Chintamani Bali Retreat and Spa is designed to be a retreat away from the frustrations and stresses of everyday life - targeted to women who really just need a break from it all and an opportunity to rejuvenate. When I first walked through the beautiful Balinese doors, saw and heard the serene sounds and sights of water fountains, lotus flowers, gold fish, stunning villas and heavenly grounds, I thought I was going to have the retreat of a lifetime and leave the place absolutely rejuvenated with my $US 3795.00 for an all inclusive week long retreat well spent - HOW WRONG I WAS!
Perhaps it was just that this retreat was newly opened and only had two groups prior to mine, or that I ended up being the only guest during my retreat week (most would think 'great opportunity' and believe me, so did I to begin with) but I left this place feeling frustrated, out of pocket, ripped off and robbed of the promise of leaving 'truly restored, renewed and re-energised' as the retreat's website promises! Before you succumb to the retreats website like I did, let me explain why...
The owner of the retreat experience (lesser of the property), although a lovely women with the best of intentions proved during my weeklong retreat that she lacks basic business management and operations knowledge as well as customer service skills. As I mentioned, due to unforseen circumstances, I ended up being the only guest during my retreat week which clearly caught the owner by surprise and ended up meaning that although I had paid the same as any other guest would have, I missed out on opportunities that were all promised as part of the package on the website. Further clarification is provided below. Additionally, due to the owners desire to spend a considerable amount of time by my side, I ended up feeling like I was paying for her to be on a holiday, watching her run off to spa treatments, delay our departure from the retreat for scheduled outings because she was 'skyping' family members, changing yoga times to allow her to have spa treatments when she knew I then wouldn't be able to attend yoga as we had arranged for me to see other sights in the late afternoon, or constantly listening to the sound of her phone beep for messages and emails which she would immediately respond to showing that she was still working. This was done to the point where I wanted to throw the laptop and her phone out of the car window! I'm not saying that she wasn't allowed to work - but honestly - I was on holiday and didn't need to see her doing all of her work around me, I may as well have stayed at work myself if I wanted that feeling.
The promise that this is an all-inclusive package was a complete fallacy - or at least it was for me! These were the items left out of the retreat that were included on the website:
1. Spa Treatments - yes spa treatments were included - however, do not expect to see the same list that is advertised on the website. There were no four hand massages, coconut scrubs or the three body envelopment treatments that are advertised and certainly don't expect that you can have whatever treatment you like on the day that you want it - the spa girls hardly ever had the right treatment ingredients on hand and not to mention they needed some extra training - one cut my thumb nail so short it bled and another took two hours to paint my toe nails and finger nails - I was going out of my mind and when I mentioned it as nicely as I could to the owner, it was met with a very nonchalant response.
2. All Meals including poolside snacks - quiet bluntly, there were no poolside snacks and when I enquired about them, I got the response of 'this Balinese chef doesn't quiet understand what poolside snacks are'. If that is the case, and you can't provide something - take it off your website. Don't false advertise! Now about the other meals - lunches - they were all meant to be included - I ended up with two lunches at the retreat and not by choice! One day was a cooking class in Ubud so I am more then happy with that but the other three occasions were an absolute joke! Even when I had specifically requested to be back at the resort in time for lunch (and the owner had agreed as we were in Ubud) she changed her mind, sent the chef home and left me paying for yet another lunch that I had already paid for at the retreat. On my final full retreat day (my chosen day to not leave the retreat or have to go anywhere) the owner once again sent the chef home without a replacement and I was 'invited' to what was essentially a 'business lunch' for her and her new hostess who started that day - tell me, why on my vacation I should have to go out on a business lunch or not get lunch because no one was left around to cook. You obviously couldn't just go and make your own either! Ridiculous! The owner needs to learn to check with guests to actually see what they are comfortable with and also appreciate that as the single guest, you clearly don't want to be rude. I do regret not speaking up more and telling her to get a stand in chef. After paying $US3795 to include these things, I didn't need to be paying additional.
3. WiFi - Yes there is WiFi, and yes it is Bali, but honestly, if I can sit in a dingy little cafe in some little town of Bali and have fantastic WiFi, then tell me why on earth at this five star retreat, every time I tried to call home to vent my frustrations, I could hardly hop on viber or skype for five minutes without the connection cutting out from my end! Maybe it was because she was always online and skyping.
4. Don't count on there being an Ipod docking station in your room as the website promises. Yes, you can connect your Ipod to the stereo, but don't forget the cable that plugs into the earphone jack and certainly don't count on having anything that will charge your Ipod provided in the room. False advertising again!
5. Expert guide - there wasn't one and the owner certainly isn't one. Despite advertising that she has been visiting Bali for 20years, she can hardly speak the language, is rather impatient with Balinese people and knows very little about the island and the culture. On the other hand, the driver was absolutely fantastic and quiet possibly the most underutilised asset at this retreat. With over 15 years experience in the tourism industry in Bali and an ability to speak multiple languages, converse about Balinese history and culture and take you to some of the best places (when the owner lets him) he is the only guide you can expect. But it certainly isn't his job. It would be ideal however, if you do chose to visit this place, that you ask for him to go into the temples and other attractions with you, enabling him to provide you with some commentary. You would probably have to pay his entrance fee but it would be well worth it.
6. Traditional Balinese Performance - maybe it was just some cost cutting because I was the only guest - but this performance certainly wasn't conducted during my stay and I was never asked as to whether or not I wanted to see one! I made the mistake by working on the assumption that if it was advertised on the website that it would occur but clearly it didn't.
In addition to everything that was left out of the package, on two occasions I found myself being asked for money by the owner to pay for things that she wished to buy or for entrance fees as she didn't have smaller notes on her. Yes it is Bali and many things are very cheap but honestly, what business and hotel/retreat/resort owner asks their guests to 'lend' them some money (and not pay them back either!)? Bad, very bad business if you ask me!!
