Land of the 5-Star Resort?

Mar 1st, 2009, in IM Posts, Opinion, Travel, by

Chris wonders about travel writers’ priorities when selecting Indonesian tourist attraction highlights.

Greetings, fellow IM readers! I’m hoping to encourage you and your friends to share relevant travel experience with other residents and tourists. I thought we would start with a discussion of the best of Indonesia.

In her book, “1000 Places To See Before You Die: A Traveller’s Life List” (http://www.1000beforeyoudie.com/), Patricia Schultz reportedly spent seven years researching the world’s 1000 best places for tourists to visit.

Ms Schultz selected nine locations from Indonesia. Some people will be glad to know that she found more places here than Indonesia's neighbour's Malaysia (5), Singapore (3), Brunei (0), Philippines (3) and Papua New Guinea (3).

However, when I look at the list for Indonesia:

  • Hiking/bike-riding in Central Bali
  • Four Seasons Resort at Jimbaran Bay
  • Ubud and the Amandari (a resort)
  • Baliem Valley
  • Borobodur and the Amanjiwo (a nearby resort)
  • Yogyakarta
  • Lombok
  • Awanwana (a resort on Pulau Moyo, Sumbawa)
  • Torajaland (a.k.a. Tanah Toraja)

I get a little disturbed that about half of the places mentioned are places to stay, rather than tourist attractions themselves. (The page on Lombok also recommends the Oberoi Hotel.)

Amandari Ubud
Amandari Ubud

Now, I know that the place you stay can make that holiday a little more (or less) pleasant for you, but I would have thought that the purpose of travelling to a country like Indonesia is to visit places there, NOT to just stay in a hotel all day; you don’t have to travel overseas to do that.

Another thing that concerns me is the prices of these establishments. As “1000 Places…” was published in 2003, I have included some more recent data, all in $US:

  1. = 1000 Places price, 2003.
  2. = Lonely Planet price, 2007
  3. = Hotel’s official website price, March 2009
  4. = AsiaRooms price, March 2009
  • Four Seasons Resort, Jimbaran Bay - 1. $575 2. N/A 3. $680 4. $696
  • Amandari, Ubud - 1. $600 2. $600 3. N/A 4. $798
  • Amanjiwo, Yogyajakarta - 1. $575 2. $650 3. N/A 4. $741
  • Oberoi Hotel, Lombok - 1. $240 2. N/A 3. $250 4. $263
  • Amanwana*, Pulau Moyo - 1. $725 2. $725 3. N/A 4. $741

*Getting there requires a charter flight and boat ride costing up to $550 for two.

What proportion of international (and domestic) travellers would choose to stay at places that are so expensive, and what is their motivation for doing so? Is it only the very rich for whom “money is no object”? What proportion of international tourists are happy to spend more on one night at a swish hotel than on the airfare getting there, and little to no time seeing the destination itself? I wouldn’t have thought it would be that many, at least not the kind of person who would also read Ms Schultz’s book.

But that’s just my opinion. I would like to now open it to you for your comments.

Do you agree with Ms Schultz’s list of places for Indonesia? If not, what do you believe should be included and/or omitted?

I would also be interested to hear from anyone who has stayed at one of these resorts/hotels, and whether you feel the service/facilities match the price.


11 Comments on “Land of the 5-Star Resort?”

  1. avatar boy says:

    sounds very commercial, although to certain extent the list is true.

    I read another 1000-places book in Gramedia, it adds more places:

    1. Toba Lake
    2. Bromo Mountain
    3. Raja Ampat
    4. Bunaken

  2. avatar hary says:

    I have stayed at the Amanjiwa and the Four Season’s. Having said that, I have also stayed at the excellent Ministry of Coffee for USD 40 in Jogja and the brilliant Kembali Villas (USD 25) in Amed, Bali.

    The luxury places are quite an attraction in themselves. The real question is what the traveler wants from his holiday hotel. Needless to say, I spend most of the 24 hours in the luxury Hotel when I am splurging. My motivation is to enjoy a slice of heaven and remind myself why I work so hard when I am not on holiday.

    I have also stayed at the Source in Bali. It has 24 villas and was fully booked when I was there. Again, supply flourishes when there is a demand. Clearly, there is a steady demand for high end accomodation.

