Jakarta Travel Guide
We like to keep it fun but informative here at HotelChatter so our newest series, What is This? is devoted to odd-looking items in hotel rooms that upon first glance look as if they serve only a decorative purpose. But everything happens for a reason, right? And we're here to tell you what these things really do.
This is a sticker of an arrow, placed in the bottom of the first drawer inside the closet of a room at Jakarta's hotel Alila. What's is there for? You'd only know if you were accustomed to looking for them or, like us, you'd obediently read the guest handbook after arrival.
This arrow points to the direction in which Mecca is located. It's absolutely necessary for a hotel located in the center of a predominantly Muslim country.
When the muezzin's call to prayer awakes you just before dawn, think of how many guests then get up and open the drawer to see this arrow, and discover which way to pray.
So now you know.
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What comes to mind when you think about yummy food in Indonesia? Nasi or Mie Goreng probably, and that's cool, but the Hotel Indonesia Kempinski wants you to know it's more than all that. There's also...chocolate.
The hotel and its Executive Pastry Chef, Kevin Curry, have reserved the month of May to be a spotlight on chocolate...but with a local flavor. We're talking about chocolates with a little spice, or pandan-flavored marshmallows.
If, for some reason, you find yourself in Jakarta this month (as we did), then all the goodies can be had at the Kempinski's own Kempi Deli inside the attached Grand Indonesia Mall. Or, you know, there's always a few special events to sign up for:
Staying at a hotel that's 3+ stars in Jakarta, Indonesia means you'll likely have a view of the city; many of the central high-rise buildings house hotels. That said, it's rare to have such a straight shot view to the iconic Wisma 46, Indonesia's tallest building nicknamed the "Fountain Pen."
Hopefully you can see why this pointy, 48-story skyscraper looks as though it's ready to write its John Hancock on the Jakarta smog layer. And, hopefully, you're checking it out from inside a cushy room at the Hotel Indonesia Kempinski, which sits smack dab at the traffic circle around the "Bundaran HI" welcome monument.
The Hotel Indonesia itself is a landmark relic from the 1960s, and now that it's managed by Kempinski the vintage exterior is countered by a seriously modern interior; we're talking designer furniture in the lobby and guestrooms that look like they're in Manhattan, versus a chaotic capital in Southeast Asia. Rooms at the Hotel Indonesia Kempinski being around $250 per night.
When you check into a hotel and sit down to flip through the room service menu tucked into the back of the Guest Services binder, odds are good that one item will be the hotel's "famous" something-or-other, like a signature burger. At the Alila Hotel Jakarta, however, it's something a bit more local: the Nasi Campur 'Alila'.
For 80,000 rupiah ($8.70), you get a large plate of traditional Indonesian fried rice, topped with a fried egg. On the side are a few skewers of chicken satay, some prawn crackers and trimmings. It's a substantial, tasty meal for room service, and the price is definitely right. Alila Hotels is a Singapore-based hotel company, with all their properties in either Indonesia or India, so it makes total sense to forego a huge Western room service menu (though there are several solid choices).
We booked two nights at the Alila Jakarta on Jetsetter.com for $234 total, mainly because they have reliable, free WiFi. Little did we know that the room service was also part of the positives.
After last week's attacks on the JW Marriott Jakarta and Ritz-Carlton Jakarta hotels where suicide bombers killed a total of nine victims (including themselves), Marriott is responding by assuring the public that security measures were in place at the time of the blasts and that the company will be looking into ramping up security in their properties.
Sadly, this is not the first time in the last several years that Marriott hotels have been a target of major attacks. In 2003, another attack on the JW Marriott Jakarta killed 12 people, and in 2008, dozens were killed in a Marriott Islamabad bombing.
According to the AFP:
Witnesses said they saw injured people being evacuated by car from the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the upscale Mega Kuningan business district in the centre of the city.
Police sealed off the area near the Ritz-Carlton and the JW Marriott hotels, an AFP correspondent said. Windows had been blown out of a second-storey restaurant at the Ritz Carlton.
The number of injuries is still unknown, though the Breaking News Wire Twitter is reporting six dead and 18 injured so far.
Sadly, this JW Marriott was also the site of a deadly terrorist attack in 2003.
We'll keep you updated on this story as it develops.
[Photo: Twitpic via The Age]
We like luxury hotels but if we are paying $400 for rooms shouldn't they have enough money to update the pictures on their website? Nevertheless, luxury hotels always have woefully bad room pictures on their websites.
Tipster E.T. points to a particularly bad instance of this on the Four Seasons Jakarta website:
Talking about outdated room pics: this really made me laugh - check out the room pictures (superior & deluxe (are the same) and premier) for the Four Seasons Jakarta. Does that scream 1985 or what? LOOK at those bedspreads, yikes!
The superior & deluxe pics win for shadyness (seriously, could it be any darker?) but the guy casually standing in the middle of the premier room is just hilarious. Deluxe FS Exec suites look all of a sudden a little more agreeable.
A-ha! Maybe that's the point. They want you to see the crappy room with 1980s decor and strange men, so that you will pay more to stay in a more modern suite without any strangers.
Having topped a recent guest satisfaction survey, we know the Ritz Carlton is doing something right in terms of service.
And blogger Sticks and Stones found out just what it is that the hotel chain offers, even in a place like Jakarta where the water is always yellow.
I began by taking a shower in my huge-ass bathroom which was more than twice as big as my office cubicle, then a looooooong soak in my bathtub next to the large picture window looking out onto the (smoggy) Jakarta cityscape in my Bulgari bath salts? (Sidenote: the Bulgari bath salts provided are red, because when they turn the water pink and fragrant, you will forget that the water in Jakarta is actually yellow ... I suppose even the Ritz can't control Jakarta's municipal water supply.) How I then cleared email and did work in my thick, plush, terrycloth bathrobe while enjoying CNN on my 42-inch flat-panel plasma TV? How I ordered room service from one of my three phones (bedside, desk, and crapper-side) while enjoying longans from my complimentary fruit platter? How I asked for "sprigs of fresh mint for my tummy" (to make mint tea) and was met with a "Certainly, madam" from the concierge?
So aside from the questionable color of Jakarta's water, we're happy to hear that the Ritz is living up to its name on the other side of the world. Being on the other side of the world has other advantages too--with the exchange rate, this glorious room can be yours for about $150 bucks a night.