BEST FOR: THOSE SEEKING A TOTAL HEALTH TURNAROUND
NOT FOR: CHILDREN. WE CAN’T REALLY THINK OF ANYTHING ELSE WRONG WITH THIS LEGENDARY BIG HITTER
Christina Ong’s flagship spa property, Como Shambhala in Bali, is one of the most naturally stunning and gloriously restorative spas in the world. Situated close to Ubud, this sleekly designed hotel rests in a bowl of nature; with dense vertiginous jungle to one side, dropping down to the roaring river below. The rest of the resort is manicured calm; acres of fresh mown lawns and exotic planting. The grounds are blessed twice daily by a resident priest, so the spiritual healing here is tangible. Be pummelled on a muslin-shrouded massage bed overlooking a gorge, soak in crystal-clear rock pools or meditate in a tiny wooden hut to the rush of the river. Stay in Tirta Ewing, a suite of colonial splendour with its own Japanese water garden, waterfall and bath carved out of a boulder. It’s straight out of the Garden of Eden, with cold scented towels on tap. Staff zone into your needs before you seem to have time to even register them yourself. Your butler (think clean Asian dress and relaxed smiles rather than anything stiff) discreetly shadows you like a cool breeze, appearing with fresh juices just as you need them. No wonder Julia Roberts stayed here whilst shooting Eat, Pray, Love.
NEED TO KNOW
The wonderful thing about the Como brand is that you can rely on the food for zinging freshness and culinary vitality. All meals are naturally pure and sophisticated, actively accommodating food intolerances and diabetes. Blended nut and rice milks substitute cow’s milk; yeast free bread is baked daily. Natural sweeteners, such as stevia (which doesn’t alter the body’s blood sugar levels) replace processed sugars. Dishes are even perfectly calibrated to boost energy and concentration. Como know their meridians from their marma points; Como junkies are the Queens of the Chakra Cognoscenti. They follow the pilgrimage outposts in Bali, the Maldives, Miami, the Caribbean and the silent kingdom of Bhutan (where you should try the traditional Dotsho hot stone bath). You can also dip into The Metropolitan in London, under their umbrella too, with its ever-popular Nobu restaurant. But if none of these options sound credit-card friendly, we’re going to be showcasing their delicious recipes so you can conjure them up at home.
The main restaurant, aptly named Glow, centres around a clean lined, open plan kitchen, serving raw food to worship – all of it developed by the talented Amanda Gale, head chef at the Rock Pool in Sydney. Taking inspiration from the ‘living foods’ tradition the hotel is renowned for food that involves minimal interference with raw ingredients, thus maintaining the nutritional integrity of the foods’ essential enzymes, vitamins and minerals, and allowing you to benefit from its ‘life force’. The result? Increased energy and a greater feeling of inner renewal, even after just a week’s stay. Organic and locally sourced whenever possible, the idea is that food arrives at the table with minimal interference. Meanwhile expect candlelit romance at Kudus House, a wooden Balinese structure offering local delights, such as “Kuah Be Pasih Lalah” – a hot and sour seafood soup with lemon basil, cherry tomatoes and sprouts. The amazing 24-hour room service spa menu (what a revelation!) serves such innovative dishes as Green Goddess Soup, Vegetable and Seven Grain Burger with Avocado, Fresh Zucchini Spaghetti (so delicious, made with a spiralizer), and a Cocoa and Cashew Cheesecake served with acai berry sorbet. This is truly a destination where you can learn that healthy cuisine can and should be delicious, as well as packed full of powerful nutrients. And whilst meals in themselves are an inspiration, guests can also go to cookery demonstrations and receive one-on-one health consultations with the in-house dietician Eve Persak, a keen triathlete whose expertise encompasses sports nutrition for endurance athletes and counselling for those with gastrointestinal disorders.
DON’T MISS MEAL
Buckwheat noodles with yellow fin tuna, olive, capers, garlic and chilli sauce. Followed by Southern Indian lentil curry with pumpkin – so warming and sustaining. Finish with a homemade selection of raw cacao treats and truffles.
Order buckets of the signature honey, ginger and lemon tea – so good it is almost worth a 12-hour flight in itself. Honestly, that may sound like a mad exaggeration but it is totally addictive and an amazing cold blaster. And beyond the tea, all through the day you can reboot your digestive system with a kaleidoscopic range of divine tasting wellness juices. Joint Relief, a blend of pink grapefruit, guava, pear, parsley and spinach strengthens joints, aids fat breakdown and promotes regularity. Berry Quencher delivers a concentrated source of anti-oxidants and phytonutrients with a jaunty mix of black skinned grapes, mangosteen pulp, strawberries and frozen blueberries. Chuck in a booster of Raw Peruvian Macca, a natural energy elevator known to improve mental clarity and you’ll be ready to go. If you opt for a traditional fast (a pure liquid diet), items include juices, broths, elixirs, vitamin boosts and organic teas.
Yes, you could just come here and simply zone-out, but you’d be wasting the talent on offer, including a superb Ayurvedic doctor, a nutritionist and naturopath, and numerous top notch yoga, Tai’Chi and Pilates teachers. There are countless intuitive spa therapists and mind-body practitioners, and the treatments are first rate including hot stone massages using rocks from the Estate’s own river (tension melting), deep sea mud therapies, reflexology, acupuncture and pimple popping Guinot facials. Visiting masters also drop by including Renata Navratalova, renowned for her pre and postnatal Pilates (it’s all about core work), and exceptional rolfer Jeffrey Boames.
Spiritualists will find comfort in the Water Temple Purification Ceremonies at the temple of Tampak Siring. The hotel also arranges for visits to a traditional local Balinese healer, Pak Cok, who seeks to reveal the spiritual roots of your physical problems through his magically healing hands and study of the lontar (tradional Balinese scriptures). Meanwhile, if you want to fully immerse yourself, you can sign up for the three-, five- and seven-day wellness packages, covering everything including stress, fitness and cleansing. Fitness classes double up as glorious sightseeing tours incorporating cycle rides through the paddy fields and treks up smoking volcanoes. There are also guided scenic walks through paddy fields. Every day there is intuitive yoga in different salas dotted around the property.
You are not a true spa junkie until you have dipped your toes in the crystal waters here – the whole place will leave you humming with happiness. If you want a springboard into a new way of eating Como Shambhala truly inspires. Mega chef Heston Blumenthal wrote about his stay in the Daily Mail, “For the first time in my life, I tried a juice detox. It was amazing. After the initial shock I never felt hungry. I had vegetable juice five times a day and vegetable broth in the evening – and lost 8lbs in four days. The juices were all freshly made and so imaginative. The various concoctions were sharp, with just a hint of sweetness”. Whether you do a serious detox like Blumenthal, or just indulge in the divine food in the restaurants, you’ll leave with a new awareness of nutritious and delicious eating,
CONTACT: Tel: +62 361 978 888, email: CSestate@comohotels.com
PRICE: Seven nights stay from £4,550 on a half board basis including participation in the daily schedule of activities at the estate such as yoga, walks and healthy lifestyle lectures.
NEAREST AIRPORT: Ngurah Rai International Airport (also known as Denpasar International Airport).
TRANSFER TIME: 90 Mins
First-Hand Visit Write-Up By: Daisy Finer