Ondy Sweeting retreats to the hills and checks in to Samsara Ubud.
Samsara Ubud is tucked into a lush jungle ravine at the end of a rocky road deep into Ubud’s famous Tegalalang region.
Expect no neighbours and a soundscape performed by nature; chirping birds, tinkling water and the wind whispering through the jungle that surrounds the estate.
The concept of luxury at Samsara Ubud is grounded in a belief that nature holds the key to happiness and serenity.
Remember the name Samsara Ubud. The smart money predicts a big future for this exclusive new brand, which is just a few years old. Its star is on the ascent.
Finding Samsara Ubud is fun and entails a bit off off-road style driving through the bumps and holes of a decrepit road. It’s a flash back to the ‘old Bali’ that expat elders go all misty eyed for. But unlike old Bali, Samsara Ubud has luxury accommodation and services to match. With just 17 villas – from one bedroom to three bedrooms and each with a private heated pool – the resort is small and exclusive. However, the services reflect something bigger.
Designed by the internationally praised, Bali-based architect Popo Danes – a professional who prefers towering trees as noise filters to air conditioners – Samsara Ubud is contemporary Indonesian in design. The smallest villa is a huge 122 sqm with the three bedroom houses closer to 300 sqm. Those on the lower terraces – or during the quiet evening on the high terraces – listen to the nearby waterfall. Interiors are cool with high, pitched ceilings crafted from rattan and cool stone floors with neutral coloured mats. Samsara Ubud‘s eternal ‘8’motif appears in design accents while furnishings are rich teak wood and exotically patterned fabrics is used for cushions. An elegant sofa faces a wall fitted TV. The canopied beds are deep and comfortable. Bathrooms are luxurious with Makassar marble as the material of choice. Samsara Ubud branded quality toiletries and plenty of bottled water are ritzy. The outdoor shower delivers a tropical tone while a deep free standing bathtub has its own timber table fitted out to hold two beverages and a laptop or tablet.
For maximum indulgence order a floating breakfast. At the appointed time staff arrive bearing a woven boat-shape float filled with your breakfast of choice that may include eggs benedict with smoked salmon and asparagus, fresh juices, coffee, cereals and bakery plus a basket of freshly peeled fruit. The shape of the boat tray makes it manageable to actually eat at while perched by the pool. If you are 12 years old, standing in the pool or sitting is the preferred position for floated dining.
The central restaurant Kelusa, has a progressive Indonesian menu from a chef who has been on the pans in high-end resorts. Indonesian favourites are available along with hand made pasta, crisp salads and unique fusions. The Buntut Strozzapreti is hand twisted pasta paired with Indonesian pulled oxtail, local celery and a beef jus. The Indonesian classic Opor Ayam – a white curry chicken – is deconstructed with a tender chicken thigh set on potato with asparagus and tempura bok choy and an ‘opor’ coconut emulsion.
European dining is well executed and includes tender beef, salmon steaks and excellent risotto laced with plump tasty prawn and saffron strings. Cocktails and mocktails are creative and refreshing. Sit down on the open terrace and take in the distant sunset with a popcorn sour – a sweet and sour vodka-based drink or an alcohol-free Jasmine Pear Mood that is a mix of mango, jasmine tea and raspberry. Water is served rather than sold, a personal favourite gesture of hospitality and the resort has 24-hour in-villa dining.
The spa is tasteful, with a large and airy reception with friendly and efficient staff. A stroll into the therapy rooms is an entire change of scene with a hallway that is sectioned by velvet-roped curtains with a mirror at the end creating a cool optical illusion. The blue and green aesthetic running through the entire resort continues to lapis blue walls in the spa that surround picture windows that look into a hanging garden with soft light.
Spa treatments start with a foot bathing ritual where toes are soaked in a brass basin full of warm water, frangipani petals are added to the mix plus drops of peppermint essential oil. Toes are gently rubbed with fresh lime and scrubbed with salt then towel dried. The spa menu offers various massages including the two-hour Chakra massage with a traditional Ayurveda Shirodhara where warm coconut oil is poured on the forehead and hair through a beautiful copper vessel. The spa offers beauty treatments including facials and maintenance such as manicure and pedicures.
The resort also has a jungle view gym beside a central 17-metre pool shared by guests – it is a little more heated than the private pools but like the villa pools, it is lit up with dramatic blue lights at night creating a dreamy scene. It is the perfect place for a quiet spot of stretching, a yoga session or hitting the machines. Save the meditation for the villa deck that overlooks the dense tropical forest.
Samsara Ubud has a daily traditional Balinese afternoon tea showcasing the finest local teas and fresh cakes. Three times a week an outdoor cinema is created with beanbags on a grassy lawn and large portable screen. Cultural walking trips through the local villages are a wonderful lesson in Balinese religion and daily life.
With it’s remote location and delightful serenity, Samsara Ubud creates a special place that is a holiday within a holiday and a must-do for romantics and nature lovers.