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The Unfathomable Solitude of Bella Vista and Splendid Inn Malang (1)

The Unfathomable Solitude of Bella Vista and Splendid Inn Malang (1)
The back area of Splendid Inn/Putriyana Asmarani

The haunting and daunting Bella Vista and Splendid Inn. No windows are open here. If there are, it might be due to natural causes of rotting and decaying. Otherwise, they break open due to vandalism; only the devils know the culprit. The entrance door is wide open, but this openness soon after you bring yourself inside both places makes you realize that the two are shutting themselves off to the world, uninviting and unwelcoming.

A stoic friend of mine, Wildan Habibi, shockingly catechized me a few hours after I visited Bella Vista and Splendid Inn. Whereas, he never meddled with my business before. “Why in the mother earth do you visit those Gomorrah-looking places, all for what? Brown study?”

Even a few Instagram friends of mine rang me to inform me that Jurnal Risa visited Splendid Inn (Wisma Tumapel). They vigorously bombarded me with the YouTube link, adding spice to their hysteria that Splendid Inn is so ungodly that Hades himself will freak out to see the demon of his own making.

But, I still participated in a group tour led by Jelajah Malang with a tour guide, Dini Rachmawati. The tour isn’t partially dedicated to Bella Vista and Splendid Inn visits. It was a walking route that stopped at more than four destinations. However, I just want to pour my attention in this writing only on Bella Vista and Splendid Inn; the two buildings so far as I perceive, yield an odd philosophy. 

Euroclydon of Dutch East Indies

Bella Vista and Splendid Inn have all the features of a building; doors, windows, hall, park, roof, corridor, balcony, kitchen, bathrooms, and all, but all these features are dead as stones. In most resources that I gather and based on the tour guide’s narrative point of view; history is to blame for the notorious dysfunctionality. 

In Malang, Deandelsboulevard (now Kertanegara Street) stretched from the train station area to Coenplein Jan Pieterszoon (now Tugu Street, an area that covers Bundaran Tugu or Bundaran Jan Pieterszoon), this zone is said to be the center of entertainment for the absolute Dutch aristocrats where no Pribumi was allowed to set foot unless they were on slaves’ duty. Such a Charing Cross of London, in East Indies, East Java, Malang, the Dutch made an official settlement in 1767 and cloned their architectural prowess as well as lifestyle here.

Pribumi lived in a ghetto, in suburban areas, a place truly remote and excluded from the Dutch government’s urban planning and surely, the entertainment. The Dutch government’s rule and opprobrious social class made it clear that their norms were made immutable like the law made by Medes and Persians. Dutch East Indies’s afdeling, or an administrator, or assistant resident was made official to rule the area in 1824. Since then, the Dutch population growth added with the glaring industrial opportunity radically changed Malang. In 1879, the train station was operated for the first time to distribute crops. Later, Malang became Kotapraja in 1914.

Bella Vista was built three years earlier than Splendid Inn and seven years earlier than the town hall. It was built in 1920. What was it? Was it a house back then, or an office? I have never heard of such things called exemplary in urban planning. Bella Vista, as a part of Bouwplan I (the first stage of Dutch colonial’s urban planning), was built for an example for all the buildings in the area. Perhaps the physical example was shown for the construction slaves, how impossible it was to bring the slaves to Europe to get the look of buildings’ shape, to show them that, “this is our taste and this is what you should bring to the table.” 

The prominent Splendid Inn, built in 1923 with the look of a Dutch home, was a hotel. It was owned by CC Mulie. However, 19 years later, on March 7, 1942 Japanese officially occupied the area, took over every layer of governance and life, and changed the working class structure with Japanese terms.

The Unfathomable Solitude of Bella Vista and Splendid Inn Malang (1)
Splendid Inn, the secret tunnel area/Putriyana Asmarani

Change wasn’t everything, executions of the remaining Dutch and the rebels occured massively in the area, the current Tugu Senior High School was once Dutch’s HBS (Hoogere Burger School) shifted from education place for the privileged to a slaughter house of mankind. Splendid Inn too, CC Mulie was no longer the owner of the place, whatever belonged to the Dutch, during this time, was taken over by the Japanese; the buildings and the people. 

