A Taste of Java in Yogyakarta

Nothing excites me more than exploring another country for the first time, so I made sure to include Indonesia in my month-long solo backpacking trip around Southeast Asia.

My first stop was Yogyakarta (often called Jogjakarta or Jogja), a special administrative region in the island of Java.

I arrived on a late afternoon flight from Kuala Lumpur via AirAsia, and took the Trans Jogja bus to EDU Hostel where I stayed for 2 nights. Sure, it wasn’t the best accommodation, but for about $7.00 a night with breakfast, it’s definitely value for money.

The hostel also offers several day tours including, of course, tours to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Borobudur and Prambanan.

Borobudur looking ‘golden’ shortly after sunrise
Together with 3 Brit girls, we booked the ‘Beautiful Morning at Borobudur’ tour thinking it includes sunrise viewing. We only realized the following day that we got a different tour because it was already past 5:00 am when we were picked up from the hostel lobby by the tour operator. It wasn’t a big deal for me anyway.
Even though the sun had already risen by the time we arrived, we could still feel a cool breeze as we walked along the park leading to the massive temple.


I am always in awe whenever I visit an ancient temple. It’s fascinating how people in the early days managed to build such majestic structures without modern technology and equipment.

My Top 5 ‘Buti na Lang!’ Moments When I Traveled Solo

As you can probably tell (or not) from the title of this blog post, Taglish ito because…why not? Gusto ko lang! Para maiba naman. There’s always a first time, pero limited edition lang ito kumbaga. Wow! haha

I remember nung nag-travel ako for 32 days nang solo, twice lang ata ako nakapag-Tagalog: when I met up with fellow travel blogger, Joshua, in Chiang Mai, and nung inampon ulit ako ni Riz when I went to KL. Hindi naman ako naubusan ng English pero nag-level up ang charade skills ko. :p
 
Anyway, ano nga ba ang ikkwento ko? Ahh, yung mga bagay na buti na lang ginawa ko nung bumyahe akong mag-isa. 

Kung inaakala mong ang post na ito ay isa sa mga ‘quit-your-job-and-travel-the-world’ posts, pwes, nagkakamali ka. Masyado nang gasgas yun. At sinasabi ko sa ‘yo, maganda lang yan pakinggan sa simula pero pag hindi ka na makabili ng kape sa Starbucks na dati eh inaaraw-araw mo, babalik ka rin sa corporate world. *evil laugh*

Review: Swiss-Belhotel Rainforest Kuta

Swiss-Belhotel Rainforest Kuta is located along Bali’s Sunset Road. It has a very unassuming facade, and looks small from the outside. But I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the lobby as it has a very tropical vibe – a very stark contrast to its commercial-looking exteriors. They didn’t name it ‘Rainforest’ for nothing.

Love that palm leaf-like ceiling fan!
This is how the lobby looks from Oak Restaurant

Review: Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort & Spa

Two nights of bunking with strangers at the hostel and I was already yearning for my own space, and space I got and so much more when I finally arrived at Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort & Spa.
Awang, Sheraton Mustika’s Public Relations Executive, picked me up from the hostel.
Photo from Starwood Hotels website
Our shuttle passed ‘under’ the grand ballroom, and we did a short ascent on a road lined by horse statues on both sides. It felt like entering an ancient city.
West Lobby

Continue reading “Review: Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort & Spa”

5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Sourtheast Asian Adventure

Ever since I got back from my month-long Southeast Asian trip last August 2014, some friends have expressed their interest of doing the same, but don’t know exactly where to start.  

The thing is, when people ask me for my itinerary, I’m a bit hesitant to just give them what I used because it is customized according to MY traveling style. 
I found that it has changed over the years. I no longer feel the need to pack as many attractions as I can in day, and would prefer to pay more for convenience rather than sacrifice comfort for the sake of sticking to my budget. 

I also traveled solo, so my expenses were inevitably bigger than usual. And the only tickets I had pre-booked on sale were my Manila to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and Bali to Manila flights. The rest of the flights, I booked when I was already on the road.

