Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bali Honeymoon, p3 - Pertiwi Resort & Spa, Ubud

We arrived at Pertiwi Resort at Ubud.  We originally had booked in Warwick Ibah, which we cancelled because Ubud itself was removed from our itinerary. Because of my toothache, we were forced to stay in Ubud and we chose Pertiwi over Cendana, mostly because of the location and the price. Pertiwi was fine, but not without faults.


The reception seemed busy, as there were quite a few people waiting to be checked in. The waiting lounge had some tourist brochures, and we browsed there for nearly 15 minutes before some one was free to check us in. An assistant helped us with our luggage and we walked for a couple of minutes to the back of the resort to our room. 

The stairs that took us down to our cottage

Our room turned out to be the ground floor of a cottage. It was a basic hotel-style layout - one room with an attached bathroom. Size was adequate but the window opened to the stairs in the above picture... everyone who had their rooms in this part of the resort will be walking by our window, and it was not soundproof! I would have been seriously annoyed if I was planning to stay inside the room but since I was in Ubud mainly for treating my toothache and, as a side, to find some artwork for hubby's work (he is an architect), I let it go.

Our cottage

The room had all the necessary amenities like TV, airconditioned, a full equipped fridge etc etc., but it did not have a lock on the door! OMG... we were expected to trust the hotel and just close the door... a serious leap of faith! Luckily the costliest item in our luggage was my hubby's MacAir so we just carried it when we went outself... since we stayed in Ubud for only a night, we were not too bothered by this, but people staying longer at Pertiwi should make sure they don't get this room.

Also, the wifi did not work... or rather, the wifi from the main lounge was too far to be accessed by those staying in the back. I think most Balinese resorts have this problem.

All said, the view from the room was restfull... a chair in the front porch and a book in the hand is the way to go! 

Before going out to find a dentist, we decided to have a short stroll around the resort. The whole resort has been beautifully landscaped. We found this pretty creek, down our cottage. 

We then left the resort and strolled down the football field. We found Gayathri cafe just after the field, and decided to have our tea there. It was okay for the prices and the ambience was nice, but the dessert - banana and cocnut mousse - seriously spoiled the experience.

Cafe Gayathri

Arak Attack!

Pizza for Mahendra

Nasi Campur for me!

Ewwww, do not EVER order this!

Our hunger killed, we walked past Cafe Gayathri and lo behold! I saw a board in english "SriLakshmini Dentistry - upstairs". God has answered my prayers! Up we went to find... a makeshift tent. Inside was the good doctor. I explained my toothache, all the while wondering about a ramshackle clinic on the open terrace. I looked at my my husband, asking for his opinion, and he who googles the credentials of a doctor before going to him, shrugged - it was clear we should just get help from this doctor, whom we found by providence. 

The dentist made me recline on the chair, prodded around (thank god for the arak attack!) which made me emit muffled screams, and after a cursed minute, took out a chicken piece which was the culprit. I was the victim of the classic food particle-lodged-inside-the-cavity tooth poisoning. She wrote me some painkillers and charged me 350,000 rupiah. We thanked her and continued our walk in the opposite direction (towards Pertiwi)

Very near to our resort, we found this store called Ubud music which sold DVDs and gift items. I picked up several inexpensive gift for family and friends. For all my girlfriends, I picked up travel size soaps and mini-size spa baskets (30,000 rupiah each). And of course, lots of DVDs for hubby and his friends.

We then walked a bit more, generally soaking in the night-time mellowness of the town. Most shops were open but you can see that it is not a happening place after 10pm! Feeling tired, we returned back to the room.

No lock!
The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel's restaurant (included in the room rate). The food was a buffet with lots of variety but not really that tasty. I guess my tastebuds are spoiled after the customized service at Villa Patal and the organic fare at Como Shambala :(. Still, it was okay.

In-house restaurant

View to the pool

Late arrival means fewer options!

Fruits and juices

Sausage station

My plate

Eying my hubby's plate

We then went for a walk around Ubud town, this time we took the direction opposite of the football field (towards the monkey forest). It was slightly drizzling, yet humid. We passed through many small cafes, shops and art galleries. I am scared of monkeys, so did not go inside Monkey Forest, but just hung around, looking at the paintings and artifacts on sale.

Roads of Ubud

I wanted to buy this Buddha painting but couldn't because we were travelling light on budget airways...


We also took a look at a few guesthouses and villas on Monkey Forest, to see if we can stay one more day in Ubud. By now, we had realised that Ubud is special and we wanted to stay longer...  There were so many things I wanted to do.... go for a cooking class... see a dance performance... do a walking tour... alas, none of them was possible in a single day, and also because our next day stay was already booked (our entire honeymoon was pre-planned with little flexibility) so ultimately we returned to Pertiwi to start packing.

