What is it? An iconic Dutch colonial-era hotel in the city of Yogyakarta, on the Indonesian island of Java, replete with the frangipani-scented elegance of a bygone era.

The Phoenix began life in 1918 as the home of Kwik Djoen Eng, a wealthy Chinese merchant. It operated as a hotel during the Great Depression and until the Japanese occupation began in 1942. After the second world war, it was used as the official residence of the Chinese consul before reverting to a hotel in 1951.

The architecture reflects the history of Yogyakarta and is influenced by Javanese and Chinese aesthetics. It features a colourfully tiled lobby and reception, an internal terrace with decorative wooden fretwork, stained-glass windows and a stone courtyard. Throughout the hotel, distinctly Chinese rosewood furniture and antiques sidle up to Javanese artwork and fabrics. The effect is whiff-of-the-past ambience meets Asian luxury.

So it's old, but what's new? The hotel has undergone a number of refurbishments. Recently, a wing was added, echoing the style and ambience of the old with a little more comfort. The hotel now boasts 144 rooms, including 10 suites and one room for disabled guests. Almost every room features a balcony; the best ones are made of wrought iron and overlook the pool (above). The spa offers age-old Javanese treatments alongside contemporary massages and pedicures.

Great, but what else is there to do? The Phoenix is close to Malioboro Street, Yogyakarta's main thoroughfare, as well as attractions including the palace of the Yogyakarta Sultanate and Beringharjo market. A centre of classical Javanese art, puppet shows and theatre are popular here. Farther afield, the marvellous 12th-century temples of Borobudur and Prambanan are the area's main drawcard.

What about the food? Lunch and dinner are served at the Paprika restaurant, which offers Eastern, Indonesian and Western dishes (think top-notch stir fry, gado-gado and club sandwiches, respectively). Breakfast at 1918's terrace bar, overlooking the courtyard, is a must. Aside from the buffet, guests can request traditional Jamu potions, served by an elderly local woman, to help alleviate cold and flu symptoms, indigestion and other ailments. This is also the place for high tea or a cup of kopi luwak, aka civet-cat-poo coffee, the most expensive drop in the house.

So, how does one get into the colonial spirit? A safari-suited waiter mixes the hotel's signature gin sling - a gin, lime and soda concoction topped with a maraschino cherry - at the table. It's truly decadent. Another evocative experience can be had aboard the vintage Mercedes proudly parked out front. Tours with a driver include pit stops at a batik workshop and a behind-the-scenes look at wayang kulit (shadow puppet) productions.

What's the bottom line? This place is good value. Rooms start from 585,000 rupiahs (HK$470) per night, with lower rates for longer stays.

The Phoenix Hotel is at Jl Jenderal Sudirman 9, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia; tel: 62 0 274 566 617; www.thephoenixyogya.com