Tue, 14 May 2002

When money doesn't matter for genuine experience

Jonminofri Nazir, Contributor, Jakarta

In a TV talk show, entrepreneur and politician Bambang W. Warih said he once went to Germany to sell high quality charcoal.

In his 21 days in Germany, he slept just two nights in a hotel and spent the remaining nights at railway stations or onboard a train.

Bambang is not a novice in the business, as his charcoal sells well in Germany. But when he does business in Germany, he lives very simply, so that buyers do not suspect the price of his charcoal includes his living expenses.

Exotic hotels are clearly not intended for businessmen like Bambang or other ordinary entrepreneurs. They are sold to pleasure and comfort seekers, not businessmen. Understandably, the room rates are much higher than even those at hotels providing the best service.

Quite a few expatriate businessmen may be keen on staying at such hotels, but unfortunately there is only a small number of exotic hotels in Indonesia to date.

Hotel Tugu is the most popular of such hotels. One is located in Malang, East Java and another in Bali. Then there are several exotic hotels in Bandung and Yogyakarta, but hardly any elsewhere.

There is a semblance of an exotic hotel in Jakarta: FM1 boutique hotel. Some other hotels, despite their excellent service, can hardly be put in the category of exotic hotels.

There is no clear explanation why there are only a few such hotels in this country. In fact, there is a good market for exotic hotels. Take, Hotel Tugu, for example. Its occupancy rate is very high as it often reaches 100 percent. If you wish to stay there without any reservation, you may be disappointed as it is often fully booked. It is rather surprising, therefore, that the number of exotic hotels remains small.

In Jakarta, the less-than-one-year-old FM1 boutique hotel, located on Jl. S. Parman, near Citraland Mall, is easy to reach and easy to recognize due to its strikingly bright red and orange exterior.

The 11-floor hotel decorates its 45 rooms with the touch and mood of exotic lands, such as France, Hawaii, Egypt and Ancient Rome. A guest must be sure of the kind of atmosphere they would prefer to spend the night in before checking in.

Unfortunately, the exotic atmosphere created in the room of your choice does not come from objects originating from the exotic country you have chosen.

Hotel Tugu offers another unique experience as it is decorated with genuine antique items that are hundreds or even thousands of years old. Here, one can see the Mancung Plaque from 944 A.D., a 2,100-year-old statue from China's Han dynasty and even ancient implements like earthenware jugs, plates and boxes.

The rooms inside are similarly decorated. Some of them are decorated by items previously owned by famous people. One suite is named after the Indonesian painting master: Raden Saleh. Inside the room you can see various items of the world-renowned painter, as well as a reproduction of his famous self-portrait. The original painting is displayed in the room when VIPs spend the night here. Unfortunately, ordinary visitors do not get to enjoy this special service.

Another example is the room of Oei Tiong Ham, Indonesia's 20th-century sugar tycoon. Some of Oei's property, such as the tables and chairs he used when receiving business guests, can be found in this room.

At this point, it is interesting to find out why people are willing to stay at an exotic hotel, when the room rates are much higher than at ordinary hotels. The answer depends on what you need a hotel for.

A businessman usually chooses a hotel that provides good service and charges a reasonable rate. Others, like Warih, prefer to spend the night on the train. And backpackers have their own community.

Then there are people who would like to buy a particular experience and not bother about the price. Just imagine, before you fall sound asleep, the last thing you see is an original Raden Saleh painting. A pleasure like this is indeed very costly.