A few years ago a couple of friends were heading for Bali and asked for recommendations on hotels. I gave them the Amanresorts, which had three properties in Bali (Amanusa in Nusa Dua, Amankila in Candi Dasa, and Amandari in Ubud), but eventually they settled for a hotel chain that at that time I was not aware of: Alila. There were two in Bali: Alila Manggis (close to the Amankila in Candi Dasa) and Alila Ubud (near the Amandari).
Fast forward to 2005 when I found myself taken by my cousins to the lobby and the lounge of Alila Jakarta after dinner elsewhere. At that time the hotel seemed to have just been opened: minimalist in its approach, but with a certain je ne sais quoi that was a bit off. Two years later, 2007, I finally found out what that je-ne-sais-quoi was . . .
Located in the one of the older sections of central Jakarta known as Pasar Baru, Alila Jakarta actually occupies a good site. From the hotel room one can see both the Istiqlal Mosque and the Cathedral in the not-so-far a distance. The Presidential Palace is not too far away, as is the National Monument. Late at night, after the shops in front of the hotels are closed for business, food vendors set up their shops and cooked their specialties for diners.
Entering the lobby area to check in, one turns to the left and chooses one of the three counters. The set up is done nicely, but the wood or finish looks rather cheap. The majority of the rooms is dedicated for smokers, and non-smokers are confined to 3-4 floors scattered in this high-rise hotels. Smokers rejoice; you have found an ally in this hotel (although in actuality, a lot of Indonesian hotels are still this way, perhaps, just like the Sheraton in Surabaya that only allocated 3-4 floors in its property, too). Check-in hits a snag only because they put the reservation under my first name. A week prior, I have informed them to put the reservation under my last name; I have asked for them to send an e-mail reservation confirmation; and I have requested a room away from the elevator, but as I would find out, none of those requests seemed to have been honored.
We were given the first room closest to the elevator. When I asked for a replacement, I was asked to wait for a long time and then reassigned to the second room closest of the elevator. All rooms had the same small size, but there were two different packages, one of which included a 24-hr Internet. King-size bedrooms appear to have been on the lower floors while the Double-size bedrooms are in the higher floors. Floor 14 seemed to be the highest non-smoking level there was (there was almost 30 floors to the hotel, I believe).
While waiting for the room reassignment, we ate at buzz, the restaurant cum coffee shop located at the lobby area.
The pool would have been suffice to do laps, but unfortunately I did not get to use it. The gym seemed to be all right in terms of equipment, although we did not get to use any; instead, we did use the steam room and sauna room (both quite small, but functional) and took advantage of the Spa offering. My therapist had runny nose and I did not detect this early enough. While treating me, her right hand kept missing from my back to wipe her runny nose: yuck (more on this later). The massage room was tranquil with a separate shower area. Massage was just average.
We actually booked for four nights at the hotel but after one look at the room, we started browsing the Net for other hotels and eventually checked out after only one night. At check out time, a girl who was clearly sick handled my affairs. She was constantly coughing and wiping her nose (the hotel really should have a policy not to put sick people in charge of anything; remember the masseuse with the runny nose?). In addition, while processing my check-out, other clients who she happened to know well kept interrupting her work and bumping me from left and right. I was more than happy to leave the hotel and hopefully never to return.
Alila Jakarta attempts to fall within the likes of boutique hotels, which are usually minimalist in its approach and unique in its outlook, but minimalist does not mean skimming on the quality of furnishings. Minimalist also does not necessarily mean leaving areas empty for the sake of not cluttering them. At least Alila Jakarta has enough taste in not actually calling itself the Boutique Hotel Alila (on our way from the airport to Alila, we actually spotted one hotel whose name was Boutique Hotel something…). According to the hotel’s website, Alila is Sanskrit for “surprise”; I could not have been more surprised to find how the hotel really was.
Jalan Pecenongan Kav 7-17
Tel: +62 21 231 6008
Fax: +62 21 231 6007