Theme Song: “Long Distance Runaround,” Yes
Our goal is to build a resort that is unique to the world.
That’s a tall order when social media is bombarding us daily with dazzling destinations and over-the-top design. Everything from glass rooms dangling off the side of a cliff to an underwater oasis that is like sleeping in an aquarium. How do you compete with that? To compound the problem our budget is the size of a Chihuahua when what we need is a Great Dane.
So imagine our happy dance when we found the answer in a small community of wood workers 11,000 miles (18,000 Kilometers) away on the tiny island of Bali, Indonesia. To put this in perspective, the circumference of the earth is 24,900 miles (40,000 Kilometers). Bali is about as far away as you can get!
The combination of craftsmanship, distinctive open-air designs, one-of-a-kind design elements, and intricate wood carving capabilities in Bali are unmatched anywhere in the world. In addition, the Balinese are accustomed to building over-the-water structures that can withstand the saltwater punishment and be light enough to attach to pylons extending from the ocean floor.
The magic starts when these wonderful structures built in Bali are accented with Javanese and Balinese hundred-year-old building components and furnishings. All of this and the fact that we are building them over the water allows us to create resort villas and a restaurant that meet our goal of being truly unique to the world.
Sending the Check
Max and Emma, the Dutch couple living in Costa Rica who will be building and operating the resort in Panama, introduced us to their fellow Dutch expat friends Hans and Monique. Hans and Monique also live in Costa Rica, and they own a small business that builds structures in Bali, disassembles them, and ships them in containers to Central America.
Monique is also a gifted self-taught designer who understands Balinese building techniques. We purchased the island in December of 2017 and by the end of February 2018 Monique had the designs for the villas and restaurant ready to go. After submitting the designs to Bali, we found out it would take three months to build them and six to eight weeks to ship them from Bali to Bocas Del Toro, the port town near our island.
We had just started the long arduous process of applying for the environmental and building permits required to build over the water in Panama. Nevertheless, we wanted to get things moving so we took a chance and placed the order for the restaurant and villa. I had a sinking feeling when I wired the first payment to Hong Kong, though we did have a back-up plan if we were not approved to build in Panama. We would sell the structures in Costa Rica, obviously not ideal.
Balinese Craftsmanship for the Villas
Soon after placing the order we started receiving weekly pictures of the building progress. According to their custom, the Balinese start each day with a spiritual blessing ceremony consisting of a purification, welcoming of good spirits, and a final offering with chants in ancient Sanskrit.
The villas will use a combination of Balinese, Javanese, Panama Caribbean, and western design elements. The framing and shape most resembles a traditional Javanese Joglo home. We decided against a Joglo roof in favor of a steep Balinese top in the Panama Caribbean thatch style.
Mixing and matching woods will weave different textures and colors to create visual interest. The villas will use at least three types of Balinese wood including iron wood for the deck; teak for the posts, walls, and tumpang sari (a layered beam structure with an ornate inner band of beams that create a vaulted ceiling, a sign of aristocracy in Java); and the rest in bangkirai wood. All three of these woods are known for their durability, water resistance, and are immune to termites and ants.
A Restaurant Unlike Any Other
The restaurant will be a satisfying mix of the old and new, accented with Balinese and Javanese antiquities, and will be situated four feet over the ocean on pylons.
The base structure of the restaurant will be an existing Indonesian building that is over a hundred years old. And since it is not large enough for our needs, we are having it extended with a new addition in Bali. At least three different woods will be used in the construction, like what I described for the villas. The roofing on the restaurant will be thatch so that it is aesthetically compatible with the villas.
The restaurant will be open air with the Caribbean Ocean on all four sides. It will have a dramatic gebyok entrance on the pier side. A gebyok is typically a very old, intricately carved teak room partition or entryway with a door from the island of Java. We have not purchased the gebyok yet, but I’ve included a picture of an example.
To top it off, we’re building three large antique tumpang saris strategically into the restaurant to create an atmosphere like nothing else in the western hemisphere.
Our First Priority
We understand that buildings aren’t everything. Our guests’ experience at the resort will clearly be our number one priority. However, we do not underestimate the importance of the physical structures.
We feel we are well on our way to building a resort that is unique to the world.
Questions: The resort will have a distinctly Balinese style. What do you think of naming the resort “Bocas del Toro”? How can we let our resort and restaurant guests know about the Balinese origins of the buildings so they can appreciate the care and hand craftsmanship that went into building these amazing structures?