Orange dragonflies fizz through the air while you pick your way across moss-flecked stepping stones with their carpet-soft spring. Frangipani trees flowering white, pink, red and yellow guide you towards the crescent of a pool that peers out across the lush Ayung valley. Amandari, located a short drive from the centre of Ubud, is the Balinese idyll in boutique resort form. All lamps topped with ijuk, the local name for the fibre found in the centre of a sugar palm tree, and roofs crafted from thatched ‘alang alang’ grass, encapsulating the spirit of Bali and its villages was foremost in the thoughts of architect Peter Muller. Best of all, but perhaps unsurprisingly for a property under the Aman brand, all of this is achieved without ever compromising on impeccable taste and absolute comfort.
A ROOM WITH A VIEW
To describe the accommodations at Amandari as mere ‘rooms’ is to do them an immense disservice. Even the Amandari Suites are less ‘suite’ and more private, luxury compound. Upon stepping through your intricately carved wooden doorway, elegantly weathered stone steps lead down towards the standalone living room with its soaring roof, three-piece suite and two daybeds. Down more steps, and guests are presented with their second building, this time housing a bedroom and bathroom decked out with Javanese marble floors, a bed sent from the gods and canvas screens depicting shrike birds and hibiscus flowers, which slide across the floor-to-ceiling windows. Outside, of course, is a private pool lording it over the valley below and verdant jungle that’s almost close enough to touch.
Amandari’s teak restaurant offers al fresco dining tables wrapped around the resort’s main building. Looking over the swimming pool and out to the Ayung valley, it serves a variety of Western and Indonesian dishes, though it is the latter that will capture most guests’ imaginations. With a menu split into small and large plates, all the local classics are present and correct – and executed superbly. The beef rendang and whole grilled fish with colo colo sauce erupted with flavour, but it was the bebek goreng that left a truly lasting impression. The Balinese ceremonial dish of crispy fried duck is ubiquitous on the island, but this was the best we’ve ever tasted.
TURN THE PAGE
For those rare moments where the sublime relaxation on offer at the resort still isn’t quite enough, Amandari boasts an on-site library with hundreds of books to choose from. One wall is taken up by the teak bookcase, which contains a large collection of works on Balinese and Indonesian heritage as well as classic holiday fare from the likes of Stephen King and Michael Connolly. Grab a book and settle down on the sprawling daybed outside, which sits on a raised platform crafted from Javanese stone and underneath a picturesque Balinese pavilion known as a balé.
SOAKING UP SUNSETS
A few stone steps beside the pool deposit guests on a small, grassy bank. Every day at about 4pm a bamboo mat is laid out, along with lengthy, fern-green cushions and plump, cream pillows to create a delightfully romantic lounging area from which to take in the sunset over the Ayung valley, which tumbles out as far as the eye can see. Before long, the light softens and coats the coconut palms and banana trees below in a luscious golden haze while local sesapi birds gyre overhead. Order a classic cocktail from the bar, sit back and say nothing.