COMO Shambhala Estate is the flagship property of COMO Shambhala, a holistic health retreat concept developed by Singaporean entrepreneur and goddess of good taste, Christina Ong. Voted as one of the best spas in the world by the likes of Conde Nast Traveller and SpaFinder The Estate describes itself as not just a spa and indulgence but ‘a retreat for change’.
I have never experienced anything quite like the COMO Shambhala welcome at Denpasar Airport. I’m barely off the gangplank and find myself greeted by a Balinese man wielding a big smile and a sign with my name on it. He guides me past the immigration queues, secures my visa, collects my baggage and escorts me to my driver for the one-hour trip past bustling traffic, peaceful temples, lush rice-paddies and a cremation ceremony to Ubud. This ‘rock star’ welcome turns out to be an apt introduction to a place that hinges its service around absolute care, consideration and being one step ahead of guest needs.
My Personal Assistant
I’m greeted at The Estate by more big Balinese smiles and a lei of tuber-roses (a tell-tale sign of all new-comers) before being escorted on a tour of the nine acres of gardens and thoughtfully appointed public spaces sitting above the River Ayung that make up The Estate. I arrive at my room where my ‘personal assistant’, Widi, brings me a welcome drink, checks me in and explains my daily schedule.
My room is a perfect sanctuary for the week that is about to unfold. It offers spacious, understated elegance with everything I could possibly need. A huge four-poster bed, comfortable furnishings in gentle natural tones, plasma TV, a balcony and outdoor setting to soak up the view of the lush gardens and terraced fields in the distance, an enormous bathroom that peeks into the world outside, a bowl of tropical fruit, an orchid plant and a big dose of serenity.
Wining & Dining
The Estate offers a number of dining options including the contemporary, open-air Glow restaurant; traditional Indonesian cuisine in Kudus House set in a gorgeous 150-year old former Javanese residence; light snacks served around the poolside Ojas area and in-room dining.
The COMO Shambhala food philosophy is a holistic approach to nurturing the body with food that tastes good but is good for you. There is no calorie-counting, but instead a balanced approach to food with a focus on fresh, local produce that suits the personal needs of the guest. Australian-born Executive Chef, Chris Miller, (formerly of Neil Perry’s, Wockpool) heads up the kitchen at Como Shambhala Estate and sister-property, Uma Ubud. In cahoots with the resident nutritionist, Miller dishes up healthy, but tasty fare with a full rein of influences ranging from Indian to Italian and of course, Indonesian. And alcohol? Yes, there is a bar and wine list!
The Estate offers so many leisure options it’s almost hard to choose (I only left The Estate for a total of four hours in the week I was there). In addition to yoga and spa treatments, there is a host of onsite leisure activities including daily guided walks, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Pilates, mountain biking, hiking, white-water rafting, tennis, outdoor circuit training and cooking demonstrations. There’s also a rock climbing wall, indoor gym, swimming pools, sauna and steam rooms as well as a comprehensive library of books to borrow during your stay. The Estate also offers guided cultural activities including visits to local temples, ceremonies and markets; cultural workshops including Balinese dance, photography and writing; and one-on-one wellness consultations with the resident nutritionist, Ayurvedic doctor, psychologists and therapists.
I beg the General Manager for permission to stay or take Widi home. He declines on both fronts, so I reluctantly leave feeling relaxed, energised and inspired with the assurance that I’ll return again one day soon. I also recognise a new sense of inner peace and wisdom that I’m sure I didn’t have when I arrived at this ‘sacred place of bliss’.
MUST DO’S …
- The Estate Walk. Take your swimmers and a book for a dip in the spring pools near the river and lounge on the gorgeous day beds.
- Breakfast in Kudus Restaurant. Set in a 150-year old former Javanese residence, this intimate space is the perfect spot to enjoy the morning mist rising up through the rainforest. The porridge is delicious.
- A Hot Stone Massage with The Estate’s star practitioner, ‘Oka’
- A visit to the local healer, ‘Tjorkoda’ (as your Personal Assistant to book your visit)
- A shopping trip to ‘Threads of Life’ – a shop/museum dedicated to keeping the traditional weaving arts of Indonesia alive (www.threadsoflife.com)
- Rates start at USD$300 per person, per night including accommodation, breakfast, a wellness consultation, use of leisure facilities, participation in daily activities and your personal assistant. For information about upcoming Yoga Retreats or The Estate’s personalised Wellness Programs visit www.cse.como.bz.
- COMO Shambhala operates COMO Shambhala Retreats at Bali, Bhutan, the Cocoa Island and the Maldives, with Urban Escapes in Bangkok, London and Singapore. For more information visit www.comoshambhala.bz
- Visas can be purchased on arrival in Bali for USD$10 (7 days) or USD$25 (30 days). Make sure your passport is up-to-date and valid for at least 6 months from arrival.
HOW TO GET THERE:
- Como Shambhala Estate is located 15 minutes drive from Ubud, and one-hour from Bali’s Denpasar International Airport.
- Airport transfers to COMO Shambhala Estate are USD$40 each way.