“Honey, we are going to a yoga retreat in Bali”. Now whilst Mr G loves going to the gym and his downhill mountain biking, I wouldn’t exactly call him yoga friendly by any measure. There are many things to test a relationship and I am wondering if this might be one downward dog to many.
The story of Soulshine
The background to Soulshine isn’t automatically apparent from their website. Michael Franti is the founder, you might remember him as one of the rockstars from the group Michael Franti & Spearhead. He’s a musical legend – multi-platinum recording and international touring artist, documentary film director and composer, founder of the non profit Do It For The Love. Oh and he’s also a yoga practitioner too. Together with his wife Sarah Agah Franti they started building Soulshine Bali in 2008 as a place for like minded souls rejuvenate near Ubud. It started with the main house and a few villas, then COVID hit and the decision was made to ‘go large’ and create Bali’s first ’Sound and Wellness Resort’. They launched earlier this year with three stunning pools – including a waterslide and a diving platform, two restaurants, a full-service spa, two yoga areas and 33 spanking new rooms, 17 of which are luxury suites.
As Michael sings…“Hey I’ll send my soul on holiday, Cause baby I could use a little fun, Hey my biggest dreams came true today, I think I found my little place out in the sun…”
We’re picked up from our villa in Canggu and within a few hours we turn down the narrow driveway, a stream lines our approach, the sound of the water is calming as we jump out the car.
“Welcome Home!” The jolly Soulshine team smile and guide us to a sunken lounge as we gaze at the resort around us, framed by lush gardens, palm trees and a valley below.
We choose a welcome drink from a choice of three – relax, energise or celebrate. We end up drinking through the range whilst our details are being processed! All are delicious.
ROOM 417a Soulrocker Sky Suite
A short walk and a few flights of stairs up. We are at penthouse level.
We cross a doormat which says ‘happiness’. Holy crap! It sure is. The Sky Suite is the best room in the house – well, actually it’s more like a home with a kitchen, lounge, chill out areas, gardens and oh that so va va vroom sexy bedroom.
A pebble pathway wraps around one side of our suite which is planted with ferns and brassicas. We are on top of the world.
Our suite is eye level to a blue skyline connected to earth via waving banana palms and rice fields below. We tip toe over the dark wooden deck to our rooftop plunge pool. It’s not long before we are watching it all from our watery oasis, with arms over the edge just soaking up the sounds of nature. We have a sauna to the left (as if it’s not already hot enough?) and behind us is an air conditioned glass encased living area complete with a kitchen and dining table.
Let’s Get Musical
A green double day bed sits next to a Marley record player which is hooked up to a mind boggling Yamaha deck with amps, wires and a gazillion buttons that indicate technical things like subwoofer, master LR. We are rifling through the album collection- Barrington Levy, Bee Gees, Goo Goo Dolls, Al Green. We start with ‘Let’s stay together’, and just like that, we fall back into playful joy… frustratingly the record is scratched and keeps tripping, then I remember there is side two. OMG have forgotten that records have two sides! A flush of nostalgia hits me as I am right back in my parents house in the UK, playing Abba and singing into a hairbrush.
This is the ultimate airborne penthouse in the sky. We step up into the bedroom and bathroom area. Our bedroom is an all glass square turret, positioned to gaze emperor-like over our kingdom. If Rapunzel was a yogi, then she would most likely throw open these all glass bedroom screens and lay down her long hair and say “hey! Come up, we have tunes up here! Plus a stocked bar fridge and the par-T-y is on”
The bedroom is the ultimate voyeuristic signature. Everyone in the resort can see you, if you choose to play it up. We have the feels. This isn’t a typical yoga retreat, but a home where the founders spirit, love for music and soulful expression is everywhere we touch. A guitar in the corner says it all.
Resort Pool Fun
At the heart of the resort is the large pool. We love the Sky Suite so much we don’t emerge till early evening. The pool is the centre of human fun. We pop our things in a sheltered cabana, whilst others are lounging on overwater beds.
Where do you get to reenact your childhood and whoosh down a big slide? It almost feels… well, naughty! I climb up the stairs and the drop down looks more significant than I expected, I launch myself off and land with a satisfying splash. This is awesome. The pool cascades onto another level and I jump onto one of the over water swings. I am clearly out of practice at this swing-thing but my heart starts to soar and I am laughing as I can’t resist going higher and higher! On the other side of the resort is a diving platform into a three metre deep pool. This is a playground for adults. There are a few all female yoga groups from the US, so it’s an infectious vibe to hear them whooping, rapping, and general camaraderie by the pool and bar. Pool side the music is pumping, it’s Afro beats and more.
