This is tricky. It's one clash on the first beat, two quick ones on the third, then staccato for the crescendos. And watching the other players only means I lag behind. The last thing I want is to let down the conductor, who, on this villa stay in Bali, is Ngurah Beratha, my guide. Beratha is also a composer and master of all instruments. It is at his invitation that I drop in on this gamelan (traditional Balinese orchestra) rehearsal, and immediately the youngsters draw me into their ranks, brass cymbals in hand. The ensemble seem to relish my intrusion. Their skills are virtuoso, with harmonies and rhythms of the most bewitching kind. The 27 male members, I guess, must come from far and wide. 'No,' Beratha tells me. 'They all come from here.' 'Here' is Umabian village. It is small, with fewer than 20 houses and about 100 residents. I can only conclude that every second male inhabitant is a classical musician. By Balinese standards, Umabian is remote. Beratha explains why. 'The royal family came to live here when the kingdom of Mengwi was conquered in the late 19th century,' he says. 'They thought their enemies would never find them here.' 'Did they?' I ask. 'No.' Given the nasty happenings in Bali in the past few years, I feel reassured. Mengwi is a rice-growing region in the southern central part of the island and Umabian is set along a quiet country road that gives way to fields. Puri Taman Sari - my villa - is secluded, like the other homes, behind a wall. Its owner was born in Umabian. His name is Agung Prana and he is of royal descent. Puri Taman Sari is the kind of place you wish you'd always known about in Bali. There is no brash tourist culture and there are no souvenir shops, restaurants or bars. Instead you are sequestered in a garden hideaway that is expansive and blessedly serene. It exudes all the beauty and mystique of a Balinese royal palace. Prana calls it 'a symphony of Bali', a term he likes to use often. There are eight villas, all Balinese in character but with western-style amenities. Bathrooms are in a spacious outdoor courtyard, the walls and stone ornaments of which show the ageing effect of fast-growing moss. Apart from cooking classes and traditional massage, a popular activity here is simply walking. Nearby villages beckon and if you rise early enough you can see offerings being deferentially placed before gateways, farmers heading to and from the fields and children in crisp uniforms setting off for school. A pathway leads from Puri Taman Sari out to the fields. It follows an irrigation channel then takes you through a copse. Emerging, you are in another village, Jebaud, which, although much bigger than Umabian, is no less traditional, tranquil or remote. It boasts multitiered temples and thatched granaries rising with the shrubbery above old stone walls. Some way down the road, Jebaud gives way to the little town of Blayu, where we notice devotees emerging in ceremonial attire from the split gate of the temple. They file down to a leafy hollow and a shrine, where they receive blessings and pray, hands clasped above their heads. I stand in awe. Beratha takes me to what he calls 'the old pagoda', a moss-shrouded temple secluded deep in a dark forest hollow, so ancient and organic it appears to have become part of the trees and earth. 'Some of our guests like to come here for meditation,' he says. 'It's so quiet they are never disturbed.' Back in Puri, Prana joins me in the bale (a small, open pavilion) for lunch. We share a platter of succulent Indonesian treats, among which are nasi campur (mixed fried rice), spring rolls, stir-fried vegetables and satay. He takes the opportunity to explain his philosophy. 'We must do things the Balinese way. It is a genius that has existed for thousands of years,' he says. 'We cannot try to improve it - it is better just to learn from it.' That genius is in full view in this corner of the island, with its exquisite architecture, gamelan music, relaxed way of life and delicious cuisine. And the only cultural impact is the one made by Bali and the Balinese on the visitor. Getting there: Cathay Pacific ( www.cathaypacific . com) flies from Hong Kong to Denpasar, from where Puri Taman Sari is about an hour?s drive. See www. balitamansari.com/puri-main.html.