Javanese, if you please
Hard to imagine that it’s been 20 years since Amanjiwo first opened, becoming the first upscale resort to operate in the vicinity of Borobudur Temple. The temple is a 9th century Buddhist monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Central Java. The Aman branding was – and is – no doubt a huge drawcard for luxury travellers to this neck of the woods.
In typical Aman fashion, the property maintains a symbiotic relationship with the surrounding communities. In honour of these close bonds – and of the resort’s anniversary – the monument will be lit up at 8pm every 20th of the month until the end of the year. It’s worth noting that this privilege is usually reserved for official or religious ceremonies.
The typical Amanjiwo guest is a bona fide culture vulture, so while there, here are the top five culturally-inclined experiences we recommend having.
1) Awaken your inner artist by learning batik painting or pottery-making
For a true test of patience, there’s nothing quite like getting your hands dirty –literally – with batik painting or pottery-making. You could choose to have lessons at the resort – Amanjiwo maintains a roster of on-call artisans from nearby villages – or, if you’re feeling inquisitive, you could venture out into those villages and call on the artisans themselves, subject to their availability.
2) Hike up to Selogriyo, an 8th century Hindu temple
First things first: Selogriyo is a tiny temple built high up on a hill. The point of the hike isn’t to marvel at this structure, but to enjoy the process of getting there. After all, isn’t life a journey, not a destination? This journey will take you past quaint local villages filled with friendly folk, smiles at the ready, for a slice of authentic Central Javanese life. Then meander along a path fringed by terraced padi fields for spectacular photo ops.
3) Have dinner at Pak Bilal’s
No, Pak Bilal’s isn’t some fancy Michelin-starred destination but a bamboo-thatched sugar shack where local elder Pak Bilal and his family maintain a palm sugar processing facility. A dining session here – the only one of its kind that Amanjiwo organises – is a magical experience. Think a candlelit setting and multi-course menu with cocktails to start and wines to follow. The food is prepped at the resort before being assembled on-site by Pak Bilal’s son. It’s no wonder that many a proposal has been made here!
4) Visit John van der Sterren’s studio
Java-born, Dutch-New Zealand artist John van der Sterren, who lives and works just a stone’s throw away from Amanjiwo, has been welcoming Amanjiwo guests since the beginning. Visitors can tour van der Sterren’s home-studio and his private art collection; observe the artist in his natural element; and try their hand at charcoal sketching, guided by the artist and with materials supplied.
5) Watch the sun set at Borobudur
For most, if not all, Amanjiwo guests, the raison d’etre for their stay is the visit to Borobudur itself. Most visitors and daytrippers tend to opt for a sunrise tour, which means dealing with crowds and unintentional photobombers. Heed our advice and go instead during sunset, when there’s a high chance you’ll have the entire complex to yourself.