Welcome to the enchanting Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve hotel in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia! Tucked away in a valley, surrounded by the Ayung river, verdant rice paddies and a lush tropical forest — I couldn’t help but feel like I had entered a captivating and mesmerising world.
The arrival of each guest is announced with the strike of a traditional Balinese gong, and the hotel staff refers to guests as ‘bapak’ and ‘ibu’ — the Indonesian words for ‘mister’ and ‘madam’. Interestingly enough, these same words also mean ‘father’ and ‘mother’, respectively.
It should be said that I am not a fan of huge hotels with hundreds of guest rooms — life is hectic enough as is, and when I go on a relaxing getaway I cherish the opportunity to unplug and enjoy my surroundings.
Mandapa is perfect — spacious, luscious grounds, with just 60 villas and suites, we had privacy to experience a deep sense of relaxation, explore the lush grounds, sample the rich local flavours, and enjoy each other’s company.
Every room of the resort offers a majestic view of the rice paddies located on the resort grounds. The suite we stayed in was breathtaking — huge spaces, vaulted ceilings, large patio and sprawling views of the lush forest and hills surrounding the resort.
My favourite thing (bordering on obsession) was the large free-standing bathtub in the middle of the bedroom. It was so amazing and romantic framed by beautiful ceiling-to-floor drapes — an instant hit with me!
Food is always a key component of all of our travel destinations and I have to say, Bali did not disappoint — fresh, flavourful, colourful and delicious! What better way to start a day full of adventures in this tropical paradise than with a beautifully prepared and laid out breakfast on our lovely patio.
As self-respecting foodies, we couldn’t pass up the chance to try the traditional Indonesian dish — Nasi goreng — literally translated as ‘fried rice’.
It can be cooked many different ways, but the one we had was — wok fried rice, fried chicken, beef, lamb satay and egg.
Even though I am not really a breakfast person, this dish was too tempting to resist — a real breakfast for champions! :)
One of the four in-house restaurants at Mandapa is Kubu — which in Indonesian means ‘hut’, and is the place where rice farmers store their crops.
The restaurant is designed to represent the local spirit and tradition, and in addition to some regular seating, has nine private bamboo dining cocoons overlooking the surrounding river. Stunning setting!
I do have to say that I was slightly disappointed by the fact that the menu is actually European-Mediterranean cuisine — amazing as the food was, we hadn’t travelled half way around the world to eat a tasting menu of foie gras, lobster ravioli and wagyu rib eye.
Luckily, Mandapa’s other dining alternative — Sawah Terrace — was there to save the day ;) They create mouthwatering Balinese, Indonesian and Asian-inspired dishes, using vegetables and herbs from the resort’s organic garden.
One of the signature dishes we got to try that evening was the ‘Sawah’ Rujak Udang — grilled tiger prawns, papaya, mango and tamarind dressing, topped with sesame seeds — yum!
I’m not even going to pretend this was not one of the coolest hotel pools ever :) One of my favourite places to be in the afternoon was definitely the Pool Bar to indulge in some afternoon tea, cocktails and cold pressed juice.
I think one of the most unique parts of this property is the fact that there is a functioning Buddhist temple on the resort grounds. Our butler told us that one of the stipulations upon acquiring the property, was that the resort would preserve the temple and let the local family, whom it belonged to, keep using it during important holidays and special occasions.
In a stark contrast to the predominantly Muslim Indonesia, the main religion on the island is Balinese Hinduism — a fascinating blend between the Hindu religion, animalistic spirits and Buddhist characteristics. In order to be allowed into a temple one must be dressed appropriately, which in our case meant sarongs fastened at the waist.
Before ending this post, I want to take a moment and comment on the impeccable service we received all throughout our stay at Mandapa. In addition to our assigned personal butler (“patih”), who had almost psychic abilities, all of the staff were incredibly accommodating, personable and knowledgeable. Awesome!