Yogyakarta is one of the cities that has many historical relics. Many tourist destinations are offered in this city, for example, there are museums, temples, and buildings that are relics of history in the past. It turns out that in this city has a building that has a historical value which is currently one of the five-star hotels in Yogyakarta named as The Phoenix Hotel. On this occasion, I was invited to staycation at The Phoenix Hotel which also coincided with the 100th anniversary of the founding of this building. Excited with this invitation because it is not only a regular staycation, but I was also given the opportunity to learn about the history of The Phoenix Hotel which holds much memory about the long journey of Indonesia.
Since I was a kid, the name of Phoenix is no stranger to me ’cause my school was in the Phoenix Hotel area. This hotel has changed their name several times, I don’t even understand why. The Phoenix Hotel is located at Jl. Cokrodiningratan no. 9, Jetis, Yogyakarta, near with Tugu Yogyakarta in the heart of the city. Currently, The Phoenix Hotel is managed by MGallery by Sofitel – Memorable Hotels By Accor and is the first MGallery hotel in Indonesia. The fun fact is, if you notice all hotels that are managed by MGallery by Sofitel is has a unique character and authentic history in its location. The Phoenix Hotel was one of them which has a strong colonial feel. You could see from the building looks outside, the original design from this front building does not change. As I saw it, they got a classic yet elegant look even from outside of the hotel. There is a lot of phoenix symbols on every corner. For example we can see in every door handle from The Phoenix Hotel. The name “Phoenix” is derived from Greek mythical sacred firebird. Chinese mythology also has a bird that is almost identical to a Phoenix named FengHuang that you may have seen in some ornaments from China. The Phoenix bird has a very interesting philosophy. Just before his death, Phoenix will make a nest of tree branches that will then burn together with the Phoenix itself to ashes. The Phoenix egg comes from the rest of the ashes that would hatch and live again for another century. That’s why Phoenix is called a bird with the 1000 year life cycle. Perhaps, it is the philosophy of why the name of The Phoenix Hotel is chosen since it has the hope of continuing to renew from time to time just like the life cycle of the Phoenix bird.
After a few minutes drive to The Phoenix Hotel, I entered the lobby of the hotel and greeted warmly by the doorman. While in the lobby, you’ll start to feel a colonial feel combined with a touch of elegance typical of Java as well and various Chinese decorations. The Lobby area is one part of the main building built in 1918 by Kwik Doen Eng (an owner of a trading company from Semarang), and used as a private residence. Ah, and if you still remember the earthquake in Yogyakarta in 2006, many buildings and hotels that were damaged at the time, but somehow The Phoenix Hotel did not break or even cracked at all. The Phoenix Hotel has a unique check-in flow. While at the receptionist’s table, guests will be welcome to wait at the Lobby Lounge Museum. Not long after that, the hotel officers served a welcome drink and several kinds of typical city snacks such as bakpia and kipo. During the check-in process, I steal a look around the Lobby Lounge Museum, since it looks so interesting. I saw many objects and ornaments also old photographs. I decided to come back later to the Lobby Lounge Museum after a short rest in the hotel room and stroked my suitcase.
The Phoenix Hotel has a restaurant located next to the lobby called Paprika Restaurant. There is a small pool in which there are many carp fish swimming which has various beautiful colors, make me feel calm. The menu offered by Paprika Restaurant also varies, ranging from Indonesian, Eastern, and Western food. Paprika Restaurant is a favorite location for dining both from hotel guests and guests from outside the hotel. At Paprika Restaurant, guests can also order the Bakpia 1918, a signature cake of The Phoenix Hotel. It is the traditional cake which is also served to guests as a welcome snack in the lobby Lounge Museum. While waiting for my lunch, I will tell you a little historical story. Back in the past, during the economic recession in 1930, this main building was purchased by Liem Doen Hwat who later made this hotel as a pensioner hotel by the name of Splendid.
