AYANA Zeitgeist

Translated from German, Zeitgeist means "the spirit of the moment", and is the key principle underpinning AYANA's service philosophy. Here, we share our inside tips and favorite haunts to help you experience the AYANA Zeitgeist.

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D’Agisna Ramdhani (known as Dadan) has traveled the world working for cruise liners and resorts from Africa to Australia, the Middle East, Philippines and his native Indonesia. Some of his most memorable experiences include building an underwater wedding chapel in Vanuatu. As AYANA’s new Beverage Manager, Dadan is responsible for all beverage operations including at the iconic Rock Bar where he has introduced new signature cocktails, and the Martini Bar adjacent to Dava which has launched a new 101 Martinis menu. No scuba weddings but still a close connection to the ocean!

AYANA: How long have you been at AYANA?

DADAN: Just three months now.

A: Where are you from?

D: Bandung, West Java, about two hours from Jakarta if you drive fast.

A: We heard you built an underwater wedding chapel, can you tell us about that?

D: I worked for a resort in Vanuatu where I built an underwater wedding chapel so couples could get married 15 feet (5 meters) beneath the ocean’s surface in a heart-shaped coral garden, complete with a tropical coral archway.

A: What gave you the idea for this?

D: I love the ocean, I am a certified National Geographic Diver which means we are more concerned with underwater conservation, education to local communities, respect for the sea and marine life, and not exploiting the animals that live in the sea. I thought a natural chapel made from coral would be a unique experience for guests.

A: How do they say ‘I do’?

D: The priest conducts the ceremony using scuba sign language. The wedding rings are kept inside an oyster shell and the couple shares one scuba tank with two regulators, to signify their new life together.? The couple say ‘I do’ by doing the scuba sign for ‘OK’. To announce they are husband and wife, the priest points to each of them, draws a love heart in the air with his finger and then puts his hands back together, before tracing a line across his throat to indicate ‘until death do you part’.? Then the couple takes out their regulators to kiss each other.

A: Did anyone ever do the scuba sign for an emergency exit?

D: Luckily, no (laughing).

A: What’s the biggest wedding you had there?

D: A German couple who had 15 guests and did everything underwater including signing the marriage certificate on waterproof paper. Their guests were snorkeling on the surface.

A: What brought you to AYANA?

D: It’s nice to be back home to share my training and experience with other Indonesians, and I had heard about the Rock Bar and wanted to work here. I also like to explore the dive sites around Bali.

A: Have you had a chance to do any diving since starting at AYANA?

D: Yes, at the USS Liberty ship wreck in Tulamben and a Japanese wreck in Amed on the East Coast.? But my favorite dive was a secret spot near Tulamben, where I went on my own and saw a school of 38 bumphead parrot fish as big as 20kgs, as well as the hippocampus pigmy ? a small seahorse the size of a sewing needle, and a black-tipped shark about 2.5 meters long.

A: You have introduced new cocktails at Rock Bar ? what is the concept behind them?

D: Our concept was to create refreshing drinks with local fruits, herbs and spices to add a more Balinese touch to the experience. For example the AYANA Passion features papaya (pawpaw), markissa (local passionfruit), strawberries and red pepper syrup with vodka. We are also mixing drinks the authentic way; for example our caipirinha is made with the original liquor cachaca, a Brazilian sugarcane brandy, while most places in Bali make it with rum, which is actually meant to be used for a caipirisimma.

A: Which is your favorite Rock Bar cocktail?

D: The Jimbaran Express, which has a tropical flavor with rum, chili, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir leaves and coconut. It is also available at Kisik restaurant, because it suits the seafood menu there.

A: Finally, we can’t help but ask, would you ever get married underwater and is it considered a legal wedding?

D: I would love to get married underwater but there is no underwater wedding chapel in Bali. And yes in Vanuatu it’s a civil ceremony legalized by the government, so it’s a serious commitment!

March 5 is Balinese New Year, otherwise known as Nyepi, or the ‘Day of Silence’. This is a very important date on our Balinese Hindu calendar, as it involves an island-wide purification. Some tourists avoid Bali at Nyepi time because of the restrictions placed on movement around the island during the 24-hours of silence, but I think it is a fantastic time to be here, an opportunity to experience many colorful festivals and ceremonies and learn a lot about our culture.

