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East of Eden


Amandari is a fine retreat from the sham bohemianism of Ubud. The oldest of the Amanresorts on Bali, it was built by traditional stonemasons using authentic materials and plans, and things grow so quickly here that it has taken on the green patina of a ruin. This is the place that started it all: Amandari pioneered the infinity pool, and theirs is still one of the world's great tubs. Amandari is most of all a brilliant choice if you want to be alone with someone. The villas are hidden behind a medieval labyrinth of stone walls, and you can expect to stay here for days without encountering your (often famous) neighbors.

Bali -- and especially the vicinity of Ubud -- offers the world's most exquisite handcrafted furniture, at low prices. Decorators from L.A. and the Caribbean routinely ship containers full of the stuff around the world. When you visit Ubud, the Amandari folk will give you expert advice regarding shops and what to buy.

Amankila is more social than the walled Amandari, with a whole new take on the unbounded swimming experience: the Cascading Infinity Trough. Three long pools, terraced into a cliff, overflow into each other. Unlike Amandari, which is landlocked, Amankila also has a beach, although it's a bit of a hike. Just up from the beach, there's a massage grove: a cluster of trees where you can get traditional Balinese rubdowns. The rooms and public spaces are not to my liking: The fancy arches framing mirrors remind me too much of Indian restaurants. The property is planned in a way reminiscent of Amanpuri: Too much of the resort is taken up by unsightly raised walkways, and everything is oriented toward the View.

On the other hand, Amankila does have its signal features. Two young girls from a local village greet you earnestly with floral offerings; everyone knows your name within minutes; the entire resort smells of frangipani and ylang-ylang (which is what the roof is woven with). I, in fact, develop a slight allergy to my hotel room, but it is worth it. A private boat will take you snorkeling in Blue Lagoon; the underwater life in this part of Bali is worth visiting (full day: $300).

The third Amanresort gets less attention than these two, mostly because it's associated with Nusa Dua, a famously overdeveloped and inauthentic bit of the island. It is more manicured than either of the other Amans, and it sits beside a vast golf course. The public spaces are truly regal, including a polished floor in the lobby that can hold its own, mirrorwise, with the Hong Kong Pen's, and an Italian restaurant whose splendid design puts Amanpuri's to shame. The pool is merely finite, but it is impressively huge and girded by monolithic structures out of some Mayan fantasy. The beach, though a five-minute drive away, is pretty and unpopulated.

Amandari is my favorite, not least because it's the only Aman with a gym. It would be terrible if you booked the wrong Aman and spent your entire vacation seething with envy; luckily, with the Bali Experience, you don't have to choose.

Forget the albino buffalo and the Albright posse. This I consider the millionairing equivalent of a quadruple toe loop with a half-gainer: a trio of Amanresorts, occupied on a week of successive evenings, for peanuts. (Well, okay, macadamias.) This is the kind of coup that the sport's many fans recount over beer toward the bleary hours of dawn. And as I rise to the podium to accept my medal, I would just like to say: I am the king of the world. You like me, you really like me. And no, I don't see why I should have to submit to a urine test.


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