With guided treks around the paddy fields each morning, free daily yoga classes, and Como Shambhala’s globally celebrated spa treatments on offer, the mountainside Como Uma Ubud boutique hotel in Jalan Raya Sanggingan (a five-minute drive from Ubud's city centre) is clearly on a mission to relax and rejuvenate. Given the incredible valley scenery, the soothing sounds of Balinese wildlife, and the beautiful thatched balés that fill the place, it couldn’t fail.
Holistic spa escape surrounded by paddy fields
Delicious, balanced Como Shambhala cuisine
Close to Ubud, Bali’s cultural capital
A Como Shambhala aromatherapy gift; GoldSmiths staying in a Suite also receive a welcome cocktail for two served in-room or at the Pool Bar
In the know
Also need to know:
You can smoke in your room and the restaurant is split into smoking and non-smoking areas. A three-night minimum stay is required over New Year and there is a compulsory New Year's Eve dinner for US$100 a head (50 per cent off for children).Uma can organise activities ranging from adrenaline-fuelled to serenity-filled. Try white-water rafting on the Ayung or biking the jungle. For more sedate thrills, learn yoga, batik, Indonesian puppet making or mask painting.
Inland Bali is the perfect trekking ground so make sure you bring suitable shoes for jungle yomps – sturdy sandals should do the trick. Bring mozzie repellent too.
Clean lines and floaty linens.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
The drive from Bali’s capital Denpasar to Ubud is the Antiques Roadshow on speed. Statues, vases, carvings, canvasses, textiles, carpets... Here a life-size stone horse, there an extravagantly embellished day-bed. It’s as if every Balinese-style home we’ve ever seen has disgorged its contents onto a roadside market. As the urban jostle melts to green and we wind inland, uphill and northwards, our taxi windows frame a ceaseless cornucopia of art and craft.
By the time we reach our hotel, on the artistic town’s outer fringes, we’ve furnished a thousand palaces and Mr Smith has eyeballed so many table legs I fear he’s developed a furniture fetish. Our eyes need peace, and luckily that’s exactly what Como Uma Ubud does best. As we cross the entrance courtyard to the airy lobby and settle on a smooth bench hewn from a tree trunk, we’re embraced by a stillness broken only by birdsong and the chattering of some unknown jungle creature.
This is a place far from Bali’s buzzing coastal tourist hubs. Here, among the lush forests and rice paddies on the slopes of the island’s central mountains, Como Uma Ubud’s 29 suites and villas are encircled by nothing but nature. Ours, one of three Uma Pool Suites, awaits at the end of a stroll along stone paths lined with tropical vegetation, through a wooden gate and down a private stairway. We’re led there by Trishna, who, like all the Uma staffers, moves without bustle or fuss but always somehow materialises exactly where she needs to be.
Our villa appears not only to boast a private garden, but a private jungle too. Beyond the low stone wall bordering our lawn, the Tjampuhan Valley drops steeply away, distant hilltops visible beyond its glorious tangle of green foliage and the Oos River chuckling along somewhere down below. We’re at treetop level. No one can see us, and we can’t see anyone. Except...
‘Squirrels!’ shouts Mr Smith. I follow his gaze and discover Uma’s unique entertainment: a furry Olympics in the immediate jungle. The little red critters’ constant play is better than TV.
With its mossy stone walls and long, colonnaded terrace, the garden resembles the grounds of an ancient palace and boasts multiple jungle-viewing options: private infinity plunge pool flowing over the brink of the gorge; sunloungers on the timber deck; two deep wicker chairs on the terrace.
Light streams through the villa’s liberal spaces, over cream stone and timber, filmy voile curtains and the dreamy four-poster bed. It’s all soothing simplicity and entices us to waft in and out through the French doors in sarongs. We wallow in our pool with only the squirrels as audience, bananas dangling from a branch so close we can almost reach out and pull one off.
What to do when you’re so relaxed? Relax even more. We repair to a spa villa to sample Uma’s Como Shambhala Retreat menu. The resort can be as much of a spa as you’d like, with complimentary morning yoga in the central pavilion, a special Shambhala menu of organic and raw foods at Kemiri restaurant and a tempting list of bliss-out therapies. We choose 90-minute massages and Mr Smith opts for an extra head massage. Therapists Ani and Puri stroke and knead us into heaven, and after a while I hear Mr Smith snoring gently. Minutes later, he’s moaning happily. Perhaps he’s thinking of furniture again.
