Savvy globetrotters have come to rely on The Ritz-Carlton brand for its exceptional customer service, comfortably stylish accommodations and sensational amenities. However, with over 80 worldwide properties and a lion logo that’s almost as recognizable as your favorite fast-food chain’s, some travelers know to seek out more than state-of-the-art spas and award-winning eateries these days.
Enter the Ritz-Carlton Reserve, the company’s latest attempt to establish its dominance in the hospitality industry. Reserve properties are the Ritz’s smaller, one-of-a-kind boutique hotels that have a unique personality, décor and amenities that illustrate a sense of place. Currently, there are only three Reserves around the globe. The newest address, Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, opened in September 2015 in Bali.
Here are the five things we love most about the Ubud jungle resort.
The natural beauty
To get to the Ritz-Carlton Reserve, you must drive down a long, dusty road that passes by wooden shacks and discarded stone statues. Just when you think that you’ve made a wrong turn, the majestic gates of the Mandapa come into view. Once you drive through them, it’s hard not to be in awe of the natural beauty surrounding you.
There is no lobby here; instead, you’ll find a wantilan, a meeting pavilion that is often adjacent to Balinese Hindu temples. The Mandapa’s wantilan is a gorgeous open-air salon that sits on top of a hill and looks down on the village-like resort. Guests are greeted with a cooling turmeric tonic called jamu before being whisked away to their suite in a golf cart.
Running water is a prominent feature around the grounds. The bubbling stone fountains make for soothing background noise. The rice fields and jungle beyond — filled with towering palms, bushy ferns and tangles of bougainvillea — form a lush, living wall. Enter the Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Mandapa and you can’t help but feel as if you’ve crossed into an entirely new reality.
There are only 60 units at the intimate resort and many of them are private villas with lap pools and separate indoor/outdoor living spaces. All of the suites are expansive, sumptuous and elegant. The hut-like villas have dark wood walls and thatched roof ceilings, but there is nothing rustic about these deluxe suites. Oversized light fixtures hang from ropes, a king-sized bed is covered in plush white linen and a vibrant local fabric, and colorful tapestries depicting traditional Balinese life hang from the ceiling to the floor.
The bathrooms are spacious with two vanities anchored by hand-carved wooden sinks. A white porcelain tub is encased in a wicker basket while the shower leads to a separate outdoor showering area. The Indonesian-inspired rooms are so well appointed — we didn’t even mention that you get your own private butler — that you’ll be tempted to spend all of your time in seclusion. And while that’s certainly a tempting option, do make it a point to get out and see everything else that Mandapa has to offer.
Mandapa Spa & Wellness is located directly next to the gently flowing Ayung River. Like most of the resort, the sanctuary is an open-air building that incorporates nature along with all of the nurturing you get from the staff. Upon arrival, for example, you’re given a delightful galangal, lemongrass, ginger and sugar cane tea.
The consideration of guests only continues when you look at thoughtful treatments — the rose quartz crystal scalp massage is a unique service that centers the body; the healing hands massage puts you in the expert clutches of Ni Ketut Bunterini, a highly skilled therapist who is known for her extraordinary technique and healing touch. An impressive list of facials, body scrubs and manicures and pedicures is also worth considering.
Mandapa guests are also invited to partake in a series of fitness classes. Every morning at 8 a.m., there is terabit yoga in an open-air studio. The relaxing session is lead by a local Balinese yoga expert who guides yogis through a series of meditative breathing exercises and poses. Sunrise stretching, core connection, aqua aerobics and village walks are other activities you can participate in while staying at the Reserve.
The dining options
When staying at Mandapa, you won’t have to worry about making dining reservations. Simply call your personal butler (patih) and have him book a table at one of the resort’s sensational culinary choices. There are four distinct dining options: the Pool Bar; the Library; Sawah Terrace: and Kubu. At the Pool Bar, savor snacks, salads, sandwiches and juice during the day.
The Library is an excellent spot for afternoon tea, a midday treat where you’ll find an assortment of local and traditional teatime pastries.
Sawah Terrace is a treehouse-like restaurant that perches above the river, looks down on a field of green, and serves up authentic Indonesian cuisine.
Kubu is the resort’s fine-dining destination and it is not to be missed. The first thing you’ll notice is the eatery’s unique layout; a large alfresco dining room is surrounded by nine bamboo cocoons ideal for a romantic dinner for two. Feel the sense of magic as the river glides beside these pods.
Order the chef’s tasting menu and you won’t be disappointed. Seasonal local ingredients come together for upscale and elegant preparations. Thick pumpkin foam is topped with cooling goat cheese and lemon confit in one course. Melt-in-your mouth cod ravioli is covered in a smoked onion cream in another delectable presentation. Order the five courses with wine pairings and you won’t leave feeling overly stuffed or intoxicated, a clear sign of Kubu’s culinary prowess.
The cultural offerings
The hotel has a series of remarkable culturally rich activities, from craft demonstrations to plant studies and cooking classes. Want to learn about ancient irrigation techniques used to grow rice? You can do so at Mandapa with its Subak Farming exploration program. Want to discover the nearby countryside? Book the resort’s vintage car tour and be guided in a classic Volkswagen 181 convertible to the Tegalalang Rice Terraces and Tirta Empul water temple. Maybe you’re in the mood for a bit of whitewater rafting and a riverside picnic? Your patih can help arrange those magical outings as well.