On the first day, I got a Deluxe Pool View type. When I entered the room, I can feel the classic nuance between colonial, Javanese and Chinese elements strongly blended into one. Starting from the ornament decoration, they use a golden batik wall hanging ornament which forms The Phoenix Hotel logos combined with batik patterned wall of the bed.
Basically, every room of The Phoenix Hotel has a balcony. Deluxe Pool View has something special compared to the rooms on the other side. There is a large window followed by a balcony with a pool view that can be used to relax while reading or while enjoys your afternoon tea. And the next chapter of The Phoenix Hotel, back to 1942 during the Japanese occupation, the main building of this building is occupied and made hotel under the name of Yamato Hotel by Japan. A few years later when Japan was no longer in power (1945), the ownership of this building was returned to its previous owner Liem Doen Hwat.
As I had planned before, after a short rest in my room, I’m about to visit the Lobby Lounge Museum. There’s a lot of interesting objects or photos but I do not understand the meaning of any such thing. Finally, I went to the hotel staff to ask if any of them could provide me a quick tour around the hotel. Warmly, they said that they would send someone to accompany me to do some tour around The Phoenix Hotel. Not long after that, a staff came and introduce themselves then invite me to learn about the objects in the Lobby Lounge Museum one by one. In the past, this Lobby Lounge Museum is a living room. But currently, it is used to display collections of valuable art and antique objects owned by The Phoenix Hotel. While in 1946-1949 this building was also functioned as the official residence of the Chinese Consul.
They got collections of photos of Yogyakarta in the past, antique cabinets containing various antiques, Loro Blonyo statues and much more. Most of them are private collections of The Phoenix Hotel’s owners. One of the most interesting antique collections is Loro Blonyo. Loro Blonyo is believed existed since 1476 in the era of Mataram kingdom. In ancient times Loro Blonyo can only be owned by the nobles, placed in traditional Joglo houses, to be precisely placed in the middle “Senthong”. Loro Blonyo is not just a regular statue, it has a special meaning which resemble that a bride and a groom united in marriage bonds which then will bring fertility and prosperity.
This sunny afternoon I do not have any plans for the day. I took a leisure stroll while enjoying a warm cup of cappuccino. My feet stepped up and took me to an interesting corner of The Phoenix another hotel that is a foyer ballroom or can also be called as meeting room corridor. In this area, there were lots of furniture and wall ornaments with the nuanced heritage like wayang golek, dakon, classic dishes with Phoenix paintings, and there are also typical Chinese jars painted with FengHuang birds. You also can see the typical Chinese urn in the Lobby lounge museum which is a set collection with the urn located in the ballroom foyer. The existence of furniture and ornament bringing us some throwback to the past and made us curious about the history of The Phoenix Hotel. In 1951-1987, the hotel was rented to Natour (Directorate of the state hotel and tourism). By then, this building became a witness of Indonesia national history. At that time the hotel changed its name to Hotel Merdeka and became the official residence of Indonesia’s first president, Mr. Ir. Soekarno.
The first president of Indonesia, Ir. Soekarno was once staying in the room named Merdeka Suite with room number 202. The Merdeka Suite is located on the 2nd floor which can be accessed via a very classic staircase located at Paprika Restaurant. Because I was very curious, I also asked the hotel staff is it possible for me to visit the Merdeka Suite. Incidentally, Merdeka Suite is available, so I can go into the room. When I entered the room, my first impression of the interior is not much different from the other rooms. The difference is, somehow this one felt more peaceful and cool. Many visitors are curious about this room because of its historical value. After trying, many guests did repeated books at Merdeka Suite because of its comforts. It is said that there is a secret passage in this room as an evacuation route if something happens that threatens the existence of Mr. Ir. Soekarno as the president of Indonesia at that time. Whoa!
