Grand Aston Yogyakarta
Jalan Urip Sumoharjo, 37
Phone: 13 38 10
(First photo courtesy of the hotel's website)
The Grand Aston is a modern classy and comfortable hotel located in the heart of Yogyakarta. Although not in the city centre, the Grand Aston is located at walking distance from supermarkets, shopping malls, shopping streets and some of the city sights.
Although the Grand Aston is a five-star hotel, you won't experience that unless you stay in one of the super-expensive super-duper suites. The hotel is classy but feels a bit run down and old-fashioned, and not luxurious enough. Yet, this is a great hotel, and you have everything you need there: lovely spacious rooms, huge restaurant, café, spa, gym, travel agent, beauty salon, conference facilities, free wi-fi and what is not. This is a business hotel for locals and other Asians, so there are not many Western visitors in general, especially from Australia. Most of them were Europeans visiting the amazing ruins for which Yogya is renowned in the world. You might have to stand with stoicism the stares of some people.
The Superior Room is very spacious and uber-clean, with a very classy timeless decoration, plenty of power points to plug your gadgets (even an desk's in-built international power socket), flat screen with a good selection of International TV Channels, air-conditioning, writing desk, a wonderful firm king bed, plenty of light points, safety box, a large classy bathroom with large shower, and a good selection of good quality toiletries, robe and sleepers included!
The Grand Aston has a huge cafe-restaurant (with business and conference facilities in the mezzanine). Breakfast was included in the price of the room, so that was lovely. Their breakfasts cater for eastern and western palates, with so many sweet and savoury options that is impossible not to overeat. They prepare your eggs the way you like it, the quantity you like it, on the spot. I have never seen so many different things in a buffet! Quality of the food varied, but in general was good, although I found some supposedly Western stuff a bit weird. The sweets were very arty and colourful.
Coffee is included in the breakfast voucher, but if you want a proper machine coffee you have to pay it extra. I thought their percolated free coffee was good.
Their themed dinners are buffet style, a bit pricey, but very varied regarding dishes on offer and quantity. It is self-service, so you eat and die happily. The Indonesian buffet was really lovely, especially the lamb on the spit, which was terrific!
There is a lady offering natural Indonesian digestives to customers, for free, dressed in a traditional dress. She seats at her spot in the dining area around 9am, if my memory does not fail. I tried some of them, and they tasted, well, "herby".
I loved my visits to the Spa, which is very small but well equipped and the staff have magic hands and do wonderful facial and body treatments. Their Balinese massage is just awesome and perfect after a long flight, and a must if you have never experienced one. I was impressed with the care and friendliness of the staff, the long opening hours, the style of the facilities, and the treatments and products used on me. I am lady spa, so I was quite "spased" and I cannot speak more highly of these magic ladies.
The pool is very small but lovely, with a classy and elegant layout and decoration, for both sexes, and a few chairs to seat and relax; there is a café/bar attached, quite "expensive", and the guy attending to him is also in charge of providing you with towels and keeping an eye on the pool.
The gym is also very small but with basic great quality machinery, and the guy attending to customers was just lovely.
The Travel Agent was a bit of disappointment as they just offer private drivers, car hiring and flight sales. They do not offer organised group tours. Private driving is the best thing, and affordable for foreigners, but extremely expensive for Indonesian standards. At least you know that they have fixed prices and you won't have to bargain. They will tell you that their drivers speak English, but most of them have a very limited very basic English, and communication can become a struggle.
All the Staff in the hotel were lovely, very helpful, smiley and willing to help: from cleaners, café attendants and waitresses, receptionists, masseuses, concierge, everybody. However, I found a tendency not to give customers correct information about pricing of transportation, and hesitation in the reply when you ask them for travel agents other than the one in the hotel, even if the others offer different services. Although information online about pricing is usually correct, they do not accept that as real because, well, you are a foreigner, hello hello. Basically, some people were very reliable on pricing information, and others totally untrustworthy.
The Galleria Mall, is a medium size lovely shopping mall, at barely five minutes walking distance from the hotel and with not many Westerners around. It has a great selection of shops and very friendly staff and floor personnel. The Galleria comes handy for some International fast food outlets (KFC, Mackos ice-cream booth and a Wendie's) and there is a food hall in the basement with a wide selection of Indonesian and Asian restaurants and stands, plus several posh cafes spread around the mall. There is a considerable variety of clothing, sports, shoes, and beauty shops, as well as a bargain area in the central courtyard.
I you just want to buy a few things to take to your room, there is a Super Indo supermarket just across the street, if you are brave enough to cross the street at pick hours. This is a supermarket for locals, and full of locals, something I always love, nothing compares to mingling with locals, whatever that minds :), and you can buy those extra bottles of water, snacks, take-away food and other only Indonesian thingies that you want.
The nearest sight is about 20 minutes walking distance, but if you are not used to the humidity of the place or do not live in a tropical area, you will avoid doing that at any cost. On the other hand, a ride on a becak (pronounced bechak) is a must.
* I would try to revamp superior rooms and provide customers with a bit more.
* I would change the mini-bar in the rooms, because it is minuscule and outdated.
* I would provide customers with a bigger wardrobe, which is a bit small for two people if you stay for a few days. Perhaps a better organised one, with more drawers might do the trick.
* I would include a jar or tube of hair-conditioning among the toiletries. Shampoo with hair-conditioning is not good enough for people with long hair.
* The room's windows cannot be open, so the room was a bit smelly when the air-con was off. That happens every time you go out, as the key works as power switch as well. If this were my hotel, I would give customers two cards, to keep the power on when going out.
* I would change more often, or perhaps replace more often, the sheets covering the treatment stretchers at the Spa, as they were a bit smelly at the end of the day.
* I would change the lighting in the ground floor common areas. It does not help to create ambience and makes the hotel look older than it is.
* I would make sure that retrograde men are not given a room beside the pool. I had to suffer the dirty stares of a group of taliban-looking guys despite me wearing a very conservative swimsuit. Perhaps allocating those rooms to families or women would be more suitable. This is a five-star hotel, so I expect certain things not to happen.
> Most Indonesian people do not speak English, so be smiley, learn a few words in Bahasa Indonesia, and you will find that things become easier all of the sudden. It shows your respect for their culture and expands your brain.
> The level of English of the staff varied tremendously. At reception was perfect, no problem, but in other areas the staff had limited English, reduced to basic greettings and vocabulary related to their trade. Confusion might arise because of this, so I recommend for you to use writing notes to make clear what you want at times if you notice that the staff are not getting what you are saying. Then smile broadly.
> I found a "rip off the Westerner as much as you can while smiling at their face" mentality in Yogya. The tourist infrastructure is very limited outside Bali, and prices exorbitant for Indonesian standards. Be careful with taxi and becak drivers, too many of them tend to get your money and do not give you the return, no matter the quantity due. Or drive slow as a cow to get more money, or arrange a price and then say that it was double of what they say. If you are on a budget, use your legs a bit and be firm in your haggling. Again, if you speak a bit of Bahasa, things smooth out immensely. They are just grateful for your effort.