Hotel Trio, Solo: A Grand Hotel at a Tiny Price


Hotel TrioSet in a beautiful old building, I had been eyeing up the exterior of this hotel with its grand mansion look for a while, and I was pleased that the interior did not disappoint. Set in what appears to have been a large house, with massive double doors and a spacious hallway, it is hard to believe that this is merely a budget hotel.

There are two types of rooms, standard rooms which are in a separate modern two-storey building at the back of the hotel, cleverly designed with rooms looking out to a pond area and space to relax outside, and more expensive rooms which are in the original part of the building.

We took a cheaper standard room, with twin beds (none of the standard rooms have a double bed), and were pleasantly surprised by the facilities: hot water, air conditioning, TV and breakfast, for only Rp. 150,000 or about $15. I took a sneaky peek at the more expensive rooms which were very large, with king size and single beds, and a seating area.

There were clean towels and blankets in our room and soap was provided. I was pleased with the overall cleanliness which was of a very high standard. The air conditioning kept the temperature perfectly cool, but not too cold, and there was very little noise from other guests. The rooms were far enough back from the main road to be free from traffic noise. We watched TV, which was set on a bracket above the door, in the perfect position to be watched in bed. The bathroom featured a sit-down toilet, a traditional Javanese style water trough but with hot water as well as cold. There was also a sink and mirror outside the bathroom.

Garden Area and Cheap RoomsService at the hotel was polite, efficient and friendly. Breakfast was a choice of fried rice, noodles or bread, with tea or coffee.

Overall Hotel Trio is amazing value for money compared to other hotels and even hostels in Solo. Mainly catering to Indonesian guests, it’s time that foreigners considered Hotel Trio for great facilities and a good night’s sleep at the same price as a hostel.

Hotel Trio is located right in the centre of town, just north of Pasar Gedhe, at Jalan Jen. Urip Sumoharjo No. 25, Surakarta. Telephone 0271 632847 or 0271 656240.

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What I Ate: Sate Ayam or Chicken Satay


Part of an occasional series about food I have eaten in South East Asia.

Sate AyamSate ayam, or chicken satay, cooked over glowing embers, giving it a slightly smokey flavour. With a generous drizzle of peanut sauce. Sitting on a bed of lontong. Lontong is rice wrapped up tightly in a banana leaf in a tube shape, and boiled until the rice grains are no longer visible, then allowed to cool, before being opened and cut into chunky slices to eat.

 

Sate ayam is usually sold in the evening here in Central Java, both at street food stalls with mats for diners to sit on, and by sellers who push their boat-shaped trolleys around the streets hawking their fare. Many sate sellers are from the island Madura, just northeast of Java, and Sate Ayam Madura is therefore well-known.

Hotel Review: Solo Paragon – Breathtaking Views from the Tallest Building in Solo


Solo Paragon is by far the tallest building in the city of Solo (Surakarta), Central Java. The views from the hotel rooms out across the city and to the mountains in the background are simply breathtaking. If you love a great view, stay at Paragon. At the time of writing it is also Solo’s newest international hotel.

View from the room

We stayed for one night in a deluxe room on the fifteenth floor; this is the type of room with a separate seating area with a sofa and chair, and a TV that swivels so you can watch from the sofa or in bed. We were impressed by the size and spacious feeling of the room, as well as the many windows from which to admire the view.

The bathroom was on the small side, with a gloomy shower cubicle, the type where the sprayer is fixed to the wall. There was no bath tub. As darkness fell, we discovered that the hotel room itself wasn’t particularly well lit, with an assortment of lamps but no main lights.

The air conditioning worked well and we liked that you can also open the windows. There was a minibar, and tea/coffee making facilities, but only one teabag and one coffee sachet, in a room clearly designed for two people.

Seating area in deluxe room

Everything was very clean and functioned well. The TV had some international channels such as National Geographic, MGM and StarSport, as well as local channels. The bed was comfortable and we slept soundly.

We were not overly impressed by the service, having queued for a long time to check in, while watching a reception staff member standing around doing very little. The hotel interior is not always well signposted. We went to the mall which is attached to the hotel, and struggled to find the way there. The hotel room was also lacking in information about hotel facilities; there was no brochure for the spa or information about the fitness centre facilities, but there were advertisements for hotel rooms and accommodation packages displayed in the room.

The hotel has a swimming pool, fitness centre and spa, of which we tried the pool. It was definitely on the small side and a uniform depth of 1.2m, with a shallower kids’ pool, but it was pleasant and peaceful.

Swimming pool

In my opinion, Solo Paragon is worth it for the amazing views across the city. However, if views aren’t your thing, check out the other hotels in Solo; there are many to choose from. See my previous articles for other ideas: Lor In Resort, other hotels.

