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Java in J: Indonesia With Saudia, Singapore and Garuda in Business Class

Java in J: Indonesia With Saudia, Singapore and Garuda in Business Class

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Old Sep 26, 18, 5:15 pm
  #16  
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Part 3: Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO) and the Casa Alitalia business class lounge

As I still had some work to finish today before flying to Riyadh, I decided to check out early, head to the airport, and work from the lounge. I hopped into a metro to Termini station, where I bought a ticket for the overcrowded Leonardo Express to Fiumicino Airport.

Even though my flight departed from Terminal 3, my first port of call was Terminal 1 as I wanted to check out Alitalia's landside lounge. Terminal 1 was massively crowded – and it seemed like half the people there were Americans going/coming from a cruise in the Med.

The lounge dragon was asking in shock why I came to her lounge and did not go to the vastly superior Casa Alitalia lounge in T3. I explained her I had only one single reason: to try the flight simulator in the lounge, of which I have read great stories. Unfortunately, the friendly lady told me that Alitalia recently removed the flight simulator from the lounge, but if I wanted I was more than welcome to grab a quick coffee at her lounge before heading to T3. Which was exactly what I did. The lounge has bad seating without any privacy, zero charm, was quite crowded, had no food buffet, but it did have a bar which also had some pastries. I grabbed an espresso and a croissant and sent out the first of the emails I still had to prepare today for work.





From T1 it is a short five minute walk to T3. You just exit the terminal, walk to the right on the pavement, and before you realise it you have reached T3. Compared to the old and dark surroundings of T1, Terminal 3 is actually quite nice looking. Crowds however were again massive landside, I was happy I did not have to check in any bags or zigzag around the hordes of tourists.



To my surprise, the queue at security was short. There was a dedicated priority line which I could use – but I realised halfway that it would have been slightly faster if I would have taken the normal queue as priority only had one luggage scanning machine open as opposed to the fast-moving normal queue which had at least eight or ten. Passport control went fast too. Once airside, T3 is basically a giant shopping centre.



On this occasion, I did not make the same mistake as I did during my previous trip by going to the small and uninspiring Alitalia lounge built in some kind of broom cabinet. I was happy I found the proper Alitalia flagship lounge this time in the maze of shops.

When entering the lounge, you immediately see it indeed feels very fresh and shiny being just a few months old.



Even though it was quite crowded in the beginning of the morning, there were plenty of seats in the lounge and enough remained available. Most seats were fitted with sockets next to it. There were also plenty of tables next to the buffet for those who preferred to sit down properly to eat. I wished however there were some more private areas to escape all the crowds and sounds, for example by partitioning some seating areas off and thus creating several smaller areas. Although that said, I did like the vibe in the lounge. And even though there were no tarmac views it all felt very bright and open.







Even though the buffet area has a few fridges with water bottles and sodas, most of the drinks you have to get at the manned bar. Needlessly to say, the baristas do make great coffee – but can do whatever mixer or cocktail too. As I was flying to Saudi Arabia, I figured I should get the best out of my lounge experience in case the flights would disappoint. Naturally, I ordered a glass of sparkling wine to begin the fun with. The Villa Sandi prosecco is perfectly drinkable, but it was a pity to see Alitalia downgraded their in-house bubbles as just two months earlier they were only serving Ferrari – which I liked better.



At the time I entered, the breakfast spread at the buffet area in the middle of the lounge was just being replaced with a lunch spread. The food looked yummy and fresh, and true to the style of the lounge featured plenty of Italian culinary mainstays. There is a semi-open kitchen in the back of the lounge where you can see staffers preparing pizzas in special pizza ovens, which were brought out one by one to the buffet when ready.









I wasn't really hungry, so I just took a slice of pizza for testing purposes. It did indeed taste great. I washed it away with an aperol spritz from the bar.



The lounge has nice bathroom facilities too, which are kept spotlessly clean the entire time. There are also a couple of shower rooms – but I did not make any use of them now on the outbound as I already showered before leaving the hotel in the morning.

When I finally finished my work, I grabbed a stool at the bar to chat a bit with the barkeep and a few other random punters at the bar. I might have had two glasses of red wine and some delicious sweets as well.



In short: The Casa Alitalia Lounge is not one of the best in the world, but for sure among the better business class lounges in Europe. Seating is meh, but food quality is great and the manned bar is great for coffee and a pre-flight aperol spritz.

