On a recent trip to Yogyakarta to visit artists’ studios, ART REPUBLIK made its way to the neighbouring city of Magelang for a stay at Amanjiwo on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. One of 31 establishments in the Aman group, Amanjiwo is Javanese for “peaceful soul”. It is a fitting name.
On arrival, we were struck by its tranquility, as well as the elegance of the cavernous reception area that opens up to a view of the sprawling resort, complete with Borobudur sitting regally in the distance, which one can enjoy while dining en plein air at The Restaurant, Bar and Terrace.
Thirty-six spacious individual suites frame Amanjiwo’s central rotunda in two crescents, with its architecture inspired by the 9th-century Buddhist sanctuary of Borobodur. Each private dwelling features high ceilings and domed roofs, with comfortable four pillar king-sized beds on raised terrazzo platforms. The lush greenery of its surroundings is extended within the resort, such as with well-manicured banyan trees at the Pool Club next to the 40-metre green-tiled infinity pool.
The discreetly attentive Aman hospitality was shown from the moment we arrived. After a swift check-in, complete with a shower of flowers, lemongrass-scented towels and cold brewed beverages, we retreated to our private villa to unwind before the main event for the evening: the Ramayana Royal Feast.
Served at the Dalem Jiwo suite were local delicacies such as nasi jowo melik, a rare and fragrant black rice native to the Yogyakarta region, accompanied by sop timlo, a chicken soup with wood ear mushroom, banana flower and rice noodles, said to be a favourite of Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, the presiding Sultan of the historic Yogyakarta Sultanate. A particular highlight of the sumptuous dinner was the succulent and flavourful udang bakar kalasan, or prawns marinated with coconut water from Kalasan, Yogyakarta that were expertly grilled at the pavilion itself.
The entertainment for the evening was the Ramayana Dance Story, where we witnessed the battles Anoman fought with Rahwana to save the beautiful princess Shinta to return to her husband, Rama. The captivating scenes were performed by beautifully costumed dancers, against rousing music from the gamelan ensemble.
With the skies cleared after a day’s rain, we explored the grounds to walk off the sumptuous dinner, looking in on the library filled with books and games, the boutique offering a selection of Javanese art, textiles, crafts and antiques, and a well-equipped children’s playroom filled with toys and activities for the little ones, ending with nightcaps in the comfort of our private villa.
Close to Yogyakarta, Indonesia’s better known art centre, Magelang, where Amanjiwo is built, is famous for its tobacco trade. It is home to several important art collectors, such as Dr. Oei Hong Djien, who built the OHD Museum to house his collection of over 2000 modern and contemporary Indonesian artworks, which he began amassing from the 1970s.
Magelang is also the base for artists such as Java-born Dutch-New Zealander John van der Sterren, who has had close ties with Amanjiwo through the resort’s unwavering support of the local art scene since its opening in 1997. While we missed ‘The Sikepan Collection’, a solo show of the artist’s work on Amanjiwo’s premises earlier in the year as part of its 20th anniversary celebrations, we paid a morning visit to the artist at his studio and home, Villa Sikepan — which the exhibition was named after — and enjoyed the stories behind his beautiful landscape and portrait works, and his love affair with the region.
For the rest of the day, we lounged in the outdoor seating area of our suite under the shade of the thatched bale, going for dips in the private pool while taking in the surrounding rural landscape of terraced rice plains and the Menoreh Hills farther away. The serene and rather surreal scene was a very welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the city.
As night fell, we made our way to the spa for the mandi lulur, a special full-body treatment fit for Javanese royalty that began with a soothing massage in the expert hands of the spa’s experienced masseuses, followed by an exfoliation with turmeric, honey and rice grains, and finished with a warm herbal bath in the outdoor bathtub under a white canopy.
For our final morning at Amanjiwo, we rose at 4 am to catch the sunrise at Borobudur, a Unesco World Heritage Site, a short drive away from the resort. Climbing up the stairs to the stupas, as the sky grew lighter, our knowledgeable guide explained Borobodur’s significance, its makeup — an incredible 2672 relief panels and 504 life size Buddha statues, for instance — as well as the ongoing conservation efforts at the UNESCO World Heritage site.
If you find yourself contemplating a visit to Yogyakarta and Magelang to experience all the culture and art they have to offer, it is well worth considering a stay at Amanjiwo for an unforgettable and rejuvenating retreat.
More information at aman.com/resorts/amanjiwo.
This article is republished from issue 18 of ART REPUBLIK.