It has been a couple months since my last post, and the next few posts coming up are all very very long overdue, but I just havent had that much time since I moved and started my new job (with the exception of Noma, that I had to blog immediately while the sensations were still fresh).
Anyways, back in July the family took a nice weeklong trip across Indonesia and we did it through Aman resorts’ Bali and Beyond package, where you choose to stay at one of their three Bali properties: Amankila, Amannusa and Amandari; and can add on a trip to one or both of their other Indonesia properties: Amanjiwo and Amanwana. At each hotel each guest can choose from a list of complimentary activities, and get one activity per resort. The package also includes daily breakfast and airport transfers as well as transfers between resorts (you can opt to have them book your domestic airfare or do it on your own; if you choose the tented Amanwana I suggest you have Aman book it for you and if your budget and time can handle it, definitely go for the 5 nights Aman cruise through the Komodo Islands for some diving!) With Borobudur being the main point, we opted for Amanjiwo and for our Bali resort we chose Amankila for a few reasons: 1) Heard and read it is among if not the best Aman resort (a fact we later found ourselves disagreeing with which I shall elaborate in another post) 2) This being our third trip to Bali, we wanted to stay and explore an area we hadnt been to yet, away and secluded from the main tourist traps of Ubud, Jimbaran and Seminyak; and Amankila is ideally located, albeit kind of far, in East Bali, close to some amazing dive sites.
I just will say, I cannot recommend Amanjiwo enough, truly one of the most incredible hotel experiences I have had.
Booking was easy, we booked directly through Amanresorts. But just keep tabs of your own reservations and details as some communication did get lost between two hotels and I found myself repeating what we had requested and constantly confirming what one reservation agent said v. another.
Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world, lest archeologists discover a larger one hidden in shrubs or underground sometime in the future, has been on the top of my travel list for quite some time. Especially a trip to Borobudur paired with a stay at Amanjiwo, another travel dream had been to stay and experience the legendary Aman resorts. Some other family members had already experienced Aman in Bhutan and the Philippines (Amanpulo), and had nothing but raving things to say. This was the perfect opportunity to do so. And Ill just say, every bit worth the long journey to Borobudur, especially for that famous sunrise, and yes it is one of those experiences that are better in person than the google image; though still not as amazing as Machu Picchu, which to this day is still the most other-worldly ancient wonder/ruins I have been to.
With no direct flights to Yogyakarta, the gateway city to Borobudur, we flew Taipei-Jakarta-Yogya. Upon landing, we were greeted by an Aman personnel who whisked us directly from the plane to a airport lounge, where we waited for them to gather our checked bags and escort us to the car, completely hassle-free! Upon leaving Yogya, they also just dropped us at the lounge, and handled our check-in for us, talk about attentive service! This was followed by a near two-hour car ride to Amanjiwo, of course its an Aman car ride with lemongrass scented towels, oatmeal raisin cookies, crackers, water, soda, and beer for your choosing. But thats the thing about Indonesia travel, traffic is simply unpredictable. Nonetheless arriving at Amanjiwo was spectacular, hidden amongst the rice field on a hillside in Borobudur, the hotel itself is designed to look just like the temple, and sits a few miles across from it, in fact you can see the temple from the lobby and main staircase.
With 5 adults, we booked far in advance and secured a stay in the only two-bedroom villa in the all-villa property. Some come with pools, some dont. There are around 30 villas, with a few used as a gym, spa and GM quarters.
The two-bedroom Dalem Jiwo Suite is by far the most amazing hotel villa, room, suite I have ever been in. Centered around an outdoor rotunda and 15m pool, the two bedrooms are to either side of the rotunda, and on the lower level two Balinese bale with daybeds flank the sides of the pool. There is a butler quarter and a “guest” bathroom by the rotunda as well. Oh yes, you get 24 hour butler service, and it truly made the stay beyond exceptional.
Now for the rest of my review and the overview of our stay I leave it to the following notes:
Beautiful and secluded resort in Borobudur. Exceptional service. Lives up to the legendary Aman standard, every staff here is friendly, attentive and knows what you need before you even know it! We never once had to say which room we were in or what our names were, every staff greeted us by name, and many knew what activities we had just done and asked us about it upon our return to the resort!
The resort is stunning, with direct views of Borobudur, the breakfast is quite good with wide selection and very filling portions, food in general is not bad but rather inconsistent in terms of taste. Only let down was a bistro-dinner by the pool where every main course was overcooked or lacked flavor, great concept though.
The main pool is large and good for laps or relaxing. Tennis courts available, the gym is small and not well-equipped but you have the wonderful outdoors of Borobudur area to hike. run and bike in so why not take advantage of that? The spa is also small and not fully-equipped but we didnt mind, you dont need it here, the resort is so relaxing and calming you’re doing a spa treatment everyday.
5 of us stayed at the Dalem Jiwo Suite with the two amazing butlers Djoko and Marhadi. By far the best service I have ever experienced in any hotel/ resort I have been to. There was never a sense of pressure or awkwardness, they know exactly when to ask you questions, when to leave you be, when you might need something, what a team. Housekeeping seemingly change sheets/ towels/ flowers and clean every time you are not in your room.
Wonderful choice of activities be it complimentary or not.
- Borobudur Sunrise with guided tour followed by a picnic breakfast at Progo River (or at a temple).
- Dinner at Pak Bilal’s house is one of the best special dining experiences at any resort we’ve been to. Though Pak no longer cooks, his eldest son does, he is still around the house and will welcome you with open arms to tour the non-Aman-ified bits of the house to truly experience the local Borobudur culture.
- Before your dinner at Pak Bilal, ask to see a short cooking demonstration or take a cooking class with wet market visit through Amanjiwo, its pretty neat!
- A visit to Prambanan with an outdoor Ramayana Ballet performance in Yogya is a must albeit a long journey to get there (the outdoor performance is only during the dry season).
- Visiting the local art scene with a visit to Dr. Oei’s house and art gallery. Yogya and the area is the cultural and arts center of Indonesia, and its great to see what local artists have done and are doing to express the culture, identity, history and future of Indonesia. If you meet Dr. Oei, like we did, definitely talk to him, he has had quite a life.
- If you have kids, they also do lots of activities and have programs for kids.
Great job to the Amanjiwo team led by GM Ian!
Highly recommended resort in general, but definitely the place to stay when exploring the wonder of central Java and the magical Borobudur.