Central Java – Hidden gems of Central Java
Far from the maddening crowds there stands a tropical gem in Central Java.
As I awoke in the early morning, the volcanic peaks of Central Java started to reveal themselves. A backdrop of eight volcanoes surrounded by swirly mist, slowly came into view and started to take form, accompanied by the stirring sounds of rural village life. Java was awakening to greet the day. In this ancient valley, powerful kingdoms with Buddhist and Hindu roots built dynasties and created beautiful architecture, which can still be seen today. Between two historic and culturally significant cities, Yogyakarta and Solo (Surakarta), a unique luxurious wellness retreat, MesaStila, sits high above the valley, commanding the best views for sipping a cup of Javanese coffee.
As I sat enjoying this magnificent view, the scent of the Robusta coffee beans from the adjoining coffee plantation roasting house wafted past. Not only is Mesastila a retreat into nature, which blends award winning spa treatments with personalised daily wellness programs, but it also houses a productive, working coffee planation, which dates back 180 years. In fact, every afternoon at the resort a beautiful tea and coffee service is graciously served in the 1920 historic Plantation Club House.
The rich, volcanic and fertile islands of Indonesia produce some of the world’s finest coffee, and to have the opportunity to see how coffee actually gets from the coffee bushel to the final stage of roasting and grinding, gives you an appreciation of the end result. Traditional Javanese processing techniques and equipment are still used on the plantation and for someone like me, a city dweller, I found this fascinating. From wandering through the coffee fields, to browsing the stately library, housing beautiful historic books on early Dutch times and Indonesian culture, one feels the historic essence of a bygone era.
Central Java can be explored in many directions from the doorstep of Mesastila. Your day starts with a dose of traditional Javanese Jamu. Jamu is a traditional herbal medicinal tonic, which is designed to enhance your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Served with breakfast you have five choices of Jamu, prepared by the in-house Jamu master. With a focus on health, this is a great way to energise yourself with a feeling of vitality that stays with you all day.
Adventure beckons with the world’s largest Buddhist monument, Borobudur and the glorious Prambanan Hindu temple complex, only one hour away. These are two of Indonesia’s premier tourist hotspots, however there is a lesser-known plateau region called The Dieng Plateau that reveals small hidden temples and original statues built as early as the 5th century. Dieng means, “abode of the Gods” and this high plateau region carries an elevated air of mysticism and spiritual power. Walking (and horse) trails lead from the Gedong Songo temple with mesmerizing views taking in two of Java’s (sometimes) smouldering volcanoes, Merapi and Merbabu. A small collection of 9th century Hindu shrines dominates the stunning landscape and many are situated close to the sulphur-rich coloured lake, Telaga Warna. The lake is alive with sulphuric action and in fact it’s quite noisy, as a mass of gas bubbles pop and squeak their way to the surface. Within the volcanic complex, several ash cone towers are dotted around, some as high as of 300 metres – a unique sight indeed.
Spiritual rejuvenation can be incorporated daily at Mesastila and after visiting ancient temples, maybe yoga or mindful meditation might take your fancy? Being a wellness retreat, every guest has a personal consultation on arrival and an individual program is tailored to suit.
Jungles and mountains surround the resort and for those who have a love of the outdoors, a cardiovascular fitness program called the ‘Executive Recharge’ may fit the bill. This program is jungle-style and involves mountain biking and trekking – with the aid of a personal trainer and one-on-one instruction. If you have a passion for martial arts, traditional Pencak Silat is another option and there is even a weight management program for those who want to avoid the quick fix rapid weight loss plan of attack, and take a more sensible long term view of making changes and maintaining health and fitness. If you desire to improve your body shape and muscle tone, the experts are here to guide your through a core strength building program which is coupled with healthy, nutritionally balanced, low GI food, prepared for you by expert chefs.
At the end of the day, we all need a bit of luxury and pampering and there is no better place to do this than the award winning Hammam spa, which offers indulgence and spa rituals from deep-tissue massage, with rose-infused massage oil to calming scalp therapy.
To emerge from your stay re-vitalised and reconnected with your own wellness and life’s purpose, then a journey into Central Java may have you discovering your own hidden gems.
By Stephanie Brookes
Photos by David Metcalf
There are twenty-two private villas on the sprawling 55-hectare resort. They are original antique, genuine Limasan or Joglo homes, sourced from Java and reconstructed on site. Beautiful antique and modern furnishings complete each villa, resonating with the historic feel of MesaStila. All villas have large outdoor verandas, which are positioned to take in the views of the coffee plantation, jungle environment and surrounding volcanoes.
Mountain Steam Train
All aboard the historic 1920 steam train for a journey through stunning rice fields, traditional Javanese villages and plantation life. From the nearby Bedono Station guests can glimpse and feel the Colonial Dutch era. This unique rail jaunt can be combined with a trip to the Gedong Songo Shrines, built during the 8th and 9th century when the Sanjaya Dynasty ruled Java.
Passion, Javanese flavors and an international flare combine to create a variety of recipes that will enhance your wellbeing experience. All the produce is organic or locally sourced, with the focus on healthy cooking techniques, which include low fat and low GI products. The food is nutritious with an emphasis on vegetable and fish dishes and limited use of high quality meat. The casual outdoor restaurant embodies the energy of the green jungle surrounds which is within a stones throw of your table, so your senses are enlivened from smelling the jungle tropics to feasting on the healthy array on your plate. If you fancy eating on a daybed at the swimming pool – you can.
Specialising in Jamu Healing and Plantation Massage is something that they take to heart, and the delivery is in the accolades the resort has received and countless positive reviews.nIt certainly took someone’s notice and in fact, the current President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stayed here, so one could easily say the standards of MesaStila are fit for a President.
An impressive sight to behold, only one hour from the resort is Borobudur. It is the world’s largest Buddhist monument and the best time to devour the majesty of this holy monument is at sunrise or sunset. It is a relic from an ancient world, built in the 9th century AD during the Sailendra dynasty and is steeped in oral traditions and endless mysteries. It is said if you reach inside the Stupa and touch the Buddha statue, you dreams will come true.