Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 16 March 2014 • Destination
It all started when Mumun and I were dining at Dapur Babah Elite. Mbak Sian, the Tugu group’s PR, uttered a brilliant idea when our conversation somehow evolved around their hotel in Blitar. She invited us to stay at Tugu Sri Lestari Hotel – or more popularly known as Hotel Tugu Blitar – in Blitar, East Java. All expenses paid for except transportation. Since we’re curious with all of their properties, it was absolutely a deal! We couldn’t wait to see what kind of awesomeness we would be experiencing in Blitar!
Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by a tunnel of thin dangling vines that lead to the hotel’s main building. Behind the parasite curtains were the restaurant and the reception area. We were directed to our room, the Tugu Suite, in the main building. Oh my, oh my. The double panel door opened to a spacious room with a king canopied bed that was standing tall on a stilt bed frame. So tall, they provided a wooden box stool to step on to get on the bed, one on each side.
“Oh my god, we’re princesses!” Mumun yelled, so awed to see such a room, and enthusiastically stepped up to the bed. We never even dreamed to be sleeping on a bed to which we have to climb up with a stepping box! I’ve been to some 5-star hotels before, but this was the first time I got that kind of bed!
Our amazement didn’t end there. There’s a sitting area far deep in the suite with a personalized welcoming card tucked in a vase of flowers. Fruits were provided in a bowl, complete with a bowl of water to wash them and a knife wrapped in a napkin. Though in general the room’s amenity isn’t any more luxurious than the one I stayed in Malang, they keep the standard well and everything’s looking classic. A huge painting of wild animals attacking each other was hanged by the wall, which was a rather uneasy view to stare at, to be honest.
A 29-inch TV was sitting right across the bed but we never turned it on. We were busy enjoying the ambiance whenever we were in the room! The wifi and mobile connection was weak, though. But I guess a good hotel suite is to be enjoyed without much distraction!
The bathroom was also capacious. The bathtub looked like it’s made of tin and was calling for me to bathe in warm water in it! Unfortunately, none of us had the chance to try the tub (except for showering) until we checked out, due to the packed schedule and the fact that I later caught flu. *sob*
The only restaurant in Hotel Tugu Blitar is the Colony Restaurant. Red and white dominate the colors of the whole restaurant, which feels sort of patriotic since Indonesia’s flag is red and white. One of the loro blonyo (the Javanese couple statues) and the Wishnu god riding a garuda bird are painted red as well, unlike usual. I think they tried to imply bravery and patriotism in the interior. Bravery to fight against the colony?
We tried some of the food here, like rawon soup, grilled gurame fish, nila penyet and Blitar’s specialty: nasi pecel (steamed rice with pecel). The meat in the rawon was soft, the keluak in the soup tasted just mildly, just right for my liking as I’m not a huge fan of keluak. The gurame (carp) was also yummy, grilled with soya sauce and served with a chili condiment. As for the nasi pecel, it was nice. A little too mild on the pecel sauce for Mumun’s liking but made the whole dish taste healthy. The ‘nila penyet’ is a fresh water fish, fried, and bathed in chili sauce. It had the right umph to have Mumun start to sweat and the eggplants were cooked really tasty. Our fish menu cost about IDR 60,000 each, the nasi pecel was about IDR 25,000.
Inspired by the old Javanese high tea culture, the Tugu hotels evoke this royal habit by always providing hot drinks and traditional Javanese snacks between 4-6 PM. In Hotel Tugu Blitar, you can have your high tea in the Warung Tugu Blitar. It’s located beside the reception and is set to seriously resemble a warung, with old wooden tables and benches, and raw food materials hanged from bamboo racks.
The Warung would be a really nice place to hang or read books while munching on the gethuk, mud cake, bakwan and sipping some hot tea. However, we were still too stuffed with the grilled fishes, so we took the cakes to our room and munched them later at night. I love Tugu’s high tea snacks because I’ve always been a fan of these traditional snacks, especially getuk, the corduroy cake made of cassava!
I was excited to see all the room types at the hotel, just out of curiosity. Mbak Hartini, assisted by Pak Dodi, took us for a tour around the hotel in the drizzly afternoon.
