Featuring tall walls, dramatic domes and curved colonnades, Yogyakarta's hotel Amanjiwo is just as memorable as its neighbour Borobudur, the gigantic ninth-century Buddhist temple visible from the hotel's dining room. Built entirely with locally quarried coral-beige limestone, this breathtaking bolthole boasts flawless service and a sultry bar of black marble that hosts local dancers and musicians daily. Like what you see? This hotel is one of the luxurious stays in our Indonesian adventures…
Double rooms from £561.10 ($762), including tax at 21 per cent.
Rates include breakfast, plus transfers from Jogjakarta, Semarang and Solo International Airports.
So inspiring are the views, in fact, that Amanjiwo’s rooms all come with a watercolour set in case you’re overcome with artistic inspiration and need to get your Constable on. Your fellow guests’ masterpieces are displayed in the library.
At the hotel
Massage/beauty treatment room, tennis centre, library, DVD/CD selection, art gallery, boutique, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: CD player, iPod, minibar.
Our favourite rooms
Borobudur Pool Suites 24 and 26 are both to be lusted after, with private pools stretching from the bedroom doors to daybed-enhanced balé pavilions, and, most impressively, jaw-dropping views of Borobudur itself. To ladle on the luxury, head straight for the Darem Jiwo Suite, a cavernous two-bedroom villa with a private entrance, elevated outdoor living area (ideal for intimate wedding receptions) and a curvaceous 15-metre private pool.
In its lushly forested setting, Amanjiwo’s elegant limestone infinity pool is flanked by rows of cream parasols and wooden loungers, where you can lie back and admire sweeping views of the surrounding rice fields and volcanic peaks.
The spa, with its outdoor relaxation bale, is home to treatments inspired by Javanese healing and beauty rituals handed down through generations. Tennis courts overlook the Menoreh Hills, and yoga is practised both at the gym and outdoors.
Pack a spare memory card for your digital camera; with one-of-a-kind panoramas in every direction, you’ll want to make sure you have something to remember them by.
A smoking room is available on request. Lectures on Borobudur’s history and Indonesian culture are often held in the library.
Under-12s stay free, and babysitting can be arranged (the first four hours are free). Children can enjoy pony or bike rides and there’s also a designated kids’ room to play in.
Tables 5 and 11 offer the most unhindered, heart-pausing views of Borobudur.
Although T-shirts and flip-flops won’t get you ejected, you’ll want to be attired in keeping with the grandeur of your surroundings. We suggest long linens, sweeping sarongs or little black numbers.
Loft-ceilinged, open-aired and wooden-floored, Amanjiwo’s main restaurant is housed a majestic crescent lined with neoclassical columns. The food is a blend of Indonesian and Western cuisines – the hotel’s club sandwich could rival a New Yorker’s.
Concealed in a corner of the lobby, the circular black marble bar is as discreet and refined in as the rest of the resort. Gamelan players perform twice a day, and young girls from neighbouring villages conduct traditional Javanese dance every day.
While non-residents are turfed out at 9pm, if you’re staying at Amaniwo you can dine in the restaurant until 11pm, or privately 24 hours a day.
Drinks, snacks and meals can be brought to your suite even in the earliest hours.
The hotel is an hour away from Yogyakarta Airport (fly via Bali, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore), or two hours on the more scenic route from Solo (fly via Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore), which passes some of the biggest volcanoes in Java. There are direct flights to Solo three times a week from Singapore, and a twice-daily service from Kuala Lumpur. Hotel transfers are free.
There’s free parking and a valet service at the hotel. Your own car won’t be essential, though, as the hotel puts on plenty of excursions where you’ll be chauffeured around.
Worth getting out of bed for
For the low-down on eating, drinking, exploration and entertainment around Amanjiwo, check out our guide to Yogyakarta.
If there was a collective noun for fabulous first impressions, Mr Smith and I suggest it should be ‘Amanjiwo’. It’s not just the cold towels, crackers and chilled water with the complimentary airport pick-up, or the framed view of Buddhist temple Borobodur seen through the hotel from the steep driveway. It isn’t even the hard-punching ginger beer and cute flower-throwing-by-small-girls on arrival. It’s all that plus the unique stupa-like design of the common areas, with cascading colonnades and silver-gilded ceilings, along with the relaxed but cleverly information-seeking chat with our personal butler, Anwar, and Portuguese host, Duarte, at check-in.
