Before Ubud became a hotspot, there was Amandari in the village of Kedewatan, right along the path of the holy Ayung River. Built way back in 1989, the second ever Aman built, three decades later, this Aman has aged very, very gracefully, and is still one of the region’s very best resorts.
Date of stay: November 2019
Room: Valley Suite #7 (previous unreviewed visit in 2014, staying in a Pool Suite)
Reviewed by: Chinmoy Lad
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PHOTOS AND VIDEOS by CHINMOYLAD
WHAT WE LOVED
- Location. Ubud has changed (and not for the better) over the years. Following the movie Eat, Pray, Love where Ubud was featured, hordes of tourists now visit or stay in the region: more and more retail shops have opened up, often replacing traditional/family-run stores, as have ‘cafes’ and Instagram-friendly tourist attractions, in turn drawing the crowds. Sadly, much of the charm of the location has slowly gone. Thankfully, Aman is very much a throwback to old Ubud. The entrance to Amandari sits along a relatively busy road, but the drive in offers a sense of calm that Aman is known for, and once at the main resort, it is peace all the way. The resort sits 129 steps above a 7th-century Hindu shrine and statue, which is still accessed by villagers today, a beautiful connection to real Ubud.
- Design. Bizarrely, this might be the most underrated design in the Aman portfolio. Sure, there are more stunning designs or more obviously picturesque Amans, but very few mention Amandari when bringing up the best designed Aman – and yet it is just fit for that discussion. There are many resorts, both in Ubud and Bali, claiming to be modern, luxurious interpretations inspired by local Balinese villages, but this might be the most perfectly designed resort in such a fashion: the Balinese wantilan (open air lobby) entrance, the narrow stone pathways, the rooms with alang-alang thatched roofs, the warm and welcoming wooden and stone colour scheme made primarily from locally sourced teak, rattan, bamboo and coconut trunks, all of it framed by the valley – if ever a resort provided a real sense of place, this is it: make no mistake, you are in Bali, and you are in Ubud.
- Maintenance. The resort does look old in its style, but you wouldn’t be able to guess how old. There’s a bit of a timelessness about the place as a result of the design, and the maintenance is staggeringly good in keeping up with it.
- Rooms. All rooms are open suites at Amandari, and they are very, very, spacious – starting at a very generous 220 sqm/2,368 sq ft. The suites differ slightly in outdoor space and views, the interiors are more or less the same. Our valley suite featured an open-air terrace with a bale (Balinese cabana) overlooking the valley. To make the most of your stay, we do recommend any Pool Suite overlooking a valley.
The Three-Bedroom Villa is the resort’s most stunning accommodation – a standalone, staffed villa set away from the main resort (a short drive away) and in essence a residential private home managed by Aman, offering unrivalled views over the valley and of cascading rice terraces, with a two-tiered infinity pool.
- The pool. The 32-metre curved green-tiled infinity pool, modelled after Ubud’s rice terraces, still impresses today and is the centrepiece of the resort – around which much of the common facilities (the lobby, the bar, the restaurant) are framed. The pool was comfortable for a swim throughout our stay and the temperature appropriately moderated, which is key as due to its elevated position, Ubud does tend to be a bit chillier than the coast, even during the day/sunny hours.
- Service. Aman Indonesia’s defining point has always been its unmatched and legendary service. From being picked up by my wonderful driver (and later guide), Eka, who hails from a village just outside Kedewatan (as do much of the staff), to being welcomed back home by the long-serving Amandari family upon arrival, to poolside staff always ensuring that a glass of cold water was at the ready, either poolside or upon returning from an excursion, to the wonderful new host and General Manager Mark Wright and his family, Aman’s service shines warmly at Amandari. No request is too great, and while the resort itself may be small, there are some truly unique dining experiences and locations on offer to create a stunning private dinner (or breakfast). As is to be expected at an Aman, we were never asked for our room number at the restaurant, bar or poolsided when ordering items on the menu (and occassionally even off it).
- Little touches. Aman specialises in little touches – including a sarong provided in woven carry-bags presented for Ubud excursions (especially temples, which have a strict dress code), and also to take away as a gift. Turndown service is always little gifts made by Ubud craftsmen, or a delicious little local treat to enjoy.
- Activities. With a return visit to Amandari (and having been to Ubud/Bali multiple times anyway, and also transferring from the resort), Aman made sure to tailor an activity that wasn’t your usual Ubud trip. My guide, Eka, picked me up at the lobby, and we walked for about 90 minutes along the Ayung River and around the more rural areas of Ubud, crossing fields and paddies. It was both a refreshing walk, and also enlightening, to see Ubud in this way – we never passed a tourist, only local villagers going about their day, along the way. If time or energy allows, it is possible to do an even longer trail. Bring appropriate footwear though…
- Food. Food at the resort was just as good as we remember it from our last trip, offering simple yet refined local, regional and international cuisine. Apart from breakfast, we primarily stuck to local offerings, including satays and Nasi Goreng poolside for lunch, and a few fish dishes for dinner that we truly enjoyed. In keeping with the times, the resort also offers a concious eats menu, as well as gluten-free and dairy-free and vegan options, and is always happy to accommodate dietary requirements and requests. Dinner time at the restaurant is usually accompanied by Balinese gamelan players, who string away at the hanging bale at the edge of the pool.
- Families. While there is no formal kids club, the staff at Amandari are always happy to assist families with their needs, especially for those with younger children. The Amandari Suite can accomodate extras with the separate living room turned into a bedroom, or it can also be connected to an adjoining Valley Suite to form a two-bedroom suite. Alternatively, there is also the very private, very exclusive Three-Bedroom Villa.
POINTS TO NOTE
- Spa and fitness facilities. Like with the other Indonesian Amans, there is no state-of-the-art dedicated or destination spa and fitness facility, only suites or a separate pavilion converted into a spa or gym. This is one area we look forward to more changes in the near future for all the Indonesian Amans.
- Footprint. This issue is relatively common in Ubud, due to its valleys, but it is important to note that Amandari has a very, very small footprint. As a result, if there are no activities planned, days can become a bit mundane – going from the room to the pool can be between a 1 minute to 3-4 minute walk, max. And as the pool is the real centre facility around which everything else is based, there are no other real ‘spots’ in the resort itself to enjoy (apart from the quiet but beautiful library) – but plenty outside/along the resort. Due to this, even during moderately decent occupancy periods, the main pool can sometimes appear a bit more crowded than some Amanjunkies would be used to (as it is where everyone at the resort congregates).
It is a beautiful resort, which can offer a haven of relaxation, but do plan some activities around your stay – it is not really a resort at which just to come and sit and enjoy.
GENERAL INFORMATION AND GETTING THERE
Amandari is about a 90-minute drive from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS). Traffic in and out of Ubud can vary, so leave plenty of time.
HOTEL FACT SHEET
- LOCATION: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
- OPENED: 1989
- HOTEL ROOMS: 30
- RESIDENCE VILLAS: 1
- RATES FROM: USD 730/night
Rates are only an approximation and subject to change and availability
OFFICIAL PHOTOS AND VIDEOS
Special thanks to Amandari for hosting us