In June 2013, my whole family was very privileged to be part of the inaugural COMO Discovery Retreat at Uma by COMO, Ubud. The Retreat programme promised a wealth of memorable experiences through Bali’s rich cultural and natural landscape, while leaving plenty of time for the family to relax and bond. We knew we were in for a treat, but nothing could have prepared us for how special this week would be.
The children started each day with an exploration of familiar concepts, followed by an excursion in the afternoon that brought these ideas to life. Take "direction", for example; after mapping the entire Uma property with their compasses, they then learnt how direction depends first on orientation. Instead of North, South, East and West, direction in Bali is often referenced to the sacred volcano, Mount Agung. In the afternoon, we went for a drive to view the volcano, then we visited a traditional Balinese home to see how the compound was laid out with the family temple in the corner nearest to Mt. Agung, and the pigsty in the farthest. The children also tested out the huge stone rice and coffee mills, examined the ingenious rice granary designed to keep squirrels out, and fed the pigs.
Every day was equally eye-opening. The paddy and rice-planting excursion got everyone active and muddy, and truly drove home the value of each grain of rice. Sailing home-made boats amongst the paddies highlighted the ingenuity of the Balinese subak irrigation system. Myths came alive at a painting class in the world-renowned Neka Museum next door.
At the end of the week, the children wrote their own short stories, created their characters with a master puppeteer and performed their stories as wayang kulit (shadow puppetry) plays. They also updated and acted the Balinese creation myth Kbo Iwo, in which their version of the giant had a sense of fun and humour which would not be out of place in a Pixar movie.
The Retreat, innovative as it was, also carried all the trademark COMO touches: family yoga was a great way to start the day, and the meals were so healthy and delicious that I didn’t even think about going out for babi guling. The Children’s Dinners, followed by indoor Pyjama Camping, allowed parents to enjoy a leisurely dinner at Kemiri, Uma Ubud’s remarkably versatile restaurant.
At family yoga one morning, we did a pose called “the Turtle.”
“The turtle is special because he’s at home even when he travels,” the yoga teacher said.
“That’s like me,” my daughter replied, “we’re in Bali, but Uma is like home.”
Photos courtesy of Lawrence Ang.
For more information about Uma by COMO, Ubud, you can visit our website.