Lost Hotels of Indonesia Part I: Hotel Indonesia
Almost all Indonesians know Hotel Indonesia; a hotel whose name is borrowed from the most famous roundabout in Indonesia. Hotel Indonesia was built in conjunction with the Welcome Monument (HI Roundabout) and both were completed at about the same time in August 1962. Hotel Indonesia was inaugurated by the President of Indonesia at the time, Bung Karno. Both structures were built in order to welcome the 1962 Asian Games held in Jakarta. Jembatan Semanggi, Senayan Sports Arena complex and Gelora Bung Karno (with initial capacity of 100.000 spectators after completion), and the widening of Jalan MH. Thamrin are another projects which were built in the framework of the 1962 Asian Games.
Bung Karno appointed Danish-descent American architect, Abel Sorensen, to design the hotel that promote modern minimalist design. The hotel consists of two main wings, namely Ramayana wing (15 floors) and Ganesha wing (8th floor). Each wing was positioned in different direction with the aim of providing a four-way view of the city. Some other rooms and fuction facilities were also named after Indonesians cultural products such as Bali Room, Reog Room, and Madura Room.
Hotel Indonesia is filled with a variety of Indonesian artworks ranging from paintings, masks, traditional musical instruments, and various statues from across the archipelago. One of the most wel-known artworks in Hotel Indonesia is the relief of Gadis-Gadis Bhineka Tunggal Ika carved by Soerono (see below photo) and a painting by Lee Man Fong. The interior and furniture of the rooms, restaurants and other indoor use genuine teak.
There is an unforgettable story about the background of the constructions of large projects in Jakarta at the time (including the Hotel Indonesia); development fund of $ 10 million was obtained from the Soviet Union in exchange for two years Indonesia's industrial rubber produces. It considered by many that the 1962 Asian Games is the starting point for Bung Karno as the "leader" for the non-allies. It is important to note that a year after the completion of those megaprojects, Jakarta hosted Ganefo (Games of the New Emerging Forces), a sporting event developed to rival the Olympics. 51 countries participated in the Ganefo including China, the Soviet Union, Palestine, Cuba, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan -mostly non-allies.
Hotel Indonesia became an icon of national pride and reputation of its prestiges peaked since it was opened in 1962 until the end of the 60s. Many heads of state and diplomats stayed at this hotel, Putri Nusantara (Miss Indonesia) was first held in Ramayana Room, Teguh Karya came to spotlight after working as a Stage Manager for Hotel Indonesia's in-house theater. Actor Slamet Raharjo, actress Rima Melati, and Christine Hakim are few names that become part of Hotel Indonesia's theater history. In the world of music, the name Bill Saragih, Bob Tutupoly, and Titik Puspa are musicians/singer who regularly fill in the program at the Nirwana Supper Club, located on the top floor of Ramayana wing. Until then, not many nightclubs can be found in Jakarta. In fact, there might be no nightclubs outside Jakarta in Indonesia.
Together with the Bali Beach Intercontinental Hotel, Hotel Indonesia was originally managed by a leading hotel chain, Intercontinental Hotels, up until the cooperation relationship ended in 1985. Sheraton took over management for several years before by PT. Hotel Indonesia International (PT. HII) took control of the entire operation. The emergence of new surrounding hotels like President Hotel (later to become Nikko and now Pullman), The Mandarin (now Mandarin Oriental), and the Grand Hyatt Area HI roundabout could not be anticipated well by PT. HII. Hotel Indonesia finally stopped operating in 2004.
After going through a four years major renovation, Hotel Indonesia reopened in 2008 as part of the Grand Indonesia which included a shopping area, office buildings and luxury apartments. Hotel Indonesia is currently owned by PT. Djarum with the management under the control of Kempinski Hotels over the next 30 years. Kempinski is the oldest luxury hotel chain in Europe from Germany.
Hotel Indonesia had been designated as a cultural heritage by the government of Jakarta via Jakarta Governor Decree No. 475 dated March 29, 1993. To find out more details about the Hotel Indonesia in the past you can watch the video at the bottom of this post.