Thursday, April 3, 2008

Green and serene in Bali

SMALL bats swoop beneath the eaves of our thatched living pavilion as butler Wiwied lights candles strung from a twisted frangipani tree.

A fire has been lit in the stone pit by the swimming pool and, far below, in the jungle ravine, a mountain tributary rushes towards the sacred River Ayung.

This is Sound of Fire, a villa at the heart of the Como Shambhala Estate at Begawan Giri, 20 bumpy minutes by paved road and village track from Bali's hill town of Ubud.

"Sacred place of bliss" is the estate's calling card and, indeed, it is hard to imagine a more serene retreat. A series of contemporary thatched pavilions set among coconut palms and pea-green manicured lawns spill down either side of a jungle ridge high above the river.

A natural spring, revered by locals for healing properties, feeds an elegant water garden, part of designer John Pettigrew's restrained landscaping that deftly melds the cultivated with the untamed forest.

With the opening of a cutting-edge spa and under the guiding hand of savvy Singapore-based hotel entrepreneur Christina Ong, the Como has established itself as one of Asia's leading health retreats, providing bespoke programs in surroundings at one with nature.

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