Aman Resorts are a collection of small luxury boutique resorts located throughout exotic locations in the world. The brand has garnered near cult like status among it’s many fervent followers, known as Amanjunkies, so much so that a stay at an Aman is regarded as an experience of a lifetime for many people.
Established by it’s visionary founder and hotelier Adrian Zecha, Aman strives to provide an intimate and relaxing environment for vacationers, with emphasis on personalized service, beautiful surroundings, culture, fabulous food and ultimate in comfort. So it is no wonder that I have very high expectations for my first stay at an Aman resort.
Right from the get go, Aman distinguished itself in the service department. While other resorts in Bali have an airport staff that pick up guest at the terminal exit, Aman provides meet and greet service at the airport as a standard. After exiting my plane, I met up with the Aman airport representative carrying a sign who helped me with my luggage. Then another staff ( greeter? ) showed me to my car. The encounter with the greeter was rather comical. Perhaps he was new, or he has yet to learn more variety of welcoming phrases, he bided me welcome and repeated the same sentence in English “Thank you for choosing Amankila Mr Lee! It’s a great honor to have you stay with us!” at least 3 times while we are waiting for the car. Well, I supposed I at least have to compliment him for trying. :D
The car is a Toyota Kijang, a common utility van popular in Indonesia, but was not known for it’s ride quality, and it shows. The ride to the resort was nearly 2 hours long due to traffic jam and it’s jerky and occasionally uncomfortable with bumps on the road. To the resort’s credit, they do try to make the journey as comfortable as possible, with cold soft drinks, snacks, iPod and Wifi connectivity and comfortable pillows in the car.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by my welcome party, with a chorus of smiles and welcome and promptly shown to my accommodation. I booked an Ocean suite and had earlier requested the resort to give me one with the best possible ocean view. So I was quite glad to be assigned the famed and much sort after Suite #37. Perched high up the resort, it offers the best panoramic view of the ocean and has both sunrise and sunset views. It’s more like a villa, with it’s own private terrace, minus the pool.
The Ocean suite #37 in short, is fabulous and it’s not just the view. It’s arguably the nicest resort villa I have ever stayed, both amenity and design wise. One thing that strikes me first thing first is the amazing design. Designed by Ed Tuttle, there is a natural flow in the suite, with all things in their proper place. The bathroom, mini bar, walk in closet are perfectly integrated in a seamless and timeless design.
Walking into the suite, the high ceiling immediately conveys a generous sense of space. There is of course a comfortable 4-poster king size bed, a large day bed by the window with ocean views, dual vanity areas, rainforest shower, large soaking tub by the window, and a first for me, dual closets. A gourmet coffee machine is provided that features excellent coffee, as well as a Bose iPod dock and an iPod with preloaded music. Snacks are provided complimentary as well. The outdoor terrace also has a large sofa bed to enjoy the view and a workdesk. Wireless internet is free to use throughout the suite and resort. There is no TV in the room though I requested the resort to setup one for me. In short, nothing is missing or overlooked.
Overall, the emphasis here is understated luxury that is both elegant and comfortable, with near unparalleled attention to detail. The materials used are of the finest quality, with a strong Balinese influence and I would have never guessed that this resort is actually already 20 years old! That is a testimony of how well the resort has been meticulously maintained throughout the years. The interior area is fenced by a series of intelligent sliding windows to keep out any insects or unwelcomed visitors at night. The suite is well lid at night. Even the knobs and taps on the vanity area were custom made. It’s also great to sleep to the sound of ocean waves. Overall, It’s a supremely comfortable place to stay and just relax.
The resort only has 34 suites so it is very boutique in nature. It does not boast the vast expansive compound or numerous facilities the larger resorts have. There are only two restaurants, one serving breakfast and lunch, one serving only dinner and there’s also a beach club that serve snacks. The resort can also organized private dinning at the beach or in the privacy of the suite.
The signature feature of Amankila is the famous three tier infinity pool. The view overlooking the ocean from the pool is beautiful, but unfortunately spoiled by some oil tanker vessels that parked at the sea. There’s also a library with a large collection of books and magazines. There are some bales located around the swimming pool area to enjoy the view.
The beach club is located some distance from the resort and accessible by a long flight of stairs ( 5 mins walk ) or by buggy which the resort can arrange. There’s another larger swimming pool at the beach club. Walking further, one can access the beach front. Unfortunately, the sand is of a very dark greyish color and soggy, so neither visually appealing nor great for walking. There is nothing of interest nearby and there are some bales along the beachfront which one can get the beach staff to set it up. The place was rather deserted when I was there. It is not a very attractive beach front to be honest and I didn’t felt like lingering and left shortly. The three other resorts I have been to, namely St Regis, W and Four Seasons Jimbaran all have nicer beaches in comparison.
F&B is often touted as a strong point for all Aman resorts and the Amankila is as well, with one glaring exception. As a foodie myself, I was looking forward to see how the resort measured up in this aspect. I had most of my meals at the resort for the 2 days of my stay and food quality is generally exceptional, and well presented. One should definitely try the Indonesian food, which is fresh, authentic and very well prepared. The resort also features a great selection for in-room dinning, with western and Indonesian choices and the prices are reasonable. The best meal I had is easily the duck ( Bebek Bukaka ) in coconut curry source, a local Balinese delicacy. Also, the kitchen is obliging to meet special request. While having a beer at the beach club, I suddenly craved for fried chicken wings wasn’t in the menu. The staff at the beach club was nice enough to get the kitchen to make for me. It goes without saying that it’s very delicious.