We packed and got ready to check out. Before that, we went around the resort once again and took some pictures. I did feel a bit sorry for myself. I had read so much about Ubud on the Bali TA forums that I knew I would not be satisfied with just a day - this is why I had planned to stay in Gianyar and never planned to visit Ubud. But my toothache forced me to visit Ubud and now I was feeling short-changed. My sweet husband assures me that we will stay longer in Ubud the next time when we visit Bali :)

Our next destination was Sanur, where we will duplicate a Safari experience!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bali Honeymoon, p2: Como Shambala, Payangan

JBR Part 2 - Como Shambala, Payangan 
Introducing ourselves - A newly-wed couple in their early 30s. Born and brought up in a coastal city in south India, but have travelled widely in the West. I am a writer and my husband is an architect.

This is Part 2 of our 6-part blog on our Bali honeymoon.

Where did we stay?
At Como Shambala estate, Payangan, Bali - one of the best designer eco-resorts in the world.

Wanakasa residence, Como Shambala

How did I find it?Random internet search for design hotels in Bali

How did I book the accommodation?I booked directly with the hotel, and their responses were very prompt and helpful. The official website is

Why this hotel?
My hubby found about Como during the initial honeymoon research, only to moan how much we CANNOT afford it. But their 2-day package sounded like a perfect intro to the place, and after taking an online look at their gorgeous suites and estate grounds, I decided to stay in moderate places in all other hotels during our honeymoon just so that we can afford Como :). 

Day 1 
Juri and Dayu drove us from Villa Patal to Payangan. They had to pass through Ubud to get to Como. As the car drove through Monkey Forest Road, my husband and I looked at each other – we HAVE to come here tomorrow! Juri and Dayu dropped us off at Como and they sounded very impressed with the place. Well, we could only see a modest and minimal reception area, so we were looking forward to exploring more. 

Check in was smooth, service non-intrusive and impeccable. We did have some disappointing information regarding our room preference - while booking the room, we had asked for a terrace suite in the Japanese-themed Tirta Ening residence. But apparently it was not available.

Japanese-inspired Tirta Ening suite

On seeing our crestfallen faces, the receptionist told us that we have been upgraded to the estate suite at Tejasura ("Fire Residence"). We were initially disappointed, but then realised that each Residence at Como was uniquely designed and an experience treasure by itself, so settled down to enjoy our one day here.

Instead, we got the Fire residence - Tejasura

It is at this time that our personal butler Dhika was introduced to us. He was so very pleasant to talk to, it is a great concept to assign a personal butler to each guest. He lead us to our site - a good five minutes' walk from the reception, so good thing we went on a buggy!

The route from reception to our residence

OUR ROOM: The Fire Residence was quite impressive. All the suites in Tejasura residence were set apart from each other by the common area, so there was adequate privacy. The common area had a massive lounge and dining space, and a common pool. The residence had 2 estate suites - we occupied the one on the left.

Entrance to the fire residence

yes that's where they lit the fire every evening
Our suite was set like a luxury treetop hut and overlooked a ravine and Agung river. The interiors were all wood and glass and marble - very posh, like something out of A+D mag. It had three different rooms - a bedroom, a dressing room and the loo, with sunken bath. You exit the indoor loo to enter the open-air shower bale. The dressing room also had a side entry to the bale.

The Fire residence pool

our suite

the bale at the back

The main balcony was off the bedroom, and had a fascinating 180 degree view of the valley below. It was here that we sat for a while after settling in, admiring the view. 

balcony view - left

balcony view - right

The air smelled divine and the sounds of the river were very soothing. There were rice terraces view in a distance, but the immediate views from rooms are all of the jungle :). The wifi, TV, AC everything worked perfectly. Contrary to some reviews, we certainly didn't find any leeches or insects in our room!

We had a short nap because we were quite tired after the long drive from Karangasam. By this time, it was nearly 4pm and we were starving. We decided to eat in-house, as Como is literally in the middle of the woods, and we didn't want to make the trek to Ubud for dinner. Kudos is open only for breakfast, while Glow opened for lunch and dinner. Both had an extensive menu and prompt service.

We had a four-course lunch at Glow, which I personally found great, but my husband didn’t enjoy it that much – because the fare was all super-healthy, non-gluten stuff and his McDonalds-loving tummy wouldn’t have any of it! Jokes apart, it was a great meal. No alcohol, though. 

