January 23, 2009 / 9:58 AM / 10 years ago

Historic Indonesia hotel packed with local flavor

JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - Few travelers choose to stay in Kampung Bali, one of Jakarta’s oldest and little-known districts, but for guests seeking a taste of traditional Javanese culture and a little less luxury, there’s Wisma Garminah.

The family-run bed-and-breakfast hostel is barely ten minutes from central Jakarta’s modern and glitzy center with its luxury multinational hotel chains.

Soemarno Sosroatmodjo, Jakarta’s first governor and a close friend of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, could not have foreseen that the home where he once entertained top officials and dignitaries would one day become a bed-and-breakfast.

“One day, my father’s friends asked if they could pay him something for his hospitality as they frequently visited Jakarta, and that is how the business started,” said Karma Widjaja Sosroatjmodjo, the son of the first governor and who now owns and runs the homestay with his wife Heri.

“I get to meet so many people. I to get to know more about the world, more about people, more about what they think about Indonesia; and then we can give them information back about us Indonesians too,” added Sosroatjmodjo, who is fluent in Dutch and English and wears a traditional Indonesian cap.

“So for us it’s very enjoyable to have guests, especially foreigners,” added Sosroatjmodjo, also know as Wede.

The hotel is filled with old Javanese furniture, from wooden carved gates in lieu of entrance doors, to Madurese bridal beds and coffee chests, placed around the two-storey colonial house.

Traditional instruments are everywhere; there are Dayak tribal costumes, daggers and shields from Borneo and old pictures of the family and their visitors adorning many walls.

“This place is like something out of a 1920s novel. It feels like so many stories have unfolded in this building,” said Katie Lamb, a 26-year-old Australian tourist.

Lamb said she moved from another hotel to Wisma Garminah because she tired of staying in a “generic stifled business hotel environment.”

Jenelle Whittaker, a 21-year-old student from Melbourne staying in one of the seven standard rooms, says the place feels unique in an increasingly globalised world.

“Sometimes staying in hotel rooms abroad feels like being back home rather than half way around the world, because they are all the same, and that is not the case here,” she said.

Wisma Garminah has been operating as a homestay since 1972, and typically serves a home-cooked breakfast every morning.

Guests can taste dishes from all over Java, such as nasi liwet, rice cooked with coconut milk, or nasi rames, steamed rice with tempe or soybean cake.

Wisma Garminah, which doesn’t advertise and doesn’t have its own website, has only two deluxe rooms and seven standard rooms ranging from 280,000-350,000 rupiah ($25-31) a night.

There are also dormitories at a cheaper price.

Editing by Ed Davies and Miral Fahmy

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