    Do note that guests at these resorts actually do visit places around them, albeit in a Lexus SUV!!!

    To add to her list, I would venture
    1. Komodo/ Rinca for the dragons
    2. Sunrise at Bromo
    3. A Kecak performance by moonlight at Tanah Lot
    4. Diving at the Gili Islands to see the Manta Rays
    5. The Ramayana Ballet at Borobodur
    6. the Hurau Valley outside Bukit Tinggi.

    I agree that Hotels have no place on such a list. Perhaps the book was sponsored, in part, by the aman resort group. Terlalu obvious deh…

  3. avatar ET says:

    Hiking/bike-riding in Central Bali

    This could be an experience by itself, particularly if you enjoy the paving of once pristine rice-fields to become parking-lots for needless restaurants, hotels and decrepit shops to cater for the tourist cattle. Go and have a look at the Ceking terraces in Tegalalang and come back to tell me that you were not disgusted.

  4. avatar Mike says:

    Lists like these are very subjective and are just the author’s point of view. If you have the money, an expensive hotel can be an attraction in itself.

    I have only flipped through the book, but I think it is more for arm chair tourists. And I don’t think anyone can help adding up how many places you have been to.

  5. avatar timdog says:

    Kinda worth coming back for… maybe… hey, it’s an idle moment, I’m having a cup of tea, so what the hell!

    These list books are stupendously vacuous and banal. There is an absolute glut of them at the moment (501 Places, 1000 places, 1001 places, 100 cities, 500 adventures blah blah blah)…
    Most of them seem to have been put together in offices by people who haven’t actually been to the places in question, using wikipedia and other guidebooks (possibly also written by people who haven’t been there) for research…

    They are relatively quick and easy for publishers to put out; they are designed as birthday and christmas gifts, and doubtless very few of their readers will ever go to any of the places involved…

    BUT – this has to be one of the worst examples, and given the prominance of HOTELS for f%&%sake, it’s hard not to assume that money has changed hands, that inclusion in this book has been bought, which makes it somewhat objectionable…

    On the rest of the list – “must see lists” are not the way to approach travel to a foreign country.
    Someone who spends 12 hours in Soekarno-Hatta Airport, with their eyes open and their senses switched on will probably get a richer, more valuable cultural experience than someone who trots around around Indonesia frantically ticking off “must sees” from their 1001 places to see before you die list…

    And though pure indulgent selfishness usually steers me well clear of environmentalist hand-wringing over airmiles and carbon emissions, travelling to the other side of the world just to see a frickin’ HOTEL does seem kind of obscene to me…

  6. avatar ET says:

    Someone who spends 12 hours in Soekarno-Hatta Airport, with their eyes open and their senses switched on will probably get a richer, more valuable cultural experience …

    Especially on a Friday afternoon when the gates are magically turned into prayer rooms and all kafirs are requested to go and wait elsewhere.

  7. avatar Lairedion says:

    On the rest of the list – “must see lists” are not the way to approach travel to a foreign country.

    So what is the right way? I wouldn’t recommend spending 12 hrs. at Cengkareng to anybody.

  8. avatar Burung Koel says:

    It is getting harder and harder to find the ‘right way’. Either the travel guide writers are in the pocket of luxury hotels (as in this case) or they are culturally insensitive party animals looking to hook up with others of like mind (anything produced by Lonely Planet in the last 15 years). Personally, I prefer to get my travel information more leisurely and with greater intelligence. Books on Indonesia by writers like Simon Winchester (Krakatoa), Giles Milton (Nathaniel’s Nutmeg), Nigel Barley (Not a Hazardous Sport) are a pleasure. Especially if you are stuck in Cenkareng for 12 hours! Like him or loathe him, I also read everything by Paul Theroux. He is someone who can deliver the essence of a place in a few deceptively simple paragraphs.

    /Book Review Section of IM

  9. avatar Rob says:

    If I had the time, or the inclination to do so, I am sure that I could come up with a book titled “1001 things to see and do in Indonesia before you kick the bucket!”

    My very own bucket list…

  10. avatar schmerly says:

    So I assume the kicking of the bucket is the last “1” on the list?

  11. avatar Burung Koel says:

    Or perhaps “Cremation – Balinese style”? 🙂

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