Sakti Ritual at Fivelements, Abiansemal, Bali, Indonesia
Tuning into nature is inevitable at Fivelements, the riverside wellness retreat 15 minutes south of increasingly-bustling Ubud. Here in this thatched, bamboo paradise, a swerve of the road through endless bright-green rice fields, it’s just the sound of the jungle blended with wind chimes and birdsong — and maybe the New Age playlist plumbed into the rooms… Every detail feels characterful and considered, and every tableau is a charm — this is wild, tropical wellbeing at its most organic and transformational. Follow twisting paths, tiny bridges and stepping stones through the enchanting gardens past yoga pavilions, the vegan restaurant and the secluded suites and a grandstand view of that frothy river is never far away.
Healing, home-made plant-based potions are a highlight of the Beauty Rituals, exemplified by this signature Sakti therapy. Your two hours begins with a foot-washing — nothing unusual but, trust me, this is next level. After Mai gently escorted me into the alang-alang roofed spa suite, she sweetly sat me on a chair on the deck overlooking the whooshing Ayung. Into the beautiful brass bowl went my hooves, and she kindly explained she would be adding a special crystal salt — as the sound of the river rushing past made home feel far, far away. Admiring the chirping, I asked what the bird was making that sound — ‘we call them “nring-nring”, ‘ she smiled explaining their onomatopeic name in that heart-warming way that only the Balinese can manage with such warmth and sincerity. Next, fresh limes were added to the foot washing, and a firm, meaningful rub in a few squeezes made me feel almost tearful with appreciation for such a special experience. After a sprinkling of pink, red and white bougainvilia petals, I’d officially segued into heaven. With the energy from the powerful river heading at speed and the rustle of swaying bamboo arching over the terrace it feels as though it’s healing in itself just being here among so many plants and trees layered in such different shapes and shades of foliage.
After padding through to the massage table, the massage starts with you facing up — why doesn’t everyone do this? It feels much more sensible to be rotated to look down for the second half — and saves you the fear of falling asleep and waking yourself up with a snort at the end. Mai truly treated me to the best massage I’ve ever had in Bali. Strong, purposeful targeted acupressure is always welcome — there’s nothing less relaxing than when a therapist gets their strokes out of sync or their technique is not confident or symmetrical. Yes, there are bigger things going on in the world to worry, but at risk of sounding like a spoiled diva, massages can be so yearned-for, and when you’ve travelled across the world (and they cost a pretty penny in more upmarket escapes) it’s important you really feel you are getting the most out of that time spent supine. A gentle mineral-rich sea salt exfoliation infused with holy basil and lemongrass confirmed this is treatment which works as medicine for mind, body and soul.
The final phase was in my suite’s huge river-view stone tub: a big bath which was like a rich soup of stalks of lemongrass (to activate blood circulation), slices of Balinese oranges and limes (essential vitamins), and a generous scattering of pandan leaves and shards of fresh sense-awakening ginger. Add to that a pot of herbal tea, and it would be impossible not to be left feeling infused with nature’s finest nutrients, and revived with regenerative Sakti energy. Fivelements isn’t merely a rustic yet sophisticated hideaway that’s ensconced in nature in the heart of the Island of the Gods, this is a true next-gen spa sanctuary which celebrates Mother Nature’s most soul-enhancing sights, sounds and scents and makes you wonder why any of us would ever choose to live in a city.