Maya Ubud Resort & Spa

by Goh Bee Lian, Sep 15, 2004 | Destinations: Indonesia / Bali
View from the River Cafe

View from the River Cafe

View from the River Cafe

The journey by car from Ngurah Rai airport took almost an hour. But a trip to Bali, and especially to Ubud, is always one that I look forward to, so time passed in a pleasant panorama of bustling Denpasar, colorful Kuta, before flowing into the quieter roads leading to Ubud, with flocks of uniform-clad schoolchildren heading home from school, looking amazingly like flocks of geese cackling their way through green rice fields.

Small signboards along the road pointed the way to scores of hotels, bungalows and home-stays that seem ever more plentiful each time I come to Ubud. A modest sign drew us off the main road to a winding path, along green creeper-covered slopes before turning once again to a paved road that led us to the main entrance of the resort.

After ascending several steps, we walked across a wooden walkway that spanned a shallow pool dotted with large candles, and up another dozen or so stone steps leading to a spacious, airy pavilion that was the main lobby. The short climb was rewarded by a gorgeous sight. The sounds of the rushing river could be heard in the distance as our eyes feasted on the view. Walkways to the left and right of the lobby led to the low-rise blocks housing the superior and deluxe rooms. Sofas and armchairs were spread invitingly all over the open pavilion, inviting one to sit and drink in the view.

Rolling gently downhill from the pavilion was a soothing vista of green. Sitting on a crest, the lobby was the perfect spot to take in the sheer size of the property. Set in 10 hectares of hillside greenery, the resort stretches 780 meters along a peninsula set high above two river valleys. Along the left of the path, perched on the bank of the river, rows of cozy villas sit with their backs to us, jealously guarding the privacy of the guests within. To the right, a tennis court and pitch & putt golf course could be seen.

Although we had seen on the resort's website before our departure for Bali the enticing photos of their riverside villas, we had to settle for the superior rooms that were closer to our budget. We were by no means disappointed. The rooms were spacious and bright, the light cream of the walls complemented by the warm colors of varnished teakwood in the furniture, door- and window-frames. The high ceiling and tall windows let in lots of natural light, and the French windows opened out to wooden balconies that overlooked leafy trees shielding the rooms from the car park beyond.

After a quick shower, we met again in the lobby and went in search of the River Café for a light lunch. Descending the steps on the side of the lobby opposite from the entrance, we realized the vantage point that the lobby was built on. On this side of the pavilion, the land fell steeply enough to house two restaurants below the lobby level.

According to the information brochure we found in our rooms, these were the Maya Sari Mas and the Maya Sari Asiatique restaurants. The Maya Sari Mas is where the breakfast buffet is held. During our 3-day stay, we thoroughly enjoyed the hearty breakfasts, flitting between the international breakfast buffet spread which included local favorites like nasi goreng, and the Japanese breakfast where we created our own soup concoctions with the hot miso soup base, dunking in our own combinations of seaweed, tofu, pickles, and so on. The flavor of steamed rice in which bits of fatty salmon had been stirred was just heavenly.

Adjacent to the restaurant, at a slightly lower level, was a deliciously cool swimming pool with cushioned teak deckchairs lining the two long sides of the rectangular pool, nestled under canvas umbrellas flanked by tall frangipani trees with pink blooms. We paused in our stroll down the garden path to enjoy the refreshing sight of the infinity pool, the short edge of the pool at the far end seeming to melt into the greenery beyond, the sound of the flowing water a gentle accompaniment to the roar of the rushing river that got louder as we approached the river.

It was quite a long walk to the River Café. Had we not been so hungry, we might have spent more time taking in the sights. But for now, our stomachs hurried us onwards. At the end of the path, we followed the directions to the elevator that took us down to the café.

