On a recent journey to Bali’s tranquil Ubud I didn’t find myself and despite hunting high and low not even Javier Bardem frolicking in the rice paddies either, sorry girls. I did however discover many enticing ways to eat, lay, bend and write, with a few naughty detours along the way.
Nestled into the hillside and offering flourishing views every which way, ONEWorld Retreats (www.oneworldretreats.com) offer unique experiences at Ubud’s boutique hotel Kumara Sakti. There’s no questioning the level of inspiration generated at a recent writers retreat and who knows, perhaps another bestseller is soon to be offered to the world? The retreats cater well towards yogis and also include pilates, meditation, healing and spirituality for all ages and levels of expertise. There’s no shortage of patience especially with yoga guru Wayan whose chanting at the end of sessions is designed to give goose bumps despite the humidity. The day spa is renowned for an Ayurvedic Chakra Dhara Massage and is so relaxing that the concept of floating out of the window and into the lush forest isn’t out of the question. The menu is healthy and tasty and the rooms are stylishly yet minimally appointed so as to not clutter the mind or the body. Other activities include rice paddy walks with a local which offer an insight into the lives of those integral to the rice industry. There are other excursions further afield like temple, village, volcano and market visits. Whatever you do, don’t forget your notebook and camera to capture all those flowing ideas and dreams. www.oneworldretreats.com
Fivelements Wellness Retreat (www.fivelements.org) draws upon the gentle Balinese culture and the five elements of water, earth, air, ether, and fire, which represents digestion and is well catered for with the raw living vegan menu. The basis of a vegan diet is to avoid food taken from animals which means no meat, fish or animal products including eggs or honey. Pulses, soya products, seaweed, wild rice, quinoa, wholegrain rice and millet are all allowed as well as all the fruit and vegetables you can handle in varying textures to achieve different tastes. In fact, the sweet banana crepes wrapped around avocado, mango cream topped with a fresh fruit compote and chocolate cream still causes salivation. With the combination of herbs and spices any dish can be flavoursome. The spa menu is equally appetising with intoxicating chocolate body scrubs and alternative healing methods like tantra yoga for personalised energy. The sacred arts programs include a combination of Eastern philosophy blended with a Western lifestyle and includes prayers with a Hindu priest, meditation, yoga, the martial art of Aikido, somatic therapy, Vinyasa flow (breath-synchronised movement) and expressive arts. Set on the banks of the babbling Ayung River, every structure in the resort is crafted from bamboo and the treatments, meals and sweet dreams are serenaded by the river rapids.
Spa, yoga and organic mecca Taksu Spa & Restaurant (www.taksuspa.com) is designed for those dedicated to treating their bodies like a temple. With a variety of yoga and movement art styles available like Balinese, Vinyasa, Patanjali, laughter and meditation forms, yoga sessions are designed to challenge. The inexperienced needn’t worry as there are smaller or private classes for the not-so bendy. Taksu means ‘spirit’ in Balinese and one element of harmonising the body is with a rejuvenating spa experience. With a mix of Western and Eastern philosophies the treatments are varied and include traditional Balinese and Hawaiian holistic Lomi Lomi massages, as well as alternative remedies like Ozone Therapy which sends ozone through the ear canal or armpit with a specially modified stethoscope to boost your immune system. The menu is organic and includes raw living food selections which when eaten in their natural form retain the vital life force nutrients like vitamins, minerals, amino acids and oxygen while providing the maximum amount of energy with minimal bodily effort. Even with the incentive of allowing more room for downward facing dog, the menu also includes seafood, chicken and many local favourites like satay and noodles as well as cooked options. Sprawled throughout the jungle, Taksu includes a series of pavilions and seating set unobtrusively into the landscape where you can quite easily escape to fantasise and write in between meals and treatments. That is unless you’ve brought your girlfriends along for a Taksu signature Sparty.
If there was ever a location to get creative, then the verdant terrain of Ubud is THE place and Octobers celebrates the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (www.ubudwritersfestival.com). The themes change yearly and this year’s is Saraswati: Wisdom & Knowledge and with musician Nick Cave returning as the festival’s patron as well as travel author Colin Thubron and memoirist Kate Holden this year’s tickets are selling fast. Workshops, talks, readings and book launches are interspersed with languid feasts, yoga, parties, cultural events and of course, Ubud’s stunning panorama.
Your mind and body have been taken care of, but sometimes the soul longs to be naughty. Street-side Naughty Nuri’s (www.naughtynurisbali.com) certainly falls into the devilish category with its wicked martinis and BBQ ribs defiantly wafting over Ubud’s vegan community. If you’re really into pork then you can eat every part of it at any three of Ibu Oka Babi Gulung’s rustic restaurants; just ask any taxi driver and they’ll know where to go. As expected, the Bebek Bengil, aka Dirty Duck Diner (www.bebekbengil.com) serves duck so decadently you may leave feeling sinful. Order the smoked duck 24 hours in advance and book a cabana overlooking the rice paddies. If upmarket indulgence is more your thing, then the Bridges (www.bridgesbali.com) spoils with delicacies like waygu beef, foie gras, imported cheeses and wine from the only custom built wine-room in Ubud.