‘That was the best massage I’ve ever had,’ he says, as we float back to our private jungle. ‘It was like my head left my body. But in a good way.’ Much as we’d like to follow through with the super-healthy Shambhala menu for dinner, Kemiri also boasts too many decadences. We can’t resist the grilled Lombok lobster with chilli paste and kaffir lime, and the crispy fried soft-centred duck eggs with oyster sauce. They’re placed reverently on an alfresco table overlooking a fish pond by our waiter Ugung, who wears a tiny flower behind his ear. It indicates he’s prayed today, he says.
Each day in the Balinese lunar calendar requires different prayers to maintain the intricate system of balance that shapes the Hindu beliefs. These beliefs are cherished with particular devotion here in the island’s mountainous heart, where the Balinese believe their gods reside. Sitting in the stillness, watching evening mist curl among the treetops and hearing our enchanted forest’s nocturnal creatures begin their night serenade, we can imagine why. We can also see why the resort is called Uma, a word that means ‘living house.’
Next morning, culture calls. Ubud is not just a religious hub but a locus of art, performance and craft, and the final destination of that art avenue we followed from Denpasar. The town and its surrounding hills are filled with exponents of multiple mediums, from painting to sculpting and jewellery-making. We’re headed to where it all converges: Ubud Market. We set off for the 10-minute trip in Uma’s vehicle with soothing music, chilled-out driver and white interior.
The Serenity-mobile deposits us beneath the fantastically ornamental walls of Ubud’s main palace (the town has many, most still occupied by descendents of pre-colonial royals). From there we dive into the dense and seemingly endless maze of stalls, nooks and carts stacked to the ceiling with clothing, batik, gold, silver, wood, pottery, paintings, antiques and visitors like us, goggling at this frenzy of eye candy. We plunge into theatrical bartering for goods – I score two batik dresses for about US$8 – and Mr Smith falls in love with a painting of local village life. Over-stimulated, we escape to a gallery café (every café has a gallery, or the other way around) to contemplate the crazy scope of the Ubud aesthetic: from the simple, organic forms we love at Uma to the ‘Bali baroque’ flourishes of palaces and temples to imported European styles.
Back in our villa, the housekeeper appraises Mr Smith’s canvas with an expert eye. ‘It’s a good one,’ he says, and identifies the artist and Dutch master who helped develop it. ‘My brother’s learning this style,’ he adds. Some places, everyone’s a critic; in Ubud, everyone’s an artist.
We’ll shop again tomorrow, perhaps at the galleries right outside Uma. But for now we’ll sink into our veranda chairs and soothe our souls with the most beautiful canvas of all: dusk over the jade-green jungle, squirrels scuttling for bed and the treetops reaching up for the sun as it sinks to meet them. All perfectly painted by Como Uma Ubud’s resident artist: nature.
Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Banjar Lungsiakan, Kedewatan, Ubud, Bali, 80571
10.2 mi / 16.5 km from city centre
- Valet parking
- Aerobics instruction
- Exercise gym
- Internet services
- On-Site parking
- Complimentary in-room coffee or tea
- Room service
- Onsite laundry
Kemiri, an open-air dining balé pavilion beside a tranquil fishpond, is your setting for breakfast, served between 6.30am and 10.30am. Choose from a tropical fruit plate, a hearty full English (eggs, smoke-house bacon, chicken sausage, a sweet corn cake and roast tomatoes), or more healthful options such as an egg-white omelette with kale. Kemiri opens for special themed evenings too, such as spicy, meaty bebek bebutu feasts. For dinner, head to Italy-inspired Uma Cucina, a street-side bar and lounge with a big communal dining table (plus outside seating) that serves up an informal Meditteranean menu. Expect handmade pastas, cheeses and sausages, wood-fired pizzas and breads, plus classic Italian gelato and granitas.
For the most breathtaking view, make a beeline for table 2; you’ll be right beside the waterfall-fed pond, where you can watch golden koi gliding through the water.
Kemiri closes its kitchen at 10.30am. The Pool Bar keeps pouring until 11.45pm.
Healthy Como Shambhala dishes and guiltier pleasures such as pasta and club sandwiches can be enjoyed in rooms from 6am to 1am.
A relaxed, contemporary affair, Como Uma Ubud’s Pool Bar is the ideal spot for lingering on a lounger making your way through the lengthy wine list or the 15-strong martini menu; the jasmine tea and ginger-infused variant gets our vote.