by Lucas Raven
Legend has it that 2000 temples once graced the plains around the Amanjiwo resort. The name “Amanjiwo” means “peaceful soul”. The resort’s 36 freestanding suites boast a richness of culture, traditions, stunning architecture and landscapes.
I have heard of this sanctuary of peace many times before from my Buddhist friends who have done pilgrimage visits to Borobudur. One of my best friends, Gordon Lee, a man who left his career in Stanford University to embrace “a complete life that is at peace with everything within me and around me”, as he would describe his lifestyle. A man who now dedicates most of his time to the study of cellular healing, not for himself but for others, and there’s the occasional passion for oil painting too. His stories of Amanjiwo and Borobudur have inspired me so much, to a point where I sometimes feel like I have been there before. Next thing I knew, I was on a flight to Indonesia.
My journey began in Jakarta Gambir with a seven-hour luxurious train ride served with locally-sourced Javanese lunch, drinks, endless snacks and treats, on board the regal Kereta Api Wisata’s private carriage through the rainforests of Java. I was on the verge of falling asleep, until I heard Aman’s resident anthropologist, Patrick Vanhoebrouck, introduced himself. I rubbed my eyes and immediately sipped from my cup of hot jasmine-ginger tea. I felt the punch of ginger sliding down my throat. It woke me up. I was in for a storytelling journey within a journey.
Patrick told tall tales and legends of Indonesian temples and kingdoms older than the content in the history books at my local library in New York City. From mythology to the evolution of the volcanoes and landmarks that we were seeing as we passed by them through the lush jungles. I gasped as he gracefully ended the last story, and then I dozed off. Chris, my husband, woke me up as we arrived in Yogyakarta Tugu station. A 60-minute drive in the private Amanjiwo car from the train station to the resort itself was rather comfortable. I snuck my phone out and sent a message to my friend Gordon. “I’m finally here!” I said in a text.
The first thing I saw was a quiet and elegant lobby designed like a temple, while the background showed an evening panoramic view of the Kedu Plain and Mount Merapi. My husband and I were welcomed by two young ladies standing by the walls, while throwing petals in the air. We both had big smiles on, from ear to ear. Reception desks are located behind pillars of stones. There’s a well-lit beautiful library across that’s furnished with Moorish-style décor. On the other side of the wing is the resort boutique where you can buy souvenirs, Javanese Art, textiles, and antiques, they also sell gamelan instruments, ceremonial baskets, shadow puppets, and jewelry.
Breathtaking as it was, I was also tired. As soon as I saw the bed, I took no time to hop in the shower and dove right into my sleep. “ Yes! These sublime Aman pillows”, whispered my husband.
I woke up to the sound of chirping birds. You’re probably rolling your eyes thinking, of course you did, Lucas. And did the seven dwarves come in through the door and start singing too? I know, it all sounds rather surreally predictable, but I woke up because a couple of loud birds actually got in the suite. Chris had left the door wide open. As I was shooing the birds out of the room, I saw my husband meditating to the sunrise on our terrace under a shade of trees. I shut the door and decided to join. Without saying a word, I sat next to Chris and we felt each other’s presence, and the presence of something so beautiful and sincere. Being there at that moment was a gift, that’s how it felt anyway, like I just unwrapped a birthday present.
The resort’s restaurant, bar, and terraces provide a majestic view of the east where you can see the sunrise over the Borobudur temple and Mountains. Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang Regency, not far from the town of Muntilan, in Central Java. It is the world’s largest Buddhist temple and one of the most important Buddhist footprints in the world— it is so close to Amanjiwo you could even jog to it. I finally did it, accompanied by an Aman-certified local guide, who was born and raised in that neighborhood where the resort stands, ticked-off Borobudur from my bucket list! This wasn’t a pilgrimage, this was a holiday, but as soon as I set foot on the grounds of one of the most powerful spiritual landmarks in the universe, I could not help but feel overwhelmed. I’m not Buddhist, but you don’t have to be to feel the energy that dwells in every corner of this place. I explored the ancient temple in complete awe. “This temple is older than the wind blowing outside, far older than the grandpa trees that’s deeply-rooted in its grounds”, I whispered to Chris. He nodded in agreement.
Back to our suite, it was as if I had just arrived and was seeing the place for the first time all over again. As I opened the door to our bedroom, the four-pillar bed sits on a terrazzo-raised platform. The room has marble floors and is decorated in lovely sungkai –wood screens, its furniture made in rattan and coconut wood. One of my favorite spots is the sunken outdoor bath; just divine. The rooms also feature a large terrace. A box of paint is provided in each suite, that way you can capture the inspiring views of Borobudur and perhaps get creative and paint. Creativity comes from the soul, as my 90-year-old grandma would say.
15 of Amanjiwo’s 36 suites are equipped with private pools surrounded by tranquil gardens. The pool area is overlooked by massive banyan trees giving the ultimate zen vibration. A small café is located adjacent to the pool serving breakfast, lunch, drinks, and snacks. Dedicated to holistic wellness, Amanjiwo has a spa menu inspired by traditional Javanese healing, with a fully equipped gym suite, and tennis court. The Amanjiwo resort experience has given us rejuvenation far beyond any other resort in the world we have been. It is a destination so unique that to compare it with other destinations would be a crime.
Surrounded by tropical forests, looming volcanoes, and soul sanctuaries, the 9th-century Borobudur Temple and ornate Pawon temple, Amanjiwo continues to push the boundaries to create exceptional moments that stay with you for a lifetime. I left Java with good taste in my mouth and calm in my mind, body, spirit.
Visit www.aman.com to discover Amanjiwo.