Cherish the mornings with birds chirping and breathe in fresh air just like Gilles Tressens, the General Manager of Pullman Ciawi Vimala Hills Resort Spa & Convention.
Imagine a vast land that’s been slightly touched by developers, but only to be turned into a green oasis where people can stay for meetings or sweetly escape Jakarta’s hustle and bustle. Within an hour or so, you can be waking up to rice paddies from a hotel or villa room, similar to resorts in Ubud, Bali. This is reality at Pullman Ciawi Vimala Hills Resort Spa & Convention. Indonesia Expat spoke with its General Manager, Gilles Tressens, about Puncak’s first five-star property that embraces its guests to be one with nature, while getting business and quality time fixed.
Can you please explain the concept and aim of Pullman Ciawi Vimala Hills Resort Spa & Convention?
Pullman Ciawi Vimala Hills Resort Spa & Convention opened on May 21, 2019. This fairly new property is located in Ciawi and is the first Pullman resort. Guests are already accustomed to the Pullman brand because there are already two hotels in Jakarta, but they lean towards the concept of business hotels, while this property has been labelled as a resort. This means that it’s slightly different in terms of approach and concept; aiming to target two types of customers that are categorised as leisure visitors during the weekends and school holidays, as well as companies wanting to find a different location and product for their MICE activities. It takes around an hour or so from Jakarta, which is fairly convenient for an escape for the weekend or a quick business trip. In fact, I personally think travelling around Jakarta, say from the north to the south, can be more hazardous than visiting Ciawi.
What’s the speciality at Pullman Ciawi Vimala Hills Resort Spa & Convention?
Primarily, the location itself is special. Within 100 hectares, this property is roughly 12 hectares that includes 208 hotel rooms, 21 villas, and vast greenery such as paddy fields, as well as lots of varieties of trees and plants. The idea of allowing people to get back to nature for a peaceful weekend or event is the main focus. Puncak, nowadays, is correlated with heavy congestion. Meanwhile, this property, in my opinion, is similar to the atmosphere of Puncak from 40-50 years ago. People want to escape Jakarta and its pollution, so I think this area of Puncak is a great location to meet their desire of having a few days of nothing but peacefulness.
It’s been less than a year since operations started here, though it’s still under construction. What are the challenges you’ve faced so far?
The launching and operation of the hotel was and is in process. There have been some difficulties because we started to operate the property despite not being fully done, yet we still have to deliver 100 percent for the guests. We aim to be a five-star property, which is rather new in this area. It was challenging to deliver proper coordination so people can enjoy their stay amidst the construction. In terms of project, we are working on assuring delivery of proper service for the leisure market, which is mostly families. Everyone can find something they’re keen to do here. There are activities for children, teens, and parents to do, making this an all-in-one destination to keep everyone occupied and happy. A lot of activities can be done by staying in this compound without having to face Puncak’s heavy congestion. The fresh air and serene quality should also be highlighted.
Pretty much everything is provided within this compound, do you suggest other places worthwhile for guests to explore around Puncak?
Guests usually stay for a maximum of two to three days. This property is quite convenient and reachable for guests to explore Kebon Teh, Taman Safari, the city of Bogor, and even to pay a visit to Sentul. Located on Jalan Puncak Raya, there’s a back route we can directly access from Pasar Ciawi. There’s access for anyone coming and leaving here on the weekends when the traffic is changed to one-way flow.
Does the hotel provide transportation to these places you’ve mentioned?
No, we don’t have a shuttle service to drive our guests around to the places I previously mentioned, but we can arrange transportation for them. There is a shuttle service available during the day from 8am–6pm within the compound that guests can visit, for example, the deer park or the flower garden.
What are your top three favourite qualities of Indonesia?
I’ve been in Indonesia for over 15 years now. My first favourite quality is definitely the people because they’re very kind, especially their warm smiles – a natural and sincere form of communication. Then the culture comprises of different traditions. Indonesia is a very interesting country to learn and travel around – it’s totally different. A lot of expatriates only talk about Bali but I think that’s a pity considering the range of cultures here. And my third favourite quality is the food in general. Back in the day, I worked as an executive chef; food is pivotal, plus I’m French so it’s part of my culture. I indulge in street food wherever I am, even eating at a warung, such as bubur ayam (chicken porridge), lontong sayur (rice cakes with vegetable stew), masakan padang, and an array of sambal. Yes, I can handle spicy food but I can’t handle sambal terasi and durian because of the smells. France has cheese – I’d rather eat cheese than durian.
You know your Bahasa Indonesia quite well. Was it hard for you to pick it up?
No, it wasn’t. Although I wouldn’t say it came naturally, but I do think it’s quite easy to pick up if you’re willing to be motivated. Picking up the local language is part of living in a different country to your home, so you need to ensure that you can communicate well with people. Speaking the language indicates the first step to having a better understanding of the culture and the people.
Before I sat down talking to you, I hopped on a buggy car to the convention centre. I noticed that the compound is a green oasis!
When you have this kind of area to call your workplace and resting space, what do you do to unwind?
The hotel business is busy and doesn’t operate on regular nine-to-five office hours, so you need to enjoy it. We are currently at 600 metres altitude; I smell fresh air when I wake up with the birds chirping. I very much appreciate it – I’ve been living in Jakarta for at least ten years where I couldn’t get fresh air and quality of life like here. It’s extremely relaxing, making you not want to go back to Jakarta!
Thank you for your time and good luck with finishing up the property!