In Java: Luxury Accommodations Unmasked

(picture source: internet)

The blare of horns and the buzz of the city had fallen away.

It was slightly after dusk as the mini van turned into a more decidedly rustic landscape. Sporadic lamps lined the street and the night air smelled of pine grass; my eyes slowly adjusting to the dark.

As soon as the van turned into the entrance of the private villa, I was awed by the large wrap-around verandah that overlooks the paddy field. This is perfect for getting back to nature.

Rumah Sleman Private Boutique Hotel (20 minutes away from Adi Sutjipto International Airport), is a former villa which belonged to an Indonesian Sultan in the 1800s. The place fuses the comfort of a luxury hotel (24-hour personal butler service) with the rustic connection of the private neighborhood of a Javanese countryside.

Today, the private villa (four suites in total) still retains the essence of royal Javanese style. I stayed in the biggest suite room (also the most exorbitant); its interior appointed with Javanese paintings that hang on the walls. The spacious bathroom are replete with marble and gold-plated fixtures; the plush beds festooned with light drapery.

The more affordable suites (starting from 1.2 million rupiah) are jazzed up with contemporary, lighter touches. In the living room, you can play the piano, have a game at the pool table or admire the fishes in the koi pond.

Staying at Rumah Sleman Boutique Hotel is not so much like sleeping in a hotel as being the pampered guest of a Sultan.

The next day, we were treated to lunch at Sheraton Hotel, overlooking scenic mountain views of the volcano as we eat. The food at Sheraton is delicious and a must-try :)

:: Lunch at Sheraton, Yogyakarta, with travel blogger, Eunice ::

:: An aerial view of the two gargantuan pools at Sheraton Hotel & Resorts:: 

This trip was sponsored by Air Asia.

Posted in Indonesia: Yogyakarta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

In Indonesia: risking the wrath of an active Volcano

:: View of the volcanoes shrouded by clouds from the airplane::

Flirting with the fury of one of the world’s most active volcano may not sound like the usual tourist fare, especially since just last October, Mount Merapi (or the Sacred Mountain of Fire) erupted and claimed over 200 lives. However, exploring the volcanoes that form the spine of Java offers me a chance to understand how geology influenced the lives and culture of the locals who live in the highlands.

By the time I visit the most active volcano in Indonesia, Merapi (28 kilometers north of Yogjarkarta City) is still constantly puffing smoke. What makes it dangerous is not only the toxic plumes but also its sheer unpredictability. Lava-spewing peaks aside, I bear witness to what was once a river bend, now nothing but a flat ground, buried deep by the recent eruption.

:: The majestic mountain views of Merapi::

:: The 2010 eruption buried villages and an entire river bend. The curves of the winding river still visible::

Indeed, hell hath no fury like a volcano’s scorn.

Among the Javanese, Merapi is widely feared – having erupted dozens of times in the last century – contributing to the ancient belief and a plethora of local myths that the volcanic gods must be appeased. At the foothill of the volcano, I caught a glimpse of the picture of Maridjan, the volcano’s spiritual gatekeeper, on a banner. He was found in a prayer position in his house when the ash rolled in and buried him alive.

I have many reasons to be fearful and I tried, albeit fleetingly, to imagine the what ifs but instead, saw a quiet terrain with vents breathing steam. As smoke curled up from the crater of its peaks, I could see how this volcano inspired so much fear and reverence from the locals.

:: Locals making their way down a winding path under in the scorching heat::

:: A banner made in memory of those who lost their lives in the 2010 eruption ::

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE

In the past, to get to Yogjarkarta, you have to take an eight-hour train from Jarkarta. Now AirAsia flies direct to Yogjarkarta from Singapore. You can choose from hiring a local guide to trek around or zip up the mountain via bike tours made available at the base of Merapi.

It is best to check with the local guides before you plan to hike up Merapi. Much of the area is within unrestricted zone until further notice.

What I’m Wearing: In the month of October, it is still relatively hot. I wear a cotton shirt and jeans. Do throw a shawl over your shoulder if you choose to wear spaghetti straps. Slather on a lot of sunscreen. I use my trusty Shiseido’s SPF 35 sunscreen.

Read more about the eruptions here.

This trip was jointly sponsored by Air Asia and Indonesia Tourism Board.

The full-feature story of Yogjarkarta was published under Singapore Press Holdings. 

Posted in Indonesia: Yogyakarta | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Weekend Getaway: Harmoni One Hotel

Quick confession: it was love at first sight.

The new Harmoni One Hotel is a gem I recently discovered. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Batam, the 4-star hotel is designed for much needed breathing and privacy space from the heart of the city.

