I had my first Aman experience at Amangalla in Sri Lanka; a 300 year old colonial building set in the ramparts of the 17th century fort of Galle, a UNESCO world heritage site. For five days, I explored the endless network of alleyways, stumbling on boutiques filled with treasures and antique Anglo-Saxon churches, and joining the local punters on the ramparts to watch the sun set in the evenings. It’s one of the prettiest journeys I’ve experienced to date.
A few months later, I was planning a tour around Indonesia. I think that subconsciously I scratched out my initial destination wish list and decided the Aman resorts around Indonesia would be the destinations, like a band groupie who tails the band’s drummer from one town to the next. One of Aman’s meticulous talents is choosing the most incredible places on earth to place an extraordinary property. So they’ve practically done all the work of researching the “where to go in Indonesia” for you.
Just imagine how pleased I was when I clicked on the ‘exclusives’ tab of their website and the words ‘Bali and beyond’ greeted me; Journey through the Indonesian archipelago with this seven-night offer from Aman resorts. Book now, si vous plait.
Here’s what you get for USD$5,600: Seven nights in Amankila, Amanusa, Amanjiwo, Amandari or Amanwana. How you spend your week is up to you, but you must journey to either Amanjiwo or Amanwana (or both, why not?), enjoying land transfers, breakfast and an activity at each resort.
What’s not included: Mojitos, government tax and service, float plane between Bali and Amanwana (a steal at USD$400 per person) and full board at Amanwana (USD$75 per day) – more on that later.
Day 1 – Amanusa, Bali
The word to describe Amanusa is grand. It’s a place for space, delicious comfort and privacy. I must admit that I didn’t get too settled in here. After all, my intention for this trip was to experience Amanwana and explore Borobudur at Amanjiwo, so my stay in Amanusa was merely a flying visit. Amanusa is one of three Aman resorts in Bali and the closest one to the airport, where I was taking the floatplane to Amanwana the next day. Nevertheless, it’s a great starting point for the journey ahead and a perfect place to start immersing yourself into the Aman spirit.
You’re granted one activity per stay and here, I had a wonderful massage in my room before spending the rest of the afternoon reading a book by the pool. Did I mention the waiters surprise you with icy cones of refreshing treats just as you develop the hankering for something sweet and cold? It’s an elegant touch.
My evening was uneventful but utterly relaxing. I was upgraded to a deluxe suite (don’t ask, don’t get) with an outdoor courtyard and massive daybed overlooking the golf course where I spent the evening with room service and a book. Then, I slept like a baby.
Day 2, 3 & 4 – Amanwana
I woke up feeling wonderfully refreshed at the crack of dawn, ready for the next leg of the journey. I know that’s an awful cliché “to wake up feeling refreshed,” but how often do we get a brilliant night’s sleep? If you get nothing else out of an Aman experience (because your wife is dragging you along on her vacation) you’ll at least be assured this much.
The restaurant wasn’t open as the sun rose in the horizon but there were already two waiters expecting the early bird – me. I lingered over a second cup of coffee and took in the postcard scenery while my trunk was loaded into a waiting car. I don’t know about you, but I adore floatplanes and helicopters. I think it’s the thrill of feeling the air beneath the wings, literally. I mentioned that USD$400 one way for the 45 minute journey was a steal, and I wasn’t kidding. If you go through the private charters in Bali, or anywhere else for that matter, you’ll see what I mean.
Mount Agung stood magnificently in the background as the plane left Bali, and soon after, the Lombok and the Gili islands appeared underneath. It was a clear day, and the shallow emerald reefs scalloped the edges of the islands against the pristine ocean that reached as far as the eye could see until Moyo Island appeared, floating on the Flores Sea.
The private island was as mesmerizing in real life as it was in the photographs. Because the island is isolated, deliveries of produce are limited to once a day, and since the island accommodates a maximum of only 40 people at a time (less in the low seasons when I was there) there are just two or three menu options which change daily – but you’re not on a gastronomic tour, you’re here to explore. The food was perfectly delightful; a mixture of grilled proteins and locally inspired accompaniments.
In the evenings, curious families of macaque monkeys gathered near the tents, darting their eyes from one tent to the next in search of tasty offerings. They were very well behaved, and rather shy, never coming too close to the tents and retreating into the bushes when someone walked along the pathway. Then in the dark of night, as I walked back to the tent after a hearty dinner under a blanket of stars, I spotted the endangered Ruse Deers feeding on the grass near the tents. Mystical to say the least.
Day three was a day of exploration; in the morning I hiked along the top ridge of the island, stumbling across a family of wild boar that shot through the path in front of me as though they were being chased. It was probably just me that frightened them, but my adrenaline started pumping as my eyes scanned the foliage for shadows. I spent the afternoon snorkeling with a friendly reef shark that circled in a five meter radius around me as I explored the vibrant reef. As the sun set, I realised I didn’t want to leave the ocean, but then I remembered the warnings about feeding time.
I then boarded a wooden fishing boat with two other guests and a local guide who took us around the cove to watch the sun drop over the watery horizon, and told us about Moyo Island and the local communities.
The following day, I spent the morning relaxing on the sun deck before a boat came to fetch me and take me to Sumbawa Besar where I was to catch a local flight to Yogyakarta.
This part of the journey was rather, chaotic. The flight was two hours late and when the plane did arrive, it was old, rackety and smelled like a toilet all the way to Yogyakarta. I minor inconvenience in my otherwise super glam week.
Day 5, 6 & 7 – Amanjiwo
Arriving at Amanjiwo in the twilight of dusk took my breath away. The momumental structure was a stunning sight, bathed in a wash of warm dim light. You get the same spiritual sense of deep and profound peace in the grounds of Amanjiwo as I did in the ancient Borobudur site.
The 9th century Buddhist shrine is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Exploring the ancient ruins takes you into a timeless dimension where the beauty and mysteries of life are revealed and understood, even if just for a moment.
An elephant safari around Dagi Hill brought my journey to a gentle close as I prepared to head back to Bali. And that concludes my trek around the Indonesia archipelago with Aman; the group that pioneered the concept of barefoot luxury – the idea of extravagance without a chandelier and dusty tapestry.