Nyepi is marked by 24 hours of silence, a day of introspection when everyone in Bali must stay inside their residence and keep quiet. No vehicle or machinery is allowed to operate (which also means Bali airport closes down on this day each year), no fire or electricity may be used, no work may be done. All shops and businesses will close and the whole island will literally ‘play dead’ from dawn on March 5 until dawn on March 6. The idea is that the demons who inhabit Bali will be fooled into thinking the island has been abandoned, and will go elsewhere, like Lombok or Java. A little sneaky of us perhaps!

For tourists, the rules are more relaxed, as long as you do not leave your hotel. AYANA minimizes use of lighting and power, halts its shuttle service, and asks guests not to wander around outside or leave the property. However, otherwise guests are welcome to use the resort grounds and facilities as normal, while keeping noise to a minimum.?

It is an interesting time to be in Bali, because in the days leading up to Nyepi, you will have the opportunity to witness some unique aspects of Balinese culture. These include the preparation and parade of ‘ogoh-ogoh’, large papier mache statues of various things, ranging from skeletons to monsters.

The night before Nyepi, you will see villagers all over the island parading ‘ogoh-ogoh’ through the streets and making a lot of noise with a marching rhythm band, as they spin the monsters around in circles. This is like the last ‘hurrah’ before the island shuts down on the following day, for the period of silence.

At AYANA, our Guest Activities team is busy creating two ogoh-ogoh dolls: one is a 2.5-meter-high figure of Hanoman, the famed monkey general, fighting a demon, while the second is a smaller 1.5-meter-high figure specially created for children. Tomorrow on Nyepi Eve, a priest will bless the ogoh-ogoh dolls and then we will parade them together with our guests, through the resort grounds, as we try to wake up the demons before we go to bed and ‘play dead’ for 24-hours. Hopefully our trick works and we can rid Bali of any evil spirits lurking about!

Ssssshhhhhh…….

Hi everyone, I’m pleased to join the AYANA team as Chef de Cuisine at Dava restaurant. I visited Bali once before and it is a dream come true to have the opportunity to work on this island, with so much fresh produce and so many creative and skilled people. Dava has always had a stellar reputation since it opened in 2005, but I will be “reinventing” the concept as an “innovative steak and seafood restaurant”. I haven’t stopped for breath since arriving but I’m loving it!

My first major responsibility – apart from launching the new a la carte and tasting menus – will be overseeing our Valentine’s Day dinner at Dava. This is such an important evening for couples, and we’ve prepared a special menu that evokes sensuality and romance. Hope you can join us!

Cinnamon Smoked Pumpkin
Cured Duck, Spicy Maple Dressing, Apples and Arugula

Braised Oxtail Omelet
Blue Crab Bisque, Asparagus and Pecorino Cheese

Lobster and Crispy Pork Belly
Kimchi Sauce, Fiddlehead Ferns, Lemon Basil

Pan Roasted Red Mullet
Garlic Emulsion, Coco Beans, Red Peppers and Cilantro

Australian Wagyu Filet
Toasted Candlenuts, Pickled Radish, Watercress Sauce

Red Velvet Fondant
Milk Ice Cream and Strawberry Pudding

Speaking of love, people always ask me how I got into cooking. It was while I was working at a ski resort back home in the USA. I was 17 and I was assigned to banquet set-up, but I decided I wanted to wear a tall, white hat. Now I never wear a hat, it falls off going in and out of coolers and is very inconvenient. But I’ve never lost my passion for cooking!

There are so many fantastic restaurants here and I want to do something completely different with Dava. My menu draws on the concept of a classic steakhouse offering the best cuts of meats paired with your choice of gourmet sauces and sides. But we’re taking it upscale with a modern twist, offering seafood dishes, small touches of molecular gastronomy in the mushroom gelee and horseradish espuma for example, use of local flavors and ingredients, and a larger selection of meats than a traditional steakhouse.

All meats and seafood are prepared using the sous-vide (French for ‘under vacuum’) technique preferred by the world’s best chefs – perhaps most famously, Paul Bocuse, Michael Mina and Joel Robuchon. Sous-vide maintains the integrity of the ingredients and ensures even, slow cooking for full flavor, by sealing the meat or seafood in an airtight plastic bag in a water bath and cooking it at low temperatures for many hours. At Dava, the Braised Short Ribs are cooked for more than 24 hours, while the Angus Beef Fillet is cooked for two hours. The results are amazing. I have also created a new Tasting Menu for more adventurous guests, with a choice of 3, 4 or 5 courses. This is my play area, where I get to do the really fun things.

