Finding happiness is hard enough as is, but for The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah’s head butler, it’s all in a day’s work. Between moving TVs, cleaning pools, and raising two children in her free time, Ida Ayu Putu Mahayuni has managed to find a balance, though it hasn’t been without challenge – this is Yuni’s story.
“Maybe I don’t have the most money, or a high position, or a lot of possessions, but I have what I love—my family and my job—and I’m able to appreciate and focus on that. I can create a balance. Yes, I think I have everything that I love.” Her smile beams and the depths of her eyes speak to her genuine nature, but just as you get to know her, just as the petite frame with sun-kissed skin from Tengkulak (five-minute drive from The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah in Ubud) begins to share, she’s gone. She’s got work to do after all.
“My family is the most important thing to me,” she says, “Watching my children grow into bright, capable and intelligent young men is what means the most to me, and it’s what makes me happiest.”
Ida Ayu Putu Mahayuni, or Yuni for short, has been the head butler at The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah since the resort’s opening in 2004, and while she might not run the place, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone else there who does more. As her title insists, Yuni is in charge of the daily wants and needs of guests who make the private-estate-turned-resort their Ubud refuge. And what do daily wants and needs include? Just about everything.
A routine day (which lasts from early morning to late evening depending on guest accommodations) at a Chedi Club Tanah Gajah villa for Yuni usually includes making the bed, drawing the curtains, sweeping, stocking and re-stocking the minibar, setting the lights, locating that TV remote you lost the night before, cleaning the bathroom, changing the linens if it’s requested, getting your laundry done and setting the climate control to whatever your preferred temperature is. And that’s just the standard each time she visits (while you’re away of course), which can be two or even three times a day. On top of that, Yuni is also in charge of taking care of special requests. Want the TV closer to the bathroom? Done. Want your private pool cleaned? Done. In fact, Yuni gets to know her guests so well that she will kindly offer to re-stock your minibar with that drink you love just because she’s picked up on your tendencies—even if it’s several months later.
“It was difficult, they didn’t want me to be in their lives. So I moved in with my husband and his parents as is custom in Bali and waited. Waited for them to let me back in.”
Additionally, because of Yuni’s deep knowledge of the surrounding area, she also serves as a personal concierge. Want to arrange for a car to local Gajah Goa or the humming streets of downtown Ubud? Easy. Want recommendations on the best local eats? She’s got them. Want her to escort you on a guided walk through the neighboring rice paddies and villages? Consider it not only her job, but her pleasure.
In short, Yuni is largely responsible for the comfort afforded you during your stay in the rolling greenery of Bali’s tropical centre, but her job doesn’t end when she goes home. A mother of two, Yuni places very little above her family, and helping her husband to take care of their two boys is her first and foremost priority. “My family is the most important thing to me,” she says, “Watching my children grow into bright, capable and intelligent young men is what means the most to me, and it’s what makes me happiest.” Lucky for her, she has help at home to ensure that the bright future she has planned plays out. “My husband used to work on a cruise ship, but now he’s a babysitter,” she laughs. “He’s the best husband, he knows I’m busy and he helps in every way he can, and right now that means primarily taking care of the children.”
“Life has to happen in the same way that the water flows,” she says, “without stress and worry. It’s about enjoying life, not forcing it.”
But Yuni’s quest for her family wasn’t as easy as she makes everything at work seem. Bali, which is a Hindu island, still adheres to a social caste system that nearly cost Yuni her parents. “My husband and I are from different castes, and so when we wanted to marry, my family didn’t approve,” she explains. “I went ahead with the marriage anyway despite my brother’s and parents’ objections. I didn’t see them for five years.” Over time, her parents were begrudgingly swayed, but in the beginning, says Yuni, “It was difficult. They didn’t want me to be in their lives. So I moved in with my husband and his parents as is custom in Bali and waited. Waited for them to let me back in.”
Since her troubles, however, things have been looking up for the ever-smiling, ever-working 30-year-old. With the recent birth of her second son and a stable job that she enjoys, she is now focusing on her family and their future. A future, she says, that includes her family moving into a house of their own in Tengkulak and her boys succeeding in school. When asked how she plans to accomplish these tasks, she replies that all it requires is effort and a positive outlook. “Life has to happen in the same way that the water flows,” she says, “without stress and worry. It’s about enjoying life, not forcing it.”
That outlook, that island wisdom, which has helped Yuni to overcome the troubles of her past, has also helped to create some of the most comfortable and enjoyable stays possible for guests from around the world. So next time you see Yuni scurrying about from here to there at The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah, make sure to give her a wave and smile. If she’s not too busy, she might just wave back.
(Featured image: As head butler, Yuni takes great pride in making her guests’ stay as comfortable as possible. This dedication can include the basics, such as keeping the room tidy, but also more personal arrangements such as escorting guests on morning or evening walks through the neighbouring rice paddies and villages.)