When I heard about Secret Garden Village, it reminds me of a classical novel called Secret Garden (adapted into a movie several times) about an orphan girl who unlocks her uncle’s hidden garden with tons of flowers blooming everywhere in his estate. Nonetheless, the Secret Garden I visited in Bali is not literally a garden.
Situated in Luwus Village in Bedugul, the mountainous province in Bali, Secret Garden Village consists of beauty store, cafe, restaurants and rice field under one roof, with an added value: educational-oriented destination, focusing on introducing Indonesian heritage in beauty products and coffee.
The building facade of Secret Garden Village wasn’t something I expected at first, blending contemporary and minimalist style with elements of nature, such as some shrubs on the roof, palm trees, grasses and fish pond. But it still impressed me in some way.
Founded in 2016 by Billy Hartono Salim, the entrance ticket to Secret Garden Village was Rp. 50.000 ($ 3.50) on weekdays and Rp. 100.000 ($7) on weekends, including Beauty Tour. Overtime, the management found out that there are only a small percentage of visitors who really want to spend time for the 20 minute Beauty Tour in reality. Therefore, the policy has changed into free of charge entrance. An additional Rp. 25.000 ($ 1.70) per person is available for anybody interested in joining Beauty Tour. Well, that sounds more flexible and fair, I think.
As the first timer, I believe there’s no harm to take the Beauty Tour. Beauty tour is a guided tour of basic knowledge of beauty product ingredients of Herborist, a Balinese brand of face and body care, including coffee cupping at Black Eye Coffee Shop.
The first part of the tour is the Beauty Heritage Museum, exhibiting some best-selling Herborist products, followed by benefit of the plants used to create the products, among others are lemongrass, olive, frangipani, rose, aloe vera and many more. Nearly all the plants harvest in many parts of Indonesia, some of them from its own plantation. Olive is the only imported ingredient because it doesn’t grow well in Indonesia.
Apart from that, there are displays of traditional tools used for processing and storing spices and plants, such as scale, mortar, pestle, vase etc, merely for aesthetical purposes and not used for Herborist production process. A rickshaw and an old bike at the corner of the museum are nice photo spots, too.
The second part is watching the production process at the factory, where all guests must use a lab coat, shower cap and shoe coverings provided. This is where the curiosity goes the most, yet unfortunately its not allowed to take pictures inside, except on the photo spot with chemistry-themed background. The factory at Secret Garden Village is the smaller scale of the bigger one in Semarang, Central Java, since it’s only to fulfill the needs at the store. From weighing, mixing ingredients, soap moldings until placing products in bottles are by machine, except labelling, which is still by hand. Instead of using paraben, Herborist uses sodium benzoate as a preservative, which is saver.
The last but not least is the 5 minute theater explaining the history of Herborist products and Secret Garden Village facilities. A soap making class is also available for another Rp. 125.000 ($9) per session.
SHOPPING AT OEMAH HERBORIST
Trust me, don’t skip this part if you love skin care and beauty products! Oemah Herborist beauty store is huge, offering multiple brands from PT Victoria Care Indonesia, Tbk., from Herborist, Miranda Hair Care, Victoria, Nuface to CBD. There’s also Secret Garden, although it’s doesn’t belong to the corporation. Of all the brands, my attention went to Herborist and Secret Garden.
Herborist has a wide range of beauty products, from skin care, body care, essential oils massage oil, bath salts etc, with various scents, such as olive, frangipani, rose and lemongrass offered starting only from Rp. 20.000 ($1.50). Moreover, there are fancy shape soaps from fruit to flower shapes, that are nice for gifts.
On the other hand, Secret Garden is the more premium brand for body care products, such as soaps, scrubs, hand lotion, body butter, body mist perfumes and room fragrance, yet less variety of (facial) skin care line, except fresh face masks. Compared to Herborist, Secret Garden contains more natural ingredients and the scents tend to be more natural. For instance, the honey body lotion smell is pretty much similar to natural honey in supermarkets. The frangipani body lotion from Secret Garden has more subtle smell than that of Herborist. For sure, the more premium the products, the more price they have. The lowest price starts from Rp. 60.000 ($ 4.30).
