COMO Shambhala Estate
A driver from COMO Shambhala met me at the airport for the 90-minute drive to the health retreat. I sat back and took in the scenery of Bali as we wound our way through the busy streets that got quieter as we headed up to the hills of Ubud. COMO Shambhala is in a lush jungle setting above the Ayung River (a favourite for white water rafting) and is about 15 minutes outside of the town of Ubud. My room is a terrace villa aptly named Wanakasa, which means forest in the mist. It’s built on stilts on the side of a hill overlooking a dense green valley and is like staying in a luxury tree house. And though it’s mostly wood and glass, it is completely private. There is a large verandah with a table and day bed that is a perfect place to start and end each day.
I am here for the three-night rejuvenation program, which includes consultations with experts in nutrition and health, spa treatments, amazing healthy food, and several activities and fitness classes throughout the day. Knowing I would be tired from the day of travel I had pre-booked a Dead Sea Mud Treatment. I can honestly say that besides feeling incredible (I really was fighting to stay awake so I wouldn’t miss it), I think it was one of the quickest improvements to my skin I have ever experienced. It lasted two hours and started with a dry body brush followed by a sea salt/ oil scrub and rinse, before I was smothered in warm mud, oil, honey and aloe vera, wrapped in plastic and a blanket, and left to “marinate” for 15 minutes while my scalp was massaged. As if that’s not enough, when I showered off that moisturising concoction I was treated to a full body oil massage. I was absolutely delirious when I finished, and my skin felt brand new.
On my first morning, after an outdoor meditation class held in an open pavilion, I had a consultation with Eve, a nutritionist from the United States. We discussed what I was looking to improve and any health issues I have. She was really easy to connect with and full of great advice. She set me up with a few activities that she thought would benefit me, including a private yoga session with Dr D, an Ayurvedic doctor who is another wealth of information. It’s a common thread among the COMO practioners; they are all extremely knowledgeable. My yoga session also turned into a “fix all my problems” session as I picked Dr D’s brain for Ayurvedic cures for every health issue myself and my family have ever endured.
I could go on and on about the spa, the activities, the rooms and the grounds at COMO Shambhala, but for me the highlight was the food. There are two restaurants, Glow and Kudus House. Glow serves the most incredible raw food. If your idea of raw food is carrot sticks and fruit salad, Glow is going to blow you away. The raw club sandwich was a favourite (flax seed bread with avocado salsa and cucumber), as were the cold soups and dehydrated crackers made from flax, pumpkin, sunflower seeds and spices. Kudus House serves gourmet Indonesian food and is set in a beautiful old building with traditional architecture.
The most beautiful place to relax has to be The Source, a sacred spring that empties into several pools on the property. Don’t let the trek down (or back up) put you off, it’s absolutely worth the effort. While you’re down there, check out the bathroom – it’s quite possibly the most amazing view from a bathroom in the world. I won’t elaborate, you will just have to see for yourself.
The three-night Rejuvenation Program is priced from US$610 (about A$652) per night plus taxes and includes accommodation, all meals, one wellness consultation, two spa treatments, one 60-minute yoga lesson and daily scheduled activities. comohotels.com/comoshambhalaestate
Uma by COMO, Ubud
Closer to town, COMO Shambhala Estate’s sister resort offers a slightly different experience and the chance for more engagement with the area itself. The complimentary shuttle service runs five times per day and you can easily pop in and out everyday for shopping, eating, visiting temples and of course walking through the monkey forest (my advice after visiting on several different occasions; don’t buy the bananas on the way in! The monkeys will all pounce on you.)
There is a guided morning walk through the rice paddies that takes about an hour (bring your camera and wear walking shoes, thongs can get stuck in the mud) and when you return sit in the outdoor dining area surrounded by koi ponds and enjoy a fabulous breakfast which includes both buffet and a cooked to order menu. In the afternoon, after walking around town all day, it’s nice to come back to the resort, have a swim in the pool and enjoy the yoga in the outdoor pavilion. The spa is secluded and is also surrounded by water, giving it a soothing and relaxing feel. It’s a good place to head during the heat of the day when you need a break from the crowds in town.
The very popular Uma Cucina restaurant is located at the resort, an Italian inspired restaurant with outdoor terraces and large communal dining. The menu includes classic Italian favourites along with wood fired pizzas using locally sourced produce.
Rooms are priced from US$285 (about A$305) per night and villas from US$390 (about A$417) per night plus taxes including breakfast, guided morning walk and daily yoga session. comohotels.com/umaubud
Amandari (meaning peaceful spirits) sits in the village of Kedewatan on the fringes of Ubud. If you are looking for an authentic Balinese experience but still want high-end luxury, this is your place. The resort follows the design of a traditional village with its large and very private thatched villas, many featuring private pools. When you arrive you are given a beautiful cotton sarong (no dolphin or frangipani designs here) and a straw bag. Each night before bed there will be a small locally made gift on your pillow, maybe a hand carved wooden rooster or a beautifully painted bookmark. It’s these touches that help to set Amandari apart.
The resort has a strong relationship with the local community and as a result you have the opportunity to see what life is like in a Balinese village. The highlight of my stay was the local festival I participated in the night I arrived. The staff helped to dress me in my sarong and sash and then took me to the end of the driveway, telling me to wait for the musical procession to come by and just join in at the end, following it up and into the temple. I was a bit apprehensive; it was dark and I was the only tourist in sight. But as I was deciding what to do, a boisterous group of singing, smiling faces was upon me, so I jumped in and off we went to the temple for more celebrating. There were hundreds of villagers and everyone was friendly, the kids coming up to me and giggling. It was a fantastic experience, completely authentic and unplanned.
Suites are priced from US$950 (about A$1,015) per night and pool suites from US$1,500 (about A$1,603) per night plus taxes. amanresorts.com