In sore need of a break, Susannah Jaffer retreats to a wellness paradise in Central Java – a mere hop, skip and jump away from Singapore’s shores.
My much-anticipated trip to Java nearly didn’t happen at all. On 14 February, active volcano Mount Kelud erupted violently, spewing out volcanic ash across 500 kilometres of the island. Happily for me, the Central Java Tourism board decided to reschedule the visit to the end of the month instead of cancelling it altogether.
After a pleasant 90-minute flight from Singapore, I stepped off the plane into sunny Semarang’s humble little airport. Soon after collecting my bag, I found myself in the car that within an hour would get me to to MesaStila retreat, where I’d be spending the next two nights. Landed and out of the airport in 15 minutes? Changi, you’ve got competition.
MesaStila is tucked away in Losari village, Magelang, 900 metres above the plains of Central Java. The site encompasses an impressive 22 hectares of land, with lush tropical gardens giving way to untamed jungle, and, in the distance, eight volcanoes. After passing through the hotel’s little reception area, I was greeted by immaculate manicured lawns and beautiful sprawling grounds as far as the eye could see. The views were, quite simply, majestic.
A glance to the left revealed the resort’s Java Red restaurant, an open-air Javanese-style building with more of those panoramic views across the valley. A short initial tour of the grounds also brought me to the central meeting point for residents, known as the Club House, a charming building constructed in 1928 by the Dutchman who first owned the plantation. (The property has changed hands a few times over the years; it was most recently known as Losari Spa Retreat and Coffee Plantation.)
Now completely restored, the Club House skilfully blends colonial, Javanese and contemporary architecture. The highest point of the retreat, it serves as a spot for afternoon tea or evening drinks, where guests can lounge on the verandah and take in the views, or perhaps sit back with a book from the library.
The large, on-site coffee plantation produces up to seven tons of different varieties of beans per year, providing jobs and a sustainable source of income for the community.
After a refreshing drink – ginger tea rather than coffee – I was shown to my two-storey Ambar Villa. The open-plan interior had high ceilings, a double bedroom featuring a big four-poster bed with fairytale-like draped hangings, a spacious lounge, a separate wardrobe room, and a large two-sink bathroom with huge stone bath and shower. Accessible via wooden steps was another double bedroom upstairs. Interesting antiques in my villa including a writing desk, chests and dark wooden chairs, while the walls were decorated with traditional artwork.
Guest accommodation at MesaStila includes 23 of these unique and traditional heritage villas, transported from different sites in Indonesia and reconstructed in original Limasan, Joglo or Kudus form. Each villa has different features, too – some are suited to families, with beds for four, while others are more “romantically” themed, such as the Plantation Villa with its outdoor shower and scenic balcony views. The grandest of them all – the palatial Bella Vista Villa – comprises three adjoining villas and two adjacent freestanding villas, and boasts a colossal presidential suite and a private pool with a view of the mountains. I’m told that the president of Indonesia is a regular visitor – and I can understand why.
No matter which accommodation you choose, each is equipped with modern conveniences like Wi-Fi internet, television, air-conditioning and the like, but what struck me most was their luxuriously simple interiors and stunning views across plantation, jungle and volcanoes.
MesaStila is well known for its wellness retreats. Guests can choose from a number of packages, such as Escapism, which includes a full spa package, and Fitness and Weight Management, which includes an appraisal, a meal-plan, a daily steam bath and private fitness training. The team also runs special programmes, such as endurance cycling through the surrounding terrain. Yoga retreats are led by the resident yogi master; sunrise classes are held in an outdoor pavilion overlooking the expansive jungle.
For kids, the team at MesaStila can tailor a full activities package to keep them occupied, including arts, crafts and fun sports. Other optional activities for families include mountain biking, jungle gym, trekking, traditional martial arts or aqua gym in the large infinity pool that overlooks the nearby mountains, Andong, Merbabu and Merapi.
As you can imagine, I wasn’t going to leave without checking in to MesaStila’s famous spa, which reportedly boasts the only Turkish-style hammam in Asia. It didn’t disappoint. The cylindrical hammam steam room ticked all the boxes, featuring spacious seating and authentic tiling. Following that, my one-hour Javanese body massage was utterly blissful – perhaps the best I’ve had in Asia.
MesaStila oozes traditional old world charm, seamlessly incorporating its activities and accommodation within a magnificent natural landscape. The resulting is a wholesome experience with a real “back to nature” feel – so much so that, despite only having a weekend visit, I left feeling thoroughly relaxed and recharged.
TOURS TO TRY
- Borobudur temple visit: You can opt to visit stunning Borobudur temple at sunset, sunrise or during the day (and even throw in an elephant ride through the surrounding grounds).
- Horse-riding: Did I mention that MesaStila also has its own stables? You can practise horse-riding on site, or ride though the villages with a qualified local instructor.
- Mountain-trekking: Be guided on a day trek up one of the many photogenic mountains surrounding the site.
All tours can be arranged directly through MesaStila.
SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines, operates weekly flights from Singapore to Semarang. MesaStila is situated between Semarang, Jogjakarta and Solo airports. The drive from Semarang airport takes on average one and a half hours, whereas from Jogjakarta or Solo it takes two hours.
OFFER FOR EXPAT LIVING READERS
The Collektion Hotels & Resorts is currently offering Expat Living readers exclusive rates at MesaStila, from US$160 per night. This includes breakfast for two, daily scheduled activities and afternoon tea. For enquiries or to book, contact 6689 1042 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, mentioning the Expat Living offer.
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