The River Café sat at the edge of the Petanu river. Below the café was another infinity pool, this one smaller and irregularly shaped, and from our vantage point, the pool water seemed to be flowing into the river, although in reality they were drained away by a trough just beyond the edge of the pool. Beyond the pool, several thatched huts could be seen, the pavilions of the Riverside Spa. The River Café offered a selection of healthy spa cuisine with a Mediterranean accent. The menu sounded really healthy, but we were pleased to discover that the food tasted good too. The salads and sandwiches were great, with light and flavorful dressings. We left the café well-fed but not stuffed.

Off to the spa, to make reservations for the evening. The spa menu enticed with various types of facials and foot and body massages, with exotic choices of aromatic herbs, oils and lotions. A traditional Balinese massage with "nominal oil to ease away all bodily tension and invigorate the senses"? Or the Riverside Special of a Balinese massage followed by body scrub with tangerine and frangipani, pandan leaves, or Javanese lulur, finished with a flower bath? Perhaps the Harmony Duo, a four-hand massage with two therapists working in tandem to gently ease the body into total relaxation. Double treatment pavilions allow couples to enjoy the treatments together.

After making our reservations, we headed off to town. The resort provides a shuttle service to Ubud central market, every hour, on the hour, from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm (departing from the hotel). We had our own car, and spent the whole afternoon visiting dozens of the little shops that make shopping in Ubud so interesting.

For those who would rather give shopping a miss, the Maya Ubud Resort offers a range of activities for their guests. Trekking and cycling tours are available, led by resort guides, to explore historical sites and ancient temples in the surrounding countryside, or simply to enjoy the natural beauty of the rice terraces, mountains, rivers and natural springs. For the sporty, synthetic grass tennis courts are available, complete with racquets, balls and practice partners.

I did not have a chance to try their yoga classes, but can just imagine what it would be like practicing yoga in such a tranquil setting. The chefs of the Maya Sari Asiatique also conduct cooking classes for groups of at least two guests. The lesson includes a trip to the local market, and participants get a complimentary cookbook so that they can re-create the dishes back home.

By the time we returned from our shopping trip, darkness had fallen. The resort looked quite magical in the golden glow of the subtle lighting. The way to the spa looked different at night. At the spa reception, I was introduced to the various aromatic oils available for the massage. Then I was led by a slim young lady (actually, I can't recall having seen any fat people in Bali!) down a paved path to one of the spa pavilions.

The teak door opened to a spacious room where a long massage table took center-stage under the tall thatched roof. A shower/changing room was at left. Facing us was no wall, just the lush green of tropical foliage cascading down the slopes of the opposite bank of the river. Stepping to the edge of the pavilion, I saw the plant-covered ground falling away to the river. The roar of the rushing river was loud, and yet soothing, seeming to wash away all tension and stress. The air was balmy and humid, heavy with the scent of tropical flowers, dominated by frangipani and jasmine. It was one of the loveliest settings for a massage that I have ever enjoyed.

After breakfast the next day, we decided to check out the riverside villas. The reception staff readily arranged for someone to show us the villas. We trooped down to one of the deluxe pool villas and ooh-ed and aah-ed over the luxurious furnishings, complete with canopied bed, mod cons, private outdoor plunge pool and a daybed at the front porch, and decided that when any of us struck the lottery, we would return and stay at those villas.

During our stay, there was a mix of European and Asian guests. Japanese staff was present to attend to the needs of Japanese-speaking guests. Members of the front-line staff were mostly friendly, soft-spoken young men and women, whose graceful bearing even as they bore trays of fruit to guest villas was such a pleasure to observe.

I have long enjoyed Ubud for its beauty and tranquility. Over the years, I have stayed at different home-stays, bungalows or hotels where well-tended gardens, tiny swimming pools and friendly staff, with traditional Balinese massage available within walking distance, have made each stay very pleasant. But after the sheer luxury of space of the Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, future stays at humbler lodgings will be tinged with a wistful sigh...

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On the Web: Maya Ubud Resort & Spa

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