On the banks of the Ayung river, bounded on one side by an ancient nutmeg forest and on the other by the village of Mambal, lies Fivelements Retreat Bali, a luxurious eco-sanctuary that puts the glam into bamboo. This is the perfect place to get healthy and go back to nature in comfort and style.
The retreat consists of a collection of thatched bamboo buildings with soaring cathedral ceilings connected by stepping-stone paths between gardens and small stone bridges traversing streamlets. Although the resort is not large and is frequently booked out, it often feels as if you are the only guest.
Near the entrance is a healing circle with magnetic stones. Hold a piece of gold on a chain over the rock in the centre and eerily it starts to rotate. Beyond it is a sacred space where healing rituals are performed. If you want to give up an unhealthy habit or get over a toxic relationship, Fivelements has a ritual to help. I don’t have any particular vices that I am prepared to part with, but I decide to have a water blessing.
First, however, I have a flower bath. Each of the nine suites at Fivelements faces onto the river with its own private outdoor bath perched beside the river. Shortly after I reach mine, a charming young woman arrives with bowls of flowers. She kneels down and throws handfuls of petals into the water until a thick blanket of red, pink and purple hibiscus petals and frangipani completely cover the surface of the deep, smooth sunken stone tub. A floral oil with ylang ylang notes scents the water.
After she leaves, I don’t need to close the sliding bamboo screens because the veranda is completely private. As I sink beneath the blanket of flowers all I can hear is the rustling canopy of the forest, the burbling river and chirping birds. Sunlight dapples the white curtains that frame the river and the forest beyond. It’s a heavenly moment that I want to last forever, or at least until the water starts to cool. At the side of the tub is pot of ginger tea to sip while I reflect that life doesn’t get much more blissful than this.
The young woman returns to help me dress in a sarong and sash over my swimmers for the twilight water blessing ceremony. This sacred Balinese ritual promises to cleanse body, mind and spirit, washing away negative energy. The retreat is about half an hour south of Ubud and an hour north of Denpasar, although it takes longer when the traffic is congested. When I arrived at the end of a hot, bumpy trip the water blessing was very appealing. After the fabulous flower bath however, I’m not so sure I need any more purification, especially as the temperature is falling as fast as the sinking sun.
My top tip would be to choose your ritual element according to the elements, as it were. Fire purifies through transformation and after a series of prayers and meditation you throw various things into the blaze; rice, lentils, petals, a list of the toxic things — or people— you want to leave behind.
A fire blessing starts to seem very attractive in the cool of the evening, although it would no doubt be ‘character-forming’ in the scorching summer sun. It is too late however to change my mind. I go to the sacred space with a temple priest — a young man dressed from head to toe in white. We sit cross-legged on mats as he prepares the holy water by burning incense, chanting Sanskrit mantras, ringing Balinese bells and tossing flower petals into the silver urn. It takes about 40 minutes and it is almost pitch black when he has finished.
The moment of truth arrives. I hope against hope that he will simply bless me with a few drops of water sprinkled on my head. No such luck. While I stand shivering in the chilly gloom, he slowly pours the sacred water and flower petals all over me, one cup at a time. By the time he has finished my teeth are chattering but I am laughing. I don’t know whether it is a blessing or a curse, but I do feel remarkably light and happy.
I make my way back to my ‘glamboo’ villa with its romantic canopy over the bed, mood lighting and music at the touch of an iPad. After a welcome hot shower in the outdoor bathroom, I head off to dinner with general manager John Nielsen, a cosmopolitan Dane, who calls Melbourne home.
The plant-based cuisine is so beautifully presented and tasty that you hardly notice that it is vegan or that there is no alcohol served. Dishes include a superfood salad with organics greens, avocado, tamarillo, ginger-cacao cashews, noni and spirulina chips, dumplings stuffed with shiitake mushrooms, miso dashi, spinach, radish and spring onions and spicy avocado nori rolls with jicama ‘rice’, lapsang smoked tempeh, sesame chilli sauce, pickled vegetables and teriyaki source. There is an equally tempting dessert plate with raw and wild chocolates and truffles, coconut panna cotta, mocha semifreddo and coconut lime cheesecake with ginger sorbet, dragon fruit and flowers.
I wake up just in time for an early morning yoga class with Mardi Kendall, a former teacher to Hollywood celebrities such as Russell Crowe and Danielle Spencer. She’s a wonderful instructor, able to teach people of all different levels. Afterwards I eat a breakfast of superfoods and admire the golden koi swimming in the pool in front of the restaurant.
My last treat is a two-hour Sakti ritual which starts in the spa. My beautiful therapist gives me a foot bath and before the deep muscle body massage she places her hands on mine and intones a short mantra to synchronise our energy. It has a remarkable effect and she gives me the best massage I’ve ever had followed by a crystal sea salt exfoliation infused with holy basil and lemongrass. The ritual concludes in my sunken tub in a bath filled with lemongrass stalks, Balinese orange and lime, pandan leaves and ginger. It smells divine and as I soak in it feeling replenished with regenerative Sakti energy, I hope there isn’t a cannibal in the wings waiting to sup on me! Happily, there isn’t but sadly it is time to leave this little garden of earthly delights and head back into the real world.
Rebecca Weisser stayed as a guest of Fivelements Bali. For further information visit www.fivelements.com.
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