Monday, May 14, 2012

Beauty destination: my trip to heavenly Chintamani



By the time you read this I have most definitely bid the beautiful island of Bali goodbye, but after discovering a very special new resort run by a wonderful ex-Ponsonby local, you can be sure that I’m already dreaming of coming back. Savings goal, here I come!
I’ve made a point of making my way to a spa and/or wellness retreat on a regular basis if I can over the past ten years, and have been lucky enough to experience the likes of Thailand’s Chiva Som, the Evason Hideaway at Zighy Bay in Oman and Queensland’s Gwinganna, amongst other beautiful properties. The chance to relax, re-focus and rejuvenate that these kind of spots offer are pretty much second to none, so when I had the opportunity to visit the fabulous Chintamani Bali Retreat & Spa I was on the plane before you could say “Eat, Spa, Swim”!
Just opened in April, Chintamani is set on a hectare of landscaped hillside gardens, alongside the Laing River Valley on the west coast of Bali, about 30 minutes from Ubud and 45 minutes from Seminyak. It's the brainchild of fellow Ponsonby resident Wendy Matthews, whose vision was to combine the pleasures of a luxury resort with a carefully planned wellbeing program. There are only six bales - or villas - catering to a maximum 12 women, and the all-inclusive, week-long packages offer daily scheduled activities like yoga, meditation and spa treatments, but guests set their own agenda and there’s always time for a trip round the shops or a gin by the pool! Self-improvement, perfecting the art of doing nothing or a clever combination of the two - the choice is all yours, and the venue purpose-built for one hell of a relaxing time.
Set amidst sprawling tropical gardens, lush paddy fields and lotus ponds, Chintamani even has its own purpose built yoga centre (the perfect way to end the afternoon), a beautiful swimming pool (that I found it hard to tear myself away from) and a smaller pool set in a private courtyard alongside an authentic Balinese Rice Barn. To say the place is heaven on earth would be an understatement – and the feeling of serenity that washes over you the minute you cross its threshold truly has to be experienced to be believed. The seemingly endless massages of course help, and the fruity cocktails… but I digress!
Wendy has been coming to Bali on and off for 15-20 years and told me that it has been “a long love affair - the gorgeous food, the fabulous climate, the lovely people all combine to make it a fantastic place to spend time in. It's hard to put a finger on what exactly it is that makes people keep coming back for more but once you've come, you'll know.”
Sitting down to a meal of chicken larb and mahi mahi with red curry sauce one warm evening at Chintamani and contemplating a day ahead that includes a coconut body scrub, aromatherapy massage and yoga, I can’t help but come back to one of Wendy’s previous statements again and again. “It's hard to put a finger on what exactly it is that makes people keep coming back for more but once you've come, you'll know.” Watermelon mojito in hand, I think I’ve just had my own revelation, and feel all the better for it. I’ll most definitely be back!

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