Third times a charm. No really. My third and final Ritz-Carlton Reserve charmed the pants off of me, so much so that I extended my stay an extra night. When hotels are THIS good, do yourself a favor and stay longer. Extend, indulge, lounge, repeat.
I made it back to Bali for the second time in my life and knew Ubud had to be placed on the itinerary. Again. Located about an hour and a half drive from the Denpasar airport, Mandapa is secluded from the hustle and bustle that surrounds Ubud these days. The city engulfed me as I drove into its lush greenery, miles away from any coastline. Street markets, narrow roads and traffic jams are common here, making me antsy as I inched towards my destination, scooters and bikes flying past. Then the shopaholic in me emerged. Galleries of handcrafted wooden chairs, distressed doors, Buddha heads and metal sculptures materialized along the roadside and I thought to myself, "Now where could that go in my house?" To the plethora of House Hunters and Property Brothers episodes I've seen, this is your fault.
It's all about first impressions. Driving up to Mandapa, I felt like I'd just entered a secret Balinese compound. The turn-off for the property was right off the main road where we had to weave through quiet, narrow lanes until arriving at a gate. We were greeted by the most welcoming staff and ushered towards the lobby. 'Lobby' was code for a dreamworld full of day beds and local drinks infused with indigenous herbs, all overlooking a plunging valley below. The Ayung River lay 325 feet beneath us where the intimate Balinese village (24 acres) begged to be discovered by me and my camera.
Buggys are a necessity at Mandapa due to the steep terrain, and friendly butlers always make themselves available to drive guests from Point A to Point B. They'll even take you on an impromptu tour of the grounds if you ask them, as I did. Between the tropical pool area, rice terraces, and a century-old Hindu mandapa (Sanskrit for temple), there's much to explore.
Where were we again? Ohhhh that's right, the villa. Pardon my detour.
Our one-bedroom river front pool villa had me at hello..hi..nice to meet you. Can I stay forever? Coming in at 4,630 sq. ft., my palatial home-away-from-home was hard to leave. Really, I never had to. Massive bedroom, check. Huge bathtub, check. Japanese-style toilet that had so many buttons and commands, it could probably cook a turkey if you asked it to, check. Separate living area/home office, check. Swimming pool for a cool workout during a hot day, check. Room service for food, check. Yep, that's just about all I needed in life.
But an active traveler doesn't ever sit still...
- Spa - First order of business after traveling for many hours to Mandapa: the spa. One of the most beneficial aspects of the hotel spa besides its stunning interiors is the fact that it rests on the banks of the Ayung River, lulling guests into a peaceful relaxation. Zzzzzzzzzzz.
- Rafting - A river equals rafting, so for the adventurous at heart, add it to the itinerary.
- Volkswagon Vintage Tour - A joyride in a classic VW 181 convertible in the country side? Sign.Me.Up.
- Tirtha Empul Temple - This was my second time visiting the Tirtha temple, but a major difference was that I was able to get inside the pools and visit the fountains. Mind, body and soul purification. Score!
- Tegallalang Rice Terrace - The most visited terrace in the city, Tegallalang is located right off the road. It's a scene you just have to capture, no matter how many tourists are present (and there will be lots).
- Monkey Forest - Beware! These guys make for an amazing photo opp, but they will take your food, your gold, your anything. It makes for a very entertaining morning, although heed my advice: wear next to nothing. It's hotter than hell.
- Luwak Coffee Plantation - Even in 90 degree heat, this coffee is everything. Coffee afficionados, take note.
- Dinner - The list of activities wouldn't be complete without a nod to Kubu, the #1 restaurant on TripAdvisor in Ubud that just so happens to be on Mandapa grounds. Nine private cocoons overlooking the Ayung river ohhhhh and ahhh guests as they dine on Mediterranean-European cuisine.
The best part about adventuring off-property? The wonderful staff at Mandapa will drive you free of charge in the company car to and from town. They obviously appreciate their guests getting in on the Balinese culture, and I appreciate that more than they know.
Explore more of Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve by clicking through the photos below!
More Ritz-Carlton Reserves
The two remaining extraordinary properties that complete the exclusive triangle of Ritz-Carlton Reserves include Puerto Rico's Dorado Beach and Thailand's Phulay Bay. I was lucky to experience their greatness all within six months of each other and highly recommend a visit, as they all embody something unique and special in their respective environments around the world.