March 13, 2007

(February, 2007) Amanjiwa. This resort rivals Amankila as far as beauty, service and comfort go. It was also designed by Ed Tuttle, with all his signature touches, but here he has borrowed a style from Borobudur which is visible in the background. Many people believe this is his greatest Amna achievement. 

amanjiwa4613.JPGThe entrance is down a hill into the “temple” with the reception area, library and shops at the entry level. The restaurant is up a few steps and then the rooms descend down the hill from there.

Our room was a walled villa, with a pool and courtyard in the back. amanjiwa_4511.JPGThe interior was similar to the other Amans, but the service here was noteworthy even for an Aman. For instance, our first night, we returned from dinner to find rose petals strewn around our bed. The restaurant served a Western or Indonesian breakfast and lunch. When we checked in we sat with our guest assistant and the general manager to discuss what excursions we would make on which days. Shortly thereafter an individually tailored printed program was delivered to our room.

borobudur_4550.JPGWe started with a 4:15 wake-up call to get to Borobudur before dawn so we could see it rising out of the mist along with a distant but active volcano. After our guided tour, our driver took us through the local market.

 The next day our wake-up call was a little later, at 6:45, so we could set out for the village of Selogriyo by 8:00 and walk from there up to a small Hindu temple before it got really hot.The village seems to make good money from the modest fee that the resort pays for them to maintain a path up into the hills to the temple.

borobudur_4654.JPGIt passes the rice paddies that form the real mainstay of the economy of the village.The benefit of going when we did, in the rainy season, is that the fields were lush, the flowers vibrant and everything was green. The downside, of course, is that there is rain, but we found it not unwelcome at all, coming as it did in the afternoon after we had taken our excursions.

On our way back from the village we stopped at a stone carving atelier where we saw some wonderful petrified wood from another Indonesian island. All the pieces were large and extremely heavy, but so beautiful, a sort of natural sculpture. They were also priced very reasonably at a few hundred dollars each, but the cost of shipping was exorbitant.

We also stopped to see ladies inking in the batik designs that are so famous and so expensive in Java. They use an instrument that looks like a small pipe with a point on the end. They use the point to prick the fabric and ink drops from the bowl of the pipe. With all the hand work it is understandable when the cost is so high.

At dinner, they always offered a Javanese tasting menu ($45 per person with the house cocktail, a soursop martini, or house wine included) which we invariably chose and loved.

To make sure that any new dish is authentic, the chef has a local “taster,” an 80-year old lady who is quite the gourmet. This tasting menu had a first course, and then what they called the main course which was actually six different dishes served all at the same time.

Three of the mains were always some sort of vegetable and there was always a fish, a chicken and a beef dish. Nothing was terribly spicy, but there were some sambals served that one could add to raise the heat. To finish off, there was a dessert.

amanjiwa_4677.JPGOur last night, we splurged on what is called the Selamatan Dinner. The area around the main pool was set up for us alone. Around our table was a circle of rose petals that had to be three feet wide. In front of our table was a stage, defined by a row of plants and behind it the traditional 12-piece Javanese gamelan orchestra. Our guest assistant had met us at our room and led us down to the area.

A butler then made our drinks before we sat down at the table. Canapés were followed by a soup and then 7 or 8 dishes, all Indonesian, ranging from steamed prawn and glass noodle wrapped in banana leaf to grilled chicken marinated with white curry sauce.

amanjiwa_4681.JPGDuring the meal we were entertained by the orchestra and a local, but very talented, Javanese dance troupe. It was all very elegant and very lovely.

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