The glaring exception is the breakfast, which measured against the high standards set by the Amankila on other aspects, becomes in comparison, downright mediocre. The breakfast concept is generally well executed, ie one can order anything off the breakfast menu and they will prepare it Ala Carte to ensure freshness. However, I had breakfast once in the terrace restaurant and once by in-room dinning and both times failed to be impressed. Food quality was just OK, not outstanding. For example, despite specific instructions, they couldn’t seem to get my omelet done right ( I prefer it “runny”, they served it overcooked ). The chicken porridge was tasteless. The croissant wasn’t flaky. The pastries didn’t taste like it was freshly baked. It just didn’t taste as fresh and delicious as the other meals I had. Also, I asked for waffles and they don’t have ( huh? ), and only the most basic type of jams are available ( I asked for blueberry jam which was not available ). Perhaps if I had complained on the spot, they might have got it done right, but I rather prefer they got it right the first time.
Many Aman guests have raved about Aman’s service and it is not difficult to see why. First, of course all the staff are very well trained, smile a lot and always helpful. There is also the convenience of not needing to sign any bills after meals or after using any of the service. The staff does a great job to remember and address me by name. So no complaints when come to service. It’s just that perhaps my expectation is higher than usual after hearing so much from other travelers about Aman’s near legendary services that I actually find the Aman’s service not exactly up to my high expectation. What I mean is that the staff are always helpful and nice, but there is nothing particularly outstanding compare with hotels and resorts that also excel in good service. In other words, there is a lack of that extra “wow” factor that impressed a discerning traveler like myself.
Perhaps I should have made some very complicated request and see how they perform but then, I was there for holiday and relaxation, not to test the staff on how they perform. Still, there should be things that I thought the Aman staff could have taken noticed if they are up to the job to perform distinguished, personalized service as per their reputation. For example, during my stay, the the weather was hot, and I tend to sweat easily, I always asked the staff for cold towel whenever I go during my stay at the Amankila, so perhaps they can be provided automatically without me asking? That will be an example of good service. Or when they could have noticed that I only ate the bananas from the fruit plate and didn’t touch others, a really smart housekeeping staff that knows what’s good service will put an extra replenishment of the fruit that I liked. These are not expected, but this is what I mean by the “extras” that defines exemplary service and appreciated by the guests.
I did use some of the additional services provided by the resort including a 2 hour trekking activity and a one hour massage. The trekking was fun as I got to see some local Balinese villages and met with the villagers. The guide was very knowledgeable about the local village culture.
Only one thing that kind of bother me is that the welcome and greeting can be rather excessive and the staff at Amankila can at times, tends to over-do it. The “problem” is, to access any of the facilities in the hotel, like the restaurants, pool or the beach, one has to walk through the lobby, and there’s no “escape” from the army of greeters stationed at all times at the lobby, ready to greet me or any other guest for that matter by name good morning / afternoon / evening and asked how’s my day and did I enjoy my stay. It’s nice for the first few instances to see they are so friendly and cheerful but becomes really a bore and repetitive by the second day when I was asked for the umpteenth time in the same way how’s my day and if everything is fine. Maybe a simple smile and a quick “Have a good day sir” will suffice?
Overall, the service is good, but as I said, it’s just that I was expecting something out of the ordinary, something extra to make a difference and it didn’t happened. However, there is nothing to fault about the service.
A word of thanks to the GM of the resort, Ms Tracy. I was having problems making the reservations thru their reservation email and she promptly intervened to make the reservations, addressed any concerns I had and also ensured all my requests were met. Her response is always fast, friendly and efficient. I have rarely encountered a more hands-on GM in my travels.
So here concludes my first Aman experience. Overall, it’s great. Is it perfect? Not really, due to the some of above mentioned concerns. The accommodations and the resort’s design are stunning. The views are great, the environment serene and peaceful. The food quality, except the breakfast, is generally outstanding. The service is warm and attentive but I was expecting something better by Aman’s high standards.
For any less fussy person, this resort would have been outstanding for them. Being the perfectionist that I am, I will grade the resort a high 4 out of 5. This score should not distract from the fact that the Amankila is a great property, possibly the best resort I have tried in Bali so far and I would not mind to return in future. Meantime, I am also keen to try the other Amans and continue my search for the perfect Bali resort. Or perhaps the Amankila can aspire to perfection in my books if they just improve on those aspects I mentioned. It certainly isn’t far behind.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Mount Agung provides a dramatic backdrop for Amankila (peaceful hill), a secluded seaside resort overlooking the Lombok Strait. Spacious stilted villas offer exceptional views from their hillside locations amongst frangipani and bougainvillea, and are connected to the resort's facilities by raised walkways. Guests can relax around the signature three-tiered pool or at the Beach Club on Amankila's beach. Amankila also offers easy access to untouched rural countryside, local crafts and the region's royal past. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Amankila Hotel Manggis
- Amankila Hotel Karangasem
- Amankila Manggis, Bali