T R AV E L
IF ALL ASIAN RESORTS ARE
STARTING TO LOOK ALIKE TO YOU,
HEAD FOR YOGYAKARTA AND
D’OMAH, WRITES JOANNA HUGHES
friend of mine came back from a trip
to Java raving about a hotel in Yogya, which is surprising because
she is one very picky guest. The hotel was beautiful, she said, but
it also was part of a village, right down to the ducks that wander
in from the padi ﬁelds. It was, she said, like actually living in the
village, which after all, is the secret dream of every tourist.
D’Omah Hotel is located in Tembi, which is out in the sticks
but still just 20 minutes from Yogyakarta, home to Indonesia’s last
ruling sultan. It’s a typical rural village of some 800 people, and
like rural villages the world over, it was poor and without any
industry that could give jobs to its young people who left for the
cities, often falling prey to drugs and prostitution.
Then along came Warwick Purser. Warwick is a tall, gangling
Australian who stopped in Bali for his honeymoon in 1968,
en route to a job in London. He extended his leave by a week,
then two, then three, and then resigned before he ever got to
his ofﬁce. He went into the travel business and when Indonesia
barred foreigners from owning businesses in that area, he took up
a post with the UN in Vanuatu.
Then 13 years ago, he discovered the village of Tembi
and decided to turn it around. He started Out of Asia, which
manufactures and exports high quality traditional Indonesian
handicrafts. His goal was to give at least one member of every
family a job and at the same time, maintain traditional village life
and most importantly, values. He paid higher than average wages,
provided a health clinic, free education and even constructed a
simple ﬁtness centre for the village.
In May 2006, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake rocked
Yogyajakarta, killing almost 6,000 and ﬂattening homes, schools
and historic buildings. Tembi was not spared. Warwick worked
with HSBC to arrange loans to rebuild the villager’s houses;
expat | august 2009 august 2009 | expat
T R AV E L
Even though they are furnished with all modern
conveniences, the houses are not cut off from the village around
them. Warwick is especially fond of the ducks and geese and the
call to prayer from the village mosque. There is no spa, but if you
want a Javanese massage, someone from the village can provide
the real deal for US$15. Food is cooked and served in the
common area of your house; while Western dishes are available,
Warwick encourages everyone to eat Indonesian, and menus can
be designed to suit any preferences.
There are no water sports, no planned activities. Tours to
the sultan’s palace and Borobadur can be arranged, but d’Omah
offers specialised tours that include bicycle or horse-drawn
carriage trips to local rural communities; jamu and massage tours
and most interestingly, a four-hour tour that allows guests to go
behind the scenes at religious sites and rituals.
A ﬁne arts gallery has recently opened; run by Valentine
Willie, an expert in South-East Asian and contemporary art with
galleries in Singapore, Manila and Kuala Lumpur; the gallery will
also serve as a training centre for Tembi villagers. D’Omah has
also opened a similar hotel in Ubud, Bali.
What Warwick wants most of all is for outsiders to understand
at the end of reconstruction, there were left two elaborate and respect the people and culture of Indonesia. His passion for
traditional houses that no one wanted. Warwick decided to save Indonesia led him to apply for citizenship and he is immensely
the houses, restoring them and furnishing them with Indonesian proud that his application had been approved by presidential
antiques, and then turning them into a hotel where tourists decree, something that is virtually unheard of.
could experience the real Indonesia. He called it d’Omah, which D’Omah obviously isn’t for everyone. I don’t think it would be
means “at home” in the Javanese dialect. good for families with small children – a big plus for my friend
Each of the houses has its own name and history. Rumah who is not fond of kids – or for people with short attention
Joglo – a name used to denote a house of signiﬁcant size – was spans. But for anyone who has always wanted to live supremely
once the home of a Javanese aristocrat. Over 1,000 square metres comfortably in a village and who wants to do something
in size, it was scheduled for demolition, but instead was moved different without a great deal of exertion, d’Omah is ideal.
piece by piece to Tembi. Its main hall is the hotel’s reception area;
it also houses a library and a television viewing area. A pendopo Rates per night are US$75 plus 21 per cent tax; various conﬁgurations
is the central pavilion common to Javanese houses; Rumah of beds and space are available, as no two rooms are exactly alike.
Pendopo was the house of a former district chief, and each of A US$50 deposit is required on all bookings and one week’s notice
its ﬁve bedrooms has a private sitting area with lotus ponds is required in the event of cancellation. For more information, go to
and gardens. www.domahyogya.com
expat | august 2009 august 2009 | expat