Tag Archives: Bali

It was an “oh no” (or more epithet-rich) moment. I’d arrived at the Garuda Indonesia Business Class lounge in Denpasar International Airport, and realised I didn’t have my laptop with me – I’d left it in my hotel room.

What to do? A traveller’s nightmare. My work was on the laptop, and not backed up. I couldn’t go back to fetch it; I’d already checked my suitcase in, got my boarding pass and been through customs.

I rang the hotel and an obliging staffer said he’d bring the laptop to the airport in a taxi.

Airbus 330 - ex SYD ex MELThen I explained the situation to a smartly-uniformed young woman, whose name tag read Devi Susanti, working at the Garuda Indonesia Business Lounge front desk.

Don’t worry, Devi said. She’d meet the hotel bloke outside the terminal, negotiate her way back through customs and bring the missing Mac to me in the lounge. “Meantime relax and have a drink sir,” she smiled. I did, and half an hour later I was reunited with my laptop.

The story exemplifies The Siteseer’s recent experience with Garuda Indonesia, flying business class Sydney-Denpasar return. For many, travelling economy on any airline internationally is an ordeal. I discovered that this business-class offering, on the other hand, is genuinely something to look forward to. And more business-events travellers are enjoying it, according to Garuda Indonesia, as various accolades attest.

Not everyone knows it, but in 2018 for the fifth year running Indonesia’s national carrier maintained its five-star rating, and was acknowledged as having “The World’s Best Cabin Crew” by Skytrax, the international air transport rating organisation. It also maintained its ranking in the Top 10 of “The World’s Best Airline” list.

Why? In business class it’s a combination of a well-trained and committed cabin crew, the flat-bed seating, the western and Asian cuisine, the fresh modern aircraft and competitive pricing, a spokesman for the airline told The Siteseer.

The pricing in particular is an attraction. Recent promotional offerings for Sydney to Bali/Denpasar business class return on Garuda Indonesia, for instance, were less than AUD 1,000 each way.

It’s another reason for the spokesman to assert that “in a competitive market, we’re holding our own”.

“Competition is fierce,” he says, “but as the only full-service airline to Bali [from Australia], passengers appreciate our offering.”

DSC000351-1024x682Moreover, Garuda Indonesia actively targets group and conference travel as part of its marketing plans, having recently hosted two major Australian groups to Bali along with many school and special interest travellers.

In other news, the airline recently launched its Bali-to-Mumbai direct flights with A330-300 aircraft, new destinations in China as well as several new domestic routes. Its most important markets from Australia are Bali and the Indonesian archipelago, served by a large network to the islands. Meanwhile Jakarta-London services that had been suspended were resumed in December.

Siteseer says

I especially liked the in-seat power for my digital devices, the bus that collected business class passengers from the base of the boarding stairs once we’d left the plane at Bali (after a short return trip from Denpasar to Lombok). Plus the fact that my case arrived off the belts almost immediately, the beautiful uniforms of the women staff (inspired by a batik motif), and best of all the lie-flat bed with thick warm blanket, which meant I could get some actual sleep on the overnight leg from Bali to Sydney.

IMG_2849The service and food were a match for any airline business class offering I’ve experienced. The flight departed virtually on time when I left Sydney, even though the airport was experiencing delays that day because of storms, with only a single runway operating.

Lunch selections on the Sydney-to-Denpasar leg, after a choice of starters, such as Indonesian beef-rib soup, included braised chicken leg with curry sauce, grilled beef tenderloin with thyme sauce and vegetables, pan-seared barramundi with mushroom ragout and roasted asparagus tart.

Checking in as a business class passenger, for this scribe, in Denpasar, was a first-time-ever experience. Guided by a Garuda Indonesia staffer, I bypassed the economy queue and was ushered into a separate check-in enclosure where I could sit on a sofa while my bags and boarding pass were processed.

A short walk took me through customs and up an elevator to the lounge – the one in which I was reunited with my laptop – with great hot and cold Indonesian food, local beers and an Australian wine selection.

All in all, an experience to be savoured, and repeated.

More information

“Conference organisers seeking group rates should contact Garuda Indonesia directly, or their travel provider,” the spokesman says.

For Garuda Indonesia group bookings phone + 61 2 9334 994, or click here.


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A stroll near Bali’s Segara Beach takes a visitor past an imposing resort hotel – steep roofs in the Asian style, a columned lobby open to the tropical breezes. Inside, it reeks of luxury and good taste. A Shangri-la perhaps? Or Four Seasons?

You’d be forgiven for thinking so. Past the lobby, adjacent to the beach, is a large, beautifully maintained garden and pool area, fringed by manicured lawns and bars and eateries, with red-roofed room blocks on either side.

Uniformed staff patrol the area, looking to provide food and drink for guests relaxing on loungers. Beyond, leisure craft scud across a limpid sea. It’s a quiet oasis that makes a startling change from the bustle and noise of the island’s big tourist areas close by.

2Actually, it’s a Holiday Inn. The Holiday Inn Resort Baruna Bali, to be precise. A stone’s throw from Kuta and Seminyak, it’s a ten-minute drive from Denpasar airport, a big advantage for people flying in for meetings, tired after long flights.

