Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Indonesia Trip '08 – Accommodation Write-Up: Istana Griya Homestay, Solo

Solo was our last stop on our 4 city tour of Java and was the one that I had the most difficulties to secure a homestay to spend the single night we had in our schedule. At the point that we were planning the trip, we had to consider trying to get a place in Solo that was relatively near to the airport since our flight home was originally scheduled at 8 am. Since Solo was to be more of a stopover, we definitely wanted to find some where cheap to stay and avoid the possibility of having to hang around at the airport overnight to catch our flight out. Unfortunately for us, there was not much available on the Internet for hostels or homestays in Solo. What little that I seen there seemed to recommend Istana Griya quite highly so I started doing some research on the place. Other than their website that gave some contact information, there was not really a lot that I could go on.

I tried to make our reservations over the Net before we left for our trip but my emails to the person listed on their website went unanswered. I did get a response from the other email address of their tour guide but he was unable to help us to make the reservation since he was not directly employed by the homestay. By the time we started our Java Island tour, I still did not have a room secured for our last night in Solo. Thanks to our travel guide book, which also recommended this homestay, we managed to get a phone number for it and I had to find a wartel to call them up while we were in Jogja. We hit another snag when we were told that they don’t accept call in advance reservations and that we would need to come personally to book our rooms. After checking the status of their current occupancy rate (fairly low it seemed), I told them that we will be seeing them the following afternoon to check on the availability of rooms.

Having not being successful in securing a room, we decided to chance it the following room and check Istana Griya first when we arrive at Solo. If it was full then we would do the backpacker’s crawl and check out the nearest homestay in the vicinity until we found one that had a vacancy. Our luck was with us the following day when they told us that they had rooms available when we arrived at the homestay after a short search around town for it. We were shown to the family sized room and once we agreed that it met our requirements, we went back to the minivan to get our bags before checking in. Had the room been too cramped or not exactly clean, we would definitely got back on the minivan and go to the next homestay on our list.

The family room that we got was actually quite big although they only have a queen size bed in it. We asked for an extra bed and towels which they provided inclusive of the room charges since we had 3 people in our room. They did provide the extra towels but gave us just a mattress instead of a fold out bed that I expected when I asked for the extra. Since we were only going to be at the homestay for 1 night, it was still acceptable since it beats having to sleep on the hard floor. Bathroom facilities attached to the room was fairly basic with heated showers, sink and a western style toilet. AC came standard with the family room and there was also a collection of furniture that we could use while we were there. A small TV that had local TV channels completed the available facilities in the room.

(Our family size room at Istana Griya)

(L: Hallway leading to the kitchen, R: Sample carving at the homestay)

The homestay itself had a fairly homely atmosphere to it. It doesn’t really look run down but I got the sense of it had been in operation for sometime. There was a lot of local handicrafts and carvings that they used to decorate the walls that lent it an air of being lived in as well as added character to the whole setup. They had a small breakfast nook set aside near the reception area where visitors could have their meals and hang out with other visitors. The breakfast menu, which was included in our stay, was fairly eclectic in terms of choice with several items clearly being their attempt at local and western fusion cooking (cheese and fried rice omelets – anyone?). The homestay also provided free coffee and tea all day round since they do not have individual coffee/tea making facilities in the room. I particularly like the entrance area to the homestay that not only had a small visually interesting garden but also a cool place to sit and whittle the time away by chatting with fellow backpackers.

(Garden at the entrance to Istana Griya)

(L: Breakfast nook, R: Istana Griya's cute guardian)

(L: Hanuman statute guarding the entrance, R: Sculpted pillar at entrance)

While the room and facilities of Istana Griya didn’t really stand out for me, what really did was the staff who worked there. I have to say that they were the most tourist friendly staff that I had encountered on the trip. They clearly know the area very well and could give us ideas of what to do with the amount of time that we had on hand. They were very friendly, accommodating and what I appreciate most was that they didn’t really come off as just wanting to throwing you a sales pitch. There was almost a laid back atmosphere among the staff and genuine desire to make the visitors stay with them the best that it could be. Whatever shortcomings that Istana Griya had in terms of their physical facilities was quickly overlooked thanks to the friendly and knowledgeable staff. If ever anyone comes to stay at Istana Griya and plan to do some sightseeing in the surrounding country side, be sure to ask for Patrick as your tour guide. We had the most enjoyable day touring the temples in Solo with him thanks to his personal knowledge of the area and funny anecdotes.

One negative point that I experienced while we stayed at Istana Griya that night was the loud noises that woke us up in the morning. This was more due to the other people who stayed in the homestay whose idea of waking up was to make as much noise as possible. Given the thin walls of the rooms, it was hard trying to ignore the loud noises coming form the other rooms. Another thing to point out is for visitors to avoid taking rooms close to the kitchen if possible since they do start their day quite early and sounds of them preparing breakfast at the open kitchen might wake you up if you wanted to sleep in.

Thin walls aside, Istana Griya was still a charming place to call home while we were in Solo. Its best selling points would definitely be the overall charm and character that pervaded the establishment as well as the most tourist-friendly staff I’ve encountered on the trip. It would not be too hard for me to recommend it for visitors who have short stopovers in Solo thanks to my first hand experience of spending a night at this colorfully quaint homestay.

Full Contact Details:

Istana Griya Homestay
Jln. K.H. A.Dahlan No. 22
Solo, Indonesia
Phone: +62 71 632 667

Email :


wahdi said...

Great info ;) scary ler tgk all those carvings tu hehe

Nickxandar said...

Yeah .. nasib baik segala patung2 tu di luar sahaja.

Kalau ada yg macam tu bergantungan dalam bilik mahu tak boleh tido punya.