Quality and style
Set a mere five- to 10-minute walk from Balian beach, Istana Balian is a family-friendly hideaway that really delivers the goods at a midrange price-point. Run by the very friendly Australian and Indonesian couple of Michael and Komang (and their young daughter Eka) along with an affable local staff, the hotel is appealing both for the comfort on offer as well as the family-friendly vibe they’ve got going here.
From the street Istana Balian looks fairly small, but walk down the stairs and you’ll be very pleased with what you find. To your right there’s a comfortably sized pool that edges onto a restaurant and has an ideally placed bale at the end. The pool isn’t big enough for laps, but it is ideal for cooling off in the afternoon and our kids spent the best part of an entire day in it — the deep end is very deep, making it ideal for diving practice.
The fair-sized restaurant delivers impressive food. Offerings range from Thai curries to Indonesian standards, but the Western food here really stands out and was the best we had over a three-day stay in Balian. Servings are oversized, which is just what the doctor orders after a morning being pummelled in Balian’s waves.
Sports TV is a focal point at Istana’s restaurant, with almost daily screenings on big-screen TVs; at one stage we had Australian Rules at one end of the restaurant and Australian rugby league at the other. This will be a hit with sports fans, but if you’re not a sports fan, bear in mind that the restaurant can get busy with outside visitors who are there primarily to watch the game(s) and they can get pretty raucous. This wasn’t a big deal for us though and the very friendly staff will happily deliver your meals to your room should you prefer to eat there.
The lodgings themselves are split into two main sections: upstairs suites above the restaurant area and standard “garden-view” rooms looking over a compact but well-loved tropical garden. Across the board, standards are excellent. We had a garden room for two nights and it was great value for money — miles ahead of the now similarly priced Pondok Pisces. Rooms are oversized with comfortable beds boasting real linen and soft pillows, plus chilled air-con, flat screen TVs and equally oversized hotel-standard hot water bathrooms. Each room has a private terrace area with a day bed and table and chair setting. While there’s no real views to be had from these rooms, the garden view is more than adequate.
The real stars at Istana Balian though are the upstairs suites. Four of these sit above the restaurant, two atop each other, with the highest rooms (reached via a narrow staircase by the entrance to the lower suite) offering staggering views over Balian. The suites can either be rented out together (upstairs and downstairs — ideal for families) or separately. If rented separately, the other room (above or below) is left empty for the duration of your stay. The lower floor room is more traditional in approach, but the upstairs suite, with a peaked roof and elevated double bed looking down through the room, over the large terrace and out and beyond is outstanding and easily the pick of the bunch.
The property has free and great quality WiFi throughout and can offer additional services such as massage, tours to the surrounds and transfers (with a baby-seat if required) from or to elsewhere on Bali. Reservations, particularly over weekend and in high season, are a good idea.
Overall if this fits with your budget, we’d characterise Istana Balian as outstanding value for the area. Check it out!
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 18th May, 2014.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.