Magical MesaStila – A Javanese Royal Retreat?

When a friendly chauffeur greeted at the airport at an early crack of dawn, it was just a sign the holiday will be a wonderful one. Between munching on complimentary snacks and short shut-eye in about 1.5 hours journey, the vehicle made its final turn into a long driveway where the discovery of MesaStila Resort and Spa (previously called Losari Coffee Plantation) and magical experience began. MesaStila is located nearby Magelang town in Central Java – which SOTG visited for the first time last year for Borobudur Marathon.

From Coffee Plantation To Resort
It’s difficult not to think about the history once in MesaStila. Dutchman Gustav Van der Swan leased the original land from the government and planted coffee seedlings in the 1920s. The property exchanged hands over time; to Indonesia’s nationalist (HOS Tjokroaminoto, the in-law of nation first president), then to Italian woman (Gabriella Teggia). She was instrumental in developing the hotel complex that took 8 years (1996 -2004). While coffee plantations continue till today, the property expanded to a resort from 10 to 22 hectares – thanks to Teggia’s vision as she discovered this property during her hiking around the mountains In 2008, the property was again sold to one of Indonesia’s richest men, Sandiaga Uno which currently is managed by Mesa Hotels and Resort.

Train Station As Reception
Welcomed by an army of staff in the lobby, SOTG noticed the unique high ceiling character and initially thought it was a chapel. Upon further discovery, it was actually a ticket office of one of the oldest train station in Indonesia which been rebuilt from pieces of teak timbers. Brought to Magelang from Mayong about 120km away when Teggia found out that the 1873  station being scrapped for firewood – an effort to preserve the history and aesthetic value to be applauded.

Heritage train station from Mayong to Magelang/Lestari. Image courtesy by: MesaStila

Colonial Club House
Via short stairs Lily, a lovely pregnant lady ushered SOTG to 1928 Dutch house where Van der Swan lived – the highest point of the property. Hot towel and drinks served to refresh while the bill is settled, and next up room key is given despite early arrival – only to check into the room after breakfast so to allow time for service.

Welcome drink and hot towels

At 600m above sea level, cooler and fresh mountain air with a stunning view of 8 majestic mountains (Mount Telomoyo, Mount Andong, Mount Merapi, Mount Ungaran, Mount Sumbing, Mount Sindoro, Mount Merbabu, and Mount Perahu) encircled the property, at that moment SOTG realized how special this place was. Manicured tropical garden and lush greens surrounded it, a calm morning only with three sounds; workers sweeping dried leaves, birds chirping and water flowing from the fountain. 

The Club House is like a box of Turkish delights – filled with exquisite arts, Javanese antiques, pieces of furniture, stacks of book collection in the library, and eye-catching awards display on the wall. Lounging on the comfy antique daybed for sunset viewing overlooking Mount Sindoro and Sumbing is a must.

MesaStila map of 22 hectares. Pointing towards Andong 3 Villa 212 where SOTG curled in like a royal.
New acquaintance met during coffee plantation tour –  Misty and boyfriend travelled from the USA posed beautifully near the fountain by The Club House.
1928 Club House MesaStila was a sanctuary for Dutchman Gustav Van der Swan – the original of coffee plantation owner.
Can I stay here permanently? Too comfy daybed on veranda  at the Club House

Distinctive Villas With Timeless Beauty
Teggia searched for traditional Javanese Limasan, Joglo or Kudus wooden houses which then been brought to the property and reconstructed to 23 villas. Each one is different to another depending on its originality as well as interiors.

Andong 3 in the lower ground is part of a huge bungalow of four Arum Villas – suit for a couple. Spacious 100 square metres size villa is decorated with arts and antique pieces of furniture such as day-bed, an extra-large double four-poster bed, round dining table, and a work desk. It’s also showcased a lavish turquoise sunken tiled bath, copper sink, and a separate shower. French door opening to a wide veranda with the view of Mount Andong, Merbabu and Merapi was simply bliss.

