Gaya Travel Magazine talks with Mr. Jack Widagdo – then General Manager of Alila Solo but now the General Manager of Alila Tianxi Lake – regarding the elegant city of Solo and the avant-garde Alila Solo.
Talking about Solo, it is strategically located between Semarang in the north and Jogjakarta in the south, including lying between Jakarta and Surabaya. It is currently served by AirAsia connecting to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) 2 three times a week, including Lion Air that flies daily. Since 10% of Alila Solo’s guests are international, the hotel plans to grow the market further. “The flight connectivity should help bring in more international guests to Solo from Kuala Lumpur,” foresees Jack.
Solo is popular for batik, keraton (palace) and Javanese court culture, including mysticism. As such, Alila has put together Alila Journey, which is essentially a collection of guest experiences that are unique and specific to Alila that can never be replicated elsewhere, to capture the essence of the place.
“Each Alila property is unique and offers its own Alila Journey. Alila’s properties are known for their sophisticated yet unpretentious luxury with well thought out design – such is Alila’s DNA. At Alila Solo, the members of staff wear semi-resort wear to give the place the feeling of being in a relaxing sanctuary, allowing guests to be themselves as opposed to being conspicuous and business-like. Alila is not about being flashy and over-the-top, but appeals to discerning travellers,” explains Jack. The property is in line with being understated, grounded and subtle yet rich in substance. There is no specific age bracket on the guests who patronise Alila Solo, as long as they “like design and simplicity, including bespoke luxury.”
Although Alila Solo is a high rise, it is bigger than Alila Jakarta (Alila’s first property) in terms of room count and facilities. For example, Alila Solo’s pool resembles more of a resort rather than a city hotel with its 50-metre in length and surrounded by lush vegetation, soothing earthen tones and inviting daybeds. Interestingly, guests are able to distinguish the differences between the two said properties.
Alila ensures that at least all bathrooms at Alila Solo are spacious and the shower area has knee-to-ceiling windows overlooking the skyline, while each Executive room also gets a bathtub. The rooms at Alila Solo are also similar to a resort, starting at 40 metres squared. Each comes with a daybed and view of the surrounding landscapes as far as the eyes can see. “The way we do things and approach is that we want to make guests feel like they remain in a resort even though the structure of the property is vertical, involving guests taking the lifts up and down as opposed to an expanse resort. As a matter of fact, many of our guests walk around in their bathrobes. This is acceptable in Alila – we are cool (about the whole thing),” Jack muses.
On the same note, each of the four Alila Suites in Alila Solo on Level 22 has its own infinity plunge pool, allowing great privacy and offer its well-heeled guests a seductive resort feel within the property. “You can see the whole city while being in the pool,” beams Jack.
The Executive Lounge is on top floor level 30. On level 29 is a stretched outdoor space called Agra lounge, which has an outdoor space for music and bar, as well as indoor space for lounge, cocktail and cigar. From there, guests will be able to see the entire Solo city.
Since the property behaves more like an urban resort, guests find themselves simply mixing business with pleasure. “Though many of our weekday guests are mostly MICE, they never post any of their work or meetings on their social wall, but instead more of their leisure experiences and downtime at Alila Solo, attesting to the property’s infectious resort vibe,” reveals Jack. To obtain a more realistic perspective on guests’ experiences when staying at Alila Solo, public can check out Alila Moments online and even search #AlilaSolo on various media platforms.
“We also weave in local experiences for guests to learn more about Central Javanese culture dubbed as Alila Journeys, which brings guests to significant local landmarks like the four-hour tour to two palaces in Solo, called keraton. The packages also offers guests the opportunity to indulge in cultural activities such as the visit to batik production village to learn and buy batik. For those who are active and outdoorsy, they can opt for the six-hour long Fresh Lawu package that brings them to Mount Lawu on foot set amidst highlands and tea plantation, including visiting two less visited yet no less remarkable candi or temples, Sukuh and Cetho, deemed as the last Hindu temples to be erected in Java before the Hindus migrated to Bali. There are also packages bringing to the already famous Borobudur and Prambanan, markets and mystical keris production,” Jack shares.
To further enhance guest experience, Alila Solo also offers three-day two-night thematic staycation package, each costing approximately RM1,300 plus tax and service charge per room for two persons. One such package is called Dine Around, the experience similar to being on a cruise ship, offering full board dining options in one vicinity. Within Alila Solo itself, the hotel offers three food and beverage outlets including lounge and pool. On top of that, Alila Solo also hosts Japanese, Italian, International and Swiss outlets that are not run by the hotel but can be accessed by guests who opt for this package. “With the Dine Around package, guests are provided with six meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) during their entire stay for two-persons at the outlets of their choice, making it worthwhile for foodies and culinary enthusiasts,” says Jack.
Another noteworthy package is Spa Unlimited, allowing guests to indulge in various spa treatments during their stay, dispensed by both male and female therapists. These thematic staycation packages are indeed value for money because they include 24-hour check-in and check-out, transfers and private tours.
However, one package that piques the interest of many is the Mystical Culture package. “Central Java is known as the hotbed of white and black magic, thus Alila Solo introduces guests to Java’s white magic practitioners such as soothsayers and tarot readers, traditional healers and mystical keris producer to understand the ritual and story behind them, including private access to the keraton that can be done in the evening. As a matter of fact, during festivals held at the keraton on specific months of the year, Alila Solo dresses up its guests in regal traditional attire and follow a special walking tour around keraton. Alila Solo’s staff would even go out of their way in specially making appointments with soothsayers for their guests to consult and follow rituals to improve their well-being and fortune,” explains Jack.
For private cultural tours, Alila Solo works closely with Laku Lampah, a Solo-based group comprising 15 volunteers who are passionate about their history and heritage with their tagline “Walking through History”. Alila Solo brings guests to join Laku Lampah’s tours because they are eye-opening. The hotel is also interested in assisting the group to achieve its objectives, which is to develop appreciation and pride towards local culture, helping to conserve it for generations to come. Laku Lampah’s efforts also help to position Solo as a destination that is more than just keraton and batik; Laku Lampah helps to tell the story behind them.
“I have joined in one of Laku Lampah’s tours to understand more about the batik history in Solo. Through Laku Lampah, a journalist and I were given special access to the house belonging to Goh Tik Swan, a Muslim of Chinese descent who is considered as the pioneer of modern Indonesia batik and was appointed as the batik master for the first President of Indonesia. He also made Solo batik famous internationally because he was tasked to make batik for each visiting dignitary who came to Indonesia. During the tour, I learned about what Goh Tik Swan has done for Solo and Indonesia, how close he was to the keraton royal family and Soekarno. From the outside, the house is unassuming and you wouldn’t expect that it is home to Solo heritage. One part of his house also becomes a trove for 9th century stone artefacts that he salvaged from the Bengawan Solo river near Borobudur. Goh Tik Swan left everything intact to his two students, who are quite elderly now. The house is only accessible by appointment, which can be arranged by Alila Solo concierge. It also contains a school for batik-making. When I was there, I saw two Japanese students mastering the batik skill. In the end, I spent up to three hours just soaking in the house owners’ enormous cultural contribution to the country,” Jack recalls.
Based on what Jack Widagdo shares, Alila Solo is well on its way to become the preferred gateway to Solo’s spirituality, splendour, exoticism and mysticism, attracting those who are unconventional, hip, cultured and sophisticated. Our interview with him make us become more intrigued to stay at Alila Solo and explore Solo, which we intend to do soon…
Browse www.alilahotels.com/solo for more info.