Five meeting rooms cover almost six thousand square metres of conference and events space. The biggest, the Cinnamon Ballroom, can accommodate 150 banquet-style or up to 250 for receptions, according to Nyoman Utari (left), sales executive Holiday Inn Resort Baruna Bali.

“If you want to organise a gala dinner in the garden adjacent to the beach we can do that as well,” Utari says. “We’re very flexible and because we have 193 guest rooms, all delegates can stay on site.”

Guests also get access to the kind of facilities you’d expect in a tropical island resort: a spa (the Tea Tree), room service, pool bar, a beachfront restaurant (Envy) for cocktails and light dishes, and an all-day-dining eatery (Palms) serving Asian tapas and Indonesian delights. Each guest room has a private balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean or lush vegetation.

For those who bring their families with them, kids aged 19 and under stay for free when sharing their parents’ rooms. Up to four kids aged 12 and under eat free any time of the day in any on-site restaurant.

USD 40

The Holiday Inn Resort Baruna Bali represents great value. For example the full-day conference rate here recently was IDR500,200, which is about USD 40. The full board residential meeting package, which includes lunch and dinner and use of the meeting room, was USD 85.

Click here for more information.

Cinnamon Ballroom-Dinner Setup





The first striking feature visitors note when entering the lobby of the ibis Styles hotel at Bali Kuta Circle is a startling angular swimming pool, which seems to be suspended in air. Closer examination shows that it is.

Guests can walk under the pool, supported by pillars, and through glass windows set into the bottom, and swimmers can peer down to the floor below. Flanked by a cute bar and small but well-equipped gym, the pool is set in a quadrangle between white-painted and balconied hotel rooms rising several floors above the waterline.

RestaurantAccor’s ibis Styles group of 141 hotels, comprising the chain formerly known as All Seasons (rebranded in 2012), gives the lie to the old Ibis image of a basic hostelry with plastic shower cubicle, cell-like room and vending machines dispensing food and drinks. This is a transformed offering.

The corporate undertaking is to ensure each ibis Styles establishment has a different design and offers a resort or boutique-style experience.

Despite its not-too-snappy name of ibis Styles Bali Kuta Circle, this property, one of three “Styles”-branded hotels on the Indonesian holiday isle, has a bright, breezy, welcoming feel. It’s well-maintained and its public areas, like the room interiors, are painted in vivid colours. That, along with the sharp, colourful uniforms of the staff help impart a young, go-getter branding.

The hotel is in a busy business area adjacent to a mall, ten minutes from the airport and a brief, two-kilometre cab hop to the restaurants and buzz of Kuta Beach, Legian and Seminyak. It has a restaurant, “internet corner” and shuttle service.

The 190 rooms have good airconditioning, important in Bali, and include 32-square-metre loft duplexes designed to accommodate up to four. All rooms have king-size beds, safe deposit boxes, mini bars, hairdryers and free wifi internet access. Family rooms, also 32 squares, can accommodate the same number.

Room 2Online room rates start at around AUD 50, and include a full breakfast. Meeting packages start at around AUD 24 for a half day, including lunch, AUD 30 per person for a full day, or AUD 43 for full-board meetings, including two coffee breaks, lunch and dinner. Also thrown in are welcome drinks, free internet and discounts of up to 20% in the on-site spa.

There are two meeting rooms of 101 square metres and 83 square metres, able to accommodate up to 100 and 80 respectively in a theatre configuration. They have the AV, digital, wifi and other bells and whistles that come standard with vastly higher-priced facilities in other properties.

Interestingly, the group has embraced green principles, with flow regulators on taps, recycling of food waste for compost or energy, promoting of local food in the restaurant and in-room recycling. It’s also involved in a program to protect local children.

More info: Email H8118-RE1@accor.com

Or visit



Arriving at 11pm at the Hotel Santika Siligita in Bali, tired after a long flight, the immediate signs aren’t too appealing: a driveway with security guard off a busy thoroughfare in Nusa Dua, and a tiled lobby mostly deserted. At reception, a woman is complaining loudly to a staff member that a driver had tried to rip her off. Obligingly he orders her another cab.

It’s when I wake next morning and wander down to breakfast that I’m reminded again how pleasant it is to visit southeast Asia, especially Bali.

IMG_1158A large, high-ceilinged breakfast terrace served by smiling staff in traditional Balinese gear looks out over an enormous blue swimming pool surrounded by walled tropical gardens of lawns, frangipani trees and shrubbery. On one side, a sign emblazoned with “Uluwatu Spa” beckons. I could relax here.

Breakfast is a feast with a bewildering choice, from fresh papaya and other local fruits to an omelette station and western fare, with eclectic Asian choices including braised or fried chilli fish, curried chicken, nasi goreng, stuffed cabbage, salads, pastries and much else.

The three-star Hotel Santika Siligita is set near the centre of Nusa Dua, a MICE hub in Bali. It’s 30 minutes’ drive from the airport and about five minutes by free shuttle bus to good beaches and shopping. It has 153 rooms with high-speed wifi connection – something that some higher-priced chains, like Hilton, still, incredibly, don’t offer non-member guests – tea- and coffee-making facilities, safe deposit box, LCD TV and cable channels.