Before I do provide some positive comments, I will provide feedback on another very important point. Location Location Location. The retreat is NOT built in a great location! Yes the view is perfect but honestly, you are so far from anywhere that you lose so much of your day in travel time and when there are spa treatments to be had and yoga classes to be done, you don’t want to lose an hour and a half in just driving somewhere and back to the resort for just 30min of shopping.
I never like to only provide the ‘negative’ so if you have already booked into this retreat or are set on going then I can say that the upsides to this retreat are certainly the grounds on the which the place is built, the bales/villas (so long as you don’t want to go to the toilet when it is raining because you will be rained on and certainly don’t expect dry toilet paper when it has rained), the pools, the spa treatment areas and the purpose built yoga bale. Not to mention the butlers and ground staff are all quiet lovely and some are very helpful. The Paon Bali Cooking class was fantastic and something I’ll never forget as too was the Coffee tasting sessions that the driver took both the owner and I to.
Overall, for me this was a complete let down of an experience, I was so eager to get the hell of out ‘heaven’ and away from the owner before I spoke the truth (and possibly lost my all inclusive lift back to the airport) that I asked the driver to pick me up at 0830 on my check out day (check out was at 1200) so that he could take me to see a few more sights prior to dropping me off in Sanur (my preferred drop off location as my flight wasn’t until 2250 and despite being the only guest with no one checking in the same day, the owner was quiet adamant that I needed to be out by noon) in the early afternoon.
My suggestion is that if you do wish to stay at this place, wait 12 months or so. Let the owner sort out her issues, get some experience and customer service skills and run the retreat with some actual structure no matter how many guests she has. Hopefully in 12 months she will realise that she is not a paying guest and should stop acting like one – it only makes the true guests feel like they are paying for her vacation whilst she ruins theirs with her work.
Perhaps in 12 months the owner will have all of issues ironed out and this will be worth the money it costs. In the mean time, if you have the sort of money required to visit this place, take is somewhere else in Bali (highly recommend Ubud and Nusa Dua) and live like a Queen or King there.
Oh, one last note, this place is not user friendly to the elderly or those who might have difficulties walking up and down some steep stairs as you will need to do this to get to the yoga classes and spa treatments or if you will have difficulties sitting on the floor crossed legged to eat or climbing in and out from under a dinning table that is set at floor height. I was rather disgusted to have the owner tell me that she told an elderly couple of ladies that the place was not difficult to move around when they had specifically asked if it was given that one had recently broken their ankle.
Any room is absolutely beautiful.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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It is a great shame that you felt you didn't enjoy your stay with us. We did everything we could to make your stay a fantastic one, including taking you on special trips like the Mengwhi Temple and the Coffee plantation. As a treat we also upgraded you from the smaller package you had paid for to our King Bale.
We apologise that you felt so unhappy and would have loved to have been told about your issues while you were here so that we could work hard at improving them. We made ourselves available to you everyday and would have been very open to your feedback. Our mission is to make every guests stay their "dream holiday". The week you stayed we did have other guests booked who had to cancel at the very last minute.
We have had almost full houses for the other 3 weeks of May and today we have 10 guests arriving!
You travelled on our special May opening promotion of 50% off (your all-inclusive package was $1897.50). We did this promotion as we were aware that in the first few weeks there might be problems arise that need ironing out. We have now addressed them.
At 50% off it is still great value! On offer were 12 yoga sessions, 12 spa treatments, a car and driver available to you at any time, 3 gourmet meals per day all in the most beautiful property set on 1 hectares by the Laing River. Amenities include a sauna, a jaquzzi, a plunge pool, a 20x8 meter eternity pool, a yoga bale, a purpose built spa facility set amongst landscaped grounds. The staff all love their jobs and provide a wonderful service as they are prepared to go the extra mile to make someone’s stay.
I also put an incredible effort in to make a guests stay enjoyable. When I spent time with you I was doing my best to provide company for you yet still give you space for "you time".
Some of the other guests who have stayed so far have written reviews and of the 6 we have received to date, all have described their holiday as "EXCELLENT" and really enjoyed their time here with us. The group who left us yesterday all sat at their farewell lunch saying “we don’t want to go home”.
We have made some improvements since you left: We have a lovely new senior spa therapist in our spa area who has 20 years experience! We have a new satellite dish on our property so wifi is now fast & reliable! Also, our chef is back after the two days he had to take off at the end of your stay due to his health. Everyone is loving his food!
There are ipod docking stations in four of our bales and the remaining two have stereos which have leads for an ipod. Had you asked someone we would have been more then happy to point out the lead for you.
Finally, as you were a solo traveler I tried to accompany you to things to enhance your trip not take away from it. I am sorry you did not enjoy our lunches out. Again as you were traveling solo, we thought you would enjoy some variation and company. When our new Chintamani hostess and I took you out to Echo Beach for lunch we did that because we thought you might enjoy the scenery and the beach and the company. We are sorry you did not enjoy your time at the beach with us.
From a purely logistical point of view on some occasions when guests choose to go out and explore they can take longer then anticipated. On the day you chose to go to Ubud shopping it was just not practical to get back to the Retreat in time for lunch at 1pm. To drive back would have meant you didn’t have lunch until 3pm and so we stayed for lunch. Making the decision to stay and have lunch there was meant to be a fun and enjoyable experience and we had no idea you were so unhappy about this. Once again we apologise that you felt so unhappy and didn’t let us know.
Chintamani Retreat & Spa would like to offer you a return visit FREE OF CHARGE at any date which is suitable to you in the future. We hope that you consider taking up this offer as we would like you to experience what our other guests have enjoyed so much!
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.