The intimate COMO Luxury Reso s have a new sibling in Uma Canggu
COMO Uma Canggu in Bali is where healthy life-seeking Millennials would look to spend their hard-earned money
SITTING ON THE beach front of COMO Uma Canggu at 5am and watching the stars drift across the night sky, I recall the first time I visited Bali, over a decade ago. Back then, at 5am, I was still hopping around the dance floor of Double Six, inhaling cheap gin, stumbling out wasted, and heading to the nearest cafe in search of some grub to soak up the alcohol.
Bali and I have come a long way since that time. Five years ago, Canggu was barely on the radar of tourists visiting Bali. I’d only been once for dinner and drinks. Seminyak was where the action was. From Potatohead to the long-standing La Lucciola, curio shops and fine resorts like Samaya, it was where people ventured for a less crowded and wild night out. Kuta was for those consumed by party fever, Nusa Dua and Uluwatu were for the posh. Seminyak was hip.
Now, Seminyak is crowded. Healthy lifestyle-seeking Millennials looking to spend some of their hard-earned money go to Canggu where yoga teachers and quinoa-centric dining abound. It’s young and sophisticated, and 30-something couples and lumbersexuals occupy dining tables at boutique restaurants on every street.
It makes sense that the COMO hotel group came to Canggu, though it was a project that took longer than expected. The original property was acquired some five years ago, and debate ensued on whether it would be a COMO or HPL property (both are owned by the Ong family). When they settled on the former, the next question was what sort of a property it would be.
The Evolutionary Tree
COMO constantly tries to adapt itself to the audience of each property. This means each resort can be vastly different from another. Maalifushi is a waterfront atoll experience, Yamu and Cocoa Island and Shambhala Estate all offer wildly different touches. Uma Canggu is the first spot where the brand has added a much larger volume of rooms with a high value proposition compared with its sibling properties.
When fully ready, it will host 119 rooms, a large number of them configured as one- and two-bedroom suites and 12 penthouses that cost upwards of USD1,500 per night. The regular-sized hotel rooms are available from USD215 a night. If played right (and we’re sure it will) Uma Canggu will serve as an entry point for many looking to experience the COMO lifestyle. It’ll hook future repeat clients who will venture to its other spots for new discoveries.
The company invited architect Koichiro Ikebuchi (he designed COMO Shambhala Estate) and Paola Navone (she did the interiors for COMO Yamu) back to refresh the brand, and they have.
COMO’s platforms are divided into the main brand, the experiential Uma line and the urbanised, hip Metropolitan range. But Uma Canggu takes this a step further and more enthusiastically. We suspect this is in part the active involvement of Melissa Ong, the daughter of Mrs Christina Ong (the founder of the brand). Not only does the space offer public access to COMO Shambhala’s legendary spa treatments, it also hosts a café offering Shambhala food and beverages.
The beachfront property hosts a beach club, which doubles up as the hotel’s dining space and welcomes walk-in guests. The food there is Moroccan-inspired, but with an Asian twist, and a local band called Manja performs there on weekends. There’s a DJ as well for weekend afternoon sessions, but don’t expect the thumpin’ sets you might experience at Potatohead Beach Club or Ku De Ta on Sundays. It’s more relaxed ‒ the focus of the club remains its service, experience, quality of food and drink, and the serenity of a COMO property.
Defining Canggu, COMO style
There are other extras apart from the yoga, pilates and other health and fitness options one gets at every COMO property. Tropic Surf, a partner of the brand at its Maldives property, is present here as well, given the popularity of the sport and the quality of breaks along the Echo Beach coastline. CJ, who heads the Surf Shack, brings enthusiasts out to the pool for beginner sessions, or
“THE COMPANY INVITED ARCHITECT KOICHIRO IKEBUCHI AND PAOLA NAVONE BACK TO REFRESH THE BRAND. COMO’S PLATFORMS ARE DIVIDED INTO THE MAIN BRAND, THE EXPERIENTIAL UMA LINE AND THE URBANISED, HIP METROPOLITAN RANGE”
out to the sea to catch waves. Tropic Surf’s standard is again legendary; guests are already booking the property because of Tropic Surf, and there are plans to form a deeper partnership with the Shambhala services. Surf in the morning. Get back for
breakfast. Head on to the spa for recovery. Then hit the yoga or pilates classes to strengthen the core for the next surf session.
In an odd reversal, it’s almost as if you could take the hotel side of the property out of the picture and have the Beach Club, Shambhala Spa and Fitness, and the Surf Shack on their own as a cohesive product, and you could enjoy it on its own. But it wouldn’t be quite the same minus the Uma Canggu hotel, with its three-bedroom, twostorey penthouses featuring infinity pools that overlook Echo Beach’s marvellous breaks. If you’re looking to discover the Shambhala experience for the first time, you couldn’t find a better place to do it.
Canggu’s Hidden Treasures
Canggu is, in many ways, the California of Bali. There are surfers everywhere. And if you work there, you’re as likely to be the proprietor of a coffee shop or a Crossfit trainer, or possibly a fashion designer. It has this mix of hipster cool without the eyerolling attitudes of California’s finest.
Ok, I admit, when I ventured out one night to bar hop and chatted with some expatriates and tourists, I did have a few mental eye-roll moments. But most people will be more than happy to point you the right way or give you some travel suggestions, and I spent an hour debating with a fellow traveller on the intelligence of dolphins and bees over excellent cocktails at the Ji Terrace bar.
If you’re someone who’s more sedate in travel preferences and less inclined towards pumping music and other entertainment, The Slow takes things, well, slowly. The bar on the rooftop offers a better view while the bar on the street has a much more chummy appeal. But if you also need to get some work on in between surfing and drinking, the Dojo is a co-working space that offers high-speed connectivity, all the modern office tech facilities that one needs.
For fitness enthusiasts, Bali Climbing is an outdoor sport facility that offers boulder training, monkey bars and other setups similar to a Crossfit box. House party lovers should pop by Bottle Avenue for a good selection of alcohol-fuelled options, including local high quality whiskies and arak, Bollinger champagne and German beers. Oh, and did we forget to mention the clear blue waters? One thing we would recommend is to get a bike to get around, though you’ll want to watch out for potholes. But like everything else in Bali, the imperfections are a small price to pay for some time in paradise. AM
THIS PAGE CLOCKWISE Paola Navone delivers pleasing interiors that invite you to relax; get on a bicycle to take in the sights at your own leisure; or get a guide to venture out to experience nature and culture