Rebooting the Mind and Body in Bali’s Highlands
There’s something definitely different about the Central Balinese community of Ubud, a place revered by 9th Century Hindu priests who paused there to meditate and reflect at Campuan – the sacred juncture of two rivers. Equally renowned for its wide range of endemic medicinal herbs and plants and its overall healing atmosphere, Ubud fittingly derives it names from the term Ubad – meaning medicine in ancient Balinese.
Set in the cool highlands of Bali, 200-meters above sea level, and just 30-minutes from the main seaside tourist areas to the south – Ubud has its own distinct mojo that has long proven irresistible to natives and visitors alike. In the early 1930s, a cousin of an American President sharing the same surname, André Roosevelt, released a film made on the Island titled Goona-Goona that is credited with starting a worldwide craze for all things Balinese. That craze for Bali style and culture continues to this day as a record number of visitors continue to come to re-discover that “Old Black Magic” of Bali celebrated in film and song.
The lure of Bali has long drawn the world’s glitterati to Bali’s shores. Among the artists and famous of an earlier era who paused in Ubud are numbered Walter Spies, Ketut Tantri (Muriel Stuart Walker), Willem Hofker, Rudolf Bonnet, Arie Smit, Charlie Chaplin, Noel Conrad, Barbara Hutton, H.G. Wells, Vicki Baum and Colin McPhee. In more recent times, a survey of an Ubud restaurant or coffee shop could have revealed Barack Obama, Julia Roberts, Mick Jagger, Barbara Streisand, Donna Karyn or any of a number of music and film industry stars casually sipping a latte.
Following on from the natural magnetism of the area that still colors daily life, the 106 villas and suites of the Visesa Ubud exudes the many charms and healing ambient of Ubud from its generous 6.5-hectare site. Only 2.2 kilometers from Ubud’s city center and a further 100-meter higher at 300-meters above sea level, the Resort seeks to retain Ubud’s reputation as a place to reboot the mind, spirit and body for an entire new generation of Bali visitors.
To the Balinese, art is simple perfection in the execution of everyday activities – the essence of which is, in turn, presented as a humble offering to the Gods. Accordingly, on an Island where remarkably talented dancers, carvers, musicians, painters and women making intricate temple offerings see themselves as unremarkable students, farmers, shopkeepers and housewives – the Visesa strives to celebrate Balinese art and culture in the same understated way. Service and duties are undertaken with a grace born from a shared understanding that the God’s demand nothing less than mindfulness in all things.
This mindfulness and attention to detail can be seen in every corner of the Resort. Guest standing in the Resort’s lobby can be forgiven being mesmerized by a lobby façade hand-carved from volcanic sandstone; a sacred lion-like barong standing at the lobby’s center who is “fed” with offerings on a daily basis; and an extensive gallery of collectable art derived from the many schools-of-art that emanate from this part of Bali.
At its core, the Visesa Ubud is about refreshing the mind and body by making each guest feel like he or she has been reborn as a member of a traditional Balinese community. At the Visesa strangers are quickly made friends by team member who take turns leading guests on tours that reveal the many hidden treasure of life on the “Island of the Gods.”
The Visesa Ubud is first and foremost about caring and sharing, the same traits encountered by anyone who has been privileged to be welcomed as a guest into any Balinese household. Where else but in Bali can a guest be invited to participate in a traditional “melukat” blessing ceremony; invited to bathe at a sacred purifying spring; join a bimonthly Kajen Kliwon ceremony at a community temple; consult with an in-house traditional Balian healer; get massaged into blissful relaxation in a candlelit cave; be dressed in Royal Balinese garments for the holiday photo of a lifetime; receive a facial and neck massage while you sitting submerged at the edge of a swimming pool; or join a tour of the Resort and the surrounding villages while riding on an antique bicycle?
Expect to be overwhelmed with attention and growing familial affection when staying at the Visesa Resort – referred to as “Desa Visesa” or “the Village of Visesa” by those living in the surrounding community. Listen with rapt attention as your waiter hand grinds and shares a recipe for a delicious “sambal” while you enjoy a rice-padi side meal at “Warung Sawah.” Be invited on a garden tour by the Resort’s Chef who will explain a treasure-trove of herbs and spices growing in a space he calls his “living kitchen.” Join the in giggles and local gossip as you sit in a garden pavilion with local women preparing a towering “gebongan” offering of fruits and flowers for a coming festival. Limber up at a Balinese dance lesson or a daily yoga session. And, trade smiles, waves and shouted greetings with the locals during a leisurely walking tour of a local village.
Enjoying pride-of-place at the Visesa Ubud is its large and working permaculture garden that champions sustainability by growing organic produce that guests can enjoy in “Warung Tani” – a dining area surrounded by the Resort’s farming gardens. As a permaculture project, the Resort’s gardens represent a skillful combination and rotation of plants that naturally repel pests without the use of herbicides and pesticides, and promotes crop rotations that naturally maintain the rich fertility of the Balinese soil. No less important to the success of the Resort’s permaculture gardens is strict adherence to the Balinese Calendar that dictates the most auspicious dates for both the planting and harvesting of each agricultural crop. Serious gardeners or aspiring agriculturalist are invited to sign up for a detailed training program in permaculture of one, two or five days’ duration.
Healing, health and physical well-being are also what motivates the full range of treatments offered at the Visesa Spa. Treatments provided by the Spa are inspired by ancient Ayurvedic use of medicinal plants, herbs and spices; and a careful balance between the natural (Sekala) and spiritual (Niskala) world through the careful balancing of the five basic elements – fire, earth, water, air and space. Also located at the Spa area is a well-quipped gymnasium located in an attractive open-air pavilion surrounded by a verdant rice field and a refreshment area with a complete menu of Indonesian-inspired detoxifying juices and elixirs. While waiting for a pampering session of therapies, guests can chat with one of the resident Balian traditional healers who will ascertain your birth date as it falls on the traditional Balinese calendar and identify the ways in which that date continues to influence your daily existence.
While the hotel provides a complimentary shuttle service to central Ubud’s wide range of excellent dining and shopping venues, guest wishing to stay closer to their new “home” will be spoiled with choices of where to and what to eat while stating at Visesa Ubud. With a steadfast commitment on using only the freshest and finest quality ingredients the Resort offers organic fare in the Lesung Restaurant located to the Main Lobby; an uniquely Balinese “Megibung” communal meal in a series of bamboo dining pavilions perched on the very edge of a working padi field; the chance to dine under the Resort’s entrance bridge at the Puri & Lumbung Restaurant with a meal prepared by Indonesia’s leading celebrity chef; the experience of dining and watching a tropical garden grow at the “Warung Tani” with food prepared on the spot from a traditional Paon – Balinese kitchen; or the enjoyment of an Indonesian high tea of fine local coffees and teas accompanied by traditional sweets and canapés.
Pampered, rejuvenated and refreshed – clearly, the worst part of a Visesa Ubud stay is checking out at the end of your stay. But leaving “home” is never easy, and only made bearable in the certain knowledge that home always awaits your return; ready to reboot your mind and body on each return visit.