I was due to depart to Jakarta to collect my passport and Visa and since it was a Friday departure, I decided to spend the weekend in the city, taking the opportunity to stay at Grand Hyatt Jakarta. Having had the chance to stay in the Ritz-Carlton Jakarta at Mega Kuningan and the Kempinski Hotel Indonesia, I was keen to find out how the much older Grand Hyatt would compete with these newer properties. As a Hyatt Gold Passport member and several upcoming Hyatt stays at the end of the year, I would also get fresh activity on this card since it was years ago that I last stayed at a Hyatt. As usual I took a morning flight out of Bandar Lampung, a township on the southern tip of Sumatra for a 40 minute plane ride across the Sunda Straits into Jakarta. The morning flight would be great for me to collect my passport in time during the afternoon and maximize the day for me. This choice would also be great because of the new aircraft from Garuda servicing this route at this time of the day, which is why I am dedicating the first part of this journal entry for the flight to Jakarta.
GA133 Bandar Lampung Raden Inten TKG – Jakarta Soekarno Hatta CGK
18 Nov 2010
Garuda Indonesia now has a great fleet of 737-800s and it was really suprising that they would use one of their new airplanes for this short route which is also the first flight out of Bandar Lampung for the day. On check-in when I requested for an emergency exit seat row and was assigned seat number 15F for a window seat, I just knew that the plane today wouldn’t be the usual 737-400s since emergency seat row on that aircraft is on row 10. My guess is that higher passenger traffic in this route and increasing competition must have prompted Garuda to differentiate their service and justify their higher price point.
In addition to the new aircraft, Garuda Indonesia is now adding a 4th scheduled flight between Jakarta and Bandar Lampung, which was a good business decision since the flights are frequently operating at 80% to a full load. Boarding that ay was early at 7.40am and as I boarded the plane through the stairs, and settled into my seat, the captain announced the flight plan and destination just to make sure we’re on the right plane. Some passengers chuckled at this joke since all the planes from Bandar Lampung flies to Jakarta anyway and there was no other plane in sight on the tarmac. The captain also predicted fair weather ahead and estimated a flight time of less than 35 minutes. While pre-flight checks are being made, the flight attendants passed on a tray of sweets to passengers and conducted the safety demonstration, as well as pointed out to passengers seated on the emergency exit row of the additional safety procedure manual on the seat back pocket.
Boarding soon completed and the plane started pullback at around 8.02 and took off by 8.05am, right on the dot as stated on the boarding pass. How punctual! Today’s flight was relatively light and there was an empty middle seat on my row which afforded me lots of space. One thing I noticed was the the slightly narrower seat pitch on the emergency exit seat row onboard the 737-800 compared to the 737-400. The newer seat, however, provided much better lumbar support and was cleaner in my opinion. For this short service, it was amazing how the crew managed to serve the snack box which consists of one bread, a packet of Kit-Kat and a pack of TehBotol, a favourite beverage amongst Indonesians. I prefer their snack boxes which that the packet of peanuts though so I was kind of disappointed this snack box didn’t have that.
By 8.25, the crew collected most of the snack boxes which have been consumed, and asked for passengers to prepare for landing and I could see from the personal in-flight TV screen that we took the long way into Jakarta and yet still manage to land early at 8.34am. Upon landing, the aircraft veered sideways a bit and scared the passenger beside me though it was alright as the plane taxied towards the terminal safely. However the packed situation at Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta that morning meant no aerobridge was allocated for the aircraft and we would take the bus to the terminal. I went out via the front staircase and passed by the new Executive Class colour scheme which was in furnished in a red/black colour scheme and looks classy. As I went down the staircase, I took a shot of the nose cone of the plane and got a nice suprise from the friendly captain who waved at me. All in all, another great plane flight and kudos to Garuda for bringing the 737-800 to this route since I foresee me taking this route quite often.
