A Jungle Retreat To Como Shambhala In Bali

An exterior view of the Villa Tarmala at Como Shambhala
Courtesy of Como Hotels
An exterior view of the Villa Taramala at Como Shambhala
A five-day stay at Como Shambhala offers a lesson in the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda as well as tropically-inspired design

I wake up surrounded by the lush green trees of the Balinese jungle. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows align my bed so that it seems as if I am sleeping amidst the enchanting forest that so delicately wraps itself around my residence. For decades, travellers have been coming to Bali in search of peace and rejuvenation. The Indonesian Island’s rich tropical landscape and countless temples provide the ideal place for a contemplative vacation, or as many have done, a trip with no return ticket. Five days at Como Shambhala gave me a taste of what a serene yoga filled life in Bali would be like, and being so immersed with nature was a wonderfully nurturing experience for the body and the spirit. My suite in the Wanakasa Residence, which means “Forest in the Mist”, is situated on the lower level of the greater complex amidst the trees. 

Como Shambhala's magical spring pool

Nearby is a semi-circular infinity pool, echoing the bend of the Ayung River 100 metres below.I spent many afternoons there swimming and looking out at the magical Balinese landscape. Columns made from wide trunks of bingkirai trees support the main living pavilion and pool while teak floors and ironwood-shingle roofs offer the ambiance of a five-star tree house –think modern-day Swiss Family Robinson, a dream I always had as a young girl was to have a tree house just like theirs. Jungle-style yet contemporary in its décor, my residence was tropical, airy, simple and also smart. Cheong Yew Kuan, the architect and designer in conjunction with interior designer Koichiro Ikebuchi, desired to pay tribute to the multiple aspects that comprise Indonesian culture. The residences are thus a mixture of British, Chinese and Indonesian furniture and works of art.

The Master Bedroom in the Bayu Gita Villa

After months of endless travel and constant deadlines, this was the place where I would restore and revitalise.As the regular yoga practitioner that I am, I signed up for the Ayurveda wellness programme, which involves an initial consultation after which a customised daily itinerary is setforth. I met with Dr Prasanth on the first morning of my stay who told me that my body type was Vata-Pitta and how during my stay I needed to avoid spicy and sour foods. I was also told to try not to drink water with my food but 30 minutes before and after meal in order to aid my digestion. A list of foods I could and couldn’t eat during my stay was sent to the kitchen that followed through and prepared delicious dishes according to the Shambhala Cuisine diet.

This, in addition to daily yoga classes, massages in the spa pavilion, meditation and hikes around the estate rounded off my programme. I’ll never forget the private yoga class in the pavilion near my residence. It was about to rain and you could feel the sky beginning to get heavy. The wooden construction of the pavilion in typical Asian style surrounded by the leafy greenery of the outside jungle landscape reverberated stillness and oneness with nature.

The yoga pavilion

A few small raindrops fell and afterwards I quickly rushed to get my umbrella. It was the rainy season, and I had been lucky not to have had too much rainfall during my stay. In the spa complex nearby, which exuded a more contemporary structure than other residences that were more Balinese in style, I prepared for an Ayurvedic massage. The spa is located at the heart of the estate, in easy reach of all rooms and residences, in order to provide guests with a holistic and spiritual sense of renewal. Each treatment room has an outdoor shower facility, with a floor covered in stones and aligned with tropical plants so that you can bath under the night sky and feel again at one with nature. The nearby Ayung River plays a central role in the region; water is considered to be omnipresent and sacred to the local Balinese. And it was there, via an old stone staircase from the estate’s former life that I often would walk down to the hotel’s natural spring pools. It quickly became my favourite place. Very much hidden down several flights of stairs, the pools are filled with natural water provided by a nearby waterfall. Silence. There’s no desire to speak, just listen to nature and its surroundings and the trickling, healing water that gives life to the environment.

Intimate dining overlooking the Balinese jungle

Once I’d had my break, I’d make my way back up the stone stairs and head to the Pilates studio, yet another type of ‘treehouse’, although filled with state-of-the-art Pilate’s equipment. Take a class with Amy Buck, the estate’s peppy resident instructor, and you will, like me, leave feeling toned and physically refreshed. I was lucky enough to be in Bali for the full moon, which I soon found out was a crucial day in the monthly calendar of local Balinese. And so on my last day, I signed up for Como Shambhala’s Full Moon Ceremony. In a group of four guests, we walked to the estate’s temple and followed thorough ritual as the moon came out. Blessings and more blessings, this is the time when Balinese honour their gods with food, fruit and flowers. It’s a time for renewal and purification. And on that beautiful and contemplative note, I left Bali and vowed to return very soon. 

Terrace Suite, from Dhs2, 013 per night. For more information, visit Comohotels.com

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An exterior view of the Villa Tarmala at Como Shambhala
Courtesy of Como Hotels
An exterior view of the Villa Taramala at Como Shambhala