The hotel itself includes six well-equipped meeting rooms, and full banquet facilities are available for larger gatherings and special events.

“We’re part of a strong local company that has over forty very reasonably priced hotels throughout Indonesia,“ says Ni Wayan Yoni (pictured, above), Assistant Sales Manager for the Hotel Santika Siligita Nusa Dua.

19“We recently hosted a five-day conference for a business group of 70 people here very successfully, and we can easily accommodate up to 140 people theatre-style.”

The half-day rate including lunches is USD 23, for a full day it’s USD 35, and for full board that includes lunch and dinner it’s USD 40. And even these rates are subject to negotiation, says Wayan Yoni. The online room rate starts from USD 29 a night, including breakfast, which, notwithstanding the value-for-money reputation of many Asian three-star hotels, is reasonable indeed.

Meetings clients are roughly split between local and international groups, with a significant number of MICE visitors from Singapore, Korea, China, Germany and, to a lesser extent, Australia, she says.

The Santika hotel group includes two-star Amaris properties, three-star Santika branded hotels and Santika Premier hotels which incorporate a collection of four-star properties. The Royal Collection is a brand of boutique Villa properties under the Samaya and Kayana brands.

More info: sales@siligitabali.santika.com, and at






As I step into the lobby of the Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel in Bali (pictured above), the sound of traffic becomes muted and I find myself in a tranquil oasis, offering sudden respite from the island’s humidity. Smiling staff bustle about the airy space, which abuts a green-lawned courtyard.

wedding-1A turtle dove is cooing somewhere and a female crooner is singing moodily over the PA system as Stuart Bolwell steps up to greet me, hand extended in welcome. The 47-year-old expatriate New Zealander has been with this hotel for 11 years, and GM for the past three years, and the focus and continuity he’s brought to  the role helps explain why ratings for this property continue to head north.

Two-and-a-half years ago, the user-generated website TripAdvisor ranked the Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel thirty-fifth in Bali’s busy coastal strip of Sanur on the southeast of the island. Now it’s sixteenth, says Stuart, and the good results are reflected in guests’ comments. Its sister property nearby, the Sanur Paradise Plaza Suites, is now ranked the second-best family accommodation in the country.

The largest four-star hotel in Bali focusing on meetings and events, the Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel is half an hour’s drive from Denpasar airport and the busy tourist precinct of Kuta, and a few minutes away from good shopping and its own beach enclave.

One of nine properties strategically located throughout Indonesia and managed by Prime Plaza Hotels and Resorts, the hotel is set next to a verdant nine-hole golf course. It is quintessentially Balinese: everywhere, from the gardens surrounding the 110-metre-long pool to the private courtyards adjoining many of the 329 rooms, foliage sprouts in lush profusion.

Hotel PoolStuart Bolwell, pictured below, is a high-energy manager, as I can attest as I try to keep up with him on a brisk walking tour of the hotel and its 18 meetings and functions spaces, which include a ballroom, the ‘Griya Agung’. When all venues are full, the resort can accommodate 2,000 MICE guests, he says.

People expect more

“People’s expectations are much higher now,” says Stuart. “Those heading off for events or leisure are educated in travelling, and in what they want and expect. That’s why you’ve got to make sure you invest more in resources and energy to maintain standards and service these days. I keep reminding my teams of this.”

The strategy is working, as the hotel has a growing reputation for providing value for money and robust occupancies, he says. This dovetails with Stuart’s philosophy ‘to under-promise and over-deliver’.

“We don’t gouge in our pricing structure, so you’re never charged more than what you’d expect,” he says.

From USD85 per night

The rate for guest rooms, most of which have just been renovated, is USD85 per night for two people, including breakfast and wifi. Conference day rates are equally good value: USD35 per delegate, including lunch and two coffee breaks as well as the latest in AV and other necessary gear. A point-of-contact person is assigned to each event to take care of every request.

IMG_9120Roughly half of the resort’s events business is domestic, and the rest is mostly from Australia and Europe, says Stuart. “Our distinct advantage over competitors is that we’ve been here a long time and do what we do very well. Our staff are incredibly dedicated and we have long-established relationships with local companies and third-party contractors who supply us with their services.”

Recent events hosted here include those of international teachers’ and doctors’ groups and an Indian telco. For a recent Lions club conference, the hotel welcomed delegates from 33 countries. It lasted a week and many guests either arrived beforehand or extended their stay apres-meetings to explore the island, going on day tours to the central upland town of Ubud and to the ancient Tanah Lot temple, located on the coast, which has been part of Balinese mythology for centuries.

The ballroom, which can cater for 1,100 theatre style or 750 in banquet arrangements, is a spacious pillarless 950 square metres in area, together with its pre-function area. It has dedicated vehicle access and a 122 square-metre permanent stage.

The Siteseer was not a guest of the Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel.

For more information, email stuart@sanur.pphotels.com or visit www.sanurparadise.com.

Pool Access Room