After landing the walk to immigration seemed endless, but eventually made it and signs seemed pretty clear where I needed to go. The visa on arrival desk was well marked, and despite a rather lengthy queue pretty efficient. The lines for passport control looked pretty long, so I was relieved to see that after paying my money and getting my visa I was also stamped in and waived past normal passport control. Overall, pretty efficient!
I already knew there was no Uber in Indonesia anymore, but Grab was available. It took me a bit to figure out where the Grab pickup point was, but once I got close there were helpful Grab “agents” in “Grab green” helping you to find the car that was picking you up. Overall, it worked quite well.
The drive to my hotel wasn’t too bad, and soon I was at the Ritz Carleton Pacific Place. I attempted to check-in at the desk in the lobby, but was escorted up to the Executive Lounge for check-in. What hadn’t been fully clear to be before arriving is that the Ritz is the top floors of the hotel and all rooms have Executive Lounge access, while lower flowers are the “residences” which you can still book as a regular hotel – but don’t necessarily have Executive Lounge access. Confused yet? Read on.
Once I arrived with my escort in the lounge, the lounge agent instantly knew who I was and told me she would escort me to my room to check in. “I hope you do not mind, but we had to change your room for an upgrade.” Ok, I’ll never complain about an upgrade. I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention until we got outside and I realized…
I’d been upgraded to the Presidential Suite. All 3,600 square meters of it. It’s pretty awesome when your room has its own website! I was a bit floored…and it was a new experience sitting on “my” own living room sofa to do check-in.
Best part of all? I was informed that “President Obama has stayed in this room as well!” Sweet! Maybe greatness will rub off on me after all!
So, let me give you a tour. The dining room:
The kitchen, complete with bar. The door to the left is the kitchen area with a fully stocked fridge (chargeable as minibar) and full silverware, crystal, tableware, etc…
Living room #1:
Living room/lounge #2:
The office…which strangely had no outlets, so I didn’t find very useful…unless I wanted to invite my minions over and shout at them across the table?
The master bedroom:
I’m definitely not fancy enough to need a dressing room complete with walk-in closet, but just in case you are…
The washroom. Biggest question I never figured out: why the need for a chair? In case someone wants to watch you in the jacuzzi tub (with great views of Jakarta) or while you’re on the throne?
Yup…this is mine (for one night). All mine!
After luxuriating a bit I was a bit tired, so decided to go to the attached Pacific Place Mall to find some caffeine. While attempting to locate Starbucks, I first came across a really odd sculpture display in the mall of smiling food…and then a restaurant oddly-named…”Fook Yew!”
It was super convenient being on top of the Pacific Place Mall, which is connected to the Ritz via an underground walkway with no need to go outside. It’s definitely a high end upscale luxury mall with super fancy brands, but also lots of restaurants and most importantly: Starbucks!
Adequately caffeinated, but still super tired, I headed back to my room for the evening, in hopes I would have enough energy the next day to enjoy Jakarta before heading to the airport.
Back to my room, and noticed something I’d overlooked before. Looks like President Obama left something behind…I knew it! LOLZ
After a bit of rest, I decided to head down to the executive lounge and see what “Happy Hour” was all about.
So yes, it was a regular happy hour with free-flowing drinks, but also a buffet so large you could easily make a meal out of it. I wasn’t terribly hungry still from the flight, so light snacks was all I wanted…and they were absolutely delicious.
On top of that, the service was absolutely stellar. I don’t know how they do it, but all the staff knew my name the moment I walked in (do they take pictures at check-in? This was a different crew…) and never once was I not addressed by it. Not that this is a big deal to me, I was just really impressed by all the little details. It was a wonderful and relaxing evening especially given I was too tired and jetlagged to really adventure much.
After a great night’s sleep, it was back to the lounge for a light breakfast:
I say light breakfast, because you could easily have stuffed yourself with made to order hot items and a huge expansive buffet as well. You really would never need to leave the hotel if you didn’t want to. Breakfast was provided, morning tea, full lunch service, afternoon tea, and evening cocktails and a buffet. It was basically an all-inclusive hotel, and probably the single best hotel experience I’ve ever had….and I’d even be saying that without the generous upgrade.
(Oh, and in case you were wondering, the AC was also wonderful in my room(s). All five AC units worked wonderfully – LOL)
While the choice of like 12 different teas at breakfast was nice, you know where I headed for my predictable caffeine fix in the attached mall. Complete with Christmas decorations in early November. Ugh.
Decided to do a little shopping after coffee, and picked up a couple of awesome batik shirts for myself.
After that, I decided to ride Jakarta’s relatively-new subway system and find myself somewhere authentic and local for lunch. An Indonesian co-worker told me one of her favourite places, and since I’m a subway geek I rode it to the nearest stop before taking a Grab the last mile or so. The subway is only about a three minute walk from the Pacific Place mall, so not terrible even in the extreme heat and humidity.
I exited near the Selamat Datang monument, so had to grab a picture to prove I was in Jakarta:
Lunch was at Gado Gado Cemara, which my coworker had told me to visit when I told her I liked gado gado. The Grab driver was hysterical – when he saw my destination he just kept saying “salad – you get salad!” – which I only later learned that gado gado is bahasa for salad.
The menu looked promising:
Although the inside was spartan, it was 100% locals and packed, which was a great sign. (This picture taken after everyone but me left – every seat was taken when I arrived):
Amazing and delicious gado gado and chicken satay. The perfect “local” lunch and a great experience of wandering into a neighbourhood where there wasn’t a single westerner or tourist, the staff spoke not a word of English, and the food was delicious. Given it was crowded I figured it was “safe” but we would see in 24 hours….oh, and all this was maybe $4.
Full and happy, I grabbed a Grab back to the Ritz to wind down, cool down, and shower for a couple hours before heading back to the airport. I was really happy with how much I did in such a limited time given the jetlag, and excited for the next stop: KL!