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Old Apr 26, 11, 11:13 pm
  #4  
DavidO
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Berkeley, CA
Programs: Virtuoso, FSPP, STARS, MO FAN Club, PEN Club, Bellini Club, Dorchester Diamond Club, Travel Leaders
Posts: 1,643
Bali site inspections from the Ubud area

First, some notes about Ubud. One of the highlights of the trip to Ubud is simple the drive out of busy, crowded Denpassar north into the hills (as long as you are being driven, not driving yourself!). The traffic moves faster, but as in the city, there are scores of small motor scooters on the streets. The sole industry in the small villages along the way is the particular craft that they have passed down through the generations — such as stone carving or wood carving. In many villages that you drive through, every house will have its inventory of hundreds of unsold craft items displayed right along the road. The sight of driving past shop after shop with hundreds of stone carvings is memorable. It's definitely a buyers market, but as the cost of shipping heavy stones back home would be prohibitive, I can't imagine they are selling much of anything to passing tourists.

Ubud is in the cultural center of Bali, an area you definitely should visit if you want to experience this destination, but it is overrun with the success of its tourism. The streets are crowded and lined with too many shops and restaurants. To enjoy a worthwhile experience in the area of Ubud, you should engage a driver-guide who can show and describe to you the culture of the area - the small villages, the rice paddies, the temples, the belief and practices of the Balinese, the master craftsmen, etc.


Amandari



We spent two evenings at Amandari in a River View Pool Suite. Amandari is designed to resemble a small Balinese village (as is FS Jimbaran Bay). The major difference is the scale of the resort; Amandari has only 30 villas. There is an expansive feeling, with beautiful, landscaped walkways leading through the resort. Separation between the villas creates a real sense of privacy. Amandari's common areas are exceptional in their beauty and serenity.

There are three room categories at Amandari. Village Suites are on the "village" side of the property with views just of your villa's garden courtyard. River Suites look out towards the river and the hillside beyond. Pool suites (offered in the River View category only) have a large and very private green-tiled pool. There is marble flooring throughout the first floor of your villa. The bathroom provides two separate vanities, a step-in shower, and an outdoor sunken bath.

Amandari has both single-level and bi-level villas. The bi-level villas have more living space (with the master bedroom, a power room, and desk on the second floor) and are ideal for a family. However, if you are traveling as a couple, I strongly recommend requesting a single-level villa at the time of booking. It's far more convenient to have everything on one floor. It has been noted on this forum that Amandari is an older resort and its rooms are a little dated. I would agree with this assessment. While FS Sayan has a superior room product, I loved the traditional Balinese setting of Amandari and Aman's personal and intimate service. If Amandari renovates its villas, it will be the perfect resort.

Beyond the physical product, Aman offers the opportunity to really engage the culture of the surrounding area. With a three night stay, you receive the Aman Bali Experience — providing not only a nightly discount but one complimentary activity per stay. While you could use it on a spa treatment, don't! We went on a 3 hour cultural tour with our Aman driver-guide today (that extended to over 4 hours), and he showed us a side of Bali we could never have found any other way - a totally personalized tour in which we visited a Balinese home, an art studio, a master wood carver's shop, and a popular temple … early enough that we could enjoy the temple all to ourselves before the tourists got there.

The previous evening, we took advantage of the opportunity to experience a local religious festival (there is a schedule of ceremonies in your room - or just ask at the front desk). Our driver-guide dressed us in traditional sarongs and took us to a local celebration that was an incredible experience of Balinese culture - a cacophony of bright colors (reds and golds and yellows), sounds (a Hindu priest ringing a bell, a soloist chanting), smells (incense), sights (villagers bringing offerings of fruit baskets, others praying devoutly as they offered flower petals), and the experience of a community that had come together for a social and religious festival. That 20 minute visit to the temple ceremony will be an experience that will stay with me forever.


Four Seasons Sayan



Four Seasons Sayan is a very contemporary 60 room resort about five minutes south of Amandari. The entrance is at the top of a hillside; guests walk across a bridge and down a staircase into the main lobby (see the picture above). The resort is built into the hillside below the entrance level. The property is quite vast, and buggies are available 24 hours a day to transport guests around the resort.

Guest rooms are everything you would expect from a Four Seasons. Like Jimbaran Bay, they are designed with the traditional Balinese dwelling in mind — an outdoor covered living area and an indoor sleeping area. The enclosed master bedroom has a large dressing area and a great bathroom with black marble vanity with two sinks, a marble soaking tub, and a large step-in shower with attractive green tiles.

