A mother, bronzed, in a bikini does a headstand on the black sand beach, her toddler imitating her. Heavily tattooed, sunburnt Australians walk briskly, carrying their bright surfboards on their shoulders. A youngster in swim shorts strums his guitar on the beach.
At Canggu in Bali, once a sleepy coastal village, this is business as usual. In recent years, the place has blossomed into a villa heaven, a hipster hangout and a surfing hotspot.
Ingrid, a tourist from Sweden, is here for two months, learning surfing, yoga and meditation. “Canggu is a place that lets you be,” she says with a smile. “And draws you back too.”
I am on a holiday with my son, staying at the ultra-luxe COMO Uma Canggu, which opened in February 2018. The resort is perched on Bali’s southern coast and occupies over one hectare of land, nestled between paddy fields on one side, and the gorgeous Echo Beach and a Hindu temple on the other.
All its rooms, suites, residences and penthouses follow a sleek and minimalistic design ethos. A cobalt-blue lagoon pool winds sinuously through the property, mimicking waves on the beach. COMO hotels have a signature: think Zen-like ambiences with bright pops of colour, green wall networks, frangipani trees and gargantuan white planters. The lobby, contemporary in look, is lined with tall, lighted bookshelves and a stunning piece in ceramic on the wall behind the reception desk that looks like intertwined coral.
My one-bedroom residence comes with its own kitchenette with high stools, a stove, a large refrigerator and a Nespresso machine, and a spacious bathroom with a Jacuzzi, shower and the brand’s fragrant toiletries. It’s a holiday where we decide not to do much. My son is content to swim and laze, and I am happy to read and luxuriate on the lounger. But we are also here to revive and detox and take advantage of the hotel’s famous Como Shambala Spa (offering Asian-inspired therapies), two yoga studios, two Pilates studios and a gym. The spa offers a variety of massages from the signature Como Shambala relaxing massage to a Taksu massage for increased blood circulation and reduced stress.
Massages here use essential oils with ingredients such as bergamot, marjoram, lavender and geranium. I choose the Como Shambala massage that lasts for 75 minutes. My masseuse’s excellent skills are revealed by her nimble strokes that effortlessly unravel the tense knots in my body. If you want something local though, sign up for the Balinese Lulur Therapy. This is a royal beauty ritual from Central Java which begins with an Indonesian massage and is followed by a body scrub with mixed spices and finally, an application of yoghurt.
At the gym, I enlist in a Mindful Meditation Course one evening, which lulls me into a calm in a candle-lit room, with bolsters and blankets on the wooden floor. “Get comfortable, you can lie down or sit, or lean against the wall. It’s your choice,” says Emma Gabriel, our British-Singaporean instructor. Emma is a naturopath and yoga instructor, who guides us into a world of imagination, focusing on our breath. It leaves me as refreshed as after a good night’s sleep.
In a resort that emphasises rejuvenation, the food is expected to be fresh, and it is. Local favourites like grilled calamari and halloumi salad are recommended; the charcoal grill used for meat, seafood and vegetables, gives the dishes a light smokiness. My son and I often gravitate to the Como Beach Club, a modern spin on the typical surf club that is decorated with marigolds, metallic masks on walls, colourful cushions on the grey banquettes and swing chairs. It offers a panoramic sweep of Echo Beach.
The most pleasurable time at the resort is spent in the pool—sunbathing, snacking from the eclectic menu and drinking gin and tonic or mocktails—while staring at the surfers in action. Come evening, romantic melodies spills out of the beach club, the sun goes down painting the skies scarlet and purple, and the surfers call it a day, heading back for a well-earned beer.
For those who want a life beyond the sun lounger and cocktails, the hotel offers excursions to the Tanah Lot temple and the Tirta Empul temple; a walk through paddy fields; surfing classes in collaboration with luxury surf company Tropicsurf; and trips to art galleries, shops and the rice terraces of Ubud. But once you try the lounger, the best laid sightseeing plans fly out the window.
Garuda Airlines flies direct from Mumbai to Bali; all other airlines flying from India usually stop at Kuala Lumpur and connect to Denpasar. From Denpasar airport, the 115-room COMO Uma Canggu is 13 km/1.5 hr by road (www.comohotels.com; doubles from $311/Rs22,600).
Kalpana Sunder is a travel writer, blogger, and a Japanese language specialist from Chennai. In her search for a good travel story, she has snowmobiled in Lapland, walked with the lions in Zimbabwe, and flown in a microlight over the Victoria Falls.