In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love, the protagonist visits three countries in the hope of finding herself. I had visited two of them in the past few years – Italy and India – and still felt somewhat lost. Would a trip to Bali sort me out?
I hoped so. Nestled towards the centre of Bali is the jungle town of Ubud. Since the release of the film version of Gilbert’s book – starring Julia Roberts – the town has become a mecca for lost women hoping to find their very own guru to pop them on a new path towards spiritual bliss. Unsurprisingly, a number of entrepreneurial men have been forthcoming for the role, and Ubud now groans with adverts from gurus offering up their services.
But away from the town, set in the hillside of a verdant, water-drenched valley, is a more reliable – and less risky – way to find peace and quiet. The Ritz-Carlton Mandapa Reserve is the perfect hideaway if you fancy disappearing away from the world for a few days, which I did. It feels like it has been there for centuries, designed as it is around an old-fashioned paddy field and a roaring river – but the truth is, it is a state-of-the-art wellness retreat. They will feed you up on tropical fruit and nasi goreng, pummel your muscles, drench you in heavenly local oils, and give you time away from the modern world, which – these days – is the ultimate luxury. Then they will lead you up an ancient volcano at 4am, so that you arrive at the top just as the sun is rising – where you can then enjoy a cup of hot tea as you contemplate your tiny place in the world. It makes you realise quite how insignificant your worries about all those emails on your phone really are.
It is, admittedly, quite a hike to get to Bali from Britain for a spot of spiritual cleansing. There are places that are just as hot – the Caribbean, say – which you can get to in far less time. And even India’s jungle retreats would probably offer a similar sense of isolation. But there is something distinct about Bali. It is a place thick with a sacred mist – and Mandapa captures this in the most soothing way. If you prefer a beach-based break – with less of the spiritual side – the Ritz-Carlton Bali is just a few hours away from Mandapa, and is a bit more Club Sandwich than Karma.
It’s also worth flying via Hong Kong to break the back of the journey. I stopped off at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong in Kowloon, which helped ease me back into normal life. It’s one of the highest hotels in the world, so again – you get a good sense of perspective from up there. I’m not sure I found myself in Bali, but I certainly saw a glimpse of it at Mandapa.
More details about the Mandapa resort can be found here. Cathay Pacific offers regular flights to Bali via Hong Kong. A Reserve Suite at The Ritz-Carlton Mandapa Reserve starts from £350 per night for two people on a B&B basis. A Sawangan Junior Suite at The Ritz-Carlton Bali starts from £269 per night for two people on a B&B basis. A Deluxe room at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong start from £295 per night, per room on a room only basis. Please visit www.ritzcarlton.com