Front Runners December 2015: Spirit of Bali

The village of Ubud is the epicenter of Bali’s Hindu culture, where ancient temples rise from forests filled with sacred trees. The best way to tour the town and its mystical surrounds is from the back of Mandapa’s (ritzcarlton.com) vintage Volkswagen 181, a model that served as transport for the Indonesian island’s mayors during the 1960s and ’70s. 

Opened in September as Ritz-Carlton’s third Reserve property, Mandapa is a cultural marvel in its own right. Situated on a tiered rice plantation on the edge of the Ayung River, the resort resembles a small village of 25 thatched villas and 35 suites. Guests enter the property through a bright-orange candi bentar, the traditional gate leading to a Balinese temple. Each accommodation is attended by a patih, or personal butler, and decorated with hand­woven batik textiles and colorful murals painted by local artists. A spa, three restaurants, and a swimming pool overlook the rice fields and rushing river. 

Should a trip in the resort’s VW inspire a spiritual awakening, guests can visit the Pengiasan Temple. The 200-year-old landmark sits on the grounds of Mandapa, perfectly preserved among sacred trees.

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