Above: The outdoor pool at The Dharmawangsa Jakarta

Jakarta's Urban Sanctuary

Unlike Southeast Asian capitals such as Bangkok and Singapore, Jakarta attracts relatively few foreign visitors. A sprawling metropolis, with an expanding population of more than 10 million people, it is primarily a political and business center. Rapid growth has led to urban problems that range from traffic gridlock to air pollution. The city’s appeal is also not enhanced by its tropical monsoon climate, which results in an extended rainy season from October to May. However, Jakarta is a gateway to Bali, Lombok and the other islands of the archipelago, as well as to Yogyakarta, the city in central Java close to the stupendous ninth-century Buddhist temple complex of Borobudur, the country’s most famous and popular attraction.

The Dharmawangsa Jakarta

The lobby at The Dharmawangsa Jakarta - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Currently, there is no recommendable five-star hotel at, or near, Jakarta International Airport, so even travelers in transit may find themselves obliged to spend a night in the city center, as we did. Many of the leading international hotel brands — Mandarin Oriental, Shangri-La, Four Seasons, Fairmont — have properties in Jakarta, but we opted to spend a night at the 99-room The Dharmawangsa Jakarta (named for an 11th-century military hero), set on a leafy 10-acre site in the district of Kebayoran Baru, an affluent residential area that was the last in the city to be developed by the Dutch colonial administration.

The pool at The Dharmawangsa Jakarta - The Dharmawangsa Jakarta

Although the hotel is located only 20 miles from the airport, the midafternoon transfer lasted nearly two hours. (An early-morning return trip took less than 45 minutes.) Aside from its verdant setting, the most obvious virtue of The Dharmawangsa is that it has a strong sense of place, with architecture and public areas inspired by classic Javanese art and culture. On arrival, our reception was efficient and ceremonious without being stiff.

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