Luxury

A Spiritual Escape

Nestled in the jungle lies the spiritual capital of Bali. Helen McCabe discovers an escape worthy of even Barack Obama's diary.

By Helen McCabe

Luxury

Nestled in the jungle lies the spiritual capital of Bali. Helen McCabe discovers an escape worthy of even Barack Obama's diary.

By Helen McCabe

Tucked deep in the Ubud jungle, there is a resort which rises from the verdant landscape like a spaceship. And to board you must navigate a teak footbridge suspended hundreds of metres over a deep gorge. But the sci-fi moment is moderated by a lotus pond which rings the oval rooftop and the abundant frangipani trees.

In a separate pavilion by rice fields there are swathes of silk hammocks in pink and purple. Four bodies are suspended from the ceiling being gently rocked to the sounds of a brewing storm. A former Buddhist monk, Ibu Fera, is whispering about happiness, love and peace. She sways the hammocks lulling her class into a “sacred sleep”. This is what makes the Four Seasons resort, near the town of Sayan, one of the most celebrated hotels in the world.

Image credit: Four Seasons Resorts

It is the retreat familiar to luxury travel magazines and on most bucket lists. Designed by English architect John Heah in 1998 the structure has settled into its surrounds with exterior walls covered in moss and palm trees five stories high. They are at eye level when sitting at the bar.

Ubud is the spiritual capital of Bali and the resort amplifies it promising peace, clarity and healing. There is an ancient understanding of the relationship between mind and body for lasting peace. Accordingly, there is daily yoga by visiting guru’s and water purification ceremonies in a village temple by local healers to help cleanse past negativity and karma. There are two restaurants; a traditional Indonesian and a western café by the river. Breakfast on the terrace offers egg white omelettes and oatmeal with bananas, almond milk and local honey. Although, we can’t help but admire a couple sipping vintage Krug over eggs Benedict.

Fit For A President

Michelle and Barrack Obama stayed here with their daughters in 2017 as he was winding down during his presidency. They hid out in the royal villa along the rushing Ayung River. Legend has it when it came time to leave, the former President of the United States asked to see the twelve staff who took care of them. He then thoughtfully posed with each for a photograph winning over an island as news of his kindness and generosity spread.

The resort also offers a three-hour white-water rafting tour along the sacred river to see the holy shrines and experience the inlets and raids. In our villa the bath is wide and deep enough for two. Of course, as it’s Bali, there is the sheer joy in the simplicity of an outdoor shower. There are 60 suites and villas with 42 having a private plunge pool and all have lush jungle views. Most villas feature a below-ground design with rooftop pond and meditation deck, ensuring absolute privacy at the lower level pool, bedroom and living area.

If money is no object the three-bedroom royal villa is the pick of the available rooms. This is a luxury stay, no question, but it is also unpretentious and consistent with its focus on the less material aspects of life.

 

Image credit: Four Seasons Resorts

John Heah’s 007 Vision

Although the architecture has been described like a scene out Star Wars, Heah says it was more James Bond. “I was really inspired by early James Bond films, which had these fantastic buildings, and also the surprise of being somewhere here in the middle of the jungle in a fantastic country and finding a modern building,” Heah said. “It’s really to rock the senses of guests coming in. We really didn’t want to do traditional Balinese huts or anything like that.”

The hotel was built in 1998 and is 75 minutes from the international airport. Most recently, Heah reimagined The Berkley in London, sourcing fabrics and inspiration from all over the world and bringing the same serenity to Knightsbridge.

The writer was a guest of the Four Seasons Ubud. Rooms start at around $AU900 a night.