The Dharmawangsa (Jakarta)

The Dharmawangsa Hotel Pool by bloompy
The Dharmawangsa Hotel Pool, a photo by bloompy on Flickr.

The Dharmawangsa’s location in a tranquil, residential neighborhood of south Jakarta, its setting amidst a thick lush of greens, and its low-rise architecture (it was only 5-floors high) were qualities that proved to be appealing. A visit to their website and the ease of online reservation made it even easier to book a room in this posh hotel in the capital of Indonesia.

The treatment started at the Sukarno-Hatta International Airport, where, as advertised, someone was stationed at the arrival gate, not only to greet us but also to aid us in the immigration process. We still had to obtain the foreigner’s visas-on-arrival ourselves, but beyond that point, he took over the passports and asked us to proceed to the baggage concourse. We did not have to stay in queue for the immigration; instead, he would deal with this on his own (which begged the question of how safe an immigration entrance policy this country exercised).

The same greeter took care of our luggage and brought us to the curb, where the transportation that we had ordered came to meet us. The hotel provided 5 types of transportation: a regular metered taxi (the Silver Bird taxi company), a BMW-series 3, series 5, series 7, or a Bentley. We chose the BMW-7 and were pleased with the space and cleanliness of the interior. A couple of newspapers, bottled water and candies were provided.

Like at the Amanresorts, check-in was done in the comfort of our room. Because we ordered a suite, a butler was provided for us around the clock. Upon entering the room, I was shocked to find out that the design and layout were very similar to those of the suites at the Sukhothai Hotel in Bangkok, with the exception that the Sukhothai’s suite floor plan was more spacious with a bathroom area almost the same square-footage of the bedroom; here at the Dharmawangsa Rosewood Suite, however, the living room is bigger than the Sukhothai.

At the foyer, a small kitchen (that included a refrigerator and a small sink) was located across the guest’s powder room. The room then opened to the living room with a study desk, a television set and a sofa in front of it. The hotel provided a small box of butter cookies as well as a plate of fresh fruits. There was no immediate Internet connection; the hotel was actually in the midst of upgrading the system when we arrived.

The new system necessitated each guest to buy a voucher to log on, not too terribly new a concept as this was practiced elsewhere in different hotels. The option was to get a 4-hourly voucher at $5 or a 24-hour access at $15. Unfortunately, the hotel’s IT department should come up with a system to record a guest’s initial log in. We logged in fine at the beginning, but then we shut down and went out. Upon returning, way before our “4 hours” were supposed to expire, I had trouble signing in. I summoned the butler, who summoned another butler, who then called the IT department to deal with this. Every one of them explained to us that the 4 hours were continuous hours, which we understood from the very beginning. Still, the system shut us out faster than the 4 hours allowed us. They did not seem to grasp the idea that 4 hours were 4 hours: we signed on at 10:30, then we should have access until 14:30, even if we logged off in the middle of it. We asked them to check when we first logged on, and they did not have a record of it. We advised them to have a better system. As a courtesy, they provided with a round-the-clock internet for the rest of our stay for free.

But enough about the Internet! After all, we came here to R&R, correct? My partner, who loved beaches and sunny resorts, never imagined in his life that he would end up in Jakarta for a resort-like vacation, but thus far, he was impressed. Again, the location and the setting of the hotel provided a resort-like atmosphere that was conducive to our rest and relaxation.

The swimming pool, in a fat U-shape, was beautifully designed. A local tree called the “Dada Merah” (literally “Red Breast” for it produced red flowers) and the Kamboja (Frangipani flowering trees) were planted along the legs of the “U” shape. The canopying effect proved a beautiful accent to the blue-green tiled pool. The low bending trees acted as if they wanted to touch the surface of the water. During the less attended hours, lap swimming was possible in two directions (along one of the U legs or along the bottom of the U shape). The pool was shared with residents from the adjacent Dharmawangsa residential tower.

The Bimasena Spa, located on the 3rd floor of a 4-story building behind the pool, offered the usual fares of facial, nail care and body scrubs, along with different massage offerings. It also had a jet-streamed warm pool, a dry sauna and a steam room. The steam room could use some cleaning and a makeover as mold appeared on the walls, and the paint of the ceiling was peeling off.

The gym, located on the top floor, offered a limited number of treadmill, stair-masters, and elliptical machines, along with some Nautilus weight machines. A spacious area was provided for stretching and possibly yoga. An indoor pool was available in another part of this 4th floor facility. The area could have been better designed, as this spot seemed to be less inviting to the eyes. There were tables put along the pool, but blocked by the high platform that accommodated the pool.

Finally, the service: It has been disappointingly below par. For a hotel that strived to be very accommodating (i.e., the butler), the Dharmawangsa could fare better in preparing the staff. The concierge was not as efficient as I wished it to be: I left a package with my name and the name of the recipient on top of it in big bold letters. When the person picked it up, the concierge said that there was no guest by that name (my name).

This name business was another source of irritation: I made the reservation on my partner’s name, but e-mailed the hotel to let them know that I would be a guest as well. At the Amanresorts, this would not be a problem, but here, I felt like a vestigial appendage, as every single day the different butlers would greet my partner by name, but would not say anything to me. My name was not even in the system (a reason why the concierge concluded I was non-existent, despite the fact that I had put my name on that package and someone had logged it on the book).

For an Indonesian standard, such a hotel may be a novelty (its website boasts “Uniquely Indonesian”); thus, a lot of people said that it was a great and unique hotel, but in terms of excellence, Dharmawangsa still has a lot of catching up to do. I am not sure if it aims to reach a standard as high as an Amanresort, but that would not be such bad an aspiration now, would it?

The Dharmawangsa
Jalan Brawijaya Raya No. 26
Jakarta, Indonesia
Tel: (62-21) 725-8181
Fax: (62-21) 725-8383

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