement-making Agung, with its beautifully carved camphor-wood spreaders and crocheted decorative detail. Popular with luxury villas and boutique resorts, it is IDR1.950.000, or IDR2.200.000 if you’d like to incorporate custom lettering such as your villa name. (Note to self: what a fab wedding gift, or way to mark a special birthday.) If you’re looking for one that takes up less space and adapts to the body, then consider the spreader-free Muntigunung Hammock with Chongos tassles, weighing in at just 3.5k, with a price tag of IDR1.500.000. The Chair Hammock (IDR1.100.000) is, in Daniel’s view, “probably the most under-estimated decorative object, because, with colourful pillows, you can hang it anywhere.” And finally there’s the Baby Hammock, the lightest and least expensive at 2.5k and IDR800.000. How irresistible!
I first came across these amazing hammocks at the tail end of a 12km hike into the dry drought-prone mountain slopes of eastern Bali. The award-winning Muntigunung Trek offers so much more than jaw-dropping vistas and a completely different view of Bali; it’s the chance to contribute to the livelihood of Bali’s poorest communities, and to witness the social enterprise initiatives created by Daniel’s non-profit, among them hammock-making. “When you buy a hammock, you are creating up to three weeks’ work in Muntigunung,” he explains. “You are creating work for someone who previously may have never worked, never had water, was never registered, or had to beg for a living.” Isn’t that a compelling reason for acquiring a Muntigunung hammock? Added to the fact that each one is a work of art!
I have my eye on an Agung and a baby hammock. Which will YOU choose? Buy yours at the newly opened Muntigunung shop in Sanur (Jl Danau Poso 57), or at Above the Clouds, Nyuh Kuning. You can also get in direct contact with Ngurah and order through email@example.com. Or, as Daniel urges, “In order to understand what your gift is creating, go and do the trek yourself. Sit with these people, look at what they are doing, how they are talking with each other, their sense of pride and strong community.” To book your place on the trek, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2019 Ibu Jenny
By Ibu Jenny
Copyright © 2019 At Home in Bali
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