Bali, nicknamed the island of Gods, is one of the islands in the world that could beat the fame of the country where it is located. Flood of foreigners all year long is no strange for a very popular destination like Bali.
Last year, my parents, their old friends and I headed to north Bali that took 3 hours starting from Ngurah Rai International Airport. We visited Bedugul, Lovina, Pemuteran until West Bali National Park, including small villages along the way. Our trip was only 2 nights, the time was tight and it wasn’t really a weekend break. The purpose of the trip: 80% villas and inhabited land observation, 20% leisure.
Since the only international airport (Ngurah Rai) and more well-known areas namely Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Ubud and Uluwatu are in south Bali, the north seems less exposed. But don’t get me wrong. This is not the story about terra incognita or the discovery of a new land like Columbus discovered America.
The first stop: Lake Buyan, Bedugul
There were not many people on street regardless high season. Are these places dead for business? On the contrary. Unless one of us made a reservation, we wouldn’t get any room to stay. In fact, the north has been the top destination for snorkeling, diving and watching dolphins at dawn. Beaches are more quiet despite tourist occupancy, a perfect place for total retreat from daily stress at work, since they do anything but getting drunk and make loud noises. Unlike the south, the sea is more crowded than the street during the day in the north. Most visitors are families, young and retired couples. I believe groups of adolescents prefer going to the south for more places to hang out.
Forget about Hard Rock Café, high-end shopping street like Seminyak, night clubs, rows of souvenir shops, world-class rock concerts and so on. I didn’t see any, not even McDonald’s and KFC. Eating out is only possible either inside the hotels, resorts or at warungs (traditional small shops selling food, drinks and daily necessities) along the street. No wonder why tourists prefer being under the sea and on the beach unless they search for food or groceries.
The best dining experience was at May Mena warung, a small eatery having 3 dining tables that could not accommodate more than 20 guests. My father’s friend has been a regular customer of the warung and knows the owner pretty well. The menu listed on its poster was very limited. He ordered all dishes not listed on the menu, from pork saté, pork with sweet soy sauce, sautéed morning-glory, roasted peanuts until grilled fish. It felt as if we had a personal chef coming to our house, cooking for us. Last but not least, the watermelon was the best dessert ever! Very juicy and sweet!
She had bought the fish the day before to cook for the next afternoon. The biggest fish I’ve ever ate!
Breathtaking view of mountains, mangrove forest, beaches, clear blue sky and water are the some of the most crucial selling points of these magnificent world-class villas and resorts apart from luxurious rooms, excellent facilities and hospitality to spoil their guests to the max. These are some resorts and villas we managed to visit in the neighbourhood of Pemuteran Village and West Bali National Park.
ANEKA LOVINA VILLAS & SPA
We stayed at Aneka Lovina Villas & Spa. Compared to other luxurious villas and resorts available, it is relatively affordable with direct access to Lovina beach. The rooms supposed to be better, but we only got the leftovers since their best rooms were fully booked.
Aneka Bagus Lovina Garden
mangrove trees, the trees you won’t see on beaches in south Bali
Lovina beach behind the villas
Menjangan Resort is in the middle of West Bali National Park where it’s not supposed to be any properties allowed to build. Nonetheless, when money is power and the owner is rich, coming from a powerful family background like Tommy Soeharto, the youngest son of the former late President Soeharto, the story turns otherwise. It provides facilities that other resorts might not have, such as helipad and a double-decker minibus that can take you to the wildlife. Due to limited time, we only visited Bali Tower Restaurant to view the skyline of the national park and the ocean facing East Java by going up to the top floor of its wooden tower.
Facing East Java
Staircase to skyline
GAWANA NOVUS RESORT & SPA
Even drinking coconut water (the welcome drink) at Gawana Novus Resort and Spa could be an unforgettable experience while viewing the beauty of nature in front of you!
View of mountain and mangrove forest. The sea is calmer and no wave at all.
swimming pool with sea view
Definitely, the owner of Jeda Villa is Dutch. It explains why Dutch language is in a language options on its website. I mean, French, German and Spanish are more common than Dutch, aren’t they?
THEY ARE AHEAD OF US!
As an Indonesian, It was surprising to find out that the only Indonesian people we met were those working in tourist attractions, hotels, local village people and our driver. Hotel officials greeted us in English as they didn’t expect to meet local tourists staying in their place. While having breakfast and dinner at the hotel, I only could hear ourselves speaking Indonesian. The rest spoke French, English, Spanish and other foreign languages. And who were on the beach? Local fishermen, local vendors and foreign visitors.
How both local and foreign landlords mark their inhabited lands
Foreigners seeking for tranquil and unspoiled nature have found their heaven on earth. Moreover, they have had property investments: several thousands of meter of land for capital gain and villas to rent for cash flow. Non business-oriented people build retirement homes for themselves. Either way, they have been ahead of locals to notice the future potential of the north.
It’s a common thing that locals, regardless of which country they come from, appreciate their homeland more after foreigners visit their place, embrace its beauty and finally make it “home”. Recently, locals outside Bali and a huge Indonesian corporation start to follow their footsteps, but still in the form of empty lands. The Balinese are happy enough to earn more money by selling their lands to outsiders. The expansion plan of the local airport, Letkol Wisnu Airfield, to ease the burden of overcrowded Ngurai Rai International Airport, have driven more investors to own lands in the north, even though the project remains uncertain.
Have these foreign investors earned anything yet? The answer may vary. The value of some most wanted lands have increased over 300% in less than a year. Some villas have gained popularity and had their guests via online, while others are unexpectedly quiet and less popular.
“I’m a friend, not food” – an implicit message from a local’s piglet
I’m amazed and proud that The Island of Gods I’ve visited more than 3 times still have more areas to explore, which is beyond my imagination. I only have one wish: the unspoiled nature remains unspoiled in the future after more tourists coming, more resorts and villas in these areas. In fact, as corruption has infiltrated in our government’s culture, it won’t be as easy as it sounds, although not impossible to achieve.
I found a sentence on the websites of villas and resorts that intrigues my mind, “We are located in the unspoiled nature of north Bali……”. Something like that. They are highly potential for spoiling the unspoiled nature, and implicitly confirm it. It is extremely necessary to control the amount of accommodations in touristic areas. I’m happy that so far, there are not so many of them yet in the north.
Perfect sunset in Gondol village. Some investors bought the land and built a villa facing the scenic beach.
LESS VISITED BY WHOM?
Until the day I wrote this, the north side we visited is still much less visited than the south, especially by local tourists (Indonesians outside Bali). I believe the old point of view remains in their mind: no shops, lavish buildings, restaurants and cafes to hang out equals to “nothing to see”. But at the same time, they complain that nowadays Bali is too crowded, the traffic is worse or too many annoying street vendors. I’ve heard it millions of times. I agree, partly, because these complaints are usually meant for south Bali. In a nutshell, they haven’t seen the whole Bali yet!
Sometimes, I don’t know whether my story is to tell my fellow readers about north Bali or to remind myself that I was left behind particularly about new facts and surprises I experienced in these less visited areas. But thank God, now I’m less retarded about my own country. Just a bit less. But, better late than never.