The tour started from the main building, where our suite and 10 others are located. Apparently, this building and the restaurant building have been around since 1850s, owned by a distinguished family of Blitar. That explains the colonial type of building, with the white big round pillars and all. After World War II, it was a hotel called Centrum, and much later became the Sri Lestari Hotel. Tugu Group acquired it and renamed it officially as Tugu Sri Lestari Hotel.
The most special suite is exactly next to ours, the Sang Fajar Suite Room. It was, W.O.W! The suite’s space is two Tugu Suites combined, connected by a double panel door. Upon entrance, you’ll see a set of dinner table, a desk, a set of sofa and antique cupboards. There are paintings, photographs and books of Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president, as part of the decoration. It’s so easy to think that the owner of Tugu Group is a dedicated fan of him, though we don’t know for sure.
An Indonesian flag is erected in one corner, and when you enter the bedroom, you’ll see the Garuda Pancasila, the icon of Indonesia’s foundation as a nation, affixed on the wall, above the bed’s headboard. The bedroom is similar to ours in layout, but with more masculine and charismatic touch on the decoration.
“Who stays in this IDR 2,900,000 per-night room?” I asked nosily to Mbak Hartini.
“Well, the president, the ex presidents, politicians, celebrities…,” she said. And later that night, the suite was occupied by an Indonesian big time businessman who’s now in politics. Whoa, we’re neighbors with a V.I.P.! Does it make us V.I.P’s, too?
The hotel occupies a lot bigger area than you’d think just by looking at it from the main area in front.
“A number of buses can fit in this parking lot,” said Pak Dodi when we were walking to the back area.
Rows of smaller rooms are contained in two-storey and three-storey buildings that seemed to have been built in the 1980s or 1990s. The rooms were simple, nothing spectacular when you look at them in a glance. But look closer, or look at the bathrooms, there’s always something unique. For example, the tiled bath tub that goes about 50 cm deep in the ground instead of installing the regular bathtub. And there’s always a botanical touch in each room, may it be the painting, the lower bed sheets, and or the real plants in small gardens. And of course, antique decorations in the corridors. Even the house phone is a dial phone!
There are also smaller rooms with only shower, not a tub. But still they put stools under the shower, something unusual and thoughtful. It would be nice to shower sitting down after you’re out and about all day, wouldn’t it?
As for your chauffeurs, they can stay in the Mungil Rooms, the only type of room that isn’t equipped with hot water. As Blitar doesn’t have its own airport, a lot of the guests hire cars and the chauffeurs from Malang or Surabaya, the closest cities with airports.
We were worn out after 13 hours being on the night train from Jakarta to Blitar and a day packed with activities around Blitar. So we decided to get some spa treatment at the hotel’s Lali Djiwa Heritage Spa. The two spa rooms are not unlike most spas with traditional decorations. A huge banyan tree grows in one of the spa rooms. A small but good example of preserving nature where you need to build a property around it.
I’m used to have my feet and body massaged with reflexology method, so that’s what I asked to the masseuse, Mbak Darsih. But apparently she has different standard of reflexology massage, which is with WAAAYY stronger pressure. So strong, I had to ask her alter the massage to the traditional kind. Not really my favorite, but A LOT less hurting than the reflexology one. She did warn me that it was going to be painful, but curious me just had to test it out myself. My feet hurt until more than a week later. Ouch!
Mumun seemed to love the traditional massage Mbak Darsih gave. I heard them conversed with laughter in the other room as I was relaxing my sore muscles in the hot tub with seven kinds of spices.
Special hotels offer special experiences. To me, staying at Hotel Tugu Blitar is special, for the historical building, the friendly services and that we felt like princesses! But they offer even more special experiences. There’s the dining experience in front of a candi or on a beach, a bike tour around Blitar, a Wlingi coffee plantation tour, and a cooking class. We did some of these awesome experiences and will tell you about them in our next posts. Wait for them, guys!
They offer quite a wide range of room rates, starting from IDR 335,000 (the Superior Rooms) to IDR 2,900,000 (Sang Fajar Suite Room) per night. Mungil Rooms for the chauffeurs are IDR 210,000 per night and they charge IDR 125,000 for an extra bed.
More details on the room rates: click here.Address: Jl. Merdeka 173, Blitar 66111, East Java
* The 2 night stay and some of the meals were complimentary from Tugu Hotel, but the opinions are our own.
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