I’ve heard the tales of lost souls flocking to Ubud, each in hopes of seeking their very own spiritual awakening à la Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. For others, it is a tranquil sanctuary where creativity and culture converge, conjuring inspiration and magic that outsiders often fail to grasp. But beyond the verdant rice paddies and fortune telling shamans, the cultural heart of Bali exudes a mythical aura that will enchant even the most bona fide city slicker.
This time, I choose to forgo the myriad of sights Ubud has to offer and opt for temporary seclusion instead. The majestic gates of Mandapa, the third bespoke property under the prestigious Ritz-Carlton Reserve portfolio, open to unveil a private paradise, a haven for the mind, body and soul to rejuvenate. I’m ushered to the welcome pavilion which offers a stunning panoramic view of the entire property built surrounded by nature’s finest handiwork – lush, rolling hills and verdant rice paddies as far as the eye can see. As I close my eyes to soak in the serene surroundings, the sound of the flowing waters from the Ayung River provides a much-welcomed respite to mark the start of my retreat, where time stops and the chaos of the outside world becomes a distant memory.
Mandapa, named after the entrance to a traditional Hindu temple, offers 35 luxurious suites and 25 private pool villas, all furnished with traditional-meets-contemporary Balinese interiors by Jeffrey Wilkes from Malaysia-based DesignWilkes. I check into the one bedroom River Front Pool Villa, which boasts an expansive space featuring a separate living room, where breakfast is served every morning and a dip in the infinity pool facing the Ayung River becomes de rigueur. With the 24-hour butler service at your disposal, there should be no reason to leave your secluded sanctuary. When dusk falls, the butler waltzes in bearing a tray of local sweets to satiate your appetite prior to dinner, best savoured in the Balinese garden under the blanket of twinkling stars.
Though there is an all-day dining option at Sawah Terrace which serves delectable Balinese and Asian cuisines, a reservation at Kubu restaurant is absolutely mandatory to complete your bespoke Mandapa experience. Kubu’s romantic setting is certainly designed to impress, as you dine in one of the nine private cocoons which overlook the Ayung River while savouring the restaurant’s signature Mediterranean-European cuisine. Service is attentive and the degustation menu is best paired with a bottle of red or white from the extensive European wine list. Needless to say, I regretted the tray of local sweets before dinner.
For those who want to experience Ubud’s renowned traditional rice fields without leaving the comfort grounds of Mandapa, the Mandapa Picnic at the resort’s rice field allows you to soak in the breath-taking view while experiencing the working rice paddies up-close. Should hunger get in the way, the picnic feast made with fresh ingredients prepared by the hotel comes in handy. With the light picnic lunch out of the way, I hail a buggy ride down to Mandapa’s spa for a one-hour signature massage session where I slowly disconnect from the world.
Though there should be no reason to rise early from the colossal king-sized bed, the prospect of the Volkswagen Vintage Tour the hotel had thoughtfully arranged for me overruled a sleep in. Should your schedule permit, the option of a half-day or full-day tour is available upon request. The rumble of the classic VW 181 convertible springing to life marks the start of the day’s adventure as we set off to cruise along the scenic route of Ubud’s countryside, exploring water temples and rice fields before snacking on the picnic lunch prepared by the hotel.
When I reluctantly depart the beautiful grounds of Mandapa, the parting words from the hotel’s staff quoting a popular Balinese saying ring in my head. “When in Bali, accept the blessings that come along your way.” I have indeed been blessed.