I had a relative’s chauffeur to pick me up that day from the airport and proceeded to the Visa Application Center first to collect my Passport and Visa before heading to the hotel for check-in. Entering the hotel is like entering an oasis with its tiered garden waterfall, and guests have to take an escalator up to the check-in desk. Even though with this slight inconvenience, I found the lobby grand and magnificent! The ‘Grand’ moniker in the Hyatts in Asia seems to exude from the style of its lobby which are vast marble monoliths and would be considered ‘grand’ in the early 1990s. My last stay a few years back at the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong was good, but the service staff at check-in seemed incompetent and doesn’t seem very welcoming to guests. I think staff on the front desk provide a very important face of a hotel property from the smile to the enthusiasm in their work. These reflect on the guests themselves and provides a certain feeling of warmth especially after arriving from a flight and a taxi. This time, the service at the Grand Hyatt Jakarta was great and I was promptly given my room key and also provided with a voucher for a 50% dining discount at C’s Restaurant. However, the receptionist doesn’t seem to understand on the morning coffee service provided for Gold Passport members. One feature for Hyatt Gold Passport members I like is the ability to order complimentary coffee/tea in the morning to be sent to the room, but they don’t seem to have this service in this Hyatt property. Since it was just for a 2 weekend night stay, I didn’t bother to press on.
The hotel seemed to have noted down my preference for a high floor room with a view of the roundabout fountain commonly referred to as Bunderan HI (HI for Hotel Indonesia which is a landmark hotel by the corner of the fountain). Having stayed at the Kempinski Hotel Indonesia and the Ritz Carlton Kuningan, I found the Grand Hyatt in Jakarta to be slightly dated. The room size, though was impressive and upon entering, there is a walk in closet with a baggage cabinet and long term stay amenities like ironing boards and a safe. Opposite the closet lies the luxurious bathroom decked in marble like the one in Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. A bathtub lies at the end and there is also a separate shower cubicle. The trademark Grand Hyatt design and contemporary decor is in the room and it was comfortable despite its age.
The bedroom itself is huge and spans across 2 bay windows providing a great view of the Bunderan HI and the traffic below. As many people have noted, the view of the Bunderan HI is best savoured from the Grand Hyatt since from this viewpoint, the landmark Hotel Indonesia, now managed by Kempinski pose as an impressive backdrop. The evening twilight view is even better from the room and it was one of the reason why I wanted to try out this hotel even though it was slightly dated. There was a King bed at one end, a bar cabinet, couch, side table and a work desk by the window on the other end. The LCD TV is placed along the wall at the center and the TV could then be swivelled to either side to face the work desk or the bed. Overall great functionality in the room, though it was slightly empty in my opinion. There was already a platter of green apples in the room provided as an amenity and this would be replaced for the 2 nights I was staying which I thought was generous. The list of TV channels was impressive, unlike the one in Marina Bay Sands which probably has one of the worst selection of channels amongst upscale hotels. I got to watch Amazing Race on AXN, financial news on Bloomberg and National Geographic documentaries. I also tried the in-room wi-fi and was pleased at the speed of the connection, considering internet in Indonesia is pretty slow.
However, the best feature of the hotel has got to be its location. Like I mentioned before the Grand Hyatt is located right beside the Bunderan HI, just opposite the Kempinski Hotel Indonesia, and counts 2 other international hotels – the Mandarin Oriental and the Hotel Nikko as its neighbours. However the latter 2 has no access to a shopping mall while the Grand Indonesia Mall connected to the Kempinski is no match for Plaza Indonesia which is connected to the Grand Hyatt. This large shopping mall which features an entertainment annexe provides a multitude of dining and shopping options for guests at the hotel and direct access means great convenience and choices for my meals. I could easily have my breakfast at the mall and also got to catch a Premiere screening of the 7th installment of the Harry Potter movie which opened the weekend I was there. With the 50% discount voucher, I also got a great deal of fine dining at the C’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant and was not disappointed. In fact I think I found a nice place for western cuisine in Jakarta.
On my last day, I got up early and proceeded to have a swim at the large resort style pool of the hotel. Compared to the small scale of the pool at Kempinski Hotel Indonesia, the pool in the Grand Hyatt was comparable to that in a Balinese resort. Even the decor around the pool was great with a large verandah at one of the alcove overlooking the pool, some bridge crossing the free-form pool and lots of sun decks around it with lush tropical plants bordering the area. The pool makes this hotel seems like a resort oasis right in the middle of the city.
In comparison to my current 2 favourite hotels in Jakarta which is the Kempinski Hotel Indonesia and the Ritz-Carlton Kuningan, I found the Grand Hyatt to be 2nd in service after the Ritz-Carlton, best in location and facilities, though it has some of the oldest rooms. With similar price points to Hotel Indonesia, I might still consider this hotel since it will earn me points and with the right Hyatt promotion, it might be more value for money. Moreover I thought the staff in this hotel is much more polished compared to the erratic service at Kempinski. Nothing beats the Ritz-Carlton in terms of room design and service, though for its relatively remote location, it doesn’t really register for convenience.