Next up: Flying Saudia in business class from Rome to Riyadh
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Old Sep 27, 18, 3:28 am
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Originally Posted by Romanianflyer View Post
As for how I passed the time on the Saudia flights - the first clues to that will be in the next post! Not that I cannot get without alcohol. Legend has it that once I did two weeks without a proper pint or glass of wine with my meal when I travelled through Pakistan. Although when more recently I travelled through Iran I did not manage that again as by pure chance (or divine intervention, inch'allah!) I happened to bump into two local bigwigs on arrival at the airport of Shiraz who toured me around in their SUV with built-in fridge full of gin and vodka
Nothing wrong with a bit of pre-gaming!

Like you, I am an enthusiastic and regular drinker. I don't often binge but I do definitely feel the lack of a glass of wine with dinner, though these days I make a concerted effort to have two consecutive AFDs (alcohol free days) per week, and to general astonishment I managed a full four alcohol weeks recently as part of 'dry July'.

When I visited Iran a few years ago, to my surprise it was not a completely dry experience as our hosts (family friends from many years ago) made their own wine, and unlike any other home-made wine I've tasted it was actually quite pleasant. Given how fantastic the food was, it would have been a great shame not to have some wine to wash it down with.
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Old Sep 28, 18, 4:47 am
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Originally Posted by mad_atta View Post
Nothing wrong with a bit of pre-gaming!

Like you, I am an enthusiastic and regular drinker. I don't often binge but I do definitely feel the lack of a glass of wine with dinner, though these days I make a concerted effort to have two consecutive AFDs (alcohol free days) per week, and to general astonishment I managed a full four alcohol weeks recently as part of 'dry July'.

When I visited Iran a few years ago, to my surprise it was not a completely dry experience as our hosts (family friends from many years ago) made their own wine, and unlike any other home-made wine I've tasted it was actually quite pleasant. Given how fantastic the food was, it would have been a great shame not to have some wine to wash it down with.
Absolutely same here! I don't drink Tuesday up to Thursday (if no special events that is) but other days I like a cold pint or glass of wine with my food or before going to sleep. The only thing I don't really drink is hard alcohol/shots unless forced by friends on a night out. I just don't like it and prefer a beer or some good wine. The only exception to it would be a nice whiskey or cognac on occasions (if flying business on any airline not called Saudia) - weirdly enough even if I do have a few nice bottles at home I rarely drink from them. The lovely 12yo Ararat brandy I bought last July is still unopened!

And that's a nice story from Iran, thanks for sharing! I had exactly the same experience there and was equally surprised by it - speeding through Shiraz in a big SUV while drinking G&Ts and vodka Red Bulls mixed in the car, stopping at a seemingly normal looking shop where they sold arak from under the counter.. interesting! Just a pity I didn't manage to get wine, would have loved to be able to say I drank wine in Shiraz
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Old Oct 5, 18, 3:39 pm
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Part 4: Rome Fiumicino (FCO) to Riyadh (RUH) on Saudia business class
Flight SV208 - Airbus A320 - Seat 4A - 350 EUR as part of FCO-RUH-CGK
STD 3.40pm - STA 9.40pm (flight time 5h00m)


The boarding gate at FCO was mercifully devoid of gate lice, and gate agents called a few people – including me – forward to have their visa checked. The problem was not Indonesia by itself (as I can get a VOA stamp) but the gate agents demanded to see proof of onward travel to a third country just to confirm I indeed truly can get a visa on arrival. Showing an email confirmation of my award flight from Surabaya to Singapore was enough.



Standing near the gate gave me a good opportunity to take a snap of the A320 that would take us to Riyadh. Saudia is about as far as it gets from the world's sexiest companies to travel with, but I do love their livery – the colours match beautifully and are stylish.



The same cannot be said on board however. Priority boarding was neatly observed and I was the first to be on the plane. My first impressions were mixed: the seats looked good but the colour scheme is the same as my local dentist (there are worse however: looking at you, Korean Air!).



Saudia operates narrow-body aeroplanes to many of its mid-haul destinations in Europe. While obviously you don't want to have this for a night flight, I don't mind it at all for a day flight of five hours as in most cases I wouldn't sleep anyway – and if I want I could also doze off a bit in these chairs. Upon seating I found them to be very comfortable and better than similar seats I've travelled in on flights in Russia and the US.



For starters, the seat pitch just was great. Tons of space for your legs no matter where you put them!



There was however some wear and tear around the seat, table and controls. But everything did still function normally as headrest, seat, leg rest etc. are all adjustable. Seats have USB ports to charge your phone. The plane also had wifi, which I didn't try as the system forced me to download a weird application which frankly I did not fully trust (and neither did my phone giving some warnings).