Fruits and fresh torch ginger flowers (where this blog name comes from) awaited on the table as SOTG walked into the villa, so as the air-conditioning, fresh petal of roses near the bath and insect burner. Turn down service was efficient – suddenly a plate of local dessert was enjoyed on the bed. I couldn’t be bothered to dress for dinner or call for in-villa dining service – was quite full from delicious afternoon tea.

For large families gathering or big group; stay in Bella Vista Villa (once a Javanese prince residence) that fit 8 to 10 guests. From a private swimming pool to personal butler service – this is the ultimate resort experience. The Plantation Villa at 80 square metres is an entry level with smaller size villa. Ambar Villas at 135 square metres, similar with Arum Villas but with an extra single bed.

Welcome fruits and fresh torch ginger flowers (name of this blog in case you didn’t realise)
Arum villa: an extra-large double four-poster bed, a console, bedsides and round dining table.
When there’s mirror on the headboard and French door opening to a deck or veranda.
Huge bathroom. Love the copper sink and countertop with the mirror reflecting shadow play framed art and could see tv room too.
Sunken bath with a stunning view of Mount Andong
Rejuvenation began inside the villa. Rose petals await by the sunken bath.

Coffee and Traditional Jamu Serving
Th complimentary coffee plantation tour which Lily organised around the block was one of highlight – also great to get bearing on the property.  Since it was blooming season, the sweet and elegant scent of white coffee flowers filled the air as we cruised through trees after trees absorbing information that Lily shared from berry picking to dried beans. 

Never leave the property without trying the complimentary jamu or herbal drink which guaranteed for generations to restore health and prevent disease. Baniyah, a jamu lady offered 6 types of tonics to choose during breakfast; a sweeter drink to follow after every shot of bitter drink. She said she drinks this every morning – that explains the youthful look of her real age! More tonic sampled at the Warung Kopi (Coffee Shed) during the coffee tour before tasting the coffee bean with palm sugar and washed down well with a glass of coffee drink.

Fitness, Wellness and Spa Indulgence
There’s a lot of other complimentary in-house-activities to recommend to do: from yoga, aqua-fit, jungle gym, power walk, circuit training to cultural immersion such as pencak silat, (Indonesia Martial Art), Javanese dance, janur (origami using coconut leaf)  and gamelan (traditional Indonesian music). A good dip in the infinity pool, complimentary bike hire around the village or play a game of tennis (equipment provided) will reenergize you. A drink in Plantation Lounge (once a coffee plantation warehouse) with a pool table and magazines available to linger around.

Yoga and mountain view

And when you want to retreat, MesaStila offers an award-winning Turkish hammam (a steam room so you don’t have to travel far to the Middle East for an outstanding scrub) and variety of spa treatments. While my body may deserve a good sports or Javanese massage post trail running, time simply did not permit but SOTG could not help to peek through its spa menu ranging from signature treatment (coffee body scrub, coffee and pandan body wrap) to Eastern healing treatments (Tui Na – acupressure points facial, jade facial for radiant, Chinese dry body massage to remove toxins, Harmonic Healing – Buddhist singing bowl massage to open Chakra, Chi Nei Tsang – Taoist massage treatment for health of internal organs).

Excursion – Discover Around
Attractions can be arranged including the glorious Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple. Other closer sights are Gedong Songo temple, Umbul temple, Grabag traditional market, and Dieng Plateau. For adventure seekers options are endless: hiking (start with nearest Andong), horse-riding, cycling to the royal bath and waterfall. Or, do what yours truly did and sign-up for Peaks Challenge trail running race. Worth checking out is the endurance and cycling camp organised by MesaStila.

Healthy and Wholesome Food
Didn’t get a chance to meet Executive Chef Arya Kusumaatmaja to inquire about commitment on SLOW – Sustainable, Local, Organic, and Wholesome. But here are SOTG’s dining experiences:

