Review: Amandari Bali

Introduction
SAS Lounge Chicago
Cathay Pacific First Class Chicago to Hong Kong
Conrad Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” First Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Bali
Amandari Bali
Amankila Bali
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Bali to Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific First Class Hong Kong to San Francisco
Mom’s Thoughts


Here’s the problem with writing a review of an Aman — there’s something so indescribably special about the experience that it simply can’t be conveyed in a blog or in 580 pixel pictures. The word “Aman” means “peace,” and it couldn’t more accurately describe how you feel at Amans.

The entire experience really just transforms the hospitality industry into just plain old hospitality, unlike what I’ve experienced anywhere else. I’ll do my best to convey that in this review, though I’ll note that I was at the Amans in India about two years ago, and when I started planning this trip to Bali with my mom I said to myself “hmm, was the Aman experience really that special, or was I exaggerating things in my memory?” And the answer was simple — yes, the experience is that amazing.

Anyway, upon arrival at the airport we were met by an Aman representative that escorted us through customs and immigration and helped us with our bags. He brought us to the car that was waiting to drive us to Amandari, which was included in our package. We were offered a selection of drinks as well as cold towels, and the driver couldn’t have been nicer.

Amandari is located in Ubud, a bit over an hour from Denpasar Airport. Ubud is inland, so doesn’t have the Bali “beach vibe”, but it is one of my favorite parts of the island because I find the town itself to be really vibrant/special, and there’s lots to do as well.

As you enter the hotel there’s a security checkpoint, and then a long, lush driveway leading to the lobby.

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Driveway

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Entrance

The welcome itself was much more understated than at Amanbagh in India, where we were greeted by the GM and four women started singing for us while we had a “ribbon ceremony.”

Instead, here we were welcomed by one of the extremely friendly associates. And what’s perhaps counter-intuitive for a luxury property but actually pretty awesome is that you’re never addressed by your name, but rather as “Ibu” (female) and “Bapak” (male).

And that’s not due to laziness or because the employees don’t know who you are — oh no, it couldn’t be further from the truth. The thing that’s simultaneously creepy and most impressive about Amans is that everyone knows everything about you during your stay. And perhaps that’s also the Aman “secret.” More on that later.

Anyway, the associate showed us around the public facilities of the hotel, which I’ll cover in more detail a bit later.

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Lobby

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Lobby

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Lobby

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Lawn

Amandari has just 30 villas, and we were assigned villa 11. From the lobby we turned left, and from there it was about 100 meters.

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Walking to villa

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Villa entrance

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Villa signage

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Villa entrance

The villa was, well, stunning. It was one large room with a king bed, circular table, chair with ottoman, and two sets of desks.

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Main room

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Main room

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Main room

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Main room

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Extra bed

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Desk

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Chair with ottoman

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Roof

On the table was a plate of fresh fruit which was refreshed daily.

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Fresh fruit

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Fresh fruit

Then over towards the bathroom was the minibar along with an iPod with traditional Balinese music.

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Minibar area

There were also some jars with cookies and crisps, which were refreshed daily.

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Cookies and crisps

Water is of course free throughout the property, and there was plenty in our room.

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Bottled water

Across from the bed was the bathroom area, which featured sinks on both sides.

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Bathroom

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Bathroom

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Bathroom

To the right was the shower, which featured both a rainforest head as well as a handheld one.

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Shower

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Shower

The toiletries were high quality though in unbranded “jars.”

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Toiletries

Then across from the shower was the toilet.

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Toilet

Outside a set of sliding glass doors was an outdoor bathtub.

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Outdoor bathtub

The room had two patios. One was near the entrance and pretty bare.

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Garden

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Garden

Then the real patio was overlooking the rice fields. It was simply the most relaxing place in the world, not just because of the views, but because of all of the nature sounds you hear, from crickets to roosters to the flow of the Ayung River, which is located just beyond the rice fields.

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Patio

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Patio furniture

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View from patio

Within a few minutes of settling into our room we were brought curry chicken “pies” of some sort along with tea.

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Refreshments

The room also had other nice touches. For example, there was incense burning in our room for the entirety of our stay, which my mom loved.

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Incense

Then with turndown service they’d place roosters on the bed with notes apologizing for the noise they’ll make in the morning.

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Rooster

There were also a couple of pages with resort activities.

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Resort activities

And a welcome note from the GM.

