I visited Bali for the first time last Thanksgiving. It was a quick trip and I wanted to try out a variety of hotels. In the end, I stayed in 4 hotels over 7 days of varying tiers with the highlight being a 2 night stay at Mandapa, a $700 per night Ritz-Carlton Reserve brand room.
There are few reviews behind Marriott’s most-rarefied Reserve brand which left me both excited and weary. The hotel brand sets out to combine the best of local and cultural experiences with its signature service. Except, there’s just one catch - you won’t earn a single Marriott Bonvoy point. Gasp! Even though I died a little bit inside, I was quite excited for the stay.
Part 1, which you can read here , provides an overview of The Ritz-Carlton Reserve brand. In Part 2, I’ll cover below details behind my actual stay and why I eventually didn’t care that I didn’t earn a single point.
Hotel Name: Mandapa
Location: Ubud, Indonesia
Room Type: One Bedroom Rice Terrace Pool Villa
Loyalty Program: Marriott Bonvoy
Price: $700 Per Night
Ubud, located 2 hours outside of Bali, is the island's most popular tourist spot for an immersive jungle experience. The region is filled with rice patties, waterfalls, and lush landscapes. While one would think Bali's beaches are spectacular, I would go as far as to skip the beaches entirely in favor of jungle life which was far more unique and peaceful.
Once in Ubud, there's no shortage of both affordable and luxury hotels. Alongside Mandapa, you'll find the Four Seasons, Viceroy, and Hanging Gardens located minutes from each other.
The entrance to Mandapa alone was difficult to find. Instead of a grand foyer and driveway, the entrance was tastefully disguised by a small alleyway and a 20-feet tall statue off the main road. The alleyway was wide enough to fit a single car.
The first stop was the security checkpoint where guards verify your reservation and inform the front desk of your arrival. They also swept the bottom of your vehicle for bombs, though with just a hoosehold broom. Another short drive down the hill and you’re in the hotel's courtyard where an entire team receives you. The welcoming committee was all smiles.
Mandapa can be likened to a forbidden temple or monastery - clear of logos, noisy lobbies, traditional check-in desks, and marble floors. In fact, the reception space had no walls. Mandapa is an open-air and stone-laid gazebo decorated with sparsely placed couches and seats. The reception area is located at the highest point of the hotel overlooking the valley.
We were asked to make ourselves comfortable as our personal assistant prepared our paperwork. A few minutes later, Agung, our knowledgeable and professional personal assistant arrived with tea and cold towels. He left again to verify our passports and payment. A few minutes later, he confirmed our Villa upgrade was cleared and handed us our room keys.
To get around, the property offered a fleet of golf carts which you can order on-demand via WhatsApp or by calling the operator. Agung had a cart waiting for us after check-in and offered to give us a tour of the property before arriving at our room. From reception to Villas, you’ll pass by a series of tall buildings where the Suites are located, followed by a "social area", and lastly rows of Villas. Located at the far edge along the riverfront was the gym, yoga room, and the properties nicest restaurant, Kubu. Below is a map to help you get oriented.
Villa #9 was the first corner unit located along “Villa”-row, as I liked to call it. There was a clear delineation between Villas and Suites. Each Villa was surrounded by a concrete perimeter for added privacy. The entrance to the Villa was located on the left after a long pathway down a lush corridor. The French doors resembled an old and traditional rice plantation farmhouse.
Inside the Villa included separate sleeping and separate seating quarters. In between was the Villa's private infinity pool, which covered half of the entire Villa. It was massive.
As you enter the sleeping quarter, you’ll find a walk-in closet directly in front, the bedroom to the left with a large King bed, and a gorgeous bathroom to the right. The bed and blanket was very comfortable. For the bathroom, you have the option of showering in an extra large bathtub with rose petals (by request), stand-up shower, or even an outdoor shower. Thankfully the Villa had powerful air conditioning unit.
The seating quarter was just steps away from the sleeping area. It was furnished with a large sectional sofa, television, and dining area. The outdoor patio, which was also attached to the bedroom, had a table with two chairs and a chaise lounge.
The outdoor space was the best part. It was covered with exotic plants, vines, and grass. The serenity of the rice plantations in the distance and locust bugs truly removed you even further from the outside world. I discovered a new found love for jungle life.
During the two day stay, we ordered breakfast and lunch directly to the room. Agung highly recommended a poolside breakfast in our Villa for the convenience and potential “Instagram” photos. It was hilarious and thoughtful that he took into account our social media photos - which he was certainly not far off. So we listened and best part, breakfast was fully included in the room rate. As you can see below, we went to town.
Steps away from the room was the main pool, bar, and casual restaurant. A full-service Breakfast Buffet was served each morning in the main area, which looked nearly identical to the in-room menu.
Towards the edge of the property along the river was the resorts high-end restaurant called Kubu, which I learned means a hut where Indonesian farmers store their rice after harvesting. The website describes itself as a Mediterranean-European fusion cuisine prepared with Bali-sourced ingredients. It certainly didn't taste like one or the other.
I tried Kubu on the last night. While the main dining room was certainly enjoyable, the best and most intimate dining experience was inside one of the 9 private cocoons. It’s highly recommended that you make reservations to ensure you’re guaranteed one. The meal and service was great, though nothing memorable. It was the atmosphere that made the meal special.
The most common amenities included poolside and unlimited breakfast, a rose petal bath, and on-demand golf carts to shuttle you around.
Though, as I’ve learned, the Reserve experience goes beyond simple conveniences. Mandapa offers a daily list of special and cultural activities to truly immerse yourself into the Balinese culture. A few complimentary activities that interested me:
Balinese Craft Demo
Balinese Culture Talk
Balinese Plant Studies
Other signature activities for a small fee:
Driving around in a Volkswagen
I opt'd for a deep tissue massage, yoga session, and pool time. However, next time I definitely plan to take advantage of all the cultural activities.
The Reserve brand prides itself on taking a unique approach to hotel experiences by creating stays that go beyond a bed and simple conveniences. Instead, visitors can expect lasting memories from cultural and educational to immersive activities.
Mandapa helped me to see the boutique side of Ritz-Carlton. Void of large marble lobbies and over-the-top decor, Mandapa felt like a private and zen-like retreat marrying the best of both indoor and outdoor living with exceptional service. Now, while I view the hotel alone as a 5-star experience, the only and major downside of staying at a Reserve property is the lack of points accrual. While I was initially devastated to find out my $700 per night room would not qualify for a single point, I left not remembering at all.