For the past week, I’ve been on a work trip in Indonesia. Unfortunately, several of the places I stopped over in were not particularly wired, i.e. I’ve had great difficulty getting access to the Internet, and thus I haven’t been able to post anything. I’m currently in Jakarta, en route to Manado. I started the trip in Lombok, then bounced over to Bali for a night, then to Sumba, followed by Yorgyakarta and Central Java. The following are just a few random notes taken from the trip so far.
Bali Boutique Hotel
A couple of months ago, I made a quick work trip to Bali. While there, I had the pleasure of checking out 26 different (boutique) hotels: some old, some new; some modern, some rustic; and some small and some not so small. It was a fun but hectic trip, during which my colleague and I raced from hotel to hotel, covering most of the island from Lovina down to Uluwatu, over six exhausting days. Since returning home, several friends have asked me if I came away with any personal favourites. The answer, of course, is “yes”. Quite a few in fact. But if pressed to name just one that I would want to stay at again and again, I would choose The Shaba. The Shaba is a brand new, ultra-sexy, luxurious, slightly retro but unbelievably chic, 3 room hotel in Jimbaran. Built by a French-Moroccan couple (the husband is French while the wife is Moroccan), the hotel reflects both their backgrounds while also capturing an almost fantastical and timeless mood. There is one suite and 2 deluxe rooms, both of which are much larger than your average hotel room. Each room has a flatscreen TV, DVD player, iPod dock and the whole building has WiFi (which unfortunately got knocked out on my recent visit due to a storm). There are two public sitting rooms, a cool dining room and jaw-dropping show kitchen, and a great outdoor deck with a long pool and a dining area. Of course, everyone has different tastes. And while I am totally in love with The Shaba, it might not be for everyone. Travelers looking for a very Balinese property would be better served staying at a place like The Gangsa, for example.
I don’t know how to surf, but after visiting Nihiwatu, on the island of Sumba, I really want to learn. This very unique and very isolated resort offers private access to some of the world’s best waves. And in order to offer guests the ultimate, exclusive surf vacation, Nihiwatu’s owner only allows 9 surfers on the water at any one time. Of course, not all guests surf. The hotel also offers a host of other activities, from fishing and diving to horse back riding and mountain biking. For less active types (and surf widows), there’s also a spa, an incredibly long stretch of private and perfect beach to laze about on and private pilates and yoga classes available upon request. Nihiwatu also helps run a Foundation that is “deeply committed to assisting the Sumbanese people by improving the quality of their livelihood while at the same time carefully preserving the strong cultural traditions and heritage that make up the core fabric of their lives.” Guests are encouraged to get involved with the Foundation’s activities, which, I’ve been told, is often as memorable and rewarding an experience as catching that perfect wave.
Borobudur was robbed recently. Not by looters but by the voters that decided that the world’s biggest Buddhist stupa, built some eight centuries ago, wasn’t one of the new seven wonders of the world. Well, that’s ridiculous, because to me, Borobudur is one of the most stunning, beautiful and interesting monuments on the planet. If you haven’t visited, I urge you to make the trip at least once in your lifetime.
By Appointment Only
It’s always interesting to discover a city’s secret restaurants, restaurants that either only the locals know about or that require both reservations and an introduction to gain entry. William Kafe Artistik, run by celebrated chef William Wongso, might just be Jakarta’s best secret restaurant. Located in a rather non-descript building, this charming French restaurant requires customers to book in advance. Walk-ins are not accepted. Not that anyone would walk in anyway. There are no signs on the building that give any indication that one of the city’s best restaurants is hiding upstairs. Patrons are asked to pre-order one of two menus, either the Symphony of Flavours Classic No 1 or No 2. I recently tried the Classic No 1, which consisted of 7 very satisfying and filling courses: Foie Gras Fantasy — pan-seared foie gras, foie gras brik cone with leek, apple and plum sauce, and foie gras in egg curd; Pan Seared King Prawn with soba, fermented black bean & rice wine vinegar dressing and nori; Baked Pear Wrapped with Smoked Duck Breast and bluee cheese cream sauce; Home Made Black Squid Ink Noodles, sauteed with garlic, sumac, chilli flakes and parmesan cheese; Veloute of Butternut Pumpkin with cheese straw; Tornedos “Kafe William” — grilled Australian premium tenderloin with mushroom ragout and vegetables; and Symphony of Desserts. Everything was very good. I especially enjoyed the squid ink noodles, the tornedos and my dessert platter. But I think what I liked most was the total experience of enjoying such a good meal in a charming, totally hidden but at the same time very famous, little restaurant.
William Kafe Artistik
Vineth Bakery Building
Jl Panglima Polim Raya 63-65 Jakarta 12160
Tel +62 21 7244911, 7203877, 7392891