PDBs were offered, so naturally I went for the champagne a lime juice – which was tasty and very refreshing. Hot towels were also distributed by the crew, which seemed friendly and welcoming yet a bit awkward in their service (more on that later).



After glasses and towels were taken by the crew we were rolling off on the tarmac towards the runway. As many surely know, Saudia always plays a pre-flight prayer which the Prophet Muhammed used to say during his travels to stay safe. As it starts with “Allahu akbar” ('God is greatest' in Arabic) it will for sure have the TSA on high alert if they'd listen in.



It was a short path to the runway of FCO and we were airborne right on time.







Shortly after the fasten seatbelts sign went off, the crew came out again to distribute amenity kits, which in my opinion is a nice touch on a daylight mid-haul flight. The Porsche Design kits did not have anything spectacular in it, but was not bad either. I do like the design of the brown bag.



The menus for today's flight were distributed as well a short while later. I found it a bit weird that Saudia does not list all drinks they have in their assortment. Especially as a dry airline you want to differentiate and offer a wide selection of non-alcoholic drinks. And even if they do have some intriguing juices, you would have to ask a FA for it what they actually offer. It would indeed be a bad omen for some very sloppy drinks services on both my Saudia flights – and the only real negative I have with the airline.







After the menus were distributed, the sole male FA (and sole FA from Saudi Arabia) came around to note meal preferences. The crew on this flight was very particular. The Saudi FA was actually a very friendly and welcoming guy – but my gosh – he was slow. It took an hour for him to note every meal preference for the entire business class cabin (which was completely full). The other flight attendants (from south-eastern Asia) were faster and more efficient, but not very welcoming somehow. We were almost one-and-a-half-hour into the flight – and way beyond Sicily about halfway to Crete – when the crew distributed Arab coffee and dates.



After more than two hours – well past Crete – where the meals finally handed out. Not that I don't mind a drawn-out dining experience (especially when there is no booze and a rather mediocre entertainment system/available movies) but this just seemed to be completely on the hands of a very inefficient crew.

Starters were brought on a plate. As I ordered the Arabic mezze as a starter I did not touch it until they also brought out the main dish (grilled lamb) so I could make a photo with both of them combined. Kudos for Saudia to serve proper Arabic flatbread to accompany the mezze dips.



Let's start with the positive: the meal tasted excellent. The mezze dips were yummy, the salad was good, the lamb succulent. It is really a job well done on that field. With the meal, a glass of water was served. And that is where it goes wrong. At not a single point since the PDB did the crew ask for any drinks preferences. I asked for another juice, but that was forgotten in the process as the crew was seemingly to disorientated/disorganised for that. As told before it did take the crew an hour to note down all dining wishes. It also took them one full hour from the moment person 1A got his meal, to the moment 5F got his. How on earth does it take one hour to put 20 trays on the tray tables?



No proper coffee machines on board this aircraft meant bad aeroplane coffee. The weird thing with the desserts is that the crew asked before about preferences, but in the end just rolled out a cart with all options on it and let us choose all over again. I made the mistake here by sticking to my initial preference of the Arabic pastries, even though the chocolate and cherry cake looked way bigger and more tasty on the cart. The pastries were rather disappointing both in taste and especially in size.



After the meal service the crew disappeared entirely from the cabin and only after a reminder by the call button I was finally given another juice. By the time the meal service ended we were already flying over the Nile Delta. Gotta be one of the least efficient meal services I ever saw. But what do I care for the price I paid? I had an absolutely tasty meal and was looking down the window on the Nile Valley – which somehow I found fascinating to see the lush river surroundings opposite the dry desert just a few miles away from the river.



From my two plane windows, I also had a great view of the sunset over North Africa.



Arrival into Riyadh was on time and spectacular. There is again just something fascinating here, landing in a giant city in what seems the middle of nowhere in the desert. Looking from the window, it looks like being caught inside the Matrix.









In short: It was a perfectly enjoyable flight for five hours, and especially given the price I should not complain at all. Except for the dessert, the meal was excellent and would easily beat a lot of more “reputable” carriers in J so to say. For a mid-haul day flight, the seat was also very comfortable, had lots of legroom, USB ports, and a decent enough entertainment system.

What was lacking though was the service. First of all, the meal service was just plain inefficient as it almost lasted four hours into the flight. Secondly, I can't understand why not at a single time any FA went around asking for refills or drinks wishes. Even though the crew was friendly enough, they did need a few reminders on some things like a simple refill of water. If Saudia would just improve its service when it comes to this they would have an amazing product for the price.

