"Have you been to Ubud?" is a question a visitor is often asked by the Balinese. Ubud is of course known for its spectacular jungles, spirituality, artists and in the last 9 years, it has become a hot zone for tourists from the book Eat, Pray Love. This would be my first time staying in Ubud even in my more than half a dozen trips to Bali. The Samsara is a stunning jungle fringed property in Ubud that offers 1, 2 and 3 bedroom pool villas for families or couples wanting to get away from it all.
Ubud means medicine and for many it cures many ills, be it physical, mental or spiritual. This gorgeous resort nourishes the soul whether it be the gentle, warm staff, to the lushly appointed villas, village walking tours to the delectable food on offer.
Dear Reader, I wasn't in the best frame of mind before embarking on this trip. I was very stressed and I was certain that my body was made up of a ball of knots. I was in short, the perfect candidate for a stay in Bali and its gentle, seductively therapeutic ways.
The Samsara is located around 2 hours away from Ngurah Rai airport. Samsara's staff offers us a range of snacks (freshly baked madeleines, Oreo balls and nut crackers) as well as cooling towels and water for the ride. The car rocks me to sleep and I barely register my villa when I shower and fall into bed purposely avoiding looking at the time.
The next morning I peel back the curtains. The pool outside shimmers turquoise and there's the sound of chickens crowing in the distance. I've slept wonderfully.
Every night they lay slippers on each side of the bed and a little surprise. This past evening it's two traditional "pis bolong" coin pendants to wear with a hand written note from our butler. The next night it is a fan, the other a delicate woven Tridatu bracelet and a rock with my name in Balinese script.
The bathroom is spacious with a free standing bath, twin sinks as well as one of my favourite features: an outdoor shower. There's also a large walk in robe with plenty of space for garments.
Breakfast is an indulgent experience. I make my way to the main building to the Kelusa restaurant, named after the village that the Samsara is located in. The restaurant looks out onto high jungle below - the land is all leased out so that they cannot be built out or the view obstructed by anything apart from trees.
Guests can choose as much as they would like from the menu that is divided into four sections: healthy and light, power breakfast, bread and toast and traditional delights. We share a range of goodies from each section.
The Samsara Lobster and Egg is their signature breakfast and is a slice of rye topped with wilted spinach, kecicang or torch ginger and half a river lobster and curried coconut hollandise. The also have their own brand of coffee called Kintamani.
The Burrito Egg is a favourite with everyone. It's scrambled eggs encased in a tortilla wrap with tomato fondue and melted mozzarella. Thankfully most things are in a neat portion size so you can easily make your way around the menu.
For something a bit more traditional we try the Kweitau, medium flat rice noodles with vegetables, chilli, crisp bacon and pork sausage.
The French toast is also delightful the toast sandwiched with berries from the Bedugul region, pickled snakefruit and a dab of mascarpone cheese and a pat of cinnamon butter.
Samsara's Chakra Spa calls us next and I am booked in for a traditional 1 hour Balinese massage. I choose the oil type that appeals to me the most, a heady seductive mixture of ylang ylang and jasmine and follow my therapist Ayu to the treatment rooms.
The beautifully appointed treatment rooms are decked out in soothing blues with lovely robes, a free standing tub, shower and bowls ready for me to slip my feet into. Ayu starts with salts, peppermint oil and before long my legs are tingling. I slide into the bed and she performs a wonderful massage with just the right intensity to it.
It's one of those massages that you know is going to end but you hope that if you shut your eyes tight enough, it just won't. Back in the waiting area a sip of the apple and cinnamon brew helps bring me back to earth, albeit an altered state where there are no worries on earth.
A lazy dip in the pool turned hours into minutes and before we know it, we are expected at The Kelusa for lunch.
This is one of the most creative ways I've ever been served Gado Gado. The vegetables are wrapped in a blanched leaf and served with tempe crumble, citrus peanut, quail egg and spiced melinjo, a native leaf commonly used in Indonesian cuisine. It's as pretty as it is tasty.
The menu has an Italian Indonesian bent and the lamb sugo is gorgeously hearty with plump lemongrass chilli gnocchi, the softest lamb curry "Gulai", semi dried cherry tomatoes and gremolata. It's a very generous size too but it's so delicious you might be tempted to finish it all.
Although I'm quite full I steal some spoonfuls of the chocolate mousse that is delicious with a panna cotta texture to it and layers of white and milk chocolate mousse.
That afternoon we don trainers to take the village walk, a scenic walk through rice paddies to glimpse the life of rice farmers and their families. It's a 2 hour walk, roughly 5kms in length but the late afternoon dampens the harsh sun and a cool breeze gently coaxes us along.
The Samsara's guides explain the process of rice farming-the Balinese have their own rice that takes triple the length of time to grow but the taste is said to be wonderful. It is only available at a few restaurants. They point out some rice that is almost ready to be harvested. "Look up," they say and a tree is replete with flowers-they're durian flowers.
People take their scythe to cut elephant grass-these will be given to the many cows that we see along the walk, some with tiny newborns. People pass us on these roads on motorbikes, waving. Soon after 5pm women emerge carrying baskets on their heads in beautiful clothes. These are ceremonial offerings.
The clever irrigation system for the rice paddies are also used by families for their night-time bathing ritual. They stand in the waterways bathing each evening, mother, father and child. Some scrub clothes, they laugh and giggle.
Three men are getting a haircut on the side of the road with one of the men perched on a red metal chair. A dance troupe of young girls practice Balinese dancing giggling at our interest.
We return back to the Samsara, appetites reinvigorated, minds clear and legs aching. It's time for dinner. Chef Iwan Sutrisno at The Kelusa blends Indonesian and Italian food with items like betutu cannelloni.
This is made with betutu chicken, a charcoal cooked chicken stuffed inside cannelloni with tomato, burnt mozzarella and a chilli lemongrass sauce that is delicious. The betutu loses none of its original identity yet seems at home in pasta.
The buntut strozzapreti is similar fusion offering, playing on the popular Sop Buntut or oxtail soup. Here the soup is reduced and served with hand rolled strozzapreti pasta with grana padano and local celery. Just toss in the sauces and eat.
Dessert is a creme brulee with a gorgeous anise brulee with a light toffee crust, caramelised mini pears and cream.
The night isn't done yet. Every second night here, they have a complimentary Moonlight Cinema at the lower gardens near the pool. Lights decorate the immaculate lawn area while mats and beanbags are provided for guests.
We snack on popcorn and sip on wine while we wait for the movie to start. As if by magic, coincidence or planning, the movie is none other than Eat, Pray, Love.
So tell me Dear Reader, did you enjoy Eat, Pray Love? Is there a place that you would consider your spiritual home and why?
NQN stayed as a guest of Samsara but all opinions remain her own.
Br. Ayah - Desa Kelusa Payangan, Keliki, Tegallalang, Gianyar, Bali 80572, Indonesia
Phone: +62 361 2091769