I actually traveled for 32 days

Continue reading “5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Sourtheast Asian Adventure”

Review: Courtyard by Marriott Bali Seminyak

It was the last two days of my month-long Southeast Asia trip, and I’ve had the privilege of spending it at the newly-opened Courtyard by Marriott Seminyak.
I traveled from Ubud, and despite being new, my taxi driver didn’t have a hard time finding the hotel. It’s located just a few minutes away from Seminyak Beach and high-end beach clubs, and a stone’s throw away from restaurants, shops, ATMs, and foreign exchange.
As if going through airport security, security officers and a K9 inspected the taxi thoroughly. Guests were also required to pass through a metal detector, and the bags, through the scanner. I noticed this is a standard in Marriott properties as guests’ safety and security is of utmost importance.
Lobby
The cheerful staff welcomed me, and offered a welcome drink and cold towel. Check-in was quite a breeze too.
By the way, if you’re a Marriott Rewards member staying at selected Marriott properties, you can skip the queue by checking-in/out through the Marriott Mobile App. How cool is that?
Pool Bar
Didn’t mind waiting because I had this view
 
I arrived earlier than the official check-in time, and had to wait a bit for the room to be ready. While waiting, Melinda, one of the front desk associates, chatted with me and shared some info about the hotel. We also talked briefly about my trip.
Immediately noticeable from the lobby is the Pool Bar.
If you think the pool is small, well, think again. It’s actually a three-tiered pool with a lagoon-shaped main pool in the middle, and a more shallow, almost wading pool-like part towards the end, which is perfect for kids.
 
I arrived on a very sunny day, and the pool was glistening. The bright blues looked so inviting it made me want to jump in.
Wading pool with daybeds
I was given a room on the ‘upper ground floor’. Like most rooms, it has a private balcony overlooking the pools. Not satisfied with just a view of the pool? You may also book rooms with pool access.
The room may be modest in size, but the amenities are complete.
I love the clean lines and the freshness that the room exudes. It’s simple, but tastefully decorated.
 
The closet, though small, has ample space for your things. Bathrobes, slippers, and electronic safe are also found inside the closet.
The writing desk has a number of universal power outlets, and was easily my favorite spot. I spent most of my time here catching up with work. I just wish there was more space between the desk and the closest as it could be a nuisance sometimes.
The complimentary WiFi was fast, and didn’t require the usual annoying alphanumeric password. You just need to enter your room number, your last name, and voila!
Natural fibers were incorporated in some of the furnishings to somehow give the room a tropical vibe.

Of course there’s the usual coffee and tea making facility, mini bar, and complimentary bottled water that were replenished daily.

The bathroom was spotless and very spacious – almost half the size of the room, actually.
It has a separate toilet and bath, and the bath is fitted with a rainshower head, which is always a plus point in my book.
Toiletries, grooming kit, and towels were aplenty, and were replenished/replaced daily.
Buffet breakfast is served at Seminyak Kitchen which has a casual and cafe-like feel.
They serve fresh salads, cold cuts, cereals, eggs, noodles, and Indonesian and Western fare among others. My favorites are the freshly baked pastries, fresh fruit juices, and ice cream. And, get this, they serve breakfast all day!
Seminyak Kitchen
Since I have an early morning flight back to Manila, I decided to pre-arrange the airport service with the hotel. And when the front desk staff found out that I need to check out by 5:00 am and wouldn’t make it to the buffet breakfast, they made sure I’ll have a breakfast box ready when I check out. They filled it with Danish pastries and bottles of fruit pastries. It was a really sweet and thoughtful gesture that I have never experienced anywhere else. 🙂
Courtyard by Marriott Seminyak successfully blends the comfort and security of a hotel, the playful yet relaxed ambience of a resort, and the personalized service of a bed and breakfast.
What it lacks in Balinese design, it makes up for in Balinese hospitality.
It was definitely a sweet ending to my trip.

 

K

 
 
Jalan Camplung Tanduk No 103 SP,
Dhyana Pura, Seminyak, Bali, 80361 Indonesia
Tel: +62 361 8499 600

Review: Alaya Resort Ubud

Staying at Alaya Resort Ubud was like stepping into a dream.
It has all the components of MY ideal Balinese holiday: a tropical-themed room overlooking paddy fields, frangipani and coconut tree-lined grounds, soothing massage, and warm hospitality.
I was really looking forward to my stay at Alaya ever since I saw pictures of it online, and it did not disappoint.

The minute my cab pulled in front of the open-style lobby, I was immediately greeted by a staff wearing a traditional-style uniform, but with a modern flair.
 
Check in process was a breeze, and within a few minutes, they handed my room keycard together with a map of Ubud.

As the staff walked me to my room, I couldn’t help but notice the use of natural materials throughout the hotel which gave it a rustic feel. This, combined with modern fittings, will surely please all kinds of travelers.

I was given the spacious and beautifully furnished Alaya Room (Room 311) which had a terrace overlooking the paddies.

