This story begins, as so many of mine do, with an airfare that was too good to pass up.
It was Black Friday and I was fully intending to swoop up a premium airfare deal, no matter what. I had pretty much total flexibility on destination, date and airline. As always though my one sticking point was that I wanted to travel in as much comfort as possible and ideally try a new product in the process.
When the morning of Black Friday rolled around I leapt out of bed and immediately checked all the usual blogs, forums and twitter feeds looking for inspiration. One offer instantly jumped out at me: I saw that Garuda were offering flights from London to Jakarta in First Class for £2100. For the longest route on one of the best carriers in the world I was really tempted to pull the trigger. I played around with dates for a while looking for the best way to fly this fare … and stumbled across something even better.
I could fly outbound in Business and return in First for only £1600. When you factor in the total flight time of over 30 hours, this airfare was going to end up costing me £53 per hour, less than what most people spend on summertime economy flights within Europe!
Flying the outbound in Business from London would mean that I would still have First to look forward to at the end of the trip and I would be able to take full advantage of the flagship First Class lounge and ground handling in Jakarta.
I booked the ticket as quickly as I could and then immediately began to look for hotels. Jakarta, much like Bangkok, is a city that is replete with a veritable cornucopia of luxury hotels, most of which are priced at a level more akin to a Travelodge. I had a lot of different factors to consider, not least of which was the absurd traffic, which on a bad day can easily add 2 hours to your airport transfer if you pick the wrong part of town to stay in.
I was tempted by the super low rates at both the Four Seasons and the Mandarin, rates which were fractions of what these brands charge in Europe, however once I realised that the FS was an all suites property I had a lightbulb moment. Rather than just searching for a great deal on standard hotel rooms, why not start looking at the cash rates for suites in ALL of the city’s luxury hotels?
When I did that, my choice became obvious. For the equivalent of £160 per night I could get a very special suite indeed at the Ritz Carlton Mega Kuningan (one of two Ritz Carlton properties in Jakarta). This was a suite that not only came with access to the club lounge but was also located in a jungle-like area of the hotel, adjacent to the rooftop pool and gym, in which each suite is classified as a Villa with it’s own enormous sunken stone jacuzzi pool, replete with terrace furniture, a rock garden and lanterns.
Since I was only going to be in town for two nights my intention was to completely ignore the timezone and just do whatever my body wanted. Having access to food, drink and a private pool at any hour of the day sounded like the perfect strategy to avoid the evils of jetlag. I also felt like it would be slightly sad to come all this way and be locked away in an air conditioned tower the whole time.
The fact that I could step outside into the warm, humid air at any time of day was really appealing. I know that this will sound crazy to all my South East Asian friends but when you live in London, this sounds like paradise…