Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve Offers A Blend Of Luxury And Adventure In Ubud, Bali

The adventure starts soon after I arrive in Bali. As we drive through narrow uphill roads that zig-zag their way through the dusty villages and paddy fields of Ubud, a tug of excitement starts at the pit of my stomach once we make a sharp turn down a narrow street that barely fits our vehicle. What lay before us is an imposing set of wooden gates and a driveway flanked by stone carvings before arriving in a hidden valley that holds the Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve.

The philosophy at the Mandapa is very much intertwined with the Balinese ethos of ‘Tri Hita Karana’, harmony between the three main aspects of life: with God, nature and our fellow man. The Mandapa estate offers a sense of sanctuary, and guests are offered a highly personalised experience. It’s as though you’re not simply checking-in to a hotel but arriving home after a long time away. With 35 suites and 25 villas available, the grounds are spread over 24 lush acres of land, three acres of which are rice paddies and its very own temple where locals bring daily offerings. The sounds of the Ayung River are a constant as it flows through the Mandapa valley. Villas dot the riverside and offer guests unobstructed views of the river.

I’m welcomed with a tying of a string blessing around my wrist, followed by an introduction to my ‘patih’, which is the term Balinese royal families use for butlers or personal assistants. Tapsir, my patih, wastes no time in acclimatising me to the Mandapa way and explains that the landscaping of the Mandapa is such that, should I choose to explore on foot, it imbues a sense of walking through a private village, away from the hustle of Ubud town centre but close enough that modern amenities are but a five-minute drive away. 

Personal Touch

At the Mandapa, there is a quiet determination among the staff that guests’ stays here should be unlike any they have experienced before, whether for seasoned Bali frequent flyers or those experiencing the mythical island for the first time. “In Balinese culture, guests are very much treated as part of the family when they visit a Balinese home,” he says. “It is no different here.” From the get-go, guests are made to feel as if they have been invited to a local village where the locals are ever ready to address you by name and to share nuggets of local culture, knowledge and legends. 

I’m told that 60 per cent of the staff at Mandapa are not only Balinese, but also are generally from the surrounding precincts, while 99 per cent of the staff are Indonesian. General Manager Masanori Hosoya remains the only exception, and is a relative newcomer to the Mandapa family. “I have been at the Ritz-Carlton brand for 17 years and this is my first Reserve,” he says. “There is a strong commitment here to personalise service, which remains part of the brand’s ethos. At the Reserve, I’d like to think you and I will become friends. The relationships we build with guests is what sets us apart, and we want you to take this journey together with us.” 

Hosoya is also keen to point out that there are three distinct features that guests absolutely must not miss while staying at the Mandapa. “We would like guests to remember firstly, the personalised service that incorporates Balinese traditions and culture. Secondly, superb dining experiences, and thirdly, an emphasis on wellness,” he explains. 

To end the first evening, I’m encouraged to take in the sunset while perched upon a stool that overlooks the valley at Ambar bar. “We set up Ambar because we kept receiving feedback from guests that they really would love to see a bar here at Mandapa,” Tapsir elaborates. “We took these suggestions seriously and realised that Ambar was the perfect way to not only give guests what they wanted but also to make the best use of the space and to add a much-needed social element to Mandapa. Now, we have visitors that come here just for sunset cocktails at Ambar.” 


The cocktails here do not disappoint. Sip on a gin and tonic from the Fruits of the Forest menu, which includes whimsical ingredients such as salak fruit and peanut butter; or pick a cocktail from Belantara, an Ubud-focused cocktail menu that incorporates local forest ingredients and flair from Japanese drinking culture. The cocktails all delivered a punch and gave us insights into the local palate. 

Hidden Escapes 

The next day offers promise of new awakenings and adventure. At the heart of the resort’s leisure activities is a sense that guests simply must explore Ubud and experience Balinese way of life. The Mandapa Signature Outdoor Experiences offer a suite of immersive adventure tours to suit a variety of tastes. I opt for the Volkwagen Vintage Hidden Jewel Tour, which promises to take us off-the-beaten-track and discover cultural and natural gems within the Balinese landscape, all with a hint of vintage style. 

Waiting for me at the front lobby is an open-topped vintage VW 181, our cheerful guide Suwita, and a driver. I’m briefed that the itinerary will take around six hours depending on the weather. I’ll be visiting the ancient temple Pura Kehen, which was built in the 11th century; and the Goa Rajah waterfall. “These stops are personally scouted by us,” Suwita says. “The Pura Kehen temple is mostly known only to locals, to conduct important ceremonies. It is considered to be a miniature of the famous Besakih temple at Mount Agung, but we think it is just as special.” Suwita also encourages all visitors like me not to post on social media or geotag these spots to ensure that they stay hidden from the throngs of tourists. 

Our first stop at the Pura Kehen temple is a sight to behold. Nestled on the side of a mountain, the temple is built across three levels that Suwita explains is each made for a different purpose: preparation, entertainment and the main sanctum for worship. True to Suwita’s promise, I’m one of the only visitors at the temple, and we have the luxury of exploring the temple grounds all by ourselves. I spend my time listening to the rich history of Kehen, which was a temple where past kings of Bali held their royal ceremonies. I also discover interesting elements such as Chinese porcelain plates that decorate a west wall and a 200-year old Banyan tree that the people believe acts as a protector of the surrounding lands. 

After the temple visit, we venture through narrow hill roads, down a steep stairway, and arrive at a jungle clearing, where little bridges crisscross a pathway that lead to a low waterfall and paddling pool. My initial thought upon seeing this first waterfall is that it’s not as impressive as described. Little did I know that the canyon’s rock face acts as a natural cover, concealing Goa Rajah waterfall behind it. The majestic cascades stand 15-meters high. “This area is also known as the Secret Garden waterfall,” Suwita says. Again, we have the waterfall to ourselves long enough to wade in the cooling ponds and to enjoy the serenity of being immersed in a private natural haven. 

The tour concludes with a prepared picnic lunch, and I head back to my villa, where a framed photograph inconspicuously taken before we headed off on our vintage adventure waits for me with a handwritten message from Tapsir. I then unwind from the days’ activities in the spa. I’m invited to choose from a menu of wellness treatments, take a sojourn in the sauna featuring a window that looks out to treetops, or simply dip in the heated jacuzzi in which one can indulge in the ambiance of the surrounding forest and the Ayung River. 

Home Away From Home

Evenings at the Mandapa are set against the most romantic of landscapes. I head to the bamboo-covered Kubu for a riverside dinner prepared by Chef Bayu, an East Javanese with a plethora of famous kitchens within his repertoire including Ku De Ta and the Bulgari resort. He tells me that most of the ingredients for tonight’s menu are either sourced from the resort’s very own garden or surrounding farms. “I’ve been working with the Pelaga farmers to create a menu that takes the best of the crops grown in these hills,” he explains. The Mediterranean menu delivers on all fronts, whether it’s the zesty cherry tomato tart or the decadent cod with confit fennel and clam foam dish. 

Chef Bayu at Kubu

The night ends with the song of cicadas accompanying a short stroll back to the villa, where I sit listening quietly to the sounds of the river below in our patio. It almost feels as familiar as home. 

Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve is located here. Or call +62 361 4792777.

Rates at the Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve range from US$570 to US$1,050 depending on seasonality and availability. Pool villas start at US$1475++. Volkswagen vintage tours start from IDR 3,600,000++ / US$243 for two persons. Choose from a variety of curated tours from the Mandapa Signature Tours for your personalised offsite activities.

Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

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