The bed was just gorgeous! It’s huge and fluffy with lots of pillows.
The frangipanis on the bed and towels were also a nice touch. 🙂

Kimonos, slippers, an eco bag guests can borrow (can be bought from the front desk), electronic safe, and plenty of fluffy towels are kept inside the spacious cabinets.

The usual coffee and tea making facilities, and mini bar are also available.

Aside from the air conditioning unit, there’s also a ceiling fan both in the room and in the terrace.

The decorative wall was a nice backdrop. It extends from the room onto the terrace.
My favorite part of the room? Easily the ‘open’ bath area with a huge stone bathtub.
There’s a generous supply of top-notch organic toiletries such as Lime Lemongrass shampoo, Cinnamon Frangipani conditioner, Vanilla Rosemary shower gel, Lavender Eucalyptus body lotion, and Spearmint Patchouli hand soap. If not for the big bottles, I would’ve taken them home!
Even if you opt not to have a spa treatment, you can still treat yourself to a decadent bubble bath. The Rose Coconut bath foam smells divine!
Dolce far niente!
When I managed to drag myself out of the room, I walked around the resort to enjoy the landscaped garden and lush surroundings.
Some of the guests were just lounging by the lagoon-shaped pool, and I really can’t blame them. The atmosphere is just very relaxing.
***
And what’s a Balinese vacation without having a spa treatment, right?
 
I was so thrilled they gave me a complimentary 2-hour treatment at DaLa Spa.
 
European glamour meets Balinese aesthetics
DaLa Spa’s design is so charming. I’m loving the chic porter’s chairs!

 

I arrived 15 minutes earlier than the appointment schedule, and while waiting, I was immediately served cold lemon grass and pineapple juice, and a cold towel.

The staff then explained to me the scope of the 2-hour Manis Klepon treatment. 

I was then asked to fill out a personal information/preference checklist where I need to indicate if I have any allergies or medical conditions, any specific body parts I want my therapist to focus on etc. I even get to choose the room temperature, pressure, and the kind of music I want to listen to while having the treatment.

After handing the form to the staff, she walked me to a table where my therapist, Putu, was preparing the ‘ingredients’ that will be used for my treatment. She grated some coconuts which she then mixed with palm sugar. This was for my body scrub.

We then went down to one of the luxe treatment rooms.
She handed me a robe to change into. Slippers were provided as well. She also taught me how to assign a PIN code for the electronic safe where I can store my valuables.
After changing, Putu started with the foot bath, which was then followed by the coconut and palm sugar body scrub to exfoliate dead skin cells. Next was the pandanus and suji leaves body mask, which started out warm then gradually gave off a cooling sensation.
She then showed me a basket of flowers, and explained what each one was while gradually dropping them into the tub filled with warm water. This is for the Seven Flowers Bath, which was very relaxing, and washed away the remains of the mask.
She gave me 15 minutes to enjoy the bath while she prepared the new robe and disposable underwear. She also left me a cup of tea by the vanity desk before she left the room.
Finally, it was time for the one-hour Balinese massage.
Putu was very careful with the strokes, and was continuously checking if the pressure and room temperature was just right for me. It was really relaxing that I nearly dozed off.
The treatment ended with a chamomile facial spritz which woke up my senses. haha
After the treatment, she brought me back to the main hall of DaLa Spa where I was then served hot ginger tea with Balinese dumpling stuffed with palm sugar, and served with grated coconut named…Manis Klepon!
 
I highly, highly recommend their spa treatments! You will definitely feel like royalty.
 
Pardon the grainy pictures. These were taken using my phone’s camera.
 
***
Guests get to choose from Petani Restaurant’s set breakfast menu.
Don’t be disappointed if it’s not buffet style because I assure you, the breakfast set is as good as brunch.
I had the American breakfast set which consists of a bread basket (toast, croissant, Danish pastry) served with butter and jams; fresh fruit platter served with fresh homemade yogurt; omelette, bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, potato, broccoli, and cauliflower; freshly-squeezed orange juice, and latte.
Petani Restaurant
 

Alaya Resort Ubud is located along Jalan Hanoman so it’s close to a supermarket, a number of ATMs, restaurants, souvenir shops, and is just a 5-minute walk to the Sacred Monkey Forest.

***
 

I still regret not staying long enough in Ubud, and in Alaya. The laid back vibe, culture, and the lovely people easily made it one of my favorite destinations to date.


K

~~ I was hosted by Alaya Resort Ubud for a night, but all opinions in this review are my own. ~~
 
 
Jalan Hanoman, Ubud
Bali 80571 Indonesia
Tel: +62 (361) 972200
Email: info@alayaubud.com
Twitter: @AlayaUbud
Instagram: @AlayaUbud