By Gaya Travel on February 29, 2016
Being introduced to Hotel Tugu Sri Bestari Blitar was such a surreal experience because Gaya Travel team members did feel like being transported back to the days of yore. Located in Blitar – a town three hours’ drive away from Surabaya and an hour and a half from Malang – this palatial property possesses historic soulfulness and sense of place, definitely recommended for lovers of history and heritage, including those seeking unique getaways.
Hotel Tugu Sri Bestari Blitar, or simply known as Tugu Blitar, comprises a complex of historical buildings that make up a colonial mansion built in 1850s by a distinguished Blitar family, besides a three-storey block containing guestrooms standing on the land right next to it. With regard to the mansion, after World War II, it was converted into Hotel Zentrum, then later changed into Hotel Sri Lestari. Tugu Hotels later acquired the land where the block of guestrooms stands upon, including Hotel Sri Lestari, hence giving birth to Hotel Tugu Sri Bestari Blitar. According to Ibu Hartini, Tugu Blitar’s Operations Manager, this property is special because it is a precursor to the other newer Tugu properties.
The hotel’s location, which is in a small quaint town called Blitar, is the birthplace of no other than the one and only Soekarno, the legendary personality who led Indonesia to its independence and became the country’s first President, who is still deeply revered by his fellow countrymen to this very day. This is also the place where this larger-than-life personality was laid to rest.
As we entered the property, we were greeted by vines hanging from the pergola erected above the entryway that exuded an age-old feel. The entryway itself is flanked by two buildings, one being used as the guest reception area and open lounge, while the other houses the Colony Restaurant that serves tasty Indonesian, Chinese and European cuisines. Both buildings are characterised by distinctive Dutch colonial architecture that incorporates Javanese pitched roofs, admirable white-washed pillars, elegant antique furniture from the 19th and early 20th century, sepia-toned photographs and Art Deco chandeliers. Stepping into the property is likened to entering a palatial family mansion belonging to a friend who is a descendent of respectable and distinguished old money.
As with the other Tugu properties, valuable artefacts and cultural antiquities like wooden sculptures, paintings and even traditional Javanese musical instruments belonging to the owner Bapak Anhar Setjadibroto continuously grace Hotel Tugu Blitar’s many corners and niches that flow from the front of the property all the way to the Lali Djiwa Heritage Spa – which dispenses treatments using natural traditional ingredients – at the back. Ibu Hartini mentioned that Tugu Blitar holds a special place in Bapak Anhar’s heart, so much so that during Chinese New Year’s eve, Bapak Anhar’s family members tend to gather at this property for the customary annual family banquet.
To get the most of their stay in Hotel Tugu Blitar, Gaya Travel Magazine strongly recommends that guests at least opt for any of the 10 spacious and high-ceilinged Tugu Suites that are furnished with resplendent East Javanese panache, and outdoor bathrooms cladded in well-aged terrazzo tiles. For those who are interested in experiencing the ultimate, they should check into the Fajar Suite, which possesses the essence of 1940s romance and elegance as tribute to Soekarno as Indonesia’s Father of the Nation, who rose to power during that period. Guests are bound to be charmed by the various memorabilia, artefacts and artworks attributed to this great leader. They will also be able to see the copy of Indonesia’s Proclamation of Independence in the suite.
We must say that when it comes to food, all of Tugu’s properties never disappoint, and that includes the property’s all day dining restaurant called The Colony. Gaya Travel team’s stay coincided with low season, therefore the hotel, especially the restaurant, was rather quiet and lacked the kind of bustle that travellers would normally expect from an established food and beverage outlet. Since the number of diners that time were few, especially during dinner, we suspected that the restaurant might want to reduce on cost and energy, suspecting that the food may not be as excellent as the dishes served at Tugu Malang, which we stayed earlier. We were so, so wrong – though the menu is not as extensive as the one in Tugu Malang, the food served remained excellent. It is apparent that Tugu Hotels do not compromise on the quality of food, no matter where they are located and what number of guests are currently staying. In terms of upscale dining, The Colony is without doubt the best restaurant in Blitar.
Besides the restaurant, guests also should not miss savouring afternoon tea at Waroeng Jawa, a rustic and humble yet cheerful Javanese style stall lit by oil lamps located adjacent to the reception area leading towards the main building that houses the Tugu Suites. This is the place where guests can enjoy delicious traditional cakes and snacks along with local tea, coffee and herbal concoctions served by a congenial Javanese man called Mbah (Grandfather) Man who is over 80 years of age and has been working at the hotel since he was a young boy.
But one dining experience that Gaya Travel feels that all guests of Hotel Tugu Blitar should try out is the mystifying Lost Temple Private Dinner for Two package, where individuals and couples get to dine on the atmospheric grounds of Candi Penataran, which was a Hindu temple complex, first constructed in the 1200s by the Singhasari dynasty, then annexed and extended by the Majapahit kingdom. Being surrounded by such ancient splendour and elegance truly elevated the dining experience to an entirely new level because Tugu Blitar’s team of experienced staff fastidiously turns the grounds into a magical and romantic setting. The experience was incredibly memorable that our team considered the dinner as one of the main highlights of our stay at Tugu Blitar. In case our readers are interested in the dining package, Tugu Blitar charges Rp1,800,000++ per couple for the experience, which we consider worthy due to the meticulous arrangement needed in making the dinner possible, besides the generous selection of delectable dishes served. To avoid disappointment, guests need to reserve The Lost Temple Private Dinner well in advance.
One thing is for sure: Tugu Blitar is decidedly nostalgic and reflective, a boon for travellers seeking peace and privacy, including history enthusiasts and those who want to experience unique getaways. As such, travellers who are night owls craving for parties during their travels may not find this property suitable. To Gaya Travel, Tugu Blitar holds a remarkably strong appeal through its palpable sense of history, haunting nostalgia and timeless sophistication. The property, together with Blitar, are definitely destinations in their own right and carry weight among discerning travellers who find joy from the glory of Indonesia’s bygone era.