Indonesia - Bali

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, January 26, 2007

We arrived into Denpasar Airport, Bali, at just gone 10pm. After picking up our luggage and a long queue to pay for our visas and get our passports stamped (slow but with no complications) we found our transfer and hopped into the taxi for the 20-minute drive to our resort in Nusa Dua.
We had booked to stay for 10 nights at the Aston Bali Resort & Spa just outside Nusa Dua; an exclusive gated collection of resorts at the southern tip of Bali. We intended to spend most of our time sat around the pool - finally getting the weeks relaxation that we never got during our travels around Australia or New Zealand.
The resort was a lush oasis of palms and tropical plants set right on the beach (PICS). The best thing about the place was the deal that we got; Stay 10 nights - pay for 8, an upgrade to an Ocean view room, a free 50 minute massage each, free breakfasts, a free a-la-carte dinner, free shuttle bus to nearby city and 30% off additional spa treatments - all for only 350.
Our room was large and nicely decorated, with a huge marble bathroom, cable TV, Air-con and a massive comfy bed (PIC). The balcony looked out over the gardens and pool and if you leaned over it you could see the ocean - we didn't really use the balcony though as the cool air-conditioned room was far more habitable and didn't have mozzies!
We spent the first day lounging by the pool (PICS) and enjoying the sunshine, although we welcomed the intermittent cloud as it provided some relief from the intense midday sun. When the sun got too much we were able to relax on the enormous day bed, which was set in amongst the gardens and provided shelter from the rays (PICS).
Andrew had suddenly developed the mother of all spots on his back, which was too painful to leave alone. We decided to try lancing it and then utilised a venom-extractor pump to do the rest (PICS). It hurt like holy hell but did manage to lessen the pain overall.
Our second day in Bali was Verdi's 28th birthday so we set out a grand schedule of activities to fill our day; lounging by the pool, reading our books and cooling off when the need arose. The afternoon was to become progressively more strenuous with a 3-hour pampering session at the hotel spa. The session included a full body massage with a turmeric scrub and a dousing in yoghurt followed by an hour relaxing in a flower bath and a strange concoction of spices in liquid form and a strong ginger tea (we assumed it must be good for some part of our body so we downed it - expecting to hear laughter from the staff at what we had just unknowingly devoured!). Returning to our room, which Andrew had previously decorated with balloons, banners and cards, we found that the hotel staff had left a large slab of chocolate birthday cake for Verdi (PIC) (Andrew did help out though!). In the evening we went down to the hotel restaurant for our free meal, which we took advantage of in the shape of a 3-course meal (PICS).
The main town near to our resort was Kuta, a large tourist centre now infamous as the site of two terrorist bombings in 2003 and 2005. The large westerner concentration in the town provided a tempting target to the terrorists who were determined to create as much havoc as possible. We had no real desire to spend much time in Kuta but as we were in the area we decided to utilise the free resort shuttle bus and spend an afternoon there.
The drive there was interesting to say the least. Road rules don't really exist in Bali and a two-lane road frequently transforms into a four-lane (2 car, 2 moped) racetrack with vehicles jostling for position constantly. It kind of exciting but also pretty nerve-racking at times - we certainly wouldn't want to drive!
The town was pretty much as we had expected, with throngs of tourists and an equal number of locals pestering us to buy their wares. The streets were dirty and the majority of shops and stalls were either 'designer' goods or cheap tat. We managed to find a slightly more western shopping mall that we could use as refuge from the heat and the insistent locals until our bus came to collect us - we wouldn't be returning to Kuta in a hurry.
Back at the resort we opted for another spa treatment, this time in the idyllic settings of the resort gardens. A reflexology massage was the order of the day and an absolute bargain at about 3.50 each for 30 minutes - try and find that in the UK! We also took advantage of another freebie included with our package of a 10-night stay; a 50-minute Balinese massage. This was just as relaxing as the other treatments, made all the more enjoyable as it cost us nothing.
Outside the resort an hourly bus runs to the gated resort of Nusa Dua, with it's large westernised shopping mall. We hopped on it one day to find out what it had to offer. All we found was an attractive selection of gardens and hotels surrounding a half empty shopping precinct. The shops were clean and well-kept department store types and would easily satisfy many western tourists - but as we were not looking to buy anything we spent an hour wandering whilst waiting for the next bus out and returned to the Aston Bali. One shop did however have a rather intriguing drink - "Sweat" - we decided to take a photo rather than a sip (PIC).
There were a few downsides to our stay in Aston Bali, and these generally contributed to us feeling that we were not able to completely relax and re-energise before continuing our travels through Asia. The first and foremost of these was the incessant touting for business, not only from the hawkers in Kuta but also the collection of local sellers along the beachfront, and the taxi drivers actually ringing our room to try and sell us island tours! The hotel 'tourist information' was nothing more than a glorified travel agent - unable to answer any of our questions and quickly reverting to the tours that he had for sale. There was a daily battle for loungers around the pool, with every other guest seemingly taking the German approach of reserving 2 loungers each (1 in the shade, 1 in the sun) by about 8am. The final downer was the buffet breakfast, which became increasingly tiresome with the same predictable line-up of food each day; more and more of which seemed to contain insects as the week drove on.
Regardless of these downsides, we did enjoy our time at the Aston Bali and the staff were always friendly and accommodating to the best of their ability. We knew that our onward journey would not present such comfortable surroundings so we made the most of our time there and left for Ubud feeling fairly revived.
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