Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our Latest Trip to Indonesia

Our latest trip to Indonesia began with the required overnight stay in Singapore.  To try something new, we booked a night at the Marina Bay Sands hotel which has one of the world’s most distinctive profiles.  It looks like joined towers that support a big boat on top.  I think it looks gauche and architecturally a disaster. 

However, it has an infinity pool at the top and this was the reason we wanted to stay there.  We check in at 1 AM and are given an upgrade to a huge two room suite with awesome views of the city’s buildings, lights, and water surrounding this city nation.  We had 3 flat-screen TV’s, one for the bath room near the bath tub, a pool table and several over-stuffed chairs and couches and a wall of glass for the view.

 In general, I think Singapore is a bit sterile and this hotel seems to match this soul less aspect.  Because the hotel consists of three towers, the main lobby extends lengthwise to the third tower with the ceiling extending upwards, a good 10 floors with various works of arts hanging down.  Two breakfast areas are also there and we picked one after checking both out.  A wide variety of breakfast food was available and we mixed both western and Asian choices.

After breakfast we went to the boat on top and took some photos of the infinity pool and city views showing a bit of early morning sea mist that had yet to be burned away.  It was impressive.
  We left at noon for the Changi airport and caught an afternoon flight to Jakarta and then transferred to a flight to Denpasar, Bali arriving at the domestic terminal and avoiding the need to visit passport control that was accomplished in Jakarta. 
Again, seeking something new, we splurged and booked at the St. Regis.  I say we, but this is really Judith’s doing and of course I am happy to go along.  We are met at the airport by a driver who shepherds us to a van travelling to the Nusa Dua area and 30 minutes later we are checking in.
The St. Regis is 5 stars all the way and for the next 4 days we enjoy our room, the beach, the Mai Tais, and the food.

We travel twice to our favorite massage place where we are picked up and returned to the hotel.  And no trip to Nusa Dua is complete for us with going to Jimbaran where the sunset beach there is filled with sea food restaurants.  We had a wonderful seafood meal there and watched the sun disappear amid all the people activity.  This is always a treat for us. The beach is close to the airport and as the darkness descends, the airplanes are landing every 5 minutes.


Bali seems to be gaining more and more tourists although few Americans. Many more Japanese, Chinese, Russians, and Aussies can be seen and restaurants are printing menus with these languages added.
Upon checking out we are driven by the hotel to the airport and a hotel employee meets us, takes our bags and guides us to Garuda Airline check in.  As I say, the St. Regis is 5 stars all the way. Of interest is to see the airport at Denpasar is greatly expanding with construction of a new terminal, parking garage, and new roads in and out which are greatly needed.  
After a two hour flight back to Jakarta, we go immediately after landing to the Silver Bird taxi place to avoid the long wait in line.  The Blue Bird taxis are never a bad option as they are metered and both the Silver and Blue Birds are owned by the same company. But the Silver Bird usually provides a van with much more leg room  The typical time to our hotel,  the Grand Hyatt, is about 45 minutes but as with most large Asian cities, the traffic can be beyond belief at times. 
Motorcycles take up about one half of the vehicles and they dart in and out of traffic lanes.  The first few times I was subjected to this kind of traffic, I was constantly watching the traffic as if I was driving and knew that constant vigilance is required and I was tired after an hour or so.  But now, I just relax and rely on the driver to safely bring us to our destination. 
The Grand Hyatt is a hotel we stay at most of the time in Jakarta.  It is right in the heart of the city overlooking the Selamat Datang (which means welcome) traffic circle and fountain.  The hotel is connected with a huge shopping mall and across the street is another even larger mall that one can easily get lost in. 

But the main feature we like is the spa and open air swimming pool area.  Complete with palm trees and small waterfalls and a serpentine swimming area, one may think this area could easily be moved to a beach but its vista is a circle of high buildings including the hotel itself.  When Judith is off working somewhere, this is where I hang out, soaking up the sun, cooling off with a dip or two and at noon time sundering over to the restaurant of a light lunch and a drink.  I usually book a massage every other day coupled with some time spent in the exercise room.  
The massages are not all that expensive and I have always enjoyed this form of being pampered.
Another feature is the club room which we always book to have access to.  Due to the time difference, we watched the third U.S. presidential debate where having breakfast.  The cocktail hour starts about 5 o’clock and there are free drinks, wine, and snacks to enjoy.  A copy of the Jakarta Post and the Herald Tribune are available and provide up to date news in the this area of the world, which always different than reading the Chicago Tribune or catching the news on TV.  This alone provides me with a more balanced view of the world.
In a country that is heavily Muslim, I have been surprised that very few of the women wear the head scarf, especially the younger women. This is less true outside of Jakarta where women in burkas can be seen on occasion.  It is rarely seen in Bali of course because Bali is Hindu.  Urban living always seems to provide more diversity and acceptance of new things.  I am glad to see this because I like texture.  It is hard to think of a place that has more texture than Chicago and somehow I feel more alive in an atmosphere that provides it. My first trip to Jakarta did not leave me with a good impression, but I have come to enjoy it very much.  Great food and friendly people always have that effect on me.  

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