From the laid-back beach vibe of Jimbaran, to the lush greenery of Ubud, Bali is perfect for getting away from it all
Driving along a dusty road, we pull up to Kupu Kupu Jimbaran – its nondescript entrance gives nothing away. Setting foot inside the lobby makes you feel part of an elaborate Indonesian play with oversized wooden puppet shapes adorning the walls lit dimly by intricately carved lamps. Though the afternoon sun beats down outside, within, the mystic atmosphere sets the tone for a treasure trove of sensory delights.
Before there’s even time to unpack, the first treatment at Bamboo Spa by L’Occitane awaits, the brand’s second exclusive venture in Bali (and the closest of the three, to the airport). The long corridor offers a grand entrance, and a little piece of Provence, with prints of the iconic lavender fields adorning the corridor. The French influence is evident, but the bamboo labyrinth design of the waiting area provides a clue about the local origin of the signature treatment – Verbena bamboo fusion therapy, using Balinese bamboo which locals believe has the magic power to stimulate the flow of energy within the body. The fusion element of treatment is reflected in the accompanying soundtrack – La Vie en Rose mixed with national bumbu and flute music.
Ideal for those experiencing chronic fatigue, or anyone keen to try a unique local treatment, varied lengths of bamboo sticks warm the body through rolling techniques and long, deep strokes using the verbena blend. If an hour isn’t enough to undo the kinks, go for the Verbena Bamboo Well-being Escape, which begins with a foot bath, citrus bamboo polish to exfoliate the skin in preparation, followed by a verbena foam bath (complete with cup of tea and delicious macarron) followed by the signature massage which will leave you feeling so invigorated that the flight becomes a faint memory.
Don’t plan much for afterwards – perhaps dinner at Jimabaran Beach Club. Hop in the hotel buggy which will take you to the chilled-out eatery for sundowners where the coastline glimmers with lanterns. The house specialty is the Jimbaran seafood platter brimming with clams, succulent squid and snapper doused in chilli sauce. Eating al fresco with your toes curled in the sand is a satisfying end to the first day in paradise.
Start the morning feeling virtuous by ordering the ‘healthy breakfast’ consisting of an egg white omelette, bircher muesli, watermelon juice and coffee, before setting off for the second stop of the Balinese spa adventure. Ninety minutes later, the gold- flecked signs to Kupu Kupu Barong (which translates to ‘God of the Butterflies’ in Indonesian) point the way to a hidden oasis overlooking awesome views of the Ayung River and rice paddy fields. Bags promptly whisked away to the villa, next stop is the Mango Tree Spa by L’Occitane. In contrast to the mysterious feel of the spa in Jimbaran, this sanctuary is cheery yellow, just like the fruit it is named after.
No surprise, the signature treatment is Journey to Mango, a 120-minute odyssey to blissful relaxation, consisting of a foot scrub, an hour-long massage using oil made from the fruit to ease muscle tension and enhance circulation and a customised 60-minute facial. The therapist addresses specific skin and ageing concerns. Those with dry skin can request that L’Occitane’s Angelica products be used, a plant known for its hydrating properties.
What makes this treatment unforgettable is the spa itself. There are seven treatment rooms dotted around the property’s lush greenery, the most unique of which are ‘Tree Spas’, or bamboo tree houses, perched atop branches of aged mango trees. A third has just been added owing to the popularity of the concept launched in 2009, so if you can, book one of these for an extra special setting.
It’s one thing to listen to a soundtrack of nature, but this is the real deal. You’re literally on top of the world at this open-air cabin overlooking a breathtaking vista of verdant rice terraces. There is something extra soothing about hearing the white noise of the rapids below and the fresh breeze tickle your skin that makes this treatment one of a kind.
Taste For Adventure
Home of babi guling and gado gado, Indonesia’s vibrant cuisine is always a treat. The treetop restaurant Tamiang is the place for local favourites. Nasi goreng is an oldie but a goodie with succulent chicken satays, zesty sambal, and that sensational combination of a fried egg and rice. If you’d like to go a step further and try your hand at Balinese cooking, the resort offers classes. Best of all, you needn’t stray from your wellness plan as while the chef provides instruction, you have complete control of how much you use the ingredients, perfect for those looking to cut down sodium or fat intake. The class begins with the basic Balinese paste, a seasoning staple, which is used in several of the dishes. This is true of the udang mekuah, a clear prawn broth, pepes ikan, grilled fish and sate lilit, minced chicken satays.
You will also learn how to make chicken salad with lemongrass salsa, and finally, the rather intriguing chilli strawberry crepes. The latter can be served with ice cream, which is the only indulgent course. But if you prefer to keep it light, despite the numerous courses, each consists mainly of lean proteins and veggies. Compared to many resort cooking courses, this one is more hands-on, interactive and fun. It was pouring with rain, and this makes for a great way to pass the time in wet weather, as you can listen and watch the downpour smug under cover while remaining poolside.
Another highlight of the class is that it has been designed so you can savour each course immediately after it’s prepared, rather than waiting until the end (more common) to enjoy it at its best. This provides a welcome break between the frantic chopping, peeling and stirring. Plus you get to wear an apron, chef’s hat and receive a personalised certificate at the end, what’s not to love? Little touches make the difference, and at then end you receive a beautiful sarong and throw to take home.
Body is a Temple
Nothing promotes wellness like the wild. Explore the verdant surrounds with a morning trek through the Ayung River Valley. It begins in the resort village of Kedewatan, where you will pass through local houses, temples and graveyards and learn about Balinese culture from your guide. The highlight is the splendid greenery of the rice paddies and watching how the river unites everyone, from children splashing with friends, to excited groups of rafting visitors. The hike meanders through local farms where you can learn about the vegetation and tropical spices commonly used in Indonesian cooking. Its gentle pace means that you can really take your time to sit amongst the palm trees and take it all in, a rare sense of solitude apart from the geckos, lizards, squirrels and the odd slithery companion.
Ubud is known to be Bali’s spiritual centre, which is featured in Eat, Pray Love, a film about a woman’s transformative journey, in which she seeks inspiration from a local healer. The ramble concludes with a visit to Gangsar Cave depicted in the movie starring Julia Roberts, in which she meditates. Hollywood fanfare aside, there’s an otherworldly ambience about the holy temple. Featuring fountains within, worshippers believe the water helps cure disease and that the shrine can provide a peaceful life and spiritual healing.
Complimentary morning yoga classes are also available, beginning and ending with meditation so your morning is filled with mindfulness, peace and energy, setting the tone for the rest of the day. For a touch of culture, Balinese dancing lessons are offered so you can learn more about its rich heritage, and some new moves at the same time.
Bali’s varied landscapes means you can enjoy a change of scene, and whether you favour the shoreline or rainforest, forgetting the the daily grind is easy amidst such serenity. Best of all, Balinese hospitality is unparalleled, and chatting with locals is always a delight. This retreat is perfect for those who may not be able to commit to a longer programme, or are seeking more flexibility. That’s the thing about me-time, it’s different for everyone, and here it’s all done your way.