Suites and Villas are virtually identical in layout, but Villas are detached and provide you with a private infinity pool. Garden Villas overlook rice paddies while River Front Villas offer a direct view of the river - an upsell that is quite worth it, in my opinion. If you're after the best and most up-to-date room product in Ubud, FS Sayan would be your choice.


Chedi Club



Chedi Club is a small resort (a GHM property), just 20 suites and villas, close to Ubud. What is unique about this property is that it is set in the midst of the rice fields of the adjacent village. The guest suites and villas look out over the fields, as do the Spa and exercise room. Pictured above is the "front lawn" of the Chedi Club at dawn, the front lawn being a rice field; bear in mind that the appearance of the rice fields will change during the course of each four-month growing season.

We stayed in one of the resort's nine Pool Villas. A large private courtyard provides your own infinity lap pool (about 24' by 7'). The courtyard is furnished with two lounge chairs on side side of the pool, a day bed on the other side, and a covered dining area at one end, and an open view of the rice fields at the other end. The guestroom has a total area of about 430 square feet - no marble floors or baths but with attractive terracotta flooring. There is a bamboo wall at the head of the bed bed, behind which is space for a dressing area and desk (with complimentary ethernet internet access), useful if one guest wants to rise early to check email while the other guest prefers to sleep. The bathroom has two separate vanities, a large shower, and a very large outdoor soaking tub.

There are three Spa villas with larger enclosed indoor space ideal for a family (three day beds along one side of the large living room), a master bedroom, a private spa room with two tables set up (a couple receives one 90-minute massage per guest per day), dual vanities inside and an outdoor soaking tub, rain shower, a small outdoor "plunge pool" (really, a small tub), and a sauna.

The seven Suites have a large bedroom and living room space with outdoor covered bathtub and rain shower.

The service at the Chedi Club is personal and attentive - we had some special concerns come up at the beginning of our stay, and GM Stefan Noll could not have been more accommodating. One of the features of Chedi Club is the personal butler service. Our butler met us at check-in and took us to our villa, and she explained that she was on call to provide anything you need - whether it be to restock the complimentary mini-bar (which includes gin, whiskey, and vodka as well as soft drinks and bottled water), set up unlimited complimentary transfers into Ubud, make dinner reservations, or guide you on a one-hour walk through the rice fields and the adjacent village of Tanah Gajah (a highly recommended experience). And an extra bonus: Chedi Club provides complimentary laundry service, so this would be a perfect place to stay in the middle of your trip to Bali!

If you have an opportunity to attend a performance of the twice-weekly show, Kecak Fire Dance, I would definitely recommend this. Not your typical native cultural dance with a few local dancers, this dramatic choral and dance performance has a cast of between 75 - 120. A compelling performance, it holds your attention, and is followed by an Indonesian Feast.

Chedi Club has a spa that looks out over the rice fields, as well as a well-equipped exercise room.



Ubud Hanging Gardens



A small resort - just 38 rooms, Ubud Hanging Gardens is adjacent to a small rural village about 30 minutes from Ubud. Owned by Orient-Express, the resort is perched on a hillside overlooking the Ayung River. In fact, this is the origin of the name "Hanging Gardens." With a vertical orientation up and down the steep hillside, there are two funiculars taking guests to the different levels of the resort, although you can use the steps.

Rooms feel very "Orient-Express" with lots of natural wood— the floor and in the furnishings. The property was 90% occupied when we visited, but we were able to see a Panoramic Room, the most popular room category as it offers a view of the temple on the opposite hillside across the river. The room was small by comparison to the Aman and Four Seasons properties in Bali; the Master Bedroom felt like a typical Superior room plus a private outside patio. Bathrooms feature dual vanities with both an indoor and an outdoor soaking tub (with showers in the tub). Free WiFi is provided guests throughout the property, and a buffet breakfast is included in the room rate.

The Spa was very special, open to the outside (see above) with the soothing sounds of the river, birds, and crickets providing a natural background for your treatment. No need for canned music from a CD here!

Ubud Hanging Gardens offers a unique experience for guests, a private dinner in the Temple across the river. Guests are driven to the Temple (illuminated at night) for a private romantic dinner. Afterwards, the couple makes their way down lighted steps to the river where they receive a Hindu blessing, followed by a Couples Massage for two.

Rates are reasonable, starting at $400 for a Suite with private infinity pool. There is also a joint package with Jimbaran Puri resort that includes a dinner at each resort and transfers; the package requires at least three days at each resort.

Last edited by DavidO; May 7, 11 at 12:02 am
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