Since Covid-19 strikes Indonesia and the rest of the world, Oemah Herborist sells hand sanitizer and disinfectant in many sizes and fragrances, from travel size to large bottles whose contents are more than a liter.
I ended up buying 7 soap bars, shampoo, traditional body scrub (lulur), 3 bottles of body lotion and 2 shower gels. Most of them were on sale, some were even half price. So why not? Now I have more than enough stock to bathe all year long.
The coffee cupping session is unguided and feel free to go to bar section inside Black Eye Coffee Shop if you want. The barista will give you some basic knowledge about coffee. When it comes to tasting, I chose Bali Kintamani coffee. It was lightweight, not too bitter with fruity after taste. I’m not a coffee drinker myself, except lattes, but I still could enjoy it.
Apart from coffee, it also offers approximately 20 flavours of ice cream, croissants and cakes. The vanilla ice cream was pretty good and not too sweet, anyways. There are souvenirs as well, from whole bean coffee, t-shirts to wooden cutlery. But for me, the number one reason why you should hang out in this coffee shop is the picturesque view of rice field right in front of you. Zipping a cup of coffee doesn’t only awaken you, but also peaceful and relaxing by just looking at the greenery.
Yes, the real “secret garden” is the rice field, where you can see it from Black Eye Coffee Shop. The best way to enjoy it is to explore on foot for about 15 to 20 minutes walk. The path is super easy, comfortable and safe for all ages. There’s no way to get lost because it starts and ends from the same spot. It is of course instagrammable in every angle and a lot of fine spots for selfie.
The only thing I didn’t have a chance to experience is the dining part, except ice cream at Black Eye Coffee Shop. The specialty is bebek timbungan at Bebek Timbungan restaurant (yes, the restaurant is named after the food), the aged-duck traditionally cooked for 12 hours with lots of spices. This is one of the rarest food you can find in restaurants on the Island of Gods because the cooking method is complicated and time-consuming. Half a day for one dish, are you kidding me? However, just to remind you that bebek timbungan is enjoyed best when you can handle (very) spicy food. Since I know I can’t stand spicy food, I decided to take suckling pig nearby instead prior to the visit. As an option, you can try Indonesian food buffet for more variety at The Luwus inside Bebek Timbungan restaurant.
Both Bebek Timbungan and The Luwus Restaurant are situated on the same row as Black Eye Coffee Shop, although in a different building, where you can see the rice field. There’s also a juice bar on a separate counter close to Bebek Timbungan.
INTERNATIONAL BEAUTY STORE DESTINATION?
Overall, Secret Garden Village is relaxing, entertaining tourist attraction with educational value at the same time. On educational thing, however, I would say that it’s up to visitors. To be exact, you have a freedom to create a purpose of your visit. Completing a guided tour to the heritage museum means you have made it an educational oriented destination. The more you ask, the more knowledge you get. Tasting the rare cuisine of bebek timbungan and zipping a cup of coffee means you want to achieve ultimate culinary experience, and so on.
It’s a bit unfortunate that most visitors tend to skip the educational part, unless you have visited the place for more than once. Although the beauty tour entrance fee doesn’t generate the income that much compared to dining at Bebek Timbungan restaurant and shopping at Oemah Herborist, I believe the tour is a great opportunity to popularize Indonesian products, to both local and international tourists, by introducing the richness, diversity of Indonesian spices and how they benefit health and wellness when used in products.
Somehow it reminds of my holiday to Korea years ago, where buying Korean skin care and cosmetics were my main purpose of the visit because the collection are much more complete and they cost 50% cheaper than those in Indonesia. I mean, it’s not really about price comparison in the end. It’s more about how Korea promotes their local beauty brands to the world, that their products are not only more internationally known, but also trigger western beauty brands to launch K-beauty inspired products, such as BB cushion, lip tint, cooling eye stick balm etc.
It’s still a long way to go, but as an Indonesian citizen, I really hope that someday Indonesian brands will be able to follow Korean footsteps in the sense of popularity and inspiration for major players in beauty business, as well as others types of industries. Secret Garden Village could be a starting point to make it happen!