Como Shambhala estate in Bali is an exotic version of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, so jaw-droppingly stunning that no postcard would ever be able to do justice to its mesmerising majesty. The resort is just a 15-minute drive from Ubud. It is perched high above the Ayung River in the Balinese jungle. It is a hideaway set in 9.5 hectares of lush tropical forest, where the multitudes of flora and fauna take centre stage.
The silence that envelops the resort is broken only by the cicadas and the rush of the river below. Dragonflies, birds, squirrels and monkeys populate the scenery. With the sunbeams streaming through the foliage of the trees, there is something so profoundly ethereal and mystical about the place that many guests return there by night in their dreams or by day during their meditations, to bathe in its splendour once again.
Como Shambhala Estate is Como’s flagship resort. It is famous for The Source, a natural spring lauded for the healing properties of its waters. Descend the 500 steps to the river, passing the private spa treatment areas, the climbing wall and the jungle gym, and you will find the resort’s naturally formed rock pools and waterfalls hidden amid the abundant greenery. The water is ice-cold, and amazingly refreshing after a hike. This secret spot has loungers and staff who appear out of nowhere to hand you a refreshing towel and a cooling drink, which make your little expedition into the wild even more worthwhile.
The dreamlike surroundings let you recharge from nature’s sources of energy, and the process is aided by the resort’s holistic approach to wellness. Como Shambhala Estate was a pioneer of wellness retreats and has remained a leader ever since. The resort attracts its fair share of the Eat, Pray, Love crowd, but reaches out to a broader market and lures meditation first-timers and honeymooning couples seeking to make wellness part of their new lives together.
Como Shambhala Estate is a sanctuary for the traveller in search of spiritual and physical health. It promises guests the epitome of wellness escapism in a luxurious setting. Among its staff are a nutritionist, a psychologist and a practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine. The resort offers six wellness packages, called Ayurveda, Oriental Medicine, Cleanse, Be Active, Rejuvenation and Stress Management. All promise an all-round experience for the body, mind and spirit. I opted for the four-night Oriental Medicine programme, which promotes health by balancing the physical and emotional energy systems through qigong, acupuncture and meditation. It is said to relieve stress and prevents illness.
Even without a wellness retreat package, a guest’s physical and mental balance can be improved by the outdoor yoga classes, by mountain biking and by hiking through the glory of nature to the sources of sacred waters. Diet is another crucial thread that connects body, mind and spirit, so Como Shambhala Estate prides itself on the healthy, award-winning cuisine served at Glow. In a private consultation, a practitioner of Chinese traditional medicine gives a guest advice on nutrition and draws up a menu specifically for the guest to choose from for the duration of his or her stay. The kitchen staff use local produce to ensure that each dish is fresh and authentic. The wellness consultant may recommend meditation in the pavilion, Pilates in a spot overlooking the rice paddies on the other side of the river, treatments in the Ojas spa, or hydrotherapy in the Vitality Pool, which is filled with alkaline water from The Source.
Como Shambhala Estate has 30 rooms and suites in five residences, four private villas and five retreat villas, each so situated that encounters with neighbours are rare. The residence I stayed in is called Wanakasa. The word means forest in the mist. The residence comprised the suite I occupied, two terrace suites, two garden rooms and a study area, which can be turned into another bedroom or a treatment room.
My suite had high ceilings. It was tastefully decorated with hand carvings, antiques and furniture in warm hues. The stone bathtub, hewn by hand, was almost as big as my living room in Hong Kong. The majestic yet cosy four-poster bed, hung with mosquito netting, was the perfect spot to while away the evening with a good book. The inviting infinity pool wrapped around the residence had great views of palm trees and endless rice fields. From the outdoor Jacuzzi hidden away behind the lush vegetation at the back of my suite, I watched squirrels chasing each other up trees and let my mind drift as I soaked the soreness from my muscles and drank in the serenity of the magical place.
Como Shambhala Estate is the ultimate luxury retreat. You will leave balanced and aligned, well nurtured by nature. And the memory will keep you coming back for more: more of the scrumptious, healthy food, more of the grassy hills and the forest alive with birds and insects, more of the healing energy of the place.