Next up:Riyadh Airport, the Saudia business lounge, and the flight to Jakarta.
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Old Oct 7, 18, 7:26 am
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Part 5: Saudia Alfursan Business Class Lounge, Riyadh Airport

We had a proper jet bridge on arrival, which meant that within a few minutes after the aircraft came to a standstill I was walking my first steps on Saudi soil. Kinda – as of course I don't count it as a new country visited given I didn't leave the airport - but I was somehow still excited to get a glimpse of it given how difficult it is for tourists to get a visa to visit Saudi Arabia (although that might change soon as tourist visas are in the talk).





Security was super smooth. There was only one guy checking onward tickets and passport and one security checkpoint where hand baggage goes through the scanner, but there was no queue at all. Within ten to fifteen minutes after disembarking I was again airside at Riyadh Airport.







Given the size of Saudi Arabia Airlines and the regional importance of the country, I found the airport extremely dated and even small. There are just two or so shops, and not more than ten or so jet bridges? It's a far cry from Dubai or Doha – and if you won't have lounge access this is not the place you want to spend a long time. Luckily, I had access to Saudia's Alfursan lounge, which is located one level up from the main departure lounge where a friendly male lounge dragon let me in.

The business class section of the lounge is shaped in a kinda L shape and has a good variety of seating ranging from dining tables to work stations to lounge chairs. At this late evening hour perhaps 50 to 60 percent of the seats was taken.







There was one food station and two with drinks. There were a few hot options available for a late dinner, some desserts, different soft drinks and juices, espresso machines as well as Arabic coffee.







Even though I wasn't really hungry, I tried a Moroccan-style fish dish with rice for the team, which tasted good. The dessert was good quality too.





Internet was fast, the toilets were clean – so no complaints on those sides either. The two-three-or-so hours I had between my flights went by fast. I also found the airport staff at the two or three occasions when I interacted with them (luggage check, asking way to gate) extremely friendly and helpful. Unlike some Gulf States where most airport workers in more lower functions (information desk) seem to come from countries like Nepal, the guys working here were all local. They were hard to recognise at times though! The information desk is literally a guy in traditional white Arab dress standing at a certain information point answering questions of passengers.

Another note is that it does not seem needed for female passengers to cover their hair. There were plenty of Westerners and Asian migrant workers who didn't do it - and nobody seemed to be bothered by it.

In short: The Alfursan lounge is perfectly acceptable for a few hours and Riyadh is a pleasant airport to transit through. To my surprise, I found also all staff to be extremely relaxed and courteous. I however wouldn't recommend anyone the airport who is on a long transit as it will get boring. This especially counts for those flying economy class without lounge access as the airport is dated and small.

Next up: Saudia from Riyadh to Jakarta in business class.
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Old Oct 7, 18, 9:54 am
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Thanks for reporting on Saudia and Saudi. I must admit it doesn't look too bad and I wouldn't rule out trying the route myself. For some reason I thought Jeddah was the primarty transit point for Saudia but I'm not sure it would have changed much in terms of airport quality or ease of transfer.
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Old Oct 7, 18, 2:52 pm
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Originally Posted by Fredrik74 View Post
Thanks for reporting on Saudia and Saudi. I must admit it doesn't look too bad and I wouldn't rule out trying the route myself. For some reason I thought Jeddah was the primarty transit point for Saudia but I'm not sure it would have changed much in terms of airport quality or ease of transfer.
Jeddah is indeed the primary hub afaik (mostly due to the proximity of Islam's holy cities) but Riyadh is a close second.

This was my first time flying Saudia and obviously I can't comment too much about JED - but what I heard the transit experience is quite bad there, as is the terminal. For me this was the biggest reason to route through RUH instead of JED (I could also have chosen MED as there were seasonal flights out of MXP and a quick connection to CGK from there, but as my trip was just shortly before Hajj season I opted out of that as I wasn't sure how easy the transit would be/what would happen in case of IRROPS due to Saudia prioritising pilgrims on routes to/from MED).

That said, Jeddah's brand new terminal should be ready now as far as I know and will see full service soon - so that should greatly improve transits there. I *might* take a flight in winter to somewhere warm in Asia to test it out if prices stay this low ex-Rome.
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Old Oct 7, 18, 3:50 pm
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Part 6: Riyadh (RUH) to Jakarta (CGK) Saudia business class
Flight SV822 - Airbus B777 - Seat 1L - 350 EUR as part of FCO-RUH-CGK
STD 01.15am - STA 2.00pm (flight time 8h45m)


Even though Riyadh airport has distinct priority queues, priority boarding was not strictly enforced as the gate agents just started boarding both queues at once. Not that it mattered much. We had a remote stand for our flight, and quite disappointingly there was no special bus for business class passengers but an overcrowded bus for all. Ugh. On the upside, it is always a special feeling to board a big aeroplane like the 777 from the stairs instead of a jet bridge.



