[top: The Grand Mosque is a blend of Asian, European and Middle Eastern architecture.]
By Karen Teng
IT WAS a "one-night stand" that I will not forget. Tucked snugly between the pristine white sheets of a king-sized four-poster bed in a villa deep in a coffee plantation for one night in Central Java, I drifted off to sleep, too exhausted to care that I was all alone in a strange room.
The Losari Coffee Plantation
Resort and Spa is an exclusive
getaway which boasts colonial,
Javanese and modern influences.
I had spent the day taking in various sights at Semarang in Central Java after arriving past midnight on a direct two-hour Garuda flight from Singapore. It was my first trip to Indonesia and it was a step back in time when I stepped into Semarang's 1970s airport.
I walked about 5m across the tarmac to a single storey building housing two immigration counters and retrieved my bag from a porter who had unloaded it from a luggage cart and handed it over through a glass window. After a five-hour shut-eye and breakfast of local fare at the Patra Semarang Convention Hotel, our group of 20 boarded a coach to tour Kota Lama, which means "old city".
First on the itinerary was the Bledug Catholic Church, the oldest church in Java which was built by the Dutch in 1753. It stood out for its huge red dome and distinctly European architecture.
Next was the Grand Mosque, which the locals consider as the pride of Central Java for its majestic combination of Asian, European and Middle Eastern architecture. There are gigantic umbrellas to shield worshippers if they have to remain outside when the main prayer hall is packed.
Then we rode 19 storeys up an elevator of the adjacent Al Husna observation tower, where from its observation deck 99m above ground we had a bird's eye view of the city. Our next stop was the Sampokong Temple, a monument built to honour Admiral Cheng Ho, a Muslim convert and a eunuch of the Ming Dynasty, who led a Chinese fleet on seven expeditions to Java and other parts of Asia in the early 15th century.
For lunch, we tucked into fried kampung chicken made famous by a Madam Suharti, who set up a franchise of over 50 outlets across Indonesia. Her speciality is fried chicken done banana-fritter or goreng-pisang style. The meat was tender and juicy, albeit a tad salty. We arrived at the Ambarawa Railway Museum in the late afternoon for an hour-long ride on a century-old Dutch-made steam train.
The Sampokong Temple honours Admiral Cheng Ho, who led
a Chinese fleet to Java.
The light rain did not dampen my excitement as our twocarriage train slowly huffed and puffed along a 10km track through rice fields, plantations and tiny villages. Our day ended with a 10-minute coach ride to the Losari Coffee Plantation Resort and Spa for a night's stay. Located in the heart of a 22ha lush
plantation, the resort with 32 villas has been described as an exclusive getaway in a setting that combines colonial, Javanese and modern influences.
The next morning, I sat on a spacious veranda outside my villa and soaked in the fresh air, listening to the chirping of birds under clear skies amid luscious foliage. After a quick breakfast and protected by mosquito repellent, our group went on a tour of the coffee plantation.
We saw ripening coffee beans in their shells, fruits such as durian, rambutan and avocado, vegetables such as kangkong and chye sim growing in neat rows, and abalone mushrooms sprouting out of bags of sawdust in a wooden shed.
We saw how the ripe coffee beans were cleaned, roasted and ground. The resort has award-winning spa facilities and some of my travel mates who tried the couple massage and steam bath described their experiences as "shiok".
This trip was sponsored by Garuda Indonesia (www.garuda-indonesia.com) and Semesta Tour Traveller Advisor (www.semestatour.com).
This article was first published in The Straits Times Special. It is produced by the Special Projects Unit, Marketing Division, SPH.