Where magic happens

A wellness retreat combining rest, rebalancing and relaxation with Balinese beauty and tranquility.

Words and photography Serena Stevenson

We all need to escape from our daily lives to recharge our batteries from time to time, and with this in mind, two years ago my friend Claire launched her holistic health business renewu.nz. As well as reiki treatments and meditation sessions, one of the services Claire offers is to take women from New Zealand to an exotic place to reconnect with themselves, away from their hectic lives. The six-day wellness retreat trips are for women aged 25-65 and the exotic place Claire takes them to is the magical Ubud, Bali.

I joined Claire and six other women on her latest trip to Ubud, Bali in October 2016.

I was excited to experience a retreat trip that offered meditation sessions and a focus on wellness, as well as shopping, sightseeing, and fine dining. Bali offers layers of culture, food, shopping and landscape, carrying you on an adventure with every turn. Renewu’s Bali Bliss Trip holds all of these elements together, in luxury and style to boot.

From the moment our personal driver picked us up to take us to our private villa specially selected for the trip by Claire, we were transported by Bali’s magic – the exotic scent of flowers, the keen heat and the prettiness of the roadside rice fields. Villa Kanti is situated on the edge of a small quiet Balinese village, located near Mas, Ubud Bali, which is known as the wood carving village. It is 15 minutes’ drive from Ubud, and 55 minutes’ drive from Bali International Airport.

Tanah Lot Temple, 20km from Denpasar, is one of Bali’s most important landmarks, famed for its unique offshore setting and sunset backdrops. 

The following morning, waking to the sound of the Ubud jungle gave me that instant feeling of retreat. First up on our itinerary was our morning meditation session. The daily sessions were held in a covered area above a river, and on the short walk to these sessions we would pass an open-air dining pavilion and an infinity pool which cascaded down into a tropical garden.

With each morning session Claire would guide us through gently waking, being present and listening to our surroundings, and our inner hearts. Beautiful.

If we didn’t feel like meditating we could choose to stay back at the villa and relax by the pool – whichever we chose, this was always followed by a fresh, hearty breakfast, including coffee if we liked. Swim fresh, with bellies full of sweet melon and our cameras at the ready, we would then set off for the day with our humble and polite driver.

Bungalow living is full of delicious surprises (bungalowlivingbali.com)

Our first sightseeing visit was to the Tegalalang Rice Terraces, famous for their beautiful rice paddies that use the subak (a traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system). The walk through these enchanting almost fluorescent green terraces took us to a quaint cafe for a light beverage. After lunch we shopped in the Ubud Palace district for handmade designer home wares and fashion.

Our second day took us to Jungle Fish, a beach club known as ‘the no beach.. beach club’. Here you can chill out on hammocks and enjoy snacks and cocktails throughout the day. There’s swimming amidst the lush jungle, an open-air split restaurant and pool bar perched on the side of a ridge overlooking the Osh River Valley. The clever cocktails definitely added to the mood. I highly recommend their Jungle Fish Burger, dressed with honey lime mustard. Yum.

While we’re on the topic of food, every eatery we visited impressed us. The innovative menu at the restaurant Sardine in Seminyak is inspired by its organic vegetable garden and locally sourced seafood. Salad bar Cafe Organic Garden Gangstas, also in Seminyak, specialises in ‘supers’ – superfoods, the super smoothie and ‘super-large portions of nutrition’. Cafe Lotus in Ubud overlooks a Lotus pond framed by ancient lowering kamboja (magnolia) trees and orchid plants. The scene is completed with one of Ubud’s main temple complexes, Pura Taman Kemuda Saraswati.

We were able to indulge in massages, pedicures or morning meditation, or sight seeing, beach club hopping and shopping.

We loved the shopping at the Ivy Bali store at Echo Beach, Canggu, which specialises in lifestyle, fashion and homewares. Dressing up in an outfit bought that day from one of the area’s many designer shops to visit the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in the village of Padangtegal or to step out for dinner at Bungalow Living Bali Restaurant in Canggu felt very special. Some of us indulged in massages and pedicures.

On our last day we were given a special blessing by a local priest who chanted mantras in ancient Sanskrit and sprinkled holy water on our faces, anointed our heads with coconut water, and completed the blessing for good fortune and prosperity by placing rice on our foreheads and saying a prayer.

This was a time to come full circle and hold the peace of the experience of the Bali Bliss Retreat Trip when back in the hassle and bustle of life at home.

Claire describes the experience of The Bali Bliss Trip as “like looking at a painting”. “If you stand too close you don’t get the whole picture. You must take a step back to really see what you’re looking at.” A step back from your life at home to reflect with good company, meditation, tranquil settings, shopping, sightseeing and a jolly good cocktail!


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