Once on board, things soon got much better with an attentive – mostly south-eastern Asian crew – welcoming us on board. Saudia has quite some variations in its business class among its fleet. I would say that this 777 with fully flat seats 2-2-2 is neither the best one they have (there are planes configured 1-2-1 with direct aisle access for all) but it is also far from the worst (A330s with not fully flat seats with a weird angle) from what my internet research told me.





The seats to go for as a solo traveller are obviously one of the middle two seats as you have direct aisle access and nobody needs to climb over you. But as I'm a sucker for views (especially if flying in a new country or airport) I still ended up taking a window seat after mulling about it for a long while in the weeks before my flight.

The seats were very comfortable in its day position and felt spacious enough. At 1.85 metres tall I could just about reach the foot rest below the big TV screen, which was of good quality. There were plenty of (USB) plugs to keep your electronic devices charged and the plane was wifi equipped (but I didn't pay for it/test it out due to the reasons mentioned before when reviewing the Saudia flight from Rome to Riyadh). Also at the seats were a pillow and blanket.







Soon after getting seated, amenity kits (a slightly nicer bag as my FCO-RUH flight but the same content) and headphones (no brand name but OK quality) were distributed.



One of the flight attendants also passed through the cabin with PDBs – I opted for the intriguing sounding date juice, which was actually fairly tasty and not as bad as I assumed it to be.



Also menus were distributed. Even though the flight departed well after 1am, there would still be a full dinner service. Shortly before landing we would get breakfast served, which makes sense despite the 2pm local arrival time.





Before departure, Saudia broadcasts a small prayer.





As it was dark and we departed away from any of the city lights, no pictures of this. I was however able to get a glimpse of take-off via one of the two installed cameras (cockpit view and view directly below).



The business class cabin was about 90 percent full and despite the late departure time it seemed that everyone still partook in the dinner service. I was thinking of skipping dinner altogether and maximise sleep, but as I hoped that dinner service would this time be faster than on my previous Saudia flight and we had more than nine hours to go to Jakarta, I decided to stay up, eat and watch a film. The selection is far from exhaustive but there were a few decent options in the entertainment system. I settled for the film 'Dunkirk' – which is a film about British queuing etiquette.



I forgot to take a snap of the starters on the menu – but I chose again the Arabic mezze as the two other options were prawns (not a fan) and a unappetising sounding salad (not a cow). The mezze was good – but not as good as on the FCO-RUH flight. Just moments after the starter was brought on a plate, a flight attendant also came along asking if we wanted a soup. Count me impressed for offering another course in between starter and main – you don't see that often in business class. The Moroccan harira soup which was served was absolutely delicious too. Flavourful and spicy – it really hit the right spot. It was also nicely presented with a small flower.



For my main, I had the lamb biryani – which was very good as well. To end the meal I had a mint tea and the pistachio and sour cherry cake, which was decent.





The meal service took about two-and-a-half hours. Quite long for a red-eye flight but as I anyway wanted to finish watching the movie I didn't care much as I knew I would easily get a solid 5 hours of sleep if I wanted. Overall, I found the food quality to be excellent – the same counts obviously for the quantity. Count be impressed on this. The only negative was again that the crew seemed to be so overwhelmed with all the meals and disappeared afterwards that it was impossible to get a drink besides the water served with the meal. It again took repeated calls to get a nice juice with the meal. If there is one thing Saudia needs to improve on, it is being more generous and pro-active in keeping their passengers hydrated – it is weird that at not a single point besides PDB and an offer for tea at the end of the meal you are asked if you might want a drink.

I did sleep very well and by the time I woke up, we were flying in between Malaysia and Sumatra down towards Java. There were some decent views over the island of Sumatra from my side of the plane.



For breakfast, I went against all my instincts and opted for the American pancakes. It was fine enough – but I felt I should have chosen the beef tapa as it looked much better seeing what the elderly Indonesian lady in the seat next to me got served.





We landed on time in a smog-covered Jakarta – what a massive urban sprawl this city is! And then we were only flying over the western suburbs/surrounding cities and were not even close to the city centre itself..