Much of the exterior resembles Greece; think white gargantuan pillars against bright blue skies, high ceilings and shiny marble floors. I was impressed by how clean and luxurious the whole place is. The lobby is amazingly spacious with a rather posh lounge to unwind in, apt for business and entertainment. The lobby is replete with beautiful statues of peacocks, elephants and the like, almost akin to a mini art gallery. Every floor of the guest rooms is covered with gorgeous carpets and the walls lined with serene paintings of nature. My heart felt at peace almost immediately.

What I like most is the rooftop pool – it’s huge! Sphinx statues perch on the roof and a couple of low verandahs on the other side overlook the entire city below. In a nutshell, Harmoni One Hotel is a luxurious yet unpretentious place for a quick weekend getaway. My only gripe is the slow service (both at the restaurant and for housekeeping) but I guess the ambience pretty much made up for it.

Wearing: Be comfortable, be casual, be totally at ease. I brought a sundress (from Cotton On), T-shirt and a pair of shorts. I always have a cardigan or sweater at hand in case the air turns chilly at night. It’s also not wise to bare-it-all in any culturally-conservative country.

Toting: The only thing you’ll really need is sunblock and lip balm. It’s the tropics afterall. Even if you’d want to bake yourself, it’s still advisable to use a sun block. I use Shiseido’s SPF 35 for my body and Origins Sunscreen (A Perfect World Series) SPF 35 for my face.

If you would like to do some shopping, free shuttle services are available from the hotel to Megal Mall.

Posted in Indonesia: Batam | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

On the streets of Heidelberg

I trawled through some street shots taken when I was in Europe last year and found these. It had just turned Spring and the air was still chilly. These alfresco pictures (taken in Germany) reminded me so much of France, particularly the Parisian cafe culture.

I like the air of nonchalence the woman in the picture exudes. A lady who reads is always so imperceptibly cool.

(Taken with Canon 1000D)

Posted in Germany: Heidelberg | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Old is gold

Dug through some old travel photos of Langkawi and found this candid picture of a humble, sweet, old Japanese man who cycles pass the field of purple flowers everyday, and reads like a shark still.

(Taken with Canon 1000D)

Posted in Malaysia: Langkawi | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Hong Kong: When Dusk Falls

The second time to Hong Kong, I find myself taken aback by pleasant surprises. First, there was the unprecedented meeting with the relatives, a flurry of catch-up sessions, sinfully delicious foods, and an unforgettable dose of genuine hospitality.

Then, there were the street sights – rowdy, messy, chaotic and dangerous. That pretty much epitomized the heart of Kowloon. While so many things about Hong Kong remain the same, for instance, the dripping air-cons that so characterizes the city, the place seems different. It isn’t as hostile, impatient and lonesome as it was during my first trip there four years ago. I guess what I’m trying to say is this – great company makes all the difference.

By dusk, I stood at the corner of the curving streets, dwarfed by a plethora of half-constructed buildings, their silhouettes a perfect contrast to the evening sky. I was surprised, by how low light actually made pictures more melancholic, nostalgic and yet, hauntingly beautiful.

It was then that I started firing away. With the camera, of course.

Where to STAY: 4-star Eaton Hotel, situated in the heart of Kowloon Peninsula on Nathan Road. The hotel is conveniently located near MTR Jordan Station with cafes and a 24-hour 7-11 just below it. Talk about convenience!

Where to SHOP: Tsim Sha Tsui (Malls and big brands), Soho and Hollywood Road (arts and antiques), Temple Street and Mongkok (flea markets and cheap finds).

Where to CLUB: Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s premier dining and clubbing entertainment destination comes alive after midnight.

What to WEAR: People in Hong Kong dressed stylishly so don’t be afraid to go wild in style. Leopard prints, bohemian, street style…you name it, they have it. As for me, I can’t do without my shades and accessories.

What Hong Kong means to me: Congested shopping haven.

Posted in Hong Kong | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ballet under the stars

On Sunday, my friends and I attended a night of Tchaikovsky and Ballet under the stars at Fort Canning Green (incidentally, one of my favourite places for picnic). It was a rain or shine annual event and we were blessed with salmon pink skies, a light breeze and a yellow-hued sunset. The atmosphere was great, relaxed and fun, everyone brought their picnic mats, lounge chairs, wine, fruits, cheeses, meat, Sushi and beer. I couldn’t asked for a better way to spend Sunday. The ballet performance itself was captivating with veteran ballet dancers piroutted onstage in their blue and pink tutus and ballet shoes, movement synchronized as one. My favourite pieces were ‘Serenade and ‘Allegro Brilliante’ and ‘Swan Lake’.

If only life is a picnic. That would be swell.

 

Posted in Singapore | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment