It’s an ideal time to jet to Indonesia. Just this March, the country waived its tourist visa requirement for 30 countries, with the US, Japan, and Canada making the list. Indonesia, a dazzling country of 17,000 islands filled with komodo dragons, wild orangutans, and 17 percent of the world’s coral reefs, is now preparing for the influx of additional tourists. Although, 10 million visited last year alone, including me. Tourist visa stipulation or not, the country is on the list of most desirable global destinations, as I recently discovered.
Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, was the first stop on my Southeast Asia tour. Although not highly regarded as a tourist destination, Jakarta is a pulsing metropolis, the nucleus of business for the nearly 250 million person, Muslim-dominated country. The capital is an ideal launch point for travels throughout Indonesia, and Alila Jakarta is the optimal choice for a high-end stay.
The property opened as Jakarta's first luxury boutique hotel in 2001 and remains the city's hot spot for elite executives, shopping jetsetters, and chic Chinese. Somewhat similar to the Alila Ubud, which is tucked within a rainforest teeming with wildlife, Alila Jakarta is located in the thicket of Jakarta's central Old Batavia, where chiming food carts, fruit stalls, and motorbikes inundate the streets of the hot urban jungle.
Inside the hotel, the bustle of the outside world evaporates into tranquility. I love properties that offer immediate proximity to the city, but stark quietude within their doors. Denton Corker Marshall, the prodigious architecture firm with projects in 37 countries, focused on modern simplicity and quality of space when constructing the high-rise hotel. The entire lobby basks in natural sunlight and features an elegant wood art panel installed on a two-story wall. A few floors above, the pool area opens into a stunning vista of Jakarta's teeming life. One of my favorite areas is the executive lounge, a spacious and airy private spot for round-the-clock drinks, refreshments and appetizers. The complimentary breakfast was particularly satisfying, and the hotel's staff quickly whipped up omelets and sausages at my request.
Quite in contrast to Jakarta is the island of Bali, a large isle of Indonesia that attracts more than three million tourists a year. Alila resorts have a handful of villas and properties in Bali, including one in Ubud. Alila Manggis, a seaside-hugging property tucked among coconut groves and the pastoral village of Canidasa, is a sublime refuge even by Bali standards. The resort is an hour and half away from Bali's international airport, which is surrounded by throngs of hostels and tourist trinket shops. Alila Manggis is in East Bali, an unspoiled area of the island where guests can easily observe the simple daily routines of locals amid a majestic landscape.
Most of the property is outdoors, taking full advantage of the consistent sea breezes, remarkable sunsets, and warm climate nearby Mount Agung, the highest peak on Bali. The main restaurant, Seasalt, appears to float on a lily pond via a traditional Balinese pavilion that overlooks the Indian Ocean. Cuisine at Alila properties is always a highlight, and Seasalt is a gastronomic gem of their portfolio. Serving both Western and traditional Balinese cuisine, the restaurant offers robust flavors, daily harvested and caught ingredients, and an exceptional staff. The Cooking in The Organic Garden, a five-hour experience offered for the culinary inclined, gives guests a hands-on farming excursion complete with rice hats and boots.
The not to be missed experience at Alila Manggis is the Coral Conservation Programme, formed in 2013 to promote the protection of the nearby reefs. In partnership with Yayasan Alam Indonesian Lestari (LINI) and local fishermen, Alila Manggis has started to install 27 fish domes and 45 roti buaya, underwater structures which attract coral growth and allow damaged natural reef time to recover and regenerate. The Alila Manggis team monitors the growth of the reef restoration sites and invites guests to observe the progress by snorkeling over the sites.
Few properties around the globe embrace such localized and technically advanced conservation initiatives like Alila’s coral project. I eagerly enjoyed spotting buds of new coral and small groups of tiny fish emerging from the young forest of coral. Particularly enthusiastic guests can sign up to the Gift-to-Share package. This is a two-night stay where travelers can even plant their own coral and tour a local village to gain a greater understanding of how the program impacts the community.
Indonesia is more than ever a destination to place on the top of any discerning traveler’s list. And it is made even more alluring by two of Alila’s compelling properties, Alila Manggis and Alila Jakarta.