Landing was smooth and we taxied first past the freight terminal, then the old terminal with its iconic architecture which seems mostly used by secondary Indonesian carriers, and finally the new terminal where we parked.







A short line at immigration meant I was through within minutes, and after withdrawing some rupiahs I was in a taxi to my hotel for the next two nights.



In short: I was quite impressed with the flight. Although not state-of-the-art, the hard product is decent and the same as you find with many other airlines. I managed to have a good night of sleep on it. The soft product very much impressed me – both in quantity and quality. Kudos to Saudia for this. If only they'd offer a more elaborate drinks service throughout the flight it would be even better.

Next up: The magnificent Hermitage hotel and exploring the traffic-mad Indonesian capital.
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Old Oct 8, 18, 2:22 pm
  #24  
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Part 7: Jakarta, Indonesia
Hotel: The Hermitage, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, 140 EUR/night incl. breakfast

As I was in a bad need of a relaxing summer trip away from it all I decided to splurge a bit above my usual budget by only staying in some of the finest hotels. I am not a fan of chain hotels as most are rather soulless while others are vastly overpriced for what they offer. Being a hardworking average dude from humble backgrounds a bed is still a bed for me. If I opt to pay more, I am paying for the experience and surroundings rather than for the luxury – especially so when travelling alone.

That said, there are some properties for which I don't mind paying a bit more for. While in Jakarta you can easily get a good, centrally located hotel for 40-50 EUR, I opted for the Hermitage Hotel as I heard great stories about it and because it is a bit of colonial history.

On arrival after a one-and-a-half hour drive from the airport, I was quickly welcomed by the amazing staff of this hotel. I have seen great service and seen true hospitality – but this hotel managed to kick both into a much higher category. From bar staff to bell boys, the staff was just exceptional in anticipating on all your needs and providing true hospitality in welcoming you to their country. Even though friendliness and a smile is the norm in Indonesia, I found the staff at the Hermitage really exceptional.

The hotel itself consists of an older Dutch colonial building and a modern annexe – but both seemingly match naturally in style. It used to be a PTT office – where the Dutch telegraph and postal services were located in the posh Menteng neighbourhood full of old villas. The hotel is still full of magnificent old artefacts and other decorative items.





My standard room did not disappoint and had a large kingsize bed, coffee and tea facilities, tons of storage space and a huge bathroom.











After unpacking and changing into swimming attire I headed to the rooftop swimming pool and bar for a refreshing dip after my long flight. The pool is decently sized, has loungers and also a fitness room next to it.









Of course, what I needed perhaps more than a refreshing swim was a cold one after spending a day on Saudia and Riyadh Airport.



One level up from the pool is the highest point of the rooftop, which has a L-shaped seating area with some comfy sofas and some stools to watch the sweeping views of the Jakarta skyline.





On recommendation of the staff I ordered their in-house speciality, a lemon and tequila flavoured cocktail. It was indeed very good and refreshing and packed quite some punch. I stayed for a bit to watch the sunset, although sunsets aren't nearly as spectacular as elsewhere due to the immense amount of smog.







After the sunset I headed back to my room to take a shower and change, and to have a short walk around the area as I needed cash $ from an ATM having been unable to take money at the airport as I forgot to activate my card for Indonesia at home.



Back in the hotel I explored the grounds a bit more of the old main building. What a gorgeous-looking hotel this is really.





Unfortunately, the cigar room was closed during my visit – but a friendly employee nevertheless unlocked the door for me and showed me around the beautifully appointed room and the personal collections of the hotel owner showed in there.



As I was way too relaxed and lazy I decided to stay in the hotel for dinner and sat down in one of the two (or three?) restaurants on site. I had another beer – a Bali Hai – which tasted way beter than the watery Bintang.



For dinner I ordered the nasi goreng, which came with satay, chicken, fried rice, prawn crackers and some small sides. It was absolutely delicious.



After dinner I decided to go for an evening swim followed by an evening cocktail at the rooftop bar. I forgot exactly what the ingredients were in the inventive cocktail, but it had some whiskey, berry juice and cinnamon – and was absolutely great.







I slept like a baby and woke up the following morning just in time to have some breakfast, which was served in gorgeous colonial surroundings.



The food spread was pretty impressive, and consisted both of Western and Indonesian favourites.

















Eager-to-please staff came within seconds to ask for my choice of coffee and to ask if I might want the chef to prepare some eggs for me, an offer I gladly accepted. Food quality overall was outstanding. I only found the coffee a bit weak and watery for my taste – but that was a thing common all over the country what I would find except in some speciality coffee chains.









