15 – 22 AUGUST 2010
INDONESIA - JAKARTA, SURABAYA, MALANG, MT BROMO, BALI
Airline – Garuda Indonesia
Class – Economy Class
Garuda Indonesia have fairly recently undergone an upgrade to their aircraft for flights between Sydney/Jakarta, and Sydney/Denpasar. I think I was expecting the middle-of-the-aisle-every-few-rows style TV entertainment, hard seats and feeling like a sardine treatment – wrong! Economy class passengers are provided with blue pillows and sandy-coloured blankets, matching the décor of the aircraft, waiting for them on their seats… along with individual on demand entertainment units in the back of the headrests. It felt like the standard economy class seat pitch and comfort – ended up with a bit of extra room to play with as there were quite a few empty seats around, so people were able to shuffle along to make sure everyone had some room.
Crew on the flights are friendly in the traditional Indonesian way, and speak fluent English on the services from/to Australia.
Hotel – Hotel Indonesia Kempinski, Jakarta
This hotel is spectacular, modern/contemporary style property located on the outskirts of Jakarta CBD. Its located right next to the new Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, for which there is a direct internal walkway to connect the hotel to the mall. The hotel features 289 rooms and suites over 2 wings – Ramayana and Ganesha, all of which have large LCD TVs, spacious bathrooms (with heated and electric toilets), and are quite tastefully decorated. Quite a few of the rooms overlook the Welcome Statue, the Bundaran HI Fountain and traffic round-a-bout, which is directly outside the hotel – great view! Numerous restaurants and bars are located within the hotel, including Signatures Restaurant, which is where breakfast is served, and all day dining is also on offer. There is also a spa and fitness centre on site, as well as a few meeting and function rooms – the Bali Room is a huge area perfect for conferences and wedding receptions.
Hotel – Surabaya Plaza Hotel, Surabaya
Surabaya is the 2nd largest city in Indonesia, located in East Java, and approx 1hr 30min flight from Jakarta. It was the site of a historic battle between locals and the Dutch, which was of great importance to the nations struggle for independence. Hence Surabaya is known as the City of Heroes. The symbol of the city is a shark and a crocodile in battle with each other, there are various statues depicting this scene around the city:
The above small statue is located right outside the Surabaya Plaza Hotel. The hotel is fairly basic, would say 3 star quality with 210 rooms. The rooms are comfortable with everything you need – bed, TV, lounge, bathroom etc. The room a couple of my companions were staying in ended up leaking water all over the bathroom floor, as did the “Presidential Suite” upon our inspection – we quickly let the staff know about this! The elevators also tended to close very quickly, and ended up causing some bruising to one of our party. Decent restaurant, decent little bar were probably the highlights. The main selling point of the hotel is that it is 100% non smoking in all rooms and common areas – with the exception of the smoking room at the back of the hotel.
It is highly recommended that conservative attire be worn when heading out and around Surabaya, as East Java is predominantly a Muslim area, especially if you plan on heading to any of the local markets or mosques.
Taman Safari Park, Pandaan
Enroute from Surabaya to Malang, we ended up making an unscheduled visit to the sister attraction of the Taman Safari Park Bali – only Pandaan was purely for the local market, very little English was spoken or written around the grounds. Taman is home of a truly fantastic up-close safari style experience – we were able to stay in our own vehicle to drive around the grounds (which took about 1hr), getting the chance to have all kinds of gorgeous creatures pop their head through the windows – plenty of deer, zebra, camel, who were happy to take our stash of bananas. The windows quickly went up as we got around to the bears, tigers and lions (oh my! Sorry, it had to be done!), and even though most of them were pretty active, they seemed familiar enough with people not to pose a threat to the vehicle. The tigers were quite happy concentrating their appetite towards the unreachable deer on the other side of the fence…
In the end we made it to the zoo attraction, where we were able to have lunch surrounded by 3 white tigers (behind glass of course), and then we were lucky enough to make friends with some zoo babies
Hotel – Tugu Malang, Malang
Malang is a popular tourist destination with the European market, and is approx 2hr drive from Surabaya. We were lucky enough to arrive just in time for the local Independence Day flag lowering ceremony in the afternoon, which took place at the Town Hall, situated opposite the Tugu Hotel.
It was amazing to see the whole town (not to mention, the whole of East Java), covered in red and white to mark the August 17 celebration!
The Tugu could be described as more of a museum – the standard rooms all have slightly different décor and colour, there is a good number of amazing suites all with a different story, and many rooms full of ancient 10th-15th century Ming Dynasty china and other priceless artefacts – at this point, my camera battery died and my mobile phone camera could not do any of the rooms or displays the least amount of justice!
We were served dinner in the Raja Room by 5 waiters who served us a 6 course mean individually, in the way that the Dutch royal family had been served their meals many years ago – we felt special!
Hotel – Bromo Cottages, Mt Bromo
Bromo Cottages are located around 2hrs from Malang, and 30min from the Mt Bromo viewing points. There is a fairly steep and unsteady mountain climb to get to the cottages, but the view from the property grounds alone are well worth it:
There are a number of motel style rooms grouped into the various cottages at the hotel – twin share rooms are available with bathroom and TV (no minibar or fridge), and there is only 2.5L of hot water available to each room every hour, so showers need to be done quickly. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, it can get quite chilly after dark due to the altitude so long pants and jumpers are recommended. You would only stay at Bromo Cottages or in the surrounding village if you intend on taking part in the sunrise/sunset tours to Mt Bromo itself and scaling the volcano walls to the edge of the crater – people do the trip departing Malang at 2am to arrive at Mt Bromo viewing points for the 4:30am sunrise, I would say this is too much for most people going up/down the winding and dusty road at this hour (we got car sick as it is), staying at Bromo Cottages and arising at 3am to the same destination is a lot more sane.
Hotel – Grand Hyatt Nusa Dua, Bali
I do have to admit that leaving Mt Bromo after breakfast to get ourselves on an earlier flight from Surabaya to Denpasar was a genius idea! We were quite pooped, and were looking forward to some luxury and familiar food in Bali. The Grand Hyatt is a huge property, with fish-filled ponds and rivers snaking around the resort. The total room number is 648 spread across 4 blocks, or villages, including 17 Grand Executive Suites, 16 Grand Suites, 3 Ambassador Suites, 1 Belibis Suite, 2 Presidential Suites and 2 Deluxe Villas – monstrous! A number of the lead in Grand King/Twin rooms (that we stayed in) have had a recent refurbishment without taking away the local Balinese feel, while I would still not hesitate to stay in one of the “older style” Grand King rooms – all of these rooms have a good sized day bed and balcony with views over the ponds. Several members of the group were put in Club rooms, which could probably be considered apartment/suite size with 2 toilets/bathrooms and a very generously sized lounge room separate to the bedroom (with 4 poster bed).