Review: Amandari Resort

Review: Amandari Resort

Amandari is an extraordinary place, even amongst the many such places we have been privileged to experience and the many Aman resorts that have been called extraordinary.

Any resort that has stood the test of time - Amandari first welcomed guests in 2002 - must have some sort of special sauce, as it were, to keep it going. We recently went to the source itself to immerse ourselves in the Aman experience and, hopefully, expose this secret.

The wonderful and enigmatic thing about Amandari is that a single picture cannot capture its beauty, which is why the enigmatic and exotic image above was chosen to lead this story.

In our experience, resorts are typically designed to have what is called a "unique selling point" that conveys a sense of the place in just one image; it just does not work here.

In fact, the only thing you that you might remember from the many reviews, stories and travelers' tales about Amandari is that it has no TV.

None of the 30 standalone villas have TV sets but all of them do give you a sense of what it might be like to be a guest in a wonderful little village where everyone knows who you are and goes out of their way to serve you, while staying out of your way.

Try telling that story in just one picture...

In a few words, Amandari offers both uncompromising privacy and uncommon intimacy. It adds a dash of culture into this mix to arrive at what has been an unbeatable formula for more than 20 years.

It is so good and works so well, you cannot even tell that there is a formula at work. Try as they might, few other resorts find themselves at this level of excellence for more than a few years.

The excellent nearby Four Seasons, for example, has a lot more polish but none of Amandari's peculiar lived-in appeal - you will never forget your first experience here.

CULTURAL CHARM

To backtrack a little, we often find ourselves in Bali, not merely because it is so close to our bases in Singapore and Hong Kong but because there is a certain magical quality to it.

Enchanting might be a good word for it, especially if you are interested in beaches, culture and outdoor activities; Bali is not a paradise for consumer goods, unless you are interested in teak furniture.

As a perennial fixture on the frequent traveler's must-revisit itinerary, Bali is big enough that it has something for almost everyone. If you are coming here then where you stay will define what you do.

For example, Ubud - the closest urban centre to Amandari - is inland so beaches are out but rice paddies, hiking and cycling are in.

In fact, Amandari is right in the middle of a charming village called Kedewatan, which has grown up around the resort; the positive impact of the property on the community is both deeply important to the management at Aman and becomes obvious to guests.

Our stay coincides with a local religious festival and thus we get to experience the famous festival procession.

This goes right through the resort, from the lobby to a pool of holy water, because the villagers find it easier to do it this way.

The Aman management does not arrange these processions for the viewing pleasure of guests, as a bit of cultural pandering.

When work started on the resort, the location would have blocked direct access to the aforementioned pool and three shrines for Kedewatan locals so Aman resolved to give them free passage.

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