Bali is the kind of place when you step out of the plane and instantly know it is where you are supposed to be. While I am no stranger to the island, a town called Ubud in the uplands of Bali never fails to fascinate me. Ubud is home to a kaleidoscope of rainforest and terraced rice paddies, and dotted with Hindu temples and shrines — an ideal escape from the city life. If you’re new to the aforementioned kind of travel, Mandapa – Sanskrit for temple – is a great place to learn. Wait, it may be the most perfect place to experience Bali.
It was a privilege to stay here for two nights. A definite much-needed breather from the demanding pace of Jakarta where I live. Things here tend to be slower, not that I would complain about. The arrival was smooth to the point that I felt like royalty. But it’s everyday business here at Mandapa, as I could tell from the welcoming faces at the porte-cochère.
I was treated to the refreshing Loloh Cemcem concoction, the Balinese sober answer to Bloody Mary. This welcome may be my favourite part of the stay as the breezy Ubud village joined in the entourage from afar. The 180-degree natural beauty was such a visual treat, given the main building of the resort sits atop a beautiful hill. To my right, the gracious resort temple sat on top of the other part of the tall captivating hill. Looking down, I saw the two Balinese colossal buildings housing the suites, the starting category accommodation in the resort. And further down, with a bit of sniper vision and I spot a dreamy pool next to the hyper green rice field. I thought, this must be it, it couldn’t get any awesome-r than this. I was wrong.
One-bedroom River Front Pool Villa
“We are truly a gem of the Ritz-Carlton hotels around the world. I’m very proud to say that I am working for only the third Reserve hotels in the world and the only one in Indonesia,” explained my Patih, a.k.a the wake-up-before-you-assist-you-sleep-way-after-you butler as he was driving me to my villa. The buggy ride surely is a feature of its own as we went downhill passing through one beauty after another.
The one-bedroom river front pool villa is simply amazing. It’s essential to get the right villa name here as different villas have different views. My patih opened the door, the first of four doors in total as he went on to explain the features of the villa. I was awestruck by the calming sound from the Ayung River, literally 20 metres away from where I stood. It was when we entered the separate living room that I realized we were even closer to the river. To top everything off, the 30-sqm pool is indeed a sanctuary within a sanctuary.
Breakfast was a leisurely occasion. I purposely went on an am/pm sleep mode on the first morning so that the patih could showcase his omelette cooking skill. On the second morning, I ventured out to the Sawah Terrace, a lovely restaurant with different views of the river. The stream was strong that morning. “It was raining last night,” the waitress answered my curiosity. I clearly slept so well I didn’t notice the downpour. The bed was that good.
Kubu is Mandapa’s signature bamboo restaurant and it offers the most convenient riverfront dining experience. Firstly, the location is absolutely beautiful – bamboo architectural beauty, a peaceful, endless view of the Ayung River and a calming sound from the hills beneath. Secondly, the level of service here is exquisite, the kind of world-famous Balinese service one may have encountered, times 10. And most importantly, the Degustation dinner is stunning – fresh ingredients cooked masterfully by Chef Bayu who helmed the Sangkar Restaurant at Bulgari Bali previously. The beautiful presentation indicates French fine dining, but with the likes of kafir lime and truffle jus, there’s a contemporary take on classics. The eight-course Degustation Dinner comes highly recommended.
Out and About
I was out of the hotel for something a little different as Ubud Food Festival was the party of the town. A day at the festival meant a lot of energy spent on undertaking seminars, cooking demos and, eating. But they all got the better of me, so when I headed back to the resort, a massage at the Mandapa Spa was the best decision ever.
I had the Mepijet Massage, which perfectly combines Javanese and Balinese techniques to help ease my sore muscles. The ritual was delivered impeccably in such a serene setting, both inside the treatment room and afterwards, the Relax Cabanas. I called it a day well spent at the Spa by dipping myself into the Vitality Pool. To top it all off, the patih welcomed me back with a picnic lunch, literally in the middle of the rice field. A must-try experience.
To sum things up, a city getaway gets a new meaning when you stay at Mandapa. I was whisked away within the first minutes of my arrival at the resort to the extraordinary dining, spa and the river front villa experiences. Bali is indeed beautiful and more travellers should explore this part of the island and come home rejuvenated. The 60-key resort is not only visually jaw-dropping, the intimacy stays within you even after a while. One more reason to go, the resort is recently conferred as TripAdvisor’s #1 hotel in Asia. Go and expose yourself to their mantra: Arrive spellbound. Depart speechless.
Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Jalan Kedewatan, Banjar Kedewatan, Ubud, Gianyar
Bali, 80571 Indonesia
Tel: +62 361 4792777