A Healing Sanctuary
An Asian-led holistic wellness resort in Nusa Dua, Bali, proves to be a refuge of peace and tranquillity.
Hidden away in the lush green jungle of Nusa Dua, a peninsula off South Bali, is a quiet corner where a new retreat is carving a name. This is Revivo: an Asian-led holistic wellness resort, housed in what was once part of the iconic Amanusa. With just 16 Balinese-style suites on three hectares of shady teak forest, it is a refuge of peace and tranquillity.
Here, life happens slowly. Jewelled red-and-blue dragonflies flicker drowsily above lily ponds while the green fronds of banana plants lazily lap the breeze.
As we stand in one of the resort’s cool, dark rooms, the only sound is the rhythmic hush-hush-hush of someone sweeping a straw broom across stone. That, and the sound of six journalists slapping their heads.
“Are your energy channels flowing better now?” says Dr Bobbi Aqua, a vivacious 75-year-old Chinese medicine practitioner, who is a regular teacher at Revivo. American-born, wiry and bird-like, with sea-blue eyes and a razor-sharp mind, she guides us through her own unique brand of qi gong. We are physically opening up energy meridians by slapping and pounding the energy into our bodies.
At the end of the class she offers a dose of Reiki to anyone who suffers from a niggle. My right shoulder is permanently knotted from years of lugging a laptop around. Aqua hovers her hands above my shoulder and closes her eyes for a minute or so. Incredibly, the muscle feels looser than it has done for years.
“We are all our own best doctor,” says Dr Aqua. “The mind is much more powerful than any drug a doctor can give you.”
That is the over-riding message from Revivo. Doctors increasingly cite stress as a major contributing factor to disease and sickness. Even though mind training and meditation cannot be considered a cure by itself, research has shown it to be beneficial for a wide range of health problems. Re-educating people by going back to the basics of how to nourish your body with food, soothe your mind with good sleep, stretching, exercise and meditation, is the vision here.
“People are so busy, hunched over phones and desks, they have to learn how to listen to what their bodies are telling them,” adds Dr Aqua. “Check in with yourself every day, ‘how am I feeling here and why?’ and follow your instinct,” is her advice.
Revivo is the brainchild of two Hong Kong entrepreneurs: health and wellness guru Laurie Mias and Gordon Oldham, founder of the Pavilion Hotels & Resorts. Oldham, who previously owned one of the Amanusa villas, approach Mias with the opportunity to create a Wellness retreat that would help its clients to retrain their minds with skills for life.
“I came to the conclusion that one feels well when one feels happy and vice-versa; and to be happy we must train our mind to be healthy, and to see the world in a positive way,” says Mias, of their vision for Revivo.
“Revivo is about procuring the best services, therapists and settings to teach mind training and therefore give to our guests the tools and takeaways to be happy and feel well,” she adds.
There are six different three-day programmes, including Emotional Balance & Mind-Training; Detox & Organic Weight Loss; and Mother-To-Be. Experts such as Dr Aqua are invited to stay for several weeks at a time to share skills and philosophies.
A three-day programme starts with an over-the-phone questionnaire a few days prior to arrival, where Kathy Cook, resident health consultant and Iyengar yoga expert, discusses food requirements, physical issues, medical history and health goals. When you arrive, you receive a bio-electrical body-composition check and a facial skin-type analysis, from which Cook recommends certain treatments, exercises, meditations and foods. And, after that, it is up to you to do as little, or as much, as you want.
A day on the programme starts at 7.30am when one of the superlative staff brings a trio of shots to your bedroom door. If your shots have traditionally been tequila and consumed in a dark and hazy nightclub, this may come as a novel experience.
The first is a stringent salty-lemon cleanser, the second, a bitter oily ‘Jamu’ shot of ginger, turmeric and coconut oil, followed up by a chaser of effervescent Kombucha. It’s a gentler wake-up than the usual heart-pounding caffeine rush, and one that provides a slow release of energy for the next hour, which will be spent doing Ashtanga yoga, kickboxing, reformer Pilates or perhaps a TRX session. A spa treatment is included each day with the programme; one day we enjoy an Ayurvedic Shirodhara, a treatment that is said to pacify a troubled mind. While you lie flat on a bed, warm oil is dripped steadily onto your forehead or ‘third eye’, drizzling over your scalp, literally melting your troubles away. Other therapies include the Seven Chakra Dhara, Ancient Soul Therapy and a crystal exfoliation.
Come 5pm, wind down with a Primordial Sound Meditation, which leaves the warm, rich sound of bells ringing in your ears as night falls and a nourishing dinner awaits.
The food at Revivo is reason to come here alone. The famous Spanish ‘Vital Chef’ Ali Walu was recruited to create a menu according to the six different plans. As we are following the Emotional Balance & Mind Training plan the ingredients are chosen, Walu says, to “make you happy”. One morning, we feast on banana porridge with chia seeds, apple, cinnamon and goji berries, liberally scattered with cacao nibs and honey. Another day we have tahini and honey on gluten-free toast, sprinkled with crunchy coconut. Hunger is never an issue here. Lunch could be a beetroot and roast-onion soup followed by blue fish cooked in banana leaves, while dinner might be roasted roots and tempeh followed by a raw cacao and coconut truffle. The emphasis is on lean protein. Coffee is on the menu but for this plan it is avoided; one of the goals is to cut ties with anything considered addictive. Likewise, wine, cocktails and beers are served at the Art Deco-style bar but evidence of this is kept discreetly out of view; a row of fresh coconuts is kept where the hard spirits are usually displayed. The menu is practically all vegan and gluten-free, but at no point do we feel restricted. Ali Walu’s philosophy is “clean and free”. While she mainly eats vegan food, she wouldn’t rule out a good-quality steak and a glass of wine. Having trained her team, Walu will return several times a year to oversee and add new items to the menu.
Bali marks the beginning of a global expansion strategy for Revivo, with sister resorts set to launch next year with a cruise boat in the Komodo Islands, at Château de Fiac, France, in mid-2019, followed by an all-seasons resort in Niseko and a villa in Rome. By 2020 the aim is to have an in-house medical programme at each location.
When we land back at Hong Kong airport I remember the advice to “check in with myself”. My shoulder still feels loose, I feel full of energy and I don’t feel bloated and groggy as I usually do after a five-hour flight. It looks like I have brought the good vibes back home. Now all I need is a shady teak forest and the sound of primordial bells to go with it.