The luxury isle

My first stay in Bali cost me the princely sum of US$3 a night. This bought a simple double room with banana pancakes for breakfast and an endless supply of strong, gritty Balinese coffee, kept in a thermos flask on the verandah and consumed while we gazed over rice paddies that, in those days, spread either side of Jalan Monkey Forest in the village of Ubud.

Our “ensuite” consisted of a western-style toilet and mandi, a concrete tub filled with cold water which we regularly scooped over us when the heat became oppressive. But that was last century, a time when Bali was the bargain basement of budget travel.

Those rice paddies along Jalan Monkey Forest have all but disappeared, smothered by cheap brick and bamboo development. An equally formidable impact has occurred at the top end of the hospitality tree.

It’s significant that Amanresorts, which has a string of elite resorts located around the world, has more properties in Indonesia than anywhere else with the greatest concentration on Bali. When cost is of no concern this magical isle can conjure lodgings of such style and refinement they impart a genuinely surreal quality to any holiday.

Indelibly inked on the upmarket Bali map are the artists’ village of Ubud in the island’s centre and Jimbaran Bay on the southern Bukit peninsula. Other marvellous options such as privately-owned yet rentable villas exist in isolation. You can also pencil in Nusa Dua in the island’s far south, an enclave of resort hotels run by global chains such as Sheraton, Hyatt and Hilton offering a slightly more affordable, therefore more accessible, slice of Balinese holiday heaven.

Ubud retains the cachet of being Bali’s most intriguing and appealing town. Long a centre of creativity and commercialism it’s also the location of the island’s most exclusive accommodation, epitomised by the Amandari.

Perched on the edge of the Ayung River gorge, a few minutes drive from Ubud and adjacent to the village of Kedewatan, the Amandari is modelled on a Balinese village with high stone walls screening narrow lanes lead to 30 individual terrace and duplex villas, better described as “pavilions”. Eleven of these have private swimming pools.

All bathrooms feature outdoor sunken marble bathtubs half hidden by pottery and greenery. The Amandari Suite overlooking the gorge has a separate living pavilion, a swimming pool and an outdoor dining bale built of teak and bamboo. There’s also a private three-bedroom villa which comes complete with two staff and chef on call!

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