  • Breakfast ala-carte at Java Green – healthy low-fat Bircher muesli and coconut as appetizers were a fabulous start of the day at MesaStila (including the jamu too). Followed by usual Javanese hot dishes; nasi goreng (fried rice) served with pickles and bubur (congee) served with chicken broth – both made of red rice for its low in Glycemic Index.  Could have gone for a Western option; spinach and mozzarella galette served with fried quail eggs and tomatoe chutney which sounds delicious. Sipping green tea with fresh jasmine flowers from the terrace while enjoying the pool, lush jungle and mountain view, somehow the modern life stress was slowly easing.
  • Afternoon Tea at Club House veranda – A touch of Dutch influence during complimentary afternoon tea was appreciated. Warm bitterballen with cheese filling reminded of Amsterdam trip, delicious banana cake, chocolate and banana puff; paired with herbal tea called wedang secang (originally a drink of Javanese Royal) – made of 6 herbs (including secang– a chopped wood from herbal tree grows at high altitude giving tea a red colour), garnished with freshly squeezed lime and served with sugar crystal.
Breakfast in Java Green. Red rice congee with chicken, turmeric boiled egg, nut and other condiments. Served with chicken broth.
Refreshing watermelon juice with the lush green surrounding.
Afternoon tea: Dutch influence on the menu. That warm bitterballen with cheese filling was simply delicious.
Wedang secang – made of secang, lemon grass, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, cardamon; garnished with freshly squeezed lime and served with sugar crystal.

Eco Boutique Resort – worth five stars?
Aside of feeling like a Javanese royal from the luxury of spaciousness, the tranquillity of mountain view, charming staff in rendering service with care, sincerity, and wholeheartedly, the uniqueness of Javanese heritage and culture; the stay has been not about pretentiousness or lavishness (despite it claimed  of 5 stars because this is no Ritz or Four Seasons) but rather on learning about the resort management itself.  MesaStila is conscious towards the environment and people – buildings being reused and repurposed, chemical free coffee plantation using the traditional technique, the coffee produced is used in spa and restaurants, and bounty from organic vegetable gardens being utilized in the restaurants. About 172 staff from surrounding villages employed in the property to which guests contribute towards sustaining the employment. During the stay and Peaks Challenge, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting few staffs who involved in the event volunteering as well as running. Engage staff means happy staff, right?

Organic vegetable patch

Come back?
It was sad to leave magical Mesastila as the buggy carried tired legs but revitalised soul to vehicle ready for a return to Semarang. Could it be the calling of mysterious mountains that challenge inner spirit and physical ability? Or, was it Teggia’s passion for all thing Java and her labour of love which seduced return to this tranquil paradise?

Other Details/Tips:

  • This is a place for those with adventurous physical, mind and soul – prepare to be challenged by nature, be pampered and escape in the middle of cultural immersion all in one
  • Don’t for example, be surprised by native dwellers such as lizard, frog or snake. Be mindful that property is surrounded by jungle despite well-groomed garden on its premise.
  • The villas equipped with a net on every door/window but ensure they are shut especially at night as insects/bugs are easy to go in when the door is opened with the light on.
  • Request for earplugs from reception if you are light sleepers or easily intimidated by the sound of loud noise. Muslims dawn prayer calls from nearby mosques in the villages are part of culture experience – though they can be your morning wake up call for early morning hike or excursion.
  • Each villa is different, so be specific to your requirement if say you want a room with the view of a mountain and not village or jungle.
  • Lower expectation on wine selections (since you are not in French Riviera or Napa Valley), plus this is a wellness resort so perhaps consider doing a detox or cleanse diet.
  • Don’t forget to purchase the signature spa and coffee product only available at the Gift Shop.
  • A perfect venue for the special occasion as well as corporate events since there are facilities on the property such as meeting room and kid’s room. Parking is provided.
  • Plan your activity accordingly – check out the timetable on complementary activities so you won’t miss out.

GETTING THERE
By Plane: Entry point via Semarang, Yogyakarta or Solo Airport. Transfer can be organised with MesaStila for USD50 one way – we hired to/from Semarang.

By Car: It takes about one and a half hour from Semarang Airport and two hours from Yogyakarta Airport or Solo Airport.

More details on MesaStila including villa rates and various packages, visit here.

Find out more about beautiful Magelang, Central Java here and should you want to book a tour, visit Go Voyagin. For For you trail runners – check out must do MesaStila Peaks Challenge.

More read on the coffee plantation tour visit here.

Jumpa lagi. That’s  see you again in Bahasa Indonesia.

SOTG,x

 

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