Before Bali I was based in Doha, Qatar, where I was Chef de Cuisine at The Ritz-Carlton’s La Mer French restaurant. Qatar was an extremely interesting and inspiring experience. It is a lot more conservative than Bali – the only places people can drink alcohol are in hotel bars and private clubs and the local people are not allowed in them, which makes the social scene quite different. Bali is much more relaxed and the climate and atmosphere of a tropical island wash over you like a cool breeze.

Hope to see you here soon :)

At 21, Made Sekarini (Sekar) had never set foot outside of Bali, did not have a passport and had never stayed at a hotel or even been on holiday. So when she was told that she’d been selected as AYANA’s Top Achiever for 2010 and had won an all-expenses-paid trip to Hong Kong, it was a dream come true. It was also proof that determination and hard work can overcome every obstacle to pull a young girl out of the rice fields and into a promising career in the hotel industry. Here is her inspiring story, as recorded with the help of a translator.

My name is Sekarini, my friends call me Sekar. My parents are rice farmers in North Bali, in the former capital, Singaraja, around 3.5 hours by road from AYANA. The views are beautiful but there are not many opportunities for work outside of farming, in my village. Rice farmers make barely enough to eat and clothe themselves, and my parents struggled to educate me and my four younger brothers.

After High School, my parents couldn’t afford to send me to university but my uncle in Denpasar offered to sponsor my education. I left my home and moved south to live with him. I worked hard and finished top of my class, graduating with a Diploma in Tourism.

I joined AYANA on an apprenticeship as a guest relations staff member. I loved the job and meeting all of our guests, helping them in any way I could. I was promoted to a full-time permanent position in October 2010, as a hostess at Ocean Beach Pool and Kisik Restaurant.

I was very surprised a couple of months later, when I received the news that management had selected me as AYANA’s Top Achiever. I was just working, doing my job to assist our guests in any way possible. I did not consider myself any better than anybody else working at AYANA, but I guess I am just more lucky.

When Pak Charles and Ibu Cynthia (General Manager and Human Resources Director) told me I was going to Hong Kong, I thought they were kidding, I didn’t believe it. I was so happy. This was my first trip out of Indonesia, even out of Bali. I had never been on an aeroplane before or stayed in a hotel. I loved it.

I spent three nights at a luxury 700-room high-rise hotel in Hong Kong. With a local guide, I went to Disney Land and met Mickey Mouse and rode a roller-coaster, went shopping at the markets and did a day trip to Macau to see the temples and casino resorts.

I had never seen such tall buildings like in Hong Kong and the weather was quite cold. No snow but cold. There were so many businesspeople and not many motorcycles, mostly cars and buses. It was very interesting but this experience made me realize how lucky we are in Bali.

I am hoping my next trip will be to Japan. I can speak, read and write Japanese. But first, I want to go back to university part-time using the money I have saved from working at AYANA, to get a higher level Diploma.

I never had a dream like this before because I could never afford it and my parents have to support my four younger brothers. But now I believe anything is possible. Thank you very much to AYANA guests, because they make my job very rewarding and are so kind to me. I feel very lucky.

Happy New Year everyone! There may still be a few headaches, but at AYANA we are continuing the celebrations after being ranked among the world’s best hotels on the 2011 Conde Nast Traveler Gold List. And it’s YOU we have to thank!

With an overall score of 91.1, AYANA was just one of four hotels in Indonesia to make the coveted list, which in its 17th year is one of the most prestigious compendiums of the best hotels, resorts and cruise lines on the planet. Almost 26,000 travelers took part in the annual independent Readers’ Survey, representing people who are well-traveled, accustomed to luxury service, and have no tolerance for anything less than first-class. They demand innovation, reliability and the wow factor, so to be listed by such travelers among the world’s best hotels is a true honor for AYANA. It reflects our continued evolution since our rebranding to an independent property in 2009, and we can’t thank you enough for your support.

It’s a great start to the year and we look forward to sharing more unique experiences with you. Best wishes for 2011 and we look forward to seeing you soon!