Path from restaurant to our residence

We then wandered around for some time. It was a pleasure walking through the grounds and admiring the architecture. We got back to our suite and stayed inside, just relaxing. We ordered room service for dinner and ended the day with a nice bath in the sunken bath :)

Day 2
Around 3am, I suddenly woke up with a killer toothache. My right cheek was throbbing and the next two hours was spent in pure pain. I was hesitant to wake up my husband, as I didn’t want to spoil his sleep. So I went online TA forum and posted a query about finding a dentist in/near Ubud. I then had something from the in-house bar and popped a painkiller – I waited this long because as a principle I avoided painkillers – and fell into sleep.

When I awoke again, there was no toothache. Yay! We knew we had the whole day before us, so we were quite lazy today - we sat on the bale this time and admired the valley view, before leaving to breakfast.

Walk from our residence to the restaurant

Kudos House

Kudos house is a renovated Javanese structure, and it served yummy breakfast, from yoghurt crumbles to gourmet omelettes. Since breakfast was included in the room rate, we could order anything from the menu. My husband had the organic, non-gluten builder’s breakfast and I had a salmon omelette with fresh fruit juice. It was a great start to the day.

big breakfast!

preserves from the estate's farm

salmon omelette yum

THE TREK: Since we were feeling so awesome after that breakfast, we decided to do the recommended trek. It was a terrific trek for 2 beginners like us (we had never trekked before and both of us were in bad form, thanks to all the rich food consumed before and during our marriage rituals!).

start of the trek

The steps are all rough-cut and uneven, and not always in the right height - you have to be very careful when doing this trek as it trails up and down and sideways, and is slippery in places.

Still, I would not categorise it as dangerous - if you love nature and not averse to some sweat, you will enjoy it. In the next 2 hours, we discovered the many brooks and waterfalls in the estate, and walked by several resting points - there is even a mini-spa and a pool on the way for you to refresh yourself before proceeding. How thoughtful!
We were a sight though - huffing and puffing through the pathways when seasoned trekkers whizzed past us in a second... we reminded ourselves to hit the gym as soon as we got back home!

The trek is designed in such a way that you start and finish at the same line, but in different end points. Luckily the back entrance to our estate was near the finishing point, and that's where we are the end of our energy too. When walking ahead for a mere 5 more minutes would have taken us to the starting place, we gave up and cheated - we climbed over to the back door of our estate suite and officially quitted the trek.

Ah the bliss to enter our air-conditioned room - thank you Dhika (our butler) for prepping the room with cool air just when we came back!

We started the trek at 11am and finished it by 1pm. Unfortunately my toothache returned - and it was worse than before. It became apparent that I needed medical help, as I could not even reply to my husband's questions. We initially thought of asking for the hotel to call in-house doctor, but what was the point - they would still call somebody from Ubud town and charge us the earth for that. 

We decided that it is best to move to Ubud for this day and seek a dentist there, and may be also stay over in Ubud town one night. The staff at Como Shambala were extremely understanding about this – we had originally booked the 2-day package, but when I said I had to check out in the first day itself, they didn’t charge a penalty, they just charged us for the one night. I love it when a hotel has such amazing customer service!

So we packed and got a cab – thanks again to the TA Forum list of driver – from Ubud, who came to pick us up at 2pm (yep we got a late checkout :). By this time, the toothache was better – it came and went in flashes! Since I was feeling better, we made side trips to admire the interiors of Royal Pita Maha and Alila Ubud (both located on the way to Ubud town). Someday, we hoped to stay in both the places – they are super-gorgeous! Still, they are not in the same league as Como Shambala!

Final thoughts:

Hotel selection – We were quite happy that we got to stay at Como Shambala. The not-so-happy part was the monies - it cost us nearly US$800 a day, including all meals (stay and food for three days at our previous Karangasem villa cost us only half of that!). Still, we were glad we splurged at Como.

Service – Very friendly and helpful staff. Our personal butler was especially great.

Food – Very healthy, organic fare. You have to have an open mind to enjoy it, though. My husband, who was raised on junk food, found it very hard to enjoy, but by dinner time, he grudgingly admitted that he was feeling light and good eating the in-house meals. 2 more days and Como Shambala would have converted him – alas, our budget didn’t allow us to do that!

Sightseeing – the hotel charges very high rates for sightseeing vehicles, so we just stay put – and really, Como Shambala is a place you come for R&R, if you want to sightsee, you are better off staying in Ubud town.

Activities – Just walking around the estate is more than enough for us! But the estate does have some yoga and trekking activities, juts ask at the reception.

Bottom line: If you decide to splurge for a single day (or ideally 2 nights, so that you can have one full day to explore the estate) in the Ubud countryside, Como Shambala is definitely the place to stay. We could not have afforded the estate suite we are currently staying in if not for the free upgrade. Thank you Como for making our honeymoon memorable!