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!


  1. Wow, the resort which is very unusual, artistic, classic and gives the feel of a very sacred. I like it very much. and you are right, it seems perfectly suited for honeymooners. and it will provide an unforgettable experience. a very good reference. thanks.
    to reference for you: