Visit Como Shambhala Estate in Bali to reboot your system

A special kind of tranquility greets you on this Indonesian island that provided the first step in a health revolution for EDGAR.

Robert Chilton March 15, 2017

Buckwheat and pumpkin hotcakes. Braised beans with mushroom and spinach. Kale, shitake and cucumber salad. Sprouted quinoa salad with apple and beetroot.

These healthy, mostly raw dishes will probably inspire two reactions in people: yum or yuk. For some people, holidays are about being lazy, eating and drinking naughty things, letting your hair down and not giving a hoot. But for others, holidays are a perfect opportunity away from the time-poor daily grind to look after yourself, reset the system and return home with a renewed vitality. 

The clean and lean meals mentioned above are typical of the menu at the Como Shambhala Estate in Bali. And for the record, they all fall well and truly into the ‘yum’ category – yes, even the quinoa. 

Embedded high up in the lush jungle hills of Ubud, the 23-acre wellness retreat has water gardens, weathered stone paths, natural pools filled with holy water for swimming, a temple and a 150-year old authentic Balinese house which acts as the retreat’s restaurant. The soundtrack is chirping cicadas and flowing water, while the oxygen is unreal – your lungs will feel alive like never before.

The idea is that guests sign up for a wellness package, tailor made to your goals – cleanse, active, rejuvenation or stress management for example. Included is a consultation with a trained wellness professional plus a class and a spa treatment designed to help you on your way.

EDGAR went for the cleanse package and filled in a health and nutrition questionnaire two weeks before arriving. Upon check in, we met with Nancy Lam, an American expert in Oriental medicine with several letters after her name, who set out our schedule and a personalised menu (no dairy, no caffeine, no sugar, no meat) that would be handed to us when we sat down for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This is the key feature of Como Shambhala’s appeal: most of us want to make lifestyle changes but are just too busy with work or family life to implement them. But this place does all the thinking for you and is a fantastic way to kick start a new chapter in your life. The vibe of the estate is such that you want to be healthy here.

The first item on Nancy’s agenda for our stay is colonic irrigation. Wait, please don’t throw away this magazine in disgust – we’re not going to go into detail. Suffice to say, you’re shown what to do by a therapist, then you take care of yourself. It’s easy, it’s not embarrassing, it takes 45 minutes, and it feels amazing. We walked out of the treatment room feeling lighter, cleaner and with a flat stomach – jackpot.

After that, we only wanted to put good things in our body and that’s where the delicious, raw, healthy food comes in. Yes, you can order a Coke or a beer if you want, but Como Shambhala’s philosophy means that, suddenly, a fizzy, sugary drink loses its appeal. 

A one-on-one yoga session with the excellent in-house teacher Boody in a beautiful open-air villa looking out into the jungle is next. One hour of personal tuition at your own pace means you can stop when you like and ask questions. As we bend and stretch and sweat, finally the penny drops for EDGAR – so this is why everyone raves about yoga. A two-hour mud therapy wrap and massage sends us further down our path to a newly-cleansed existence.

Our sleep has never been better, especially when you’re encased in a peaceful villa on stilts with a four-poster bed made from 150-year Balinese teak. The jungle view from the outdoor shower is the best we’ve ever had while shampooing our hair.

A 15-minute drive in Como Shambhala’s complimentary car (between 9am and 5pm only) takes you into the lively Ubud, a compact hippie haven of vegan restaurants, cool cafés, independent fashion boutiques and small stores selling arts and crafts. It’s ideal for a wander at snail’s pace, interspersed with a soy milk Americano and a protein cookie.

With the help of a personal assistant assigned to you at check in, all sorts of activities can be arranged. Our guy Poojiana was invaluable, showing remarkable patience and organisation to make sure we ticked off our wish list but didn’t feel overwhelmed. A trek up Mount Batur is a must for those who are fit and keen for a challenge. You’re collected by a van at 2am and driven for 90 minutes to the foot of the mountain where a guide leads you up Bali’s highest peak by torchlight to see a sunrise that will blow your mind. 

To the beach

Away from the greenery of Ubud down south is the golden coastline and Bali’s famous beaches, which are populated by surfers who zip around the island on mopeds, their boards strapped to the side, seeking out the best waves. 

Uluwatu is a popular destination, and The Ungasan Clifftop Resort is a lovely, sleepy beach club type of place that has immaculate gardens, putting green, tennis court, infinity pools and golf buggies to transport you around.

The star of the show, however, is the resort’s famous Sundays Beach Club. Just getting there is an adventure. Guests at Ungasan – or external visitors who buy a day pass – must walk down a few flights of steps to the inclinator, which sounds like the final challenge of a TV game show. It is in fact a white box big enough for eight people that creeps slowly down a 100-metre railway track to the beach.

There is no other way down, and the views of the gorge are amazing. Step out of the inclinator and walk down more steps (you’ll be a little out of breath) to meet the welcome sight of a stunning beach, dotted with big blue bean bags, day beds and cabanas in the shape of oyster shells. The food at the beach bar and restaurant is top notch – the barramundi tacos in particular. 

But it’s when the sun starts to dip that Sundays Beach Club takes on a whole new magic. A bonfire is lit on the beach and everyone rotates their bean bags towards the sunset with a cold drink in hand. Here’s a cute touch: you can order a bowl of marshmallows and toast them on the bonfire.

As we say goodbye to yet another display of incredible colour courtesy of the Bali sky it’s back into the inclinator and up we go. EDGAR stayed at the Chintamani villa, which one hotel staffer whispered was the best in the resort as it feels separated from the rest. A large bedroom/living room in a tasteful palette of beige, cream, white and brown leads out onto a private deck, a plunge pool, and a lawn with a sheer drop down to the beach way down below. The word ‘dramatic’ doesn’t even begin to describe it. Please, don’t go too near the edge.

Flight time to Bali from Dubai is nine hours, but such is the tranquility on the island that even four or five days will feel like two weeks. If you need a restart, just push the Bali button.;