The Pool of The Phoenix Hotel is perfect for spending your afternoon. The view of the pool was very beautiful from the yellow rays that come from the building that surrounds the pool. Back in 1988, there was a unique thing where the grandson of Liem Doen Hwat took over again the building that his grandfather had once owned. The hotel was renovated to its original form and added new buildings on the north and east side of the main building, including this pool area. After the renovation, the hotel reopened in 1993 under the name of Phoenix Heritage Hotel. And in 1996 this hotel changed its name once again to Hotel Phoenix Yogyakarta.
This morning’s breakfast takes place in 1918 Terrace. This unique 1918 Terrace was once the dining area of the homeowner. Breakfast from 1918 Terrace served varied with open kitchen concept. There are also variations of fresh foods and drinks such as fresh juice and java noodles cooked after guests order them. Another interesting thing, you can find Mbok Jamu (traditional herbal drinks seller) that provides herbal drinks like Jogja typical jamu gendhong. In addition to the 1918 Terrace area, there is a fountain reminiscent of the Trevi fountain in Rome. Breakfast in 1918 Terrace is comfortable and very historical since there is music from the gamelan that is live played every day. Plus the sound of the gurgling fountain that makes the atmosphere felt more chill and fun.
Perhaps you could say 1918 Terrace is the most chill area of all venues at The Phoenix Hotel. The best facilities and services of this hotel is not separated because of the great role of Mrs. Imelda Sundoro. Mrs. Imelda Sundoro is a businessman from Solo who became the new owner of this hotel in 2003. Mrs. Imelda Sundoro is committed to making this hotel into a hotel that has 5-star facilities. In the same year, this building officially becomes Heritage Building by the Government, which means that the building must maintain its authenticity and integrity. Together with Accor, the hotel was massively renovated and reopened in 2004 under the name Grand Mercure Yogyakarta.
By the second day, I got a chance to try their Executive Room. There was not much difference with the previous room where I could see a fine wall-hanging birdcage filled with snacks and a pool view balcony. The differences were there is a living room which had a separator door where you could have your guest safe and sound. Its living room’s wall had a rustic Javanese carving. Here, you could look into their pool view directly from your bed, there’s no need to get up.
Its bathroom got a bathtub and quite spacious, I could find a loro blonyo filled with sanitary kits which I find so unique. Other difference I could find from other room type was some of its sanitary kits were provided by L’occitane. Ah, and actually in 2008, this hotel was rebranded from Grand Mercure Hotel into The Phoenix Hotel, until this day. Since then, the hotel becomes a part of MGallery by Sofitel Collection.
Today I have arranged a schedule to try the spa owned The Phoenix Hotel. But I wanted to try swimming in the pool even just for a while. In the morning, the pool is quieter than in the afternoon. The rays from the sun make the pool vie seems different. It has a perfectly relaxing ambiance if you sit at its poolside, accompanied by the gurgling sound from the fountain. The room was arranged with a beautiful classical colonial feel.
MySpa was The Phoenix Hotel authentic spa, filled with traditional Javanese concept. The spa room has a scent which is enough to make me feel relax because of the smell of burning therapy oil at every corner. MySpa will serve you treatments such as flower foot bath, body wash, royal bath, and therapeutic massage.
The other facility that The Phoenix Hotel provided was a business corner. Guests can access the internet, prints files and their photocopy machines are also available in the business corner.
The Phoenix Hotel has a vintage cream Mercedes Benz that still works well. The vintage car is also one of the antique collections owned by The Phoenix Hotel. Usually, this car is often used for a pre-wedding photo shoot because of its classic yet aesthetic look, combined with their colonial look building.
The Phoenix Hotel was the only hotel in Yogyakarta which has a very strong cultural ambiance. Beside it, every corner of the building has its own long historical story which you’ll find interesting as you stay. As I step afoot out of the Merdeka Suite, somehow I could feel my inner nationalism arose. Maybe it was because the first president of Indonesia, Mr. Soekarno, was once stayed in the exact place. But, whether it is true or not, you have to prove it yourself. Hotel with history, choose The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta.
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