Mary Justice Thomasson-Croll laments the state of the world and experiences greatness at The Samaya Ubud.
Suffice to say that after recent world events I’ve been a bit down in the mouth in our beloved Bali. Here’s a clue: I’ve ordered a hat that says “Make America Great Britain Again”.
If we are to survive these traumatic times ahead it’s best to take an occasional digital detox and emulate how the locals truly live in the moment. As we all know Balinese Hindus spend every day carefully balancing the forces of good and evil with a multitude of colourful religious ceremonies and daily delightful offerings. It’s a democratic process and a careful balancing act between the mind, body and spirit.
I needed an altitude adjustment to help with my attitude and I found it just an hour’s drive from Seminyak at the perfectly positioned resort, The Samaya Ubud. Taking eight years to build due to its pole position between the lively and active Ayung and Lauh rivers, Samaya enjoys spectacular deep valley views over rice terraces and is a tropical nirvana of flowers and fauna.
The hotel retains a heartfelt reverence for the local community that begins at the top with convivial GM Wayan Suambara and the presiding banjar Baung and extends to the majority of the staff who come from the local Bongkasa village. Pride is taken in showing off their neighbourhood and GM Suambara leads his team by empowering the staff, ensuring that the guests’ experience is a natural extension of the famous Balinese hospitality. Butler service is on call 24/7 and requests are met with pleasurable, friendly politeness.
The Samaya Ubud also helps ensure the local subak runs smoothly, with its complex water management systems sustaining a harmonious relationship with the natural and spiritual world through an intricate series of rituals, offerings and artistic performances. Furthering their commitment to the community The Samaya Ubud gives locals free and easy access to their natural spring water source for their daily use.
Tranquillity triumphs here and after checking into my villa with its private pool, cabana and shade of flowering frangipani trees, it was tempting to just shut out the world with a slam of the front door. The perfectly appointed private villa is complete with 500 thread count sheets, down pillows, warm woods and rattan, a spacious living area and well-lit bathrooms complete with oversized terrazzo Jacuzzis for a hearty soak. You can choose from five types of villa accommodations at The Samaya Ubud, varying from hill-side to river-side locations. All are sublime.
Still slightly tense from the state of world affairs, I headed to the spa for a three-hour Balinese Energizing ritual that begins with a gentle flower-filled foot wash, a deep tissue hot stone massage in which smooth warmed rocks collected from the river’s edge glide across your body in long flowing strokes. You can feel your muscles starting to relax and your mind unwind. The aptly named therapy room has full frontal views of the river gorge and you can maximize your time by lounging by the spa pool and watching the Balinese preform their daily adulations. Bliss.
Beginning to get my appetite back I indulged in a divine dinner at Swept Away where I was blown away by Chef Nyoman Wiratma’s Ayam Panggang with Sambal Matah (free range chicken with a spicy secret sauce), an old family recipe he learned from his older brother.
After a peaceful sleep in a totally serene environment I joined the impossibly delightful Kadek Anto (who grew up in the compound next door to the resort) for a pleasurable day peddling around his hometown.
As we headed out of the hotel I opened my eyes to chance encounters and serendipity and was mindful of the magic of Bali. We stopped in at the Moksa restaurant with its Saturday morning organic market and in a local gallery to pick up a painting of a pastoral Ubud farming scene that looked as if it had been in the gallery for decades.
Kind Kadek insisted on cleaning it when we returned to the hotel and it now has pride of place in my own guest bathroom, back in the land we are told will once again be great. As we made our way back to the hotel we encountered a group of women tending to their harvest in unison and I was moved by the simplistic state of affairs. It’s hard to believe there can actually be anything greater than this.