Review: Tanah Gajah, Bali – A Resort by Hadiprana – A charming, art-filled retreat amidst swaying rice fields.

I must admit, Tanah Gajah wasn’t on my list of “must-visit hotels” in Bali. Having developed an affinity for staying by the coast rather than inland whenever I made a trip to the island of the Gods, I had a tendency for choosing areas like Uluwatu and Jimbaran in my last few trips. Something about the sight, sounds, and smells of the ocean appealed to the city girl in me. But the tranquil rice fields of Ubud were, no doubt, a draw; and a place that I had known I must make my way to one day. So I finally did.

The hotel lobby features traditional sculptures and furnishings, much like the rest of the estate

At First Glance
Tanah Gajah is a tropical destination in its own right. A visual explosion of lush flora, stone walls, elephant sculptures, and water features, there’s so much to take in from the moment you arrive at the property. Not forgetting the endless horizon of rice fields every which way you look. Each time I turned one way or another, my peripheral vision was greeted by a whole new scene of natural or man-made beauty. Think red thatched roofs, sprawling gardens, Balinese arts and sculptures, and traditional motifs and textures.


The Story
Formerly known as The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah Ubud, the resort changed hands at the start of 2020 and now sits under the Hadiprana Hospitality hotel management group. Rebranded as Tanah Gajah, a resort by Hadiprana, both the group and resort are named for the late Hendra Hadiprana, the Indonesian architect and designer whose family once called the five-hectare property home in the 1980s.

The One bedroom pool villa.
The soaking tub.

Inside the One Bedroom Club Pool Villa

The Abode
My One Bedroom Club Pool Villa is one of nine on the estate and one category above the One Bedroom Club Suite. Featuring a private courtyard entrance, a huge outdoor deck, private pool, freestanding verandah, an outdoor soaking tub and generous indoor spaces – the villa is a massive 280 sq-m – there’s no shortage of space to potter and play. The pool sits at the edge of the house with a small gate at the end of the pool that opens up to a private view of the paddies. The villa also has two vanity areas, a rainshower and a wardrobe enclave. For bigger groups, there’s a Two Bedroom Club Family Pool Villa option or the singular Hadiprana Estate that can accommodate up to six adults.

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View of the hotel grounds from the Panen Padi Lounge

The Food and Drinks
Led by Executive Chef Dean Noor, the F&B offerings are wholly thoughtful and colourful. Tanah Gajah has one in-house restaurant called Tempayan – a vast airy dining space that offers panoramic views of the rice fields. At night, you can enjoy the sight of countless candles that flicker amidst the paddies – purposely placed by the hotel staff so guests have points of reference for their surroundings.


Guests can take their three meals at the restaurant, where ingredients are hand-picked from the hotel’s own organic garden and local markets. Be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, there’s always a mix of traditional and Western choices. Upon arrival, look out for a notecard in your room to inform you that Chef Dean and his team would be happy to create any off-menu dish you desire during your stay.

There’s also a tapas bar called the Panen Padi Lounge, which was once the main house when the late Hendra Hadiprana and his family stayed onsite.


The Hospitality
The staff are as amiable, genuine and warm as it gets. A friend of mine was celebrating his birthday during our stay and the hotel graciously delivered a complimentary cake to the villa at midnight. Three staff came along to sing happy birthday too – including security personnel, which we thought was humorously thoughtful. I must make special mention of Bima Hartono, who is a most accommodating sales and marketing manager, and our main point of contact throughout our stay. He is, quite literally, the embodiment of true blue Balinese hospitality.

Tanah Gajah’s green-tiled pool is reminiscent of a Balinese water palace design.

Fellow Guests
Thanks to the charm and quaintness of the vast estate, the retreat is ideal for couples and small families. Unless you dine at the hotel restaurant, swim in the communal green-tiled pool or opt for hotel activities, you rarely bump into other guests – which makes you feel more at home and more like you have the whole place to yourselves.

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Location
Just a 10-minute drive from central Ubud but a 1.5-hour drive away from Seminyak. Ubud has plenty to offer in terms of sights – from the Tirta Empul water temple to Tegenungan Waterfall – so you don’t need to venture out of town if you don’t want to sit in traffic. The resort’s surroundings are really peaceful and postcard-perfect. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Agung and Mount Batur in the far background.

There’s always something beautiful to admire, like this bird motif wood screen, when you explore Tanah Gajah

For Your Consideration
As with any tropical destination, be prepared for visitors like lizards, mosquitos, ants and little insects. There’s incense burners and handy mosquito repellents on-hand though.

A dance troupe from the local community performing a traditional kecak dance for guests

The Noteworthy
Guests enjoy numerous complimentary services and offerings, including breakfast, daily laundry service (six items per guest), hotel shuttles into Ubud (before 6pm), afternoon tea, sunset cocktails and minibar refreshments (including the alcohol). There’s also a rice paddy trekking experience guided by your butler included in your stay. Twice a week, a dance troupe from the local community come to perform a kecak dance for guests at the hotel’s outdoor candle-lit amphitheatre too. In other words, there’s really no reason to leave the hotel.


The Summary
Come and stay and you’ll be happy you did. I’m so glad I did and even ended up extending my stay. Its location amid rice paddies is something else and practically hypnotic… like you’re a world away from bustling Bali and everything else you want to get away from for awhile.

Where : Tanah Gajah (A Member of the Leading Hotels of the world),
Tengkulak Kaja, Jl. Raya Goa Gajah,
Kemenuh, Sukawati, Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
Phone : +62 361 975685

Note: The critic was invited by the hotel. But opinions are her own.

Amenities – Pool, Spa, Gym, Yoga pavilion and Tennis court

Rooms – 20

Staff – Classic Balinese hospitality

Food & Drinks
Conscious and inventive

Bed & Bath – Rustic

The Crowd
Mainly couples

The luxe factor is:

7.5 Location
8 Rooms
10 Service
8 Breakfast
8.4