In short: What a fantastic hotel the Hermitage is. I would love to visit again and won't even think about staying in another hotel next time I would be in Jakarta. The hotel oozes colonial charm, is located in a quiet and safe neighbourhood of town, has great facilities, comfortable rooms and great food and beverage services. Most of all, I found the staff to be exceptional. I cannot recommend it enough.
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Old Oct 8, 18, 4:53 pm
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Brings back great memories from my stay at the Hermitage in August.

The restaurant then had a special 4 course set menu for independence dat which bles us away and set the standaard for the rest of the trip.

rooftop pool and bar are great to relax from the Hustle and Butsle of jakarta.

Happy we arrived naar midnight though, as it only took us around 20 minutes from the airport to the hotel
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Old Oct 10, 18, 5:23 am
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Interesting to see Saudia's product. I'm impressed that they have 54" pitch in business class on their A320s. But, like you, very surprised and disappointed by their lacklustre beverage service - you'd think they would take a leaf out of the book of other Middle Eastern carriers and make their selection of non-alcoholic drinks a real point of difference.

I noticed the OmanAir jet in your shot of CGK. I flew them in J for the first time recently and was seriously impressed (and they have *excellent* booze too!). They have had some amazing business class fares to/from Asia lately, so I'd recommend giving them a try should you have the opportunity.

The Hermitage looks absolutely lovely. A comfortable and well-run hotel with heritage character really is a joy. And in a hole like Jakarta, it makes a difference to have somewhere nice to come home to!
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Old Oct 10, 18, 7:21 am
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Great report as usual;thanks for sharing.
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Old Oct 11, 18, 2:28 pm
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Originally Posted by csb001 View Post
Brings back great memories from my stay at the Hermitage in August.

The restaurant then had a special 4 course set menu for independence dat which bles us away and set the standaard for the rest of the trip.

rooftop pool and bar are great to relax from the Hustle and Butsle of jakarta.

Happy we arrived naar midnight though, as it only took us around 20 minutes from the airport to the hotel
Oh that sounds like a much better drive there! I also had the misfortune that my taxi driver somehow couldn't find the hotel and kept driving circles less than 500 metres away from it (had a fixed rate so he clearly was clueless and not trying to cheat the meter for more money). Also on the way back to the airport I had bad traffic in the city..

But I agree about the hotel. I wasn't a fan of Jakarta at all - but the hotel is absolutely fabulous. Wouldn't mind doing a mileage run to Jakarta again in the future if it means staying a night there again.

Originally Posted by mad_atta View Post
Interesting to see Saudia's product. I'm impressed that they have 54" pitch in business class on their A320s. But, like you, very surprised and disappointed by their lacklustre beverage service - you'd think they would take a leaf out of the book of other Middle Eastern carriers and make their selection of non-alcoholic drinks a real point of difference.

I noticed the OmanAir jet in your shot of CGK. I flew them in J for the first time recently and was seriously impressed (and they have *excellent* booze too!). They have had some amazing business class fares to/from Asia lately, so I'd recommend giving them a try should you have the opportunity.

The Hermitage looks absolutely lovely. A comfortable and well-run hotel with heritage character really is a joy. And in a hole like Jakarta, it makes a difference to have somewhere nice to come home to!
Indeed! I expected Jakarta to be grubby and not instantly likable based on what I've read and heard, but decided to give it a chance anyway as often I have a weird soft spot for not-so-obvious tourist destinations. But it was indeed quite a hole - happy to had this hotel to relax and enjoy while in Jakarta!

And yes, I was tempted to try Oman Air as well... just one week after booking my return (I opted for Y on China Airlines) there was that WY ex-CGK sale advertised on the premium fares board on Flyertalk. Ouch, would have loved that as indeed I only heard great stories about Oman Air (and the new airport at Muscat is apparently lovely too). The only thing holding me back with such airlines is that basically the miles are kinda wasted - unless a return in J class is good enough for a decent award at Oman Air's own programme or the sole other I think it credits to (Etihad). I need to check it out a bit more as I saw that the fare ex-CGK recently returned.

Originally Posted by zboub345 View Post
Great report as usual;thanks for sharing.
Welcome, and thanks for reading along! More to follow soon (having again a quite bad week at work with little time for FlyerTalk).
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Old Oct 11, 18, 3:13 pm
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Part 8: A day sightseeing in Jakarta

Many people would tell you to skip Jakarta altogether when visiting Indonesia and head straight for the beautiful islands of Bali or Lombok, or cities on Java like Yogyakarta straight away. Yet to me it felt a bit weird to miss out on the Indonesian capital given it has much history as the old Dutch colonial capital of Batavia. Besides, gritty megacities can at times have certain charms if you look well enough for them so I thought it would be only fair if I would give the city a chance. Especially after a long journey flying in from Europe, not flying straight onwards and staying two nights in a hotel to acclimatise also didn't sound unreasonable to me.