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Welcome letter

Our room was located at the far end of the resort, though it was just a few minutes walk to the main part of the resort, where the pool is located.

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Pond

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Pathway to pool

The infinity pool is stunning, with incredible views of the rice terraces.

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Pool

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Pool

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Pool

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Pool area

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Pool area

Off both ends of the pool are some gazebos where you can arrange to have a private meal.

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Gazebo

There were also some relaxation areas with day beds.

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Seating area

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View from pool

Up the path from the pool is the restaurant to the right and bar/lounge to the left.

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Resort grounds

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Lounge seating

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Lounge seating

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Lounge seating

There was also an indoor relaxation room for reading, etc.

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Relaxation room

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Relaxation room

Then the spa and gym are located on the opposite end of the resort.

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Walkway to spa/gym

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Walkway to spa/gym

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Spa/gym

The spa has both indoor and outdoor treatment rooms, and spa prices were very reasonable for the type of property this is.

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Spa

The gym was small though had modern equipment.

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Gym

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Gym

There was also a tennis court.

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Tennis courts

Back near the center of the resort was the restaurant, which consisted of outdoor seating overlooking the rice terraces and pool.

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Restaurant

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Restaurant

Our package included breakfast, which was served daily from 6AM till 11AM. It was all a la carte and you could more or less order whatever you wanted. Here’s the breakfast menu:

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Breakfast menu

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Breakfast menu

Here’s a selection of what we ate during our time at the resort:

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Muesli, yoghurt, and fruit

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Fresh fruit

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Muesli

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Toast

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Nasi goreng

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French toast

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were served at the restaurant, and there was a variety of both Western and Asian options, all of which were top notch. On the first day of our stay the head chef approached us to ask about our general preferences, like how spicy we like our food, if we have any allergies, etc.

Aside from breakfast we actually only had a meal at the resort one day for lunch. Two nights we went into town for dinner, and one day we weren’t really hungry at night so just had some drinks and appetizers at the bar.

For those of you that are interested, here’s the all day dining menu:

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Menu

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Menu

For my mom’s birthday the resort sent a bottle of champagne and some cake to our room, which was a nice touch.

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Champagne service

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Champagne

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Happy Birthday

So those are the “facts” about the property. As you can probably see, it’s a gorgeous small resort, but it probably doesn’t look that ridiculously amazing. But I find Amans aren’t about the physical properties (as stunning as they might be), but rather about the people.

I think I’ve stayed at just about every luxury hotel brand, and nothing — and I mean nothing — can compete with the level of service at Amans. And in a way I feel bad even calling it “service,” because it really doesn’t feel like that.

The hotel had maybe 150 co-workers for the 30 room property (which was about half full when we were there), so the number of people around to help is ridiculous. But in a way the funny thing is that Aman simultaneously makes the experience less personal and more personal. There are some luxury hotels where the employees try to impress you by knowing your name and schmooze you with ridiculous terms like “what may I have the privilege of assisting you with?”

Aman kind of decomposes the whole service “experience,” and you really go from feeling like a transaction to feeling like a legitimate guest. For one, you’re addressed as “Ibu” (female) and “Bapak” (male) throughout your stay. I don’t know if any of the employees actually knew my name, but they know who I was. And when I say “who I was,” I mean they knew exactly which room I was staying in and everything I did during my stay.

For example, we went white water rafting, and upon returning we were asked by at least a handful of employees how the white water rafting was. And I’m not talking about the front desk associate that booked the excursion, but rather the people in the restaurant, the housekeeper, etc.

Speaking of housekeeping, it’s ridiculous how often they service rooms. I counted them servicing the room at least five times a day, always just to do little “touch ups.” And they manage to do it in such a non-intrusive way. They’re never knocking on your door, but rather they just know when you’re in your room and when you’re not, and act accordingly.

When you stay at hotels you’re used to getting “checks” at dinner, the bar, etc. That doesn’t happen at Amans. You don’t give your room number or anything. You just order what you want and leave when you want, because they know exactly who you are.

My mom really struggled with this, because at the end of drinks or a meal she’d always ask for the check or give them our room number. With a smirk on their face the associates would always respond “don’t worry Ibu, we know who you are.”

Like I said earlier, my last Aman stays prior to this were in India a couple of years ago, and prior to my stay here I asked myself “hmmm, can it really be as good as I remembered?” And the simple answer is yes, yes, yes. But it’s really difficult to describe what makes it so great, because if there were a “formula” for great service or it would be easy to describe then it would be easily replicable.

