Retreat into Heaven at The Amanjiwo, Central Java
You will find throughout my blog, quite a few mentions of Amans. It’s my favorite hotel of all time. No matter what country I visit, if there is an Aman property there, I will absolutely be staying there. And I have been fortunate enough to have experienced 6 of their properties thus far and hope to stay at many many more of them as time goes on. I would say what differentiates Amans from many other super luxury resorts is 1) it’s stunning architecture 2) the exotic locales they build their properties on, providing the utmost privacy 3) the VERY BEST service you can ever get, hands down (no high-end luxury property has ever come close to Aman’s level of service for me 4) no crowds ever, meaning you will never have to wait for anything, you get the feeling that you have the whole property and the entire staff all to yourself.
So when I knew I was going to Indonesia, home to several Amans, I had to stay at one of the properties. Amanjiwo is the one I went with. The number one reason being it’s located by the Borobudur, which is a must see when you visit Indonesia and the second reason being its architecture. When I laid eyes on the property from a book on Southeast Asia, I was blown away with the layout of the structures. The grand pillars, open air atriums, and suites cascading and surrounding the main central rotunda built as a pillared temple, looked like something out of the movies. I suggest checking out their website and looking at grander images of the entire property. Something I couldn't really capture with my camera. And for you ladies who love to snap Instagram worthy shots, this property has some beautiful pathways and walkways that lend to beautiful photography during the day and in the evening.
The Amanjiwo is designed by Ed Tuttle, one of the best American Architects, well known for his work in Asia, especially for his projects with the Aman Resorts. The hotel has 36 lavish suites laid out in two crescents that surround the central rotunda which houses, the lobby, restaurant, art gallery, and library. Half of the suites all have private pools. You can select which suites you prefer based on whether you want a pool or not and based on which view you prefer. The suites/villas start at $850/night up to $3000/night excluding the 21% tax so it does come with a hefty price tag.
All the villas/suites are built like individual little homes, made of limestone walls, thatched roof, terrazzo flooring, with a mix of various woods. Upon opening the door to your villa/compound, there is walkway/courtyard that leads you to your bedroom.
Open the sliding doors to the side and enter the bedroom. The doors in the center of the room slide open into a large terrace or outdoor private patio up front that has your requested views (either of Borobudur or the Menoreh Hills) and loungers/cabanas for your own personal use and chaises for your own personal sunbathing.
On days when you finish your touring and sightseeing, their main pool becomes the perfect sanctuary. In contrast to the Sundara Beach Club, the pools at the Aman are peaceful areas for you to retreat to. It's quiet, never crowded, and usually surrounded by just nature. You hear nothing but the birds chirping, the leaves whistling in the breeze, and the occasional splash of water in the pool. Bring a book or your favorite magazines for some reading, take a nap, or grab a bite. You can enjoy fabulous poolside meals at your chaise or the outdoor dining area in their "pool house" atrium next to the pool.
Amanjiwo also provides personal watercolor sets for each suite/villa so you can bring it with you and paint whenever you feel inspired. The staff will happily help set up anything for you. I decided to bring my set to the pool and channel my inner Picasso.
In the mornings, they also have complimentary yoga sessions by the pool
When you don't have an early morning tour, skip working out at the gym in the mornings and take a hike or stroll outside of the property just to take in the surroundings.
And after yoga or your morning stroll, head to their main rotunda for breakfast in their stunning atrium
Breakfast at Amanjiwo includes a breakfast buffet spread of both traditional Javanese pastries and Western pastries, vast assortment of exotic fruits, yogurts, grains, juices, etc. And then a full Western and Javanese a la carte menu.
In the afternoons, Amanjiwo also provides afternoon tea out on their terrace which works out perfectly for those coming back from their tours or a day at the pool or spa.
The food as I mentioned is always top-notch at the Amans. They usually serve traditional fare from the region as well as superb western food for those who want to switch it up. They also occasionally feature different menus on different evenings that focus on some kind of local traditional cuisine. Private candle light dinners can be arranged for couples at the comfort of their own suite on their own villa terrace, somewhere on the property or even special offsite location.
Due to the seclusion of most Aman Properties, you won't be eating offsite much. Most meals are all had on the property. So for dinners we would change it up. We had a special dinner setup at a local villager's home where they cooked for us on the spot inside a tiny thatched hut with 100's of candles set all over the room. It was incredible. (Blog post on this dinner will be up soon) And on another night I tried the "Makan Malan", Traditional Javanese DInner Meal Spread as opposed to selecting an appetizer and entree.
Do take a stroll through the main rotunda either before or after dinner when it's dark, both inside and out. The lighting is different at night and there's Prayer Chanting that happens in the towns usually around sunset and sometime after 9pm. The chanting can be heard from the property. There is something really spiritual and special about being out in the middle of nowhere hearing only chanting and leaves whistling through the breeze. And then the candles and the lighting on the property also adds to the mood.
So now that we’ve covered the architecture and the beauty of the property, the lavish suites, and the food, let’s touch upon the service.
In having stayed at many high end resorts, Four Seasons has always been consistently good on their level and quality of service. Take Four Seasons service and times that by 3 and you’ll get Aman service. For starters, during the length of your stay, no bill is ever brought to you. No bills after any meals, any drinks, any snacks, any treatments…You don’t ever have to wait or flag anyone down to sign anything. You can order food and drinks, enjoy it and just get up and walk off. A summary will be provided to you at the end of your stay when you check out. There is something very free and liberating about this process of no bills being presented. Gratuity is something you can calculate as a total in the end when you check out. The gratuity goes to the entire staff and they split it. Way more efficient and also fair in my opinion when you look at how your experience was created by the whole staff and not just some people you came across during your stay and they all get a piece of your appreciation through the tip you give them. I love this system.
At the Aman, you can also request almost anything and they will accommodate without any question with a smile and eagerness to please. Everyone here loves their job and appreciates being a part of the Aman Family and you can sense that when they are serving and assisting you. This makes your stay there feel more intimate, personal and not transactional. Every staff member there from the manager, to the concierge, to the servers, to the chefs, to the gardeners and housekeepers also all know your name. When you walk down anywhere on the property, someone will greet you by your name, even though you may have never even seen them before. Every staff member knows what activity you went on that day or will be partaking in and will ask you about it. Every server knows what drink you had the night before and what snacks you liked with your cocktail. The server would bring my husband a bowl of bacon every time during cocktail hour and bring me a bowl of their amazing prawn crackers. The attention to detail here is on another level beyond any hotel I’ve ever been to. I’ll provide two more examples of this.
1. On all our guided drives, local snacks made by the Aman Chef are provided in the car. I tried this peanut brittle cracker in the car and mentioned how good it was to our guide. The day I checked out, the chef prepared a basket of this peanut brittle cracker for me, packaged in a rattan basket wrapped up and sealed for my trip to take with me.
2. The chef also included a typed recipe of a fried egg pancake dish, that I had mentioned was delicious during dinner one night to the wait staff. The day we left, the Chef came out, said goodbye to us and handed me the recipe saying he heard I loved this dish so he wanted to give me the recipe in case I wanted to try to replicate it at home. He also mentioned he would have made some for us to take back except it wouldn’t keep well.
Would you be surprised if I told you that leaving the Amanjiwo that day was rather sad for me? You feel like you have this family here taking the absolute best care of you and then you say goodbye, hoping it won’t be the last time you’ll see all of them. Tell me what hotel have you stayed at that gives you this type of sentiment? For these reasons, I will forever be a loyal Amanjunkie!