By the time you reach the wide, generous terrace overlooking the temple complex proper you’ll completely understand what we mean. It’s not every day you contemplate mystical 1,300-year-old architecture cradled in a valley created by two massive volcanoes, one to your left shrouded in cloud and heat haze, and the other crystal clear and slightly smoking to your right. There’s breathtaking, but this is gob-smackingly stupefying. As if to reinforce the majesty and strangeness of it all, just as our jaws snap shut again, the afternoon call to prayer starts up and the valley is awash with the imported sounds of Arabia.
While the short flight from Bali to Java’s cultural hub Yogyakarta and the hour-and-a-quarter transfer from airport to hotel had gone smoothly, these Smiths are happy to let the off-site delights of Amanjiwo wait until after a good swim and restorative poolside lunch. Set at the bottom of the terraced property, with views of fields cultivated to supply the hotel’s kitchens, the pool club bears the same styling as the restaurant and lounge areas – all graceful colonnades and shimmering sandstone. You’d think you were in Tuscany if it weren’t for farmers picking crops in conical hats and the huge plates of delicious nasi goreng that appear in an instant (‘comfort food’ is how Duarte describes the menu here).
The pool itself – at 40 metres – is a godsend to this lap-swimming Smith, but somehow, after the first couple of goes up and down, lying on one’s back and watching the clouds skid past seems a more fitting use for it. A lazy dry-off and desultory attempt at reading later, and the theme extends: it’s time for a massage. A self-indulgent connoisseur of the world’s various therapeutic techniques, I opt for pijat, a deep-tissue treatment delivered by a special dukun, or village healer. According to the spa menu, it could ‘verge on painful’ but then it’s also said to ‘mediate with the spirit world’. I’m not disappointed on any front – a transcendental combo of pain and pleasure ensues, followed by a long, gamelan-infused afternoon nap in our suite.
The excitement begins that evening with a trip to a jatilan at nearby Wanu village. Traditional community celebrations with strong animistic roots, jatilans involve ritualised performances of increasing ferocity and noisiness that culminate in the ‘trance dance’. During it, the most experienced dancers end up eating glass, rolling their eyes back in their heads and generally carrying on like Morris-dancing Pentecostalists (they wear bell-strewn leggings). The only Westerners there, we are gently bullied into joining the band on bongos. To add to the effect, every 10 minutes or so the electricity dies and everyone jeers.
The second great Amanjiwo experience is, of course, a trip the next morning to Borobodur itself. A squat, square, Buddha-strewn temple only reclaimed from the jungle in the 19th century, Borobodur is not to the vast, imposing scale of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat or Myanmar’s Bagan. Its potency, by contrast, lies in the exquisite carvings that line its wedding-cake-tiered galleries, one huge instructional religious manual pasted out page by page on grey volcanic rock walls. Not that the present-day atmosphere is quite so elevating. The temple is one of Indonesia’s most popular domestic attractions and crawls with digital camera-toting packs of exuberant extended families, all of whom seem as excited at being photographed with tall, sweaty white people as with the serene Buddhas they’ve come to venerate.
The surprise highlight of our trip is a spontaneous decision, after another poolside lunch of satay and salad, to hire a motorbike and explore the back roads of this exotic, little-visited region. If there is a moment of consternation from the concierge – ‘why not hire the air-conditioned jeep and driver?’ – it passes smoothly and we are soon speeding off down country lanes on a bright shiny motorbike hastily borrowed from the chief gardener. We drive for hours, stopping for lunch at the nearby Muntilan market, with its low-roofed mercantile menagerie of chicken’s feet, bras, dried fish, sandals, crackers and pans, and then follow the signs to the Merapi Volcano observation point, getting increasingly cold and sore-bottomed as we travel the pot-holed track. Our ears even pop as we read the badly translated information panels – ‘hot clouds with face of monster attack village and kills 50 people’ – and help young Indonesian couples on dates take pictures against the smouldering cone.
Later that evening, prone on our terrace day-bed, the remnants of another Indonesian feast surrounding us, a little bit sun struck, tired from our trance dances, temple climbs and adventures on two wheels, we decide that first impressions can be deceiving. Despite its show-stopping welcome, Amanjiwo has even more exotic treats in store. We’ll be back soon to have our breath taken away all over again.