On our third day we were driven to Amankila, and our driver was especially awesome. I asked him “so seriously, how do you guys do it? How do you know everything about everyone and consistently provide such great service?” He looked in the rearview mirror, smirked, and said “that’s the Aman secret, Bapak.”

Maybe other Amanjunkies can chime in and share their experiences as well, to (hopefully) prove I’m not crazy. 😉

Lastly, as far as the location of the resort goes, it really is in the heart of Ubud. I love Ubud, because it’s one of the more active parts of Bali, with amazing white water rafting, a monkey forest, and a vibrant town that’s actually a lot of fun to hang out in. While I love the South of Bali for relaxing, you can’t beat Ubud if you’re wanting to be active.

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Comments

  1. They must be IDR, in thousands. Divide by eleven with the current exchange rate (and soon maybe more than that). Or search “USDIDR” in Google. There is something of a currency crisis brewing in Indonesia and India these days — perhaps a good time for a visit.

  2. This is one of those reviews you forward the link to your friends and say, “we have to go!” You captured it well despite your fear that you couldn’t do it justice. Talk about aspirational travel!

    Between your current trip and this one, your folks are experiencing some great bonding time with their son.

    Looking forward to the next installment!

  3. @chris.. those are the prices in IDR. in most mid to upper establishments in indo, the last 3 zeros are omitted. just to simplify things abit.

  4. @Chris

    The numbers are the prices, just add 000 to the end of each one. So French toast is IDR 160,000 or roughly USD 16 at IDR 10,000 to one USD. Book through a Virtuoso agent and daily breakfast is included in the rate.

  5. @ John — That’s a great question and something I’ve wondered as well. I have a hard time imagining the service experience can be executed as well in the US as in Asia, so I’d be curious to find out.

  6. Thanks for the review. We have our first aman experience in February and are very excited. We’ve got a pool suite booked at amandari. I’m very
    Excited.

  7. @ ang — Even though we were warned about it, surprisingly I didn’t find bugs to be much of an issue at all.

  8. Ah, sorry, I missed Jay’s comment earlier! Aman is so pricey, but for a special occasion like your trip, I can totally see it being worthwhile. I’m waiting for a double-digit anniversary as an excuse for a future trip. Or, winning Powerball. 🙂

  9. By the way, I know someone who should be able to get you a SUPER great deal on future Aman stays, but it’d require full disclosure if you catch my drift. Given how popular your blog is, it should be pretty easy. Email me if you want the contact.

  10. @lucky – I think my partner and I are doing 2 nights at Amandari and one night at Amankila. I am very very excited now after reading your review. Now I won’t be able to sleep….

  11. Looks amazing – but I think for the my budget, design aesthetic and what I would comment is a more impressive pool area I think we made the right choice doing the Hanging Gardens in Ubud.

    Although now I wish I hadn’t heard of Aman – pretty spectacular service.

  12. @John: ‘If you have to ask, it’s probably too expensive…’ 🙂

    Off season 4 nights in a suite at Amangani for $3,200 as a part of the ‘Adventures in the wild’ package.

    Or, you could stay at a Motel 6 (like) property in Jackson for $80 / night. Or something nicer for $150 – $300 / night.

    Which is the better price?

    Completely dependent upon who is buying and what they value…

    http://www.amanresorts.com/exclusivesfullview.aspx?id=1852&LangType=1033

  13. I notice on the menu it says gov’t tax and service charge are not included in the listed price. When I was in Bali I noticed that all the hotel restaurants added this 11% gov tax and 10% service charge. When I ate at stand alone restaurants there was never a gov’t tax or service charge. Is it just these resort restaurants that charge this 21% or do all restaurants in Bali?

  14. Ben – I could not agree with you more on your write-up. This truly summarizes the Aman experience. It is defintiely har dto convey to people, but one just has to experience on their own to fully understand!

  15. The ultimate is their Bhutan properties where Aman and the country are one. Within their organisation all properties are judged by by how they compare to Bhutan. Here you feel like it’s a religious experience in under stated luxury. Bear in mind the country is going to charge you per day as well.

  16. Fellow Amanjunkie here (thanks to you Lucky!)….

    I did the same trip as you a few weeks later – 3 days at Amandari, followed by 4 at Amankila (we added an additional night – yep, couldn’t leave), followed by a night at Amanusa. Man it was hard to come home from that trip and I haven’t stopped thinking about those people ever since. The people that work there are so special – you’re right, it feels weird calling it ‘service’ – I mean, they treated us like family. Also it was my partner’s bday while we were there and they pulled out all the stops.