Hotel Review – Lor In Solo: A relaxing, well-designed resort with lush, green gardens and a creative pool area


 

We checked in early and were given a free upgrade to an executive room because the hotel was quite full. During our one night stay at this five-star hotel, however, we never felt that it was crowded, due to the cleverly landscaped hotel area and the abundance of trees, plants and  design features. We were surprised that after checking in we were not shown to our room, and it took us a while to find it.

 

The executive room was spacious with a large, soft bed, armchair, desk and chair, plenty of wardrobe space and a flatscreen TV, an empty minibar fridge, tea and coffee making facilities and a safe. The air-conditioning worked but we couldn’t make it very cold; even if we set it to a very lower temperature there was little difference. There was a balcony outside which faced into some palm trees with the large lawn of the gardens behind. The bathroom was nice, with a shower over the large bath. We had some difficulty removing the bath plug. There was some mould around the top of the washbasin, though it was not visible from above. Free wifi was available in our room, which I used a great deal. The speed was good, but the username and password we were given would only allow one user at a time, meaning that my husband and I could not log on simultaneously. The TV had all the local Indonesian channels, as well as BBC News 24, HBO, Star Sports, Cartoon Network and a few others. Before we went to sleep we had difficulty switching off all the lamps in our room; there were several switches that didn’t do anything and lamps that wouldn’t turn off. In the end we just unplugged them.

 

 

The hotel has a gym, and separate ladies’ and gents’ sauna and jacuzzi. I tried the jacuzzi but found that the water splashed really high into the air, so it wasn’t really a gentle relaxing activity. The well-stocked gym has two rooms, one for fitness with treadmills and exercise bikes and the other with weight-training equipment. The swimming pool is very well designed, in a free form shape set in gardens with stone carvings, plenty of plants and trees, and a bar. Sunbeds and parasols are set on a terraced area overlooking the pool, and there is a children’s pool attached to the main one.

 

 

Free wifi is available in the hotel lobby (for non-guests as well as guests) from the 24 hour cafe. We enjoyed a free welcome drink from the cafe and made use of the fast internet.

 

Breakfast was a large buffet with something to suit all tastes. There was bread and cakes, cereal and yoghurt, pancakes, fried foods, Indonesian foods like bubur, bakso and rice dishes.

 

Overall, we were very pleased with the hotel; it has a relaxing atmosphere and a resort-like feel, which is what we were looking for.

 

Lor In Solo: A relaxing, well-designed resort with lush, green gardens and a creative pool area

Solo Part Eight: Food and Drink


Food is important to Solonese people who often discuss their favourite warung  or eatery. As well as local specialities, food from across the Indonesian archipelago can be tasted in Solo. Packed with all kinds of eateries, from cheap street food to top knotch restaurants, visitors to Solo have a wide choice of where to eat. Check out my Googlemap to see the locations of some of my favourite places to eat.

Javanese cuisine in Solo

Nasi liwet, a Solonese speciality is rice (nasi) with cooked bamboo shoots and a light coconut sauce. It can be served with egg or chicken and is a nice light meal.

Nasi gudheg, originally from Yogya but widely available in Solo, is stewed jackfruit, beans, leaves and cow skin (yes really) in a sauce, served on rice. It can be eaten with chicken, egg, tofu, tempeh and others.

Soto is rice soup, often with beansprouts, and chicken or beef. Add some spicy sambal (chilli paste) and kecap manis (sweet thick soy sauce) and eat with fried tempeh and tofu. This is often eaten as a breakfast meal but can be eaten throughout the day and some places sell soto at night.

Bakso is meatballs, usually beef, served in a stock or soup with noodles and some leafy vegetables. Add sambal and kecap manis (as above). This meal makes a nice break from rice.

Gado-gado is a mixture of vegetables, egg and tempeh in a peanut sauce, served cold with krupuk (rice crackers) crushed on top. Another good way to avoid rice!

Lotek is similar to gado-gado but involves more leafy vegetables and tends to be spicier.

Nasi goreng is fried rice, usually cooked with egg and can be spicy. Variations include chicken, seafood, and so on.

Mi or mie is the word for noodles, which can be fried (mie goreng) or boiled (mie rebus, mie godok). Usually with vegetables and egg, can be spicy.

Ayam goreng (fried chicken), bebek goreng (fried duck) ikan goreng (fried fish) and other similar dishes follow a basic theme of fried main food item, served with rice, sambal (chilli paste), cucumber and cabbage leaves. These dishes are usually eaten without a spoon, using one’s fingers.

Ayam bakar (grilled chicken) and other grilled meat or fish is served and eaten in the same way as the fried versions above. The meat is grilled in a sweet sauce or kecap.

Ayam tulang lunak is served and eaten as above. This time the chicken is cooked until the bones are soft and you can actually eat them.

Bubur is rice porridge, available in both sweet (bubur sum-sum) and savoury (bubur ayam) versions. It can also be called jenang.

