turning point of mind

The water garden at the Shambhala estate in Como, provided

My three-night stay at COMO Shambhala Estate, an award-winning wellness resort nestled in nature outside Ubud, Bali, was the most complete experience of my Indonesia trip.

I just wrapped up a grueling five-day shoot: 4 am to 8 pm call time, the next day’s “reset” still awaiting me. Every day brings new challenges, from hairstylists who never show up to models who don’t braid (didn’t she get the brief?). My assistant had a flat tire, all his clothes were in his car, and on top of that, the weather was very unpredictable. You know, the shenanigans that often happen when taking pictures. The only thing that keeps me going is the countdown, the seconds before boarding a Virgin Atlantic flight nonstop to Bali and, better yet, experiencing my first wellness retreat.

Bali COMO Shambhala Manor provided
Bali COMO Shambhala Manor provided

I have dreamed of living in COMO Shambhala Estate for many years since it opened in 2005. Colleagues raved about their accommodations and I was almost filming there in 2019, but then the pandemic hit. But it was worth the wait. I’m about to go through my own personal health transformation without being too busy planning fashion shoots. (Not that the idea didn’t cross my mind, because it’s amazing how amazing it was to shoot on this sprawling 9.3 hectares of land, complete with jungle-covered riverbanks, natural springs and waterfalls.) And then there’s the architecture of the estate and cottages : Materials kept inside Balinese tradition using local stone, wood and Arang Arang roof. The design approach is very simple so that guests can clear all thoughts except positive ones.

Bali COMO Shambhala Manor
Uma Bona Residence. Credit: Provided.


I love my villa so much that I can easily never leave my suite. Between the infinity pool and the king size bed, I found my place. The bedposts are covered with a muslin canopy, perfect for repelling mosquitoes, but also for a sense of comfort and tranquility, artfully paired with batik-inspired linens and the soft scent of amber. My suite is designed in warm colors with traditional Balinese hand-carved teak wood furniture and craftwork.

“Am I living in a different time? Perhaps I am the protagonist of a novel by Marguerite Duras lover, The story takes place in colonial Indochina. I decided to wear a white linen maxi dress and a fedora to match the environment. “

With more than 30 rooms, suites and villas, there are 5 uniquely themed residences designed by architect Cheong Yew Kuan, including Tirta-Ening (“Clear Water”), Tejasuara (“Sound of Fire”), Wanakasa (“Forest of Fog”) )) and Uma Bona (“Children of the Earth”). I love relaxing at Bayugita (Sanskrit for “wind song”) and am happy to be surrounded by nature. My infinity pool looked out over the rice fields, and even when it started to rain lightly, the tropical humid air was welcome.

Bali COMO Shambhala Manor
credit: provided


The sprawling estate means you may not see other guests all day. My reclusive nature would normally be happy about this, but I was delighted to see my personal assistant, Katie, pick me up in a buggy and take me to the main area for dinner. Here, I was able to explore the famous cuisine of two restaurants, Glow and Kudus House. I particularly like Kudus House, a 150-year-old Javanese residence. Sunsets are a sight to behold, especially if you’re lucky enough to sit at a corner table overlooking the tropical vista below.

Bali COMO Shambhala Manor
glow. Credit: Provided.
Bali COMO Shambhala Manor
Kudus House. Credit: Provided.

The menu showcases a wide variety of Indonesian flavors and spices. Jukut Rambanan, a delicious, aromatic Balinese soup of greens and coconut, immediately put me in reset mode. Pepes Ikan, totoaba marinated in banana leaves and the Karedok salad of hearts of palm and jicama are also delicious. I’ve made it a point to never eat anything fresh that can’t be peeled, so it’s comforting to hear that these unique ingredients come primarily from the restaurant’s organic vegetable garden.