Power contests are getting entangled in this part, Japanese whose arms, souls, and faith were sworn to help Indonesia’s revolution to the point that the country found its independence, was all a lie. For as far as this narrative is concerned, the Japanese got weaker after World War II, a door for the Dutch to return to Indonesia and seize everything that once became their source of glory. Dutch’s Operation Product 1 in 1947, against the young nation, occupied Surabaya and their next target was Malang. That time on July 22, 1947, grim reapers marched to the town, harvesting the souls.

Ashes for Unfallen Colony

Lawang was the first area subdued by Dutch Operation Product, in a critical situation, a strategy needed to be made; if it wasn’t by arms, it should be by pride. Urban Guerillas, Student’s Armies (Tentara Republik Indonesia Pelajar, TRIP) burned 1000 or more Dutch’s buildings. What were once Dutch’s administration offices, inn, and houses turned into flaring flames. They cut down electricity and water source to stop the building from functioning and from the Dutch army to shelter.

Scorched-earth is a tactic and a military strategy to put the enemy in the grievest deprivation. When talks didn’t yield repentance of imperialism, fire was the only agent to preach the truth in face of falsehood. This was all for it, a tactic used to tarnish the most imperial, the unfallen Dutch East Indies.

The buildings were then critically destroyed and burned, but surely, they weren’t projected for annihilation. The minute I stood after passing the road that separates Deandelsboulevard and Coenplein Jan Pieterszoon, to the point where Bella Vista and Splendid Inn laid bare and wounded, I felt lost in the infinite series of heritage left in abandonment. I could grasp no further with the narrative denoting that it was an inn and that is all. I felt a ruffling surge of emotions, realizing that in this situation; history couldn’t penetrate the thick haze of the present. 

Splendid Inn: The Most Wicked Dwelling in All Meridians

My mother, discerning that I develop bizarre interests in things archaic, warned me that I have to behave in the sites. It is not, above all, the history that becomes the sole concern. Beware of the ghosts, do not wear something red or green. Do not visit the place when you are on your period. Do not say something bad, not because that is inappropriate, but because it may insult or attract the demon.

There, the moment I entered both Bella Vista and Splendid Inn, I felt this artificial chills: what’s waiting for me behind those anachronistic doors, who’s waving on that tight-closed window, and… yes, who’s following me? 

Strangely, let me be honest with you, isn’t rooted from how the place is scaring me but from the external prejudices about the place. These sort of feelings then validated after hearing the tour guide say, “There are few areas that are considered to be densely haunted, you may go there but if something happened, we aren’t held responsible.” Somehow, it’s the philosophy of all tour guides in the world that safety and knowledge are instruments they hold supreme.

  • The Unfathomable Solitude of Bella Vista and Splendid Inn Malang (1)
  • The Unfathomable Solitude of Bella Vista and Splendid Inn Malang (1)

The visitors have to pay for 10.000 rupiah to explore Splendid Inn; few areas are locked, few areas are open but inaccessible, and lastly few areas are open but for the love of God you’d better not dare. It is, to be honest, killing me after looking at the ticket area; do not imagine a reception place, it was just a chair, a table, and a man sitting there. 

Behind him, there’s plenty of instant coffee hung by the rope, behind the instant coffee there’s a bed with the sight of bed bugs civilization. The man, he doesn’t at all look like he is a staff. He looked homeless with all that coffee and bedding situation. Seriously, why was the bed in there?

(to be continued)


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Putriyana Asmarani adalah penulis konten kreatif di salah satu perusahaan pemasaran digital di Malang. Salah satu risetnya Identitas Politik Raja-raja Melayu mendapatkan beasiswa riset di National University of Singapore. Cerpen dan resensi bukunya pernah terbit di The Jakarta Post, Indian Periodical, Djavatimes, SuaraNet.id dan lain-lain.

Putriyana Asmarani adalah penulis konten kreatif di salah satu perusahaan pemasaran digital di Malang. Salah satu risetnya Identitas Politik Raja-raja Melayu mendapatkan beasiswa riset di National University of Singapore. Cerpen dan resensi bukunya pernah terbit di The Jakarta Post, Indian Periodical, Djavatimes, SuaraNet.id dan lain-lain.

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