November 2018

Well-known for its wonderful tourism offerings, from luxury hotels and great dining to surfing or river rafting through the jungle, the island is an ideal and easy choice for a family just wanting to relax with a few added activities.

The island’s population is just over 4 million people, with a majority living in the coastal towns and the capital city of Denpasar. The traditional tourism areas are Kuta, Jimbaran, Sanur, Seminyak, Nusa Dua and Ubud. They all offer an excellent selection of family resorts, luxury hotels and excellent value-for-money options.

The coastline is stunning and the warm waters ideal for swimming and scuba diving but, as with all developments, some of these areas have been affected negatively: a tragic amount of plastic waste is often found on the long white sandy beaches, washed up by the currents flowing around Bali. Bali is also part of the Coral Triangle, with the highest biodiversity of marine species where over 500 reef-building coral species can be found.

The natural beauty and tranquility of the island has attracted a wide variety of travelers; the growth of new niche segments is flourishing, including the global trend of wellness. Tucked away in the busy village of Ubud, retreats and boutique resorts have emerged, creating special wellness programs with a variety of treatments, yoga classes and health-focused dining options.

Located only 50 minutes from the Denpasar, the township of Ubud is surrounded by beautiful hills and valleys, rice fields, tropical forests and Hindu temples. Wonderful Ubud offers you the opporunity to explore and take in the scenery just by walking around. I have been to the town once before, but only as part of a river-rafting trip, so the opportunity to be able to explore on foot is a nice change.

Our first hotel, the Como Uma Ubud, offers a morning guided tour around rice fields; this proved to be the perfect way to wake up, followed by a few laps in the pool before a nice breakfast on the terrace. A prime feature of lovely Como Uma is also the opportunity to visit and spend the day at the sensational Como Shambhala Estate hotel. The uber chic hotel is set on 22 acres of lush forest, with the river running through the estate. The hotel and villas are spectacular and the serenity is just stunning. We arrived for lunch at the open-air restaurant Glow and sat watching the monkeys play in the rain forest as we were served yummy Indonesian food and healthy salads by smiling staff. Feeling relaxed and ready to explore, we ventured down path to the fast-flowing river and natural ponds where the water is fresh and perfectfor a dip. Even though you are away from the hotel, the staff will still appear with water and any delights you might require.

Evening activities will include exploring a few small roadside bbq’s that are a real treat, with tantalizing spices that add a little extra heat to the delicious food. While dining, we began discussing what “wellness” actually means. Is it just how we feel after a lovely day or how we felt after our walk and swim? According to Dr. Google, the term "wellness" was adopted by John Travis, who opened a "Wellness Resource Center" in California in the mid-1970s. The World Health Organization described “wellness” in 2013 as “the purpose of promoting general well-being & health through physical, psychological, or spiritual activities”.

At both the lovely resorts of Como, there were specific “healthy” dishes on the menu, but at the same time, I could also order a great bottle of wine or a nice cold beer. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the global wellness industry was worth US$4.2 trillion in 2017. It included traditional medicine, nutrition, healthy eating, fitness, spas, general beauty and anti-aging, and of course Wellness Tourism. As we all become more focused on our lifestyles, the wellness industry has seen steady growth; it is no longer are seen as part of“siloe industries”, but, according to the most recent report produced by the GWI in 2017, “the ten wellness sectors are dynamic and interconnected”.

Another wellness retreat that has been seen by many as a market leader is the boutique retreat of Fivelements, located 10 minutes from Ubud, where our next few nights were spent. From point of entry, there was an atmosphere of calm and tranquility and we quickly settled in after being greeted by the friendly staff. The suites are spacious with a en-suite large spa-bath. The majority of the suites face the Ayung River. The sound of flowing water provides a calming background as you relax in the spa-bath or in the treatment rooms. The retreat has 12 suites and 8 rooms that offer a huge range of treatments, including the fascinating water-healing treatment and, for chocolate lovers, a Chocolate Massage!! The award-winning restaurant Sakti serves a plant-based raw vegan cuisine and was a memorable highlight of our stay. The dining room is beautifully set back and the service friendly and efficient. The menu combines many classic dishes including a burger, pizza and even a risotto; but here, they're made from only raw plant-based products, so all vegetarian/vegan. The food is a thing of beauty, decorating the plates with the colours of the rainbow! To compliment the menu, beverages are all non-alcoholic, with a nice selection of teas, juices and local drinks!

The latest luxury resort to arrive in the Ubud area is the Mandapa Ritz-Carlton Reserve Resort, in a valley also located by the Ayung River and truly stunning. The view on arrival is pretty special and the villas are brilliant. It's a very different feel compared to both Comos and Fivelements, with a more classic corporate resort style, sure to attract high-flying travelers seeking the classic international Ritz-Carlton style. The restaurants are located by the pools in the heart of the resort and are well worth a visit for a nice dinner.

Overall, Ubud is a great place to visit. It 's a lovely escape from big city life and part of Bali's excellent value for money. You'll find most international hotel companies here offering a range of excellent products. We met a number of visitors who stayed a few nights on the coast in the more traditional resorts and then headed up to detox or just relax and experience another part of Bali.

Travelling to Bali: The international airport of Denpasar is serviced by a number of leading airlines from many major cities in Asia, Australia, Dubai and several European capitals.

by P Tsoukaris.


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