It’s Sunday night and the DJ is finishing off the final set at the Togetherness Bar. We are dressed for dinner as the band sets up the stage then moves onto their set which covers everything from Guns and Roses, Norah Jones to Amy Winehouse.
We sway on the suspended egg chairs. One of the Soulshine team comes over, “Would you like to play rock, paper, scissors?” “Eh?” He explains if we win, then we get 241 cocktails. Blimey! We are on. Mr G limbers up and wins. It’s such a simple game, but it has us in fits of laughter as we decide on the best of three! Two delicious martinis appear, then disappear rather too quickly!! The band calls out for requests. Mr G asks them to play Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits. Unbelievably they pull it off effortlessly, that’s one mean guitar solo. By the end of the evening we are dancing by the stage.
Stay Human Restaurant
We retire to the Stay Human restaurant and take our seats on one of the tables outside so we can enjoy the view. We kick back with an order of Baja tacos. The battered fish is crunchy and it’s curled up with lettuce in a healthy quinoa taco. Just roll up the edges and pop in our mouths. Delicious. As are the vegetable spring rolls, which are light as a feather. Next up is Gado Gado. It’s the ultimate Indonesian poke bowl. Cubes of fried tempeh, tofu and steamed veggies are lightly tossed in a delicious peanut satay sauce. House made charcoal black bao buns are soft and fluffy, filled with a spicy Korean fried chicken which has a slightly sweet glaze, nicely offset by the pickles. We round off our banquet with Mie Goreng, a classic stir fry noodle dish which arrives with a sunny side up egg and crackers. It’s a great meal and decorated with flowers from their garden tended by ‘LOVE LAND’ TShirt emblazoned gardeners.
It’s 8am, Eva, our zen yoga instructor bangs a gong and I am sitting in one of the shalas with a few other guests, crossed legged and doing my guided breathing exercises. For the next hour we are breathing, listening to our bodies and the sounds of the forest as I practise downward dog, three legged dog, cobra, tree and build up an appetite for breakfast!
Breakfast at Stay Human
Like a creature of habit I take up the same outside table. “Morning Miss Karen, would you like coffee?” I know I should say ‘a ginger tea’ but nup! I love a latte. The team is trained to ask for allergies and I hear a wide range of non inclusive ordering. So anyone will be in safe hands with their health and needs. A pretty plate of fruit arrives and a basket of sourdough (what!! yippee!!) along with a warm croissant and pastries. I order a veggie breakie of scrambled eggs, avo, mushrooms and spinach. What a way to start the day.
My massage is booked for 10am. I am welcomed by pastel pink sofas, wicker lights and a ceiling of bamboo sticks which resemble grissini. White on black mosaic floors and arched gold windows frame the paddy fields below. I sip on my cucumber, lemon and honey welcome drink as my feet are bathed. I wish I could tell you more about my massage but time loses its meaning as soft long strokes of a signature Balinese massage release my tense muscles.
Out & About
Ubud is only ten minutes away and we order a car from reception. One of our top tips for Bali is to download Gojek, which is like Uber. Over the duration of our trip we found the prices, service and quality of the cars was exceptional. We spend the late afternoon in the Monkey Forest and then wander up Monkey Forest Road alternating between bars, shopping and dining!
Soulshine feels more like a happiness resort than simply a yoga retreat. Sure, there is yoga every day (and its free), but the vibe is more about a balance of fun, laughter, music, healthy food and a good dose of music. If Hard Rock Hotel and Como Resorts had a love child this is surely it.
What we are addicted to – The Sky Suite is amazing, the property is in a peaceful idyllic location. The Soulshine App is a smart way to communicate, no silly additional phones, with a quick swipe a message can be sent to the team. We love the playful areas created for adults, the swing chairs, slides, firepit at night and the cheery, committed team.
What we need to be more addicted – Whilst music round the pool can be great, many of us have their own tastes (and ear pods) – Afro beats all day may not be your bag. There isn’t a gym (yet) and it would be good to have some equipment in rooms for workouts. The other penthouses (not the Sky Suite) have no doors to the bathroom, so for me that would be a detractor in feeling comfortable.
Soulshine, Ubud, Bali Check the website for offers.