Nasi pecel is a slightly spicy peanut sauce over beansprouts and leafy spinach-like vegetables served on rice. This can be eaten with egg, tempeh, tofu and so on.

Sop buntut is oxtail soup, served with rice.

Selat is not salad. It is a selection of cooked but cold vegetables such as potato, carrot, served with a sweet sauce.

Gorengan are deep-fried snacks, such as tempeh, tofu, banana etc. Healthy stuff!

Krupuk are rice crackers, available in various shapes and sizes and eaten as an accompaniment to almost any food.

Srabi, a sweet snack and a Solonese speciality, are small pancakes topped with a sweet rice mixture and your choice of banana, papaya, chocolate or coconut.

Drinks

Teh is Javanese tea, a mixture of black and jasmine tea, served hot or with ice, sweet and without milk.

Kopi is coffee, served sweet, hot or iced, with or without milk.

Jeruk means citrus fruit and refers to a drink made of juicing a small orange, mixing with hot water and sugar, and serving hot or iced. Jeruk nipis refers to a lime rather than an orange, which is also used to make this drink.

Jahe means ginger and refers to a drink using ginger, hot water and sugar. Teh jahe is the combination of tea with the ginger drink.

Wedang is the Javanese word for drink.

Wedang ronde is a hot gingery drink served in a small bowl with a spoon. In the liquid there are several balls of glutinous rice with peanut butter inside, among other things such as peanuts.

Sekoteng is similar to wedang ronde but without the peanut butter balls, and sometimes with raisins or other dried fruit pieces.

Solo Part Six: Performing Arts


Solo is a hub for traditional performing arts, with many regular performances taking place. In this article I provide a guide to some of the routine events, but you should ask around when you get here, since schedules can change and performances are sometimes cancelled. In particular, many performances are cancelled during Ramadan.

In order to follow the schedule for many of the routine performances you need to be familiar with the Javanese calendar. This is a five day calendar, with days named Pon, Wage, Kliwon, Legi and Pahing. This calendar runs in parallel to the usual seven day calendar, thereby coinciding once every 35 days. Javanese mark auspicious and significant days according to this 35 day cycle, with dual names such as Jumat Kliwon (where Jumat is Friday), which is the coincidence of Friday with Kliwon.

Since many of the regular performances follow this 35 day schedule it is wise to check a Javanese calendar to find out when these days fall. Calendars are everywhere in Solo, so just ask at the place you are staying at, or look for one online. Public performances in Solo are usually funded by a private sponsor or institution, and are therefore free to watch. Most wayang kulit shows run all night from around 9pm to 4am, while other performance genres tend to be shorter in length. The audience is free to chat, eat, drink, smoke and come and go as they please.

The Javanese way to refer to evening events is to call them by the eve of the next day.For example, Malam Jumat is the eve of Friday, that is, Thursday night. This can be somewhat confusing at first.

Here is a list of some routine performances in and around Solo. I’m sure there are others I have missed.

Wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre with gamelan music)

  • Every Malam Jumat Kliwon (the eve of Friday Kliwon) at TBS, 9pm – 4am.
  • Every 14th of the month at the home of Ki Purbo Asmoro, Gebang, Mojosongo, 9pm – 12am.
  • Every Minggu Pahing Malam (Sunday Pahing evening), at the home of Ki Purbo Asmoro, Gebang, Mojosongo, 9pm – 2am.
  • Every Malam Rebo Legen (the eve of Wednesday Legi) at the home of Ki Anom Suroto.
  • Every Malam Selasa Legen (the eve of Tuesday Legi) at the home of Ki Manteb Sudarsono.
  • Every Malam Minggu Legi (the eve of Sunday Legi) at Balai Agung, next to the Alun-alun Utara, a small intimate venue.
  • Every Malam Minggu Pahing (the eve of Sunday Pahing) at SMKI, gamelan high school, in Kepatihan.
  • Every third Friday of the month at RRI (Radio Republic Indonesia) Surakarta, in an unusual theatre-like setting, 9pm – 3am.

Klenengan (gamelan music concert)

  • Every Malam Selasa Legen (the eve of Tuesday Legi) at Balai Soedjatmiko, Gramedia, a different group performs each month, 8pm – 11.30pm.
  • Pujangga Laras, approximately once a month but different dates and locations, 8pm – 2am.
  • Every Malam Setu Pon (the eve of Saturday Pon) there is a radio broadcast at the Mangkunegaran Palace, 9pm – 11pm.

Dance (Tari)

  • Every 26th of the month at SMKI, 8pm – 10pm.

Wayang orang (wayang wong), with people acting instead of puppets

  • Every evening except Sunday at Gedung Wayang Orang, Sri Wedari, 8pm – 10pm.

There are also frequent performances of wayang, dance and gamelan music at ISI Surakarta, the city’s arts institute, in Kentingan.