    Problem with Amans is that the bar is raised so high now it’s hard to go back to anything else. Too bad they don’t take points of course 🙂

    Also for the OP, I read on Flyertalk’s Aman forums that the U.S ones are in no way comparable to the Asian levels…. and I had friends go to the Turks & Caicos one and said the same thing. Such a shame we can’t get a ‘quick fix’ close to home.

    Anyway, thanks Lucky for making this trip possible – getting free first class airfare on points at least helped us justify the cost of the trip.

    We shockingly didn’t spend that much once we were there since so much was included in the package – only the booze was expensive since they have outrageous taxes on that, but if you can keep that in check, the other food and beverage isn’t outrageous (especially considering where you are).

    Highly recommend any points and miles junkie to take the plunge on this trip if you can swing it – you’ll forget what it cost the minute you get there and somehow leave feeling like you got a great ‘deal’. Amazing!

  17. Ben, I think your review does a superb job of expressing the Aman experience. Do you know if non guests are welcome at the restaurants and lounges of both Aman Bali properties?

  18. I’m not sure I would want them to know so much about me and my comings and goings. Maybe that’s why I prefer serviced apartments and condo rentals when it makes sense. I want to be left alone most of the time.

  19. @ Stuart Falk — Thanks for the kind words! That’s a great question. I have a friend that was staying at a different Aman and went to this one for lunch, but I’m not sure if that was because he was a guest at an Aman or if anyone can. Come to think of it I do remember a Sheraton van at the Aman one day, so I think that anyone can have a meal there, probably. Might be a nice way to get a feel for the vibe of the place.

  20. @ raksiam — And I think that’s perfectly reasonable. It’s probably not an experience everyone will love quite as much as I do.

  21. @lucky @stuart – yes you can go for lunch or dinner even if you’re not staying there – I read on trip advisor about some people doing that…

  22. Writing this comment from the Amankila, having been absolutely stunned by the Amandari already. Very much looking forward to the next review….. I will report back on both, lucky!

  23. @ Gunther — As Simon notes they’re in thousands of Rupiah. So if you take off a further zero you’ll get pretty close to the price in USD.

  24. My husband and I stayed at Amanjiwo, Amankila, Amanwana, and Amanusa while in Indonesia 4 years ago…and had lunch at Amandari. We were so impressed we’ve since stayed at the Aman at Summer Palace Beijing, Amangani in Wyoming, Amangiri in Utah, and will be at Amansara in Cambodia and Amanoi in Vietnam in January. Simply put, the review is comensurate with our experience–Aman service makes even the best hotels with FS, Peninsula, Mandarin, etc. seem more like Sheratons. Amans aren’t cheap, by any means–their entry room price is usually far more than at the others , but for that you get a LOT. If you appreciate phenomenal service (even when things go wrong, as they still can, the Amans handle it with amazing aplomb and usually well beyond what is necessary, having even refunded nights for small mistakes!)., then Amans are worth it if you can afford it. If you just prefer bigger or more high tech rooms, there are definitely better options with other luxury chains that can give you more space for the buck. We love Peninsulas, but given the choice in Beijing we knew it had to be the Aman. We actually love them so much that we plan future travel based on locations of other Amans. They are absolutely incredible. Even if you can’t afford to stay at one, if you are in the vicinity, I highly recommend dropping by for lunch or dinner–which is how we were first introduced to one by having dinner at Amangani in Jackson, WY (while staying at the FS in the Presidential Suite); we’ve never been back to the FS but have been to the Amangani several times since.

  25. @Bill – totally agree with your assessment on every count! I’m curious (and someone else mentioned above) if you found the U.S Aman properties to be on par with the Asian ones? You said you’ve been to Amangani several times – so I’m assuming it’s just as amazing??

    Also in Beijing, what types of special tours/activities did they offer that you took advantage of?

  26. You have described Amandari perfectly, which is not easy to put into words, its how you feel when are there, and difficult to describe, after spending ten day’s there I had to be dragged back into the real world, unfortunately!

  27. When using Aman to book your excursions do they rip you on the price as hotels usually do? I always end up booking stuff on my own but I wonder if part of the Aman experience is that they steer you straight when it comes to off-site activities.

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