From outside, there is nothing extraordinary or peculiar about the Grand Candi Hotel building in Semarang, Central Java.
It doesn’t go overboard with trendy architecture, ethnic decoration or colorful mural. It’s a no-fuss, unpretentious five-star hotel with simple glass façade and lush green trees on the front yard.
But step inside and you will be welcomed by a series of paintings and sculptures that make the lobby deserves to be an art gallery in its own right. Created by famous artists from the country and abroad, the artworks are not there as mere decoration to complement the interior design. They are a mission statement with strong social and political messages that demand to be observed and pondered at.
“The owner of this hotel is a serious art collector. You can also find the work of arts displayed throughout the restaurant and guest rooms,” said General Manager Julia SKB at a recent visit to the hotel.
Our conversation was often disrupted by her greeting the guests, many of whom have been repeat guests the hotel for years. Indeed, hospitality and arts is the combination that the gallery hotel is most proud of.
There is more: location. Tucked on the uphill part Semarang, in adjacent to the plush residential area that boasts grand old colonial houses, Grand Candi is perfect for those who look for a place to stay in the city not too far from the downtown area but spared from the hustle and bustle of the traffic and rowdy crowd.
In the morning, you can take a walk or ride a bike around the leafy Candi area, and have breakfast or brunch at local food stall or restaurant sprawled in the neighborhood.
The hotel itself features 198 rooms designed with a touch of modern style with international standard facilities (important: The Wi-Fi connection is excellent!).
The restaurants also spoil the foodie in you, inclucding Xiang Yuen restaurant that serve the best Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine in town and Kafe Flamboyan, where you can indulge in Asian and Western cuisine by the pool.
The hotel has increasingly become the top choice in the city to hold functions, seminars or weddings, with five meeting rooms and five ballrooms with various seating capacities.
Grand Candi also supports local tourism program, such as the recent Old City Festival, to boost the number of visitors to the area.
“For years, people know Semarang as an industrial area with a number of factories, when the city actually has so much potential. It has grand old city, the culinary scene is fantastic and the city is orderly,” Julia said.
“I hope more people realize it and visit this city,” she added.