I started my journey by taking a taxi to Merdeka Square, which means Freedom or Independence Square and is the site of the National Monument. It being a weekend day, traffic was a bit less mad than usual but still chaotic.

There is not that much to see besides the monument dedicated to Indonesia winning it's liberty from Dutch colonial rule after World War II. The Dutch were very hesitant to give up their precious colony after the Japanese invaders were kicked out, with many MPs and citizens thinking it would spell doom to the country's future. Yet after an at times bloody conflict the Dutch relented – mostly under severe pressure by the American Government.

There is actually not that much to do at the giant park/square in which the monument is located. You just wander around the grounds and snap some pictures and that's it. There were many Indonesian families though around, with most of them seemingly having brought a picnic basket to sit somewhere on the grounds for a meal. For most, it was a nice place to walk a bit around and do some good old people watching.









As the nearest train station of Gambir is only used as starting point of intercity trains, I had to walk a bit further to Juanda station to catch a suburban train further into the centre of the city to the old town. Even though taxis are cheap and reliable (if you take a Blue Bird one) I still prefer public transport as it gives you a better insight in everyday local life. The bus and train system seemed to be very good and dirt cheap, but at times it was just sheer madness trying to cross a busy street when there were no traffic lights or pedestrian overpasses.











The suburban train brought me to Jakarta Kota station, located close to the old town where there is still some old Dutch architecture remaining. Kota station was quite a bustling place itself!



From Kota, I walked to the old town through some underpasses and on some small or non-existing pavements. When taking a picture of the national bank I was halted by a security guard. I expected him to be angry for making a picture (too many travels to ex-USSR countries where that is always the case!) but it turned out the dude was actually wanting to welcome me to Indonesia and just wanted to have a short talk. If one thing would stand out during this trip it would be the kindness and welcoming nature of the Indonesian people – which in my opinion was even well above the already high standards found elsewhere in Asia.











The old town of Jakarta is fully pedestrianised – but on this weekend day was crowded as hell with locals going for a walk. It was also fun to see locals renting old bicycles for five or ten minutes just to drive in circles on the square. The main square here does have some seriously nice colonial Dutch architecture, especially the old City Hall.











I wanted to head to Cafe Batavia – a Jakarta colonial institute for a meal/drink – but somehow the locals wouldn't let me go. At first I thought it was just a coincidence when a group of Indonesian schoolchildren around the age of 14-15 approached me to ask some questions in English what I thought about their country, what I was doing here, how my first impressions are etc. But when a second and third group came to me asking exactly the same questions, and all of them taping the interview with their phone and posing for a picture, it seemed clear to me that there were a few school classes out here on some assignment for their English class to approach a foreign tourist. Good fun though to have a chat with Indonesia's next generation! Even though I was getting hungry and thirsty I couldn't say no to their kind smiles when the sixth and seventh group approached me.

In the end I did somehow manage it to Cafe Batavia – where I settled down for a beer or two and a portion of satay.







Afterwards I wandered around the area for a bit more, but besides an old Dutch draw-bridge there wasn't that much to see.







By that time, the weather and especially the disgusting smog was tiring me out, so I decided to hop in a taxi back to my hotel. For dinner, I just ventured outside in the neighbourhood to eat more satay (did I say already I love satay?) from a friendly local with a roadside satay-cart. I might also had a few cocktails at the rooftop bar.

In short: Even though I didn't regret staying one day in Jakarta to see the city as I would have felt bad to miss out on it – it is not a particular beautiful or interesting city. The interesting parts can easily be seen in less than three hours. Sure, I believe that there is quite some local life besides that once you scratch beyond the surface and local people guide you to fun parts – but as an average tourist it's not a likeable city. It reminded me in many aspects of the Philippine capital of Manila. Yes there is an interesting old colonial part (Spanish there, Dutch here) but beyond that it's just one giant urban sprawl, with mad crowds and just a few elevated railway lines which are insufficient to relieve the pressure off the overcrowded traffic.

Next up: Flying from Jakarta to Yogyakarta in Garuda Indonesia business class.
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Old Oct 12, 18, 11:43 am
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Very nice report! Excellent pictures
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