In the seventh century, a Hindu priest came to Kedewatan Village in Ubud, Bali to meditate, and brought with him a tiger from Java. Before he left, the priest made a statue of the animal to remind villagers that this place had been blessed.
The temple is located 129 steps down from Amandari, a rustic and elegant resort and spa, whose name translates to "peaceful spirits".
"The tiger serves to remind us of the cultural roots that so closely bind us to the Balinese community here," said Liv Gussing, the Amandari's general manager, and in the course of our two-day stay, we came to realize just how interwoven the Amandari is with the local community.
For instance, local villagers unobtrusively make use of the hotel's pathways to access their rice fields. The resort also sponsors a daily traditional Balinese dance class for children from the village.
Culture aside, Amandari is the birthplace of Ubud's first infinity pool and recipient of countless awards.
Though it opened some sixteen years ago, the resort shows none of its age but all of its maturity. The first upscale luxury resort to appear in Ubud, Amandari is an elite development sitting on an escarpment above the Ayung Valley.
It was designed as a walled Balinese village with only thirty private villas connected by paved footpaths. Lush foliage flanks both sides of the footpaths while Hindu mini-shrines pepper the pathways throughout the entire resort.
A luxurious sense of space permeates the open-air lobby, which is designed like a traditional Balinese meeting place.
Our villa was a short walk from the lobby. Huge by any standard, this thatched roof suite came with a romantic outdoor sunken marble bathtub and access to a gigantic swimming pool. By the pool, a private bale overlooks the valley plantation.
Unlike many other luxury resort spas that invest heavily in renovations and unique concepts to make their spa a destination, the Amandari has kept things simple yet charming. The spa offers two open-air bales, a beauty room, sauna and marble steam room.
Guests will find the usual array of massages, facial and body treatments on the menu, but do look out for a unique reflexology treatment performed by Pak Wayan, a blind reflexologist.
Wayan is in such high demand throughout the island that he only spends Thursdays at the resort, with Amandari guests flying in from as far as Morocco just to have a reflexology session with him.
The treatment can be painful, but it is well worth it.
We also highly recommend the Aman facial, using 100% natural and organic products, with an expensive rose essential oil as the main ingredient. It will send you to nirvana within minutes.
For a different spa adventure, try traditional Balinese healing. One such healer is Pak Cok, whose work is described as "magical and therapeutic".
During our fifteen-minute consultation with him in his bale sheltered by mature trees, Cok felt our face with his hands and poked the back of our toes with his stick to come up with the diagnosis that we have good mental and physical balance but that the mind consumes too much energy from the physical body.
Cok plucked a leaf from a tree in front of his bale and asked that we chew and swallow it. A drop of honey helped to drown the bitter aftertaste.
It should be noted that traditional healing has strong roots in Bali and should not be easily dismissed.
Whether you come for Cok's healing hands, more traditional treatments or just to soak up the informally luxurious ambience of the Amandari perfected by a beautiful lush landscape, natural surroundings and highly personalized services, it is not difficult to see why this unique property is the favourite playground of Aman junkies.
Photos: Alex Ang
This article was first published by Gayot.com.
Evelyn Chen is a Singapore-based freelance writer. Her work, which includes a Business Travel Guide to Singapore, restaurant, hotel and spa reviews, has been published on gayot.com, AsiaOne's Wine & Dine site as well as About.com's go asia channel and spa site.