Kudos House also serves breakfast, which is my favorite meal of the day, especially when you start with medicinal shots of golden jam, turmeric and tamarind. I love seasonal tropical fruit platters, but fresh coconut and flaxseed crepes filled with apples, nuts, maple and coconut cream are in a whole new league.

Como Shambhala prides itself on its extensive menu of juices and smoothies. If fasting and nutrition is your goal, there are plenty of juices and blends to choose from: blood boosters (beetroot, carrot, apple, ginger, turmeric), lean cleansing greens (cucumber, apple, spinach, fennel etc.) or muscle juice Mylk (banana, coconut, almond milk, cocoa, dates, and flaxseed). All of this is literally a meal in itself.

Bali COMO Shambhala Manor
Credit: Provided.


As much as I was eager to de-stress, unwind and explore all that Como Shambhala had to offer, I didn’t set any specific goals for my stay. While many traditional destination spas offer pampering services, COMO Shambhala offers a 360-degree experience tailored to each individual’s needs. Whether you need to restore your mind, body or spirit, there is an optional comprehensive program for you, built around one of four programs: Ayurvedic, Active, Custom or Cleanse.

The original questionnaire was somewhat contradictory. It asked for detailed information about my health, eating and sleeping habits, which were then analyzed by health experts. After one-on-one meetings, I learned that drinking room temperature water is indeed better, avoiding many of my favorite foods including gluten (bread, pasta), alcohol (not surprisingly), and was advised to make time Meditate and massage regularly.

Bali COMO Shambhala Manor
credit: provided

Speaking of massage, when it comes to treatments, I chose Taksu massage. It was a rejuvenating massage, a bit like a cross between a deep tissue massage and a Thai massage, which was ideal for me as I love strong massages.

“I could feel the tension go away, and then a sense of lightness and openness swept over me; it was like diving into the ocean and then surfacing for air with a big smile on my face.”

I loved the personal recommendations my health advisor followed up with, such as herbal remedies, to help keep my mind clear, my energy high, and my sleep. They also suggested some good recipes for plant-based dishes, since I had expressed my desire to eat less meat.

There are over 13 treatment rooms, an outdoor hydrotherapy pool, yoga room, Pilates room, steam and sauna rooms, an indoor machine gym and an outdoor jungle gym with a climbing wall. As a yogi, I’m excited to experience our practice in an open air studio, where the rustling of the trees only adds to the rhythm of our chanting.

Bali COMO Shambhala Manor
Kendara Water Gardens. Credit: Provided.

We took a nature walk to the water garden (a bit more vertical than I thought!), but the stoned sidewalks meant there was very little chance of slipping and falling. Later I found out that there are more than 2,200 stone steps on the hillside. You’ll be rewarded with swimming and healing rituals in the ancient spring-water pool known as “The Source.” Although the “source” is located within the estate, the holy water belongs to the Balinese people, and special paths are reserved for Hindu villagers to fetch water for sacred ceremonies, which we also experienced with invited priests.

After the ceremony, under the shade of the tropical trees and with the view of the waterfall, we enjoyed a very relaxed Kendala picnic lunch, a delicious feast of fresh salads, wraps and dips, Arrived in a woven basket. I saw red dragonflies flitting across the water below us. Honestly, it was here that I started to feel nourished from the inside out.

Bali COMO Shambhala Manor
Kendala snacks in a picnic provided

For those looking for more cultural adventure, there is the option of walking or cycling to nearby rice fields, villages and temples. For me, my current peace of mind means that I am content to live in this vast oasis. Surely the three days can be extended? Hopefully my stamp of happiness will follow me home. Otherwise, you always have the option to return to COMO Shambhala.

Bali COMO Shambhala Manor
credit: provided

reach there

During peak travel periods, Virgin Australia operates two return flights per week from Melbourne and daily return flights to Denpasar (Bali) from Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and the Gold Coast. The return fare is $608 in economy class and $1983 in business class. All Virgin Australia fares include Velocity frequent flyer points and benefits.

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