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Raffles Bali - The Wellness Retreat At Raffles Bali Was A Vacation From My Vacation By FORBES
July 7th 2023

The Wellness Retreat At Raffles Bali Was A Vacation From My Vacation By FORBES

Bianca Salonga, Contributor 

Bali is the kind of summer destination that will appeal to any kind of traveler–the adventure seeker, wellness nomad, beach comber, food connoisseurs, party people, or even culture vultures. There is something for everyone in Bali, and each visit to this mystical island always promises a different experience. The first time I visited the Island of the Gods took me to the mega beach clubs, cool conceptual restaurants, and chic shops around Seminyak and Canggu.

A pandemic and several wellness pivots later, I was back on a plane to the right of Java to seek solace, reconnect with self, and return to a state of balance. During a two-week holiday in Bali, the general plan was to disconnect from emails, deadlines, social media, and incessant requests for Zoom meetings. Wellness and undisturbed rest were the only items on the itinerary. And a Five Senses of Wellness Retreat at Raffles Bali proved the ideal way to cap off this soul-enriching holiday.

After exploring less traveled parts of the northeastern coast, the last leg of the trip led south to the bustling streets of Jimbaran. Inside Raffles Bali’s 23-hectare property, a winding road lined with trees revealed a hidden oasis right at the heart of a lush tropical valley. The car pulled up into the main lobby just in time to catch a spectacular sunset over Jimbaran Bay and a refreshing drink from the conic Writer’s Bar. I was joined by Raffles Bali General Manager Katya Herting and Marketing Director Irma Farida who gave an overview of the sprawling property.

Undisturbed Rest, Privacy, and Unrivaled Privacy in Bali

With only 32 villas spread throughout the sprawling property, Raffles Bali offers guests unparalleled privacy and peace. Every villa is configured such that you are embraced by nature’s soothing sounds, smells, and colors. “You are in nature, but also surrounded by luxurious comforts,” details Katya. Only a few minutes away from the busier parts of the island, Raffles Bali is all at once removed yet accessible. “It’s a breath of fresh air from all the activity outside of the property,” noted Irma. Immediately, I decided that the next few days would be classified in my box of core memories as the best vacation from my vacation.

Tropical Delights Inside Raffles Bali’s Hilltop Villa

Even before arriving, my wellness butler Pinky, had already been coordinating every detail of my stay—daily activities, food restrictions, special meals, and spa treatments. After my sunset drink and chat, it was time to finally put a face to all those text messages. Pinky’s introduction came with a warm smile. She led me to the buggy and drove me to a Hilltop Villa, my tropical home for the next few days.

“Many of our regular guests love the Hilltop Pool Villa,” she began. “It offers the most beautiful views of both the ocean and the mountain.” As she unlocked the Balinese split gateway, I was welcomed by a pocket garden peppered with fragrant frangipani. Inside, a spacious room done in modern tropical style hinted that I would be getting the best sleep of my life. Glass sliding doors opened up to a private infinity pool that seemed to flow into the ocean. To the left stood a gazebo with a daybed that appeared to float over lush tropical mountains.

In true Raffles style, the villa was well appointed with all the amenities that a luxury traveler could ever dream. A full drawer of premium, sustainably-made oils, bath salts, soaps, creams, mist and cleansers mirrored the hotel’s dedication to details. There were yoga mays, leather strap beach slippers, and even picnic totes stored inside the walk-in closet. The welcome spread laid out in the mini dining area featured local flavors known to heal. Young yellow coconut juice (Nyuh Gading) went well with an assortment of dried fruit and vegetables dipped in sambal.

Essential Oil Blends, bottled Jamu (a traditional Balinese herbal drink), and an entire playlist of mediation music were thoughtfully placed on each side of the bed. “After your dinner tonight, you will return here for your first sleeping ritual,” explained Pinky. “For now, please enjoy your villa.” I asked Pinky to return at 7PM for a gastronomic adventure at Raffles’ progressive fine dining restaurant, Rumari.

Degustation Dinner, Bedtime Stories, and Sleeping Rituals

Rumari’s Degustation Dinner is also known as the Five Steps Journey. If not for the wellness retreat, the food here is just as good a reason to book your next Balinese escapade at Raffles.

The gastronomic experience at Rumari takes senses through various parts of the island through fresh, local, organic ingredients. Dishes on the tasting menu reimagine Southeast Asia cuisine for modern palates. The breakfast spread is just as impressive with specialty dishes like Jimbaran Bay Lobster Omellet, Tuna Poke, and refreshing WellBeing Elixirs.

Many wellness retreats that I’ve been to tend to focus on restrictive diets that make one feel deprived. Bespoke journeys at Raffles Bali, however, emphasize the joys of awakening the senses in a balanced, sustainable way. That evening, my taste buds went on an adventure that coasted from one part of the island to another. The last stop: back to my villa for my first signature sleeping ritual.

“Our sleeping ritual elevates our guests’ experience of the usual turndown,” explained Pinky. As I returned to my villa, lights had been dimmed. A warm pot of rosella pandan tea had been placed on the dining table along with a delicate coconut and palm sugar crepe. A warm bath had also been drawn to ease muscles from that long day on the road. “I suggest you pour a few drops of the pure essential oil on your bath,” said Pinky. Diffusers inside the room also filled the space with soothing botanical aromas. On the bed, lay a bedtime story about Idul Fitri Celebrations. There was an option to play ambient music, but the ritual had already done the job of whisking me off to dreamland.

