Bali is a popular holiday destination for Australian families due to it’s relatively close proximity and (potentially) low cost. If you’ve never visited Bali before, it pays to do your homework in advance and set your expectations accordingly.
Bali is an entire island, and you have many options as to where to stay and visit. Your plane will land in Denpasar, but the popular places to stay are Kuta, Nusa Dua, Seminyak, Legian or, if you would like to experience the hills and Bali ‘highland’, Ubud.
The Aston Bali Resort & Spa is located in the genteel township of Nusa Dua, with it’s own east-facing private beach, amidst a stretch of similarly private and refined resorts – InterContinental Bali Resort, Laguna Resort, Conrad Bali, Novotel Coralia, Grand Hyatt Bali, Sheraton Laguna, Ayodya Resort Bali, and more.
When you first arrive at the Aston Bali, it presents a dramatic façade as you approach via a steeply sloping driveway towards a multi-storey character-filled building with tall colonnades supporting an impressive portico with Balinese-style carved woodwork. Whilst checking it at the open-air lobby you are served a refreshing guava juice, and ably and courteously assisted through the check-in process and to locate your room.
It’s Indonesian custom to tip just about everybody who assists you along the way – the shuttle or taxi driver, the staff who assist to bring your luggage from the vehicle to reception, and the bellboy who shows you to your room and delivers your bags. A tip of Rp. 10,000 or so is considered quite adequate (that equates to just over AUD $1), and I’m sure they’re familiar enough with ‘uneducated’ tourists who don’t understand the custom, that they won’t be offended if you don’t always tip.
When we arrived at the Aston Bali, we were initially shown to a ground floor room facing to the South, with a view of a neighbouring concrete monstrosity, and a mustiness that could kill you in about three breaths. Needless to say our disappointment was immense, and it was compounded when reception insisted that there were no further queen-size rooms available. They offered to have housekeeping deodorise the room, but after a couple of minutes of waiting we could stand it no longer and headed out for fresh air. As we headed out to the entrance lobby, we again stopped to speak with reception. Miraculously, they were now able to locate another room on the 4th floor of the North wing – at this point, our brief Bali holiday appeared to be back on track!
The climate/humidity of Bali obviously presents a never-ending challenge for any resort or hotel to combat the ever-present threat of mustiness. However, when you’re elevated a few floors higher the prospects are a great deal better. The room was quite large and comfortable, our bathroom included a spa bath, and there was a quaint balcony with a reasonably pleasant view, albeit largely of the neighbouring resort.
The highlight of the Aston Bali Resort & Spa is definitely the grounds and outdoor facilities – the pool is very relaxing, there’s a range of lovely shaded deck chairs and gazebos, a table tennis table and billiards, and a service desk to assist you with any water sports you may wish to avail of – jet skis, para-sailing, water skiing, and more. There’s a bar in the pool, and you can book a very affordable massage either outdoors or indoors. There’s also the health spa and fitness centre, so you could comfortably spend a few days just kicking back within the resort and hardly ever venture out.
Bear in mind that, because Nusa Dua is east-facing, it doesn’t enjoy the same spectacular sunsets that Kuta is famous for. However, Kuta’s fame comes at a price, making it a far more frenetic, bustling, and overly-commercialised township.
On our second day in Bali the heavens opened up and bucketed down rain for a few hours. This wasn’t such a big deal, except for the fact that the main dining room which serves the complimentary breakfast for guests normally has a significant number of outdoor tables and seating, so the downpour significantly restricted their number of available seats and we had to wait about half an hour before we could find a table. The buffet breakfast on offer included a wide variety of dishes, although many were of the typical Asian savoury variety, and the traditional Western-style breakfast options were a little limited and not overly inspiring.
The Aston Bali tends to be dominated by Aussie families, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective. If you want to party, you’d be better staying in Kuta. And if you want to experience more Balinese/Indonesian culture, you’ll definitely need to leave the protective walls of the resort. But if you’d like to bring your kids to an idyllic island holiday getaway and completely de-stress for a few days, the Aston Bali Resort is a great place to do it. And you’re still free to take day-trips to other Bali locations to experience all that Bali has to offer.
Overall, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Aston Bali as a great holiday destination on a moderate budget – however, make sure you insist on a room above ground floor, and take some time to get out of the resort and explore Nusa Dua’s many cosy little restaurants rather than relying only on the inhouse restaurants at the Aston.