When living in Brazil, the mere mention of Bali evoked me thoughts of a far away paradise. I dreamt about a tropical island with white sands and clear blue water populated by surfers and tanned people.

Then, some years later, I move to Asia and get the chance to see this Indonesian Island with my own eyes. Yes, it has surfers, perfect waves and plenty of tans, but the beaches are not exactly like the ones in my dreams. At the first, I get a little frustrated. However, when I visit the region of Ubud, I realise that Bali is much more than a beach paradise. And one needs to grasp its essence to fully appreciate this magic island.

Ubud, a town in central Bali, is where the spirit of the island is more evident. It’s Bali’s artistic hub that shares the most beautiful rice fields and ancient monuments with east and west Bali. It is also dominated by dramatic volcanoes, hillside temples and a tropical rainforest: great for soul searchers and nature seekers.

Yet Bali’s small spiritual town has developed a large tourism industry. As you approach the centre of Ubud, the greenery gives way to streets filled with locals and tourists alike, weaving their way in and out of shops, restaurants, and temples. But not far away from the crowded centre, one can discover the timeless scene of rice farmers methodically sowing terraced emerald fields and breathe pristine air. A real untouched heaven in the middle of chaos.  It was here, on the outskirts of Ubud, where I had the most authentic Balinese experience with Como Shambhala Estate.
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From the day bed, next to the room I am staying, I hear a low but constant rushing sound. It is the Ayung River, Bali’s longest and most holy waterway, which flows hundred-odd meters below where I sit. I am staying at Como Shambhala Estate, at a residence called Wanakasa, meaning “forest in the mists”. It is the most private of the estate’s five residences and closest to the river, perfect for those who opt to unwind.

Located near the village of Payangan in rural Ubud, Como Shambhala Estate is a 23-acre wellness retreat unrivalled in Southeast Asia. The Estate provides a holistic and 360-degree approach that offers world-class massage therapies and beauty treatments. Although the cuisine is always nutritionally balanced, Como Shambhala appeals not just to those with specific wellness goals in mind, but also to travellers, who, like me, are in search of pristine nature and culture.

The feeling is remote. It’s hard not to fall for Bali while cycling its quiet back roads, which are lined with stepped rice fields, temples and women in bright sarongs balancing religious offerings on their heads. In this part of Ubud, I am able to grasp the island’s wilderness. Adventure and cultural discovery are also part of the holistic approach.

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Bali is one island with many destinations. It’s more than a place; it’s a mood, a tropical state of mind. I travelled to Bali in search of beautiful beaches and I ended up in the outskirt of Ubud, where I learned tranquillity cannot be found in any specific location, but with the right mindset, it can be discovered within oneself, by exploring body, mind, and spirit.

We travelled to Rural Ubud, Indonesia, from July 3rd to July 5th (2-day trip), 2016. Stayed at Como Shambhala Estate and travelled from Singapore to Bali with Singapore Airlines.