Discovering The Joys And Wellness Benefits Of Journaling

I was up extra early the next day. On the itinerary read: “Morning journal followed by tai chi on a secluded beach.” Although a writer by profession, it had been a while since I used pages of a notebook to put down my thoughts and private musings. For years, it had always been about writing to report a story, or meet a client’s copy requirements. A leather bound journal had been provided by Raffles Bali for this activity. I brought it out to the gazebo along with a pen and my morning brew. There was no room on that floating daybed for doom scrolling, responding to follow up emails or texts. Instead, and for the first time, I let my thoughts pour onto the pages–random thoughts, little aha moments, lists of things ring in gratitude.

By the time I had gone through two pages, I was filled by a deep sense of clarity and focused calm. I was ready for that day, and did not feel the need to rush or get swept away by all the noise from the outside world. In an article written by Kira M. Newman for Berkeley University’s Greater Good Magazine, it was reported that: “According to research, journaling may help ease our distress when we’re struggling. In a 2006 study, nearly 100 young adults were asked to spend 15 minutes journaling…The people who journaled saw the biggest reduction in symptoms like depression, anxiety, and hostility.”

Connecting with Nature, Movement, and Stillness

Wellness activities at Raffles Bali are made extraordinary because of the remarkable locations where they are held. But more than that, they are designed in such a way that guests can bring a piece of wisdom back to their busy lives. Tai Chi on a secluded beach painted the perfect picture of a serene morning. This time-honored form of moving mediation also proved more difficult than it looked. It demanded complete focus and hyper concentration, but that morning’s exercise also helped to enhance self awareness and overall calm. Other mindful practices held at the Raffles Bali include yoga and meditation classes held in cave.

There was also time in the itinerary to indulge in spa treatments at Raffles Spa. After tai chi, I headed to a private Sanctuary for a revitalizing signature massage. The Sanctuary is an iconic treatment suite perched on the edge of a tropical hill. It resembled a luxurious Safari tent, but with bird’s eye views of Jimbaran Bay and lush greenery. Soothing strokes that kneaded away tired muscles and tensed limbs were accompanied by sounds of nature. The two-hour sensorial experience felt too short a time to enjoy the space. My therapist, who had expertly gone through an entire ritual that included a foot bath, sound healing, and finally, a massage, shared that, “The best times to schedule a treatment here are early in morning or just in time to catch the sunset.” Massages in The Sanctuary are, in themselves, reasons to keep returning to Raffles Bali.

Outdoor activities that inspired new connection with nature included a breakfast picnic on the beach lawn, and a romantic dinner on the Purnama Bale. The delightful breakfast spread offered not just a full menu of fresh, hearty and healthy fare. It also allowed for a few quiet moments sitting under the sun and taking in the beautiful view of the ocean.

Pinky suggested that I head out to Purnama Bale for dinner just before sunset. Just as I walked towards the water’s edge where dinner was held, the sky began to display a kaleidoscope of colors–purple, red, orange, blush. In between artfully plated servings of the freshest catch, the dark evening sky sparkled with tail lights from planes landing across the bay. It was a special, almost cinematic sight, that had me thinking about my trip back home the next day.

Soul Healing Through Water and Fire Ceremonies

My last full day at Raffles Bali was dedicated to cleansing, letting go, and healing. Ancient cultural ceremonies make up the Five Senses of Wellness experience. Apart from immersing guests in Bali’s rich tradition of spirituality, it also lends transformative wisdom that will empower one as they return to the real world.

After a leisurely morning and lunch, I returned to the Raffles Spa for a Reiki Healing session with Made Warmana. Also known as the “rainman” among staff in the property, the healer has the gift of influencing the weather. On a day that had me feeling slightly sad about having to leave paradise, he rang extra doses of sunshine. His reiki healing techniques utilizes asanas to clear away blockages and bad energy. During my session, all I had to do was lay back, relax and let the “rainman” wash away all the bad juju. Feeling extra light after the energy cleanse, Made Warmana left me with wisdom that I continue to embrace: “Reiki is all about balance. A little rest, a little work. Receive, but also know when you give. When there is imbalance, that’s when the Universe steps in. We get sick. Something gets lost or taken away from us.”

My wellness butler, who had by then become a friend, drove me to the temple inside the Raffles Bali property for a Soul Blessing Ceremony. She had packed a sarong, and a fresh change of clothes for me in preparation for an ancient Balinese experience that would cleanse and rejuvenate the soul and senses. Going through the many motions of this time-honored ritual was reminder that regardless of what each day brings, there is always room to slow down. The ceremony commenced with a water blessing and tying of a white string on the right wrist.

The Fire Ceremony, held at sunset along the beach was a powerful way to close out a wellness journey at Raffles Bali. A bonfire was ablaze when I walked towards the medicine woman who was to officiate the ritual. She embraced me immediately and whispered: “Time to let it all go. Bali Momma is here, it’s okay to let go.” Still unsure of the hows and whys, tears of relief began to well up in the eyes. Bali Momma led me closer to the fire, prompting me to find a comfortable seat. We spoke like two souls who had known each other for a lifetime. Just as it was time for me to write down all that I was ready to release and forgive, the fire danced more fiercely against the ocean breeze. “Now, my child, give it all to the fire. Let it all go.”

The two week holiday had finally come to a close. I was grateful to have had the chance to carve out time for a vacation—and a vacation from my vacation. A part of me hoped that I could stay longer. Just time same, the rest, restoration, and healing from the Wellness Retreat at Raffles Bali rekindled a desire to get back to work and live out life’s purpose. On the last day at Raffles Bali, I slowly made my way back to emails, work calls, and deadlines. And because i had given myself that chance to have a vacation from my vacation, every task and call from the real world was greeted with kindness, gratitude, compassion, and good energy from the Island of the Gods.


Repost from FORBES