by Lucas Raven
I have heard of Amandari from my “Aman junkie” friends, a league of luxury travel fans devoted to Aman Resorts, but I have been based in Bali for the past 6 months, in Ubud to be exact. The idea of being in another resort in Ubud, didn’t quite excite me anymore to be honest. I wanted to be in an environment that wasn’t jungly for once. So there I was, on a flight to Singapore for a little break from the island life. A few hours later, I made my way to a rooftop bar at the Fullerton Bay with views that may as well be an episode of Star Trek. Two or four margaritas later, I was surrounded by a group of locals who were more than excited to hear my thoughts on the “Island of the gods”. The moment I mentioned Ubud, everyone jumped, “oooh! Have you been to Amandari?” Asked the choir (four thirty-something investment bankers and two professional pilots), not yet, I replied. I did not need much convincing, I felt like I may have missed something.
A week later, I was back in the island with a mission to experience Amandari. I wanted to see for myself if the reputation matches the reality. The moment I walked in, I felt as if I had walked into a painting. It’s a property that has aged quite well. Like fine wine, if I may say so. On a ridge overlooking the storied Ayung Valley, the resort resembles a traditional Balinese village. Home to Ubud’s first infinity pool and perhaps the most groomed gardens and dreamiest villas on the island, Amandari is a grand-dame among Bali’s luxury hotels, and every bit worth the visit. The stories are real, I said to myself.
Perched on a hillside surrounded by rice paddies and coconut palms, the resort is quite accessible—only a 15-minute drive from Ubud’s town centre, yet feels a world away from the hustle. While not much is within walking distance, the free anytime shuttle means getting into the action of the Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud Palace or the Traditional Art Market is easy. This is the seventh Aman property I’ve been to, I have to say, each one holds something so unique that is incomparable. I did not expect to fall in love. Perhaps my favorite resort so far. I find it challenging to put into words, but I will do so in the best of my ability.
Amandari, among others, is a feeling. Like when you hear about a place being sacred, and finally you’re there walking on its stone pathways, the word sacred translates into a feeling. On a rainy afternoon, I got an umbrella and decided to go for a walk, something I don’t usually do, but I’m glad I did. I got to witness the nearby-village kids, at the property, rehearsing and learning Balinese dances on a roofed platform across a garden. I paused, held firmly onto my umbrella and stood there for about twenty minutes. I just observed. The rain made everything seem like a painting. Not only does this resort resemble a village, it actually feels like a village. Something so intangible that you cannot replicate, somehow, Amandari was able to, successfully.
On one side you have the future culture leaders of Bali, dancing to the beat of their own stories, on another you have wood sculptors crafting masterpieces driven by the stories that only their very skilled hands know how to tell, inside a library that’s full of ancient stories, quite literally. All of this in one afternoon, embraced by the lushness of nature and the sound of raindrops. Now isn’t that poetic?
If I fall in love with a place and a community, would it be so bad? The only reason the universe would take you back to the old is for you to see with new eyes. A Balinese proverb I picked up. I arrived here a writer, I left a poet.