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The Dark Side of Sanur

Sanur, Bali

The last rays of the sun disappear. Candles cast an eerie glow. Sanur by night.

Suddenly out of the shadows appears a grotesque form in a hideous costume, gyrating to the beat of tribal drums. A wild boar effigy moving from restaurant to restaurant, table to table, menacing diners yet entertaining the crowds. Nothing like a little street theatre to liven up the evening! Sanur at night. This is the other side of this amazing beachside community and the final destination on our Bali odyssey.

We spent a fantastic few weeks in Sanur late last year, so returning to this delightful beachside resort town was a little like coming home. After a month of travelling around Bali, including to locations on Bali’s spectacular east and west coasts, Sanur was our final stop before heading back to Australia, and we were looking forward to it.

By day, Sanur is a-buzz with tourists and visitors, as well as with locals going about their business. The main street through Sanur is Jl. Danau Tamblingan and runs from North Sanur through Batu Jimbar to Pura Blanjong in the south. Around 4 kilometres of shops, restaurants and villa resorts. Here you’ll find up-market fashion boutiques selling international brands alongside local Balinese shops and street stalls selling tourist souvenirs. Here also, myriad warungs (street restaurants) offering local Balinese dishes as well as many high-end restaurants offering exotic dishes and silver service. Here you’ll find dozens of resort villa complexes, hotels and homestays, many fronting the main road with others down the numerous gangs (laneways) that run off Jl. Danau Tamblingan. Along the beachfront are the more up-market 4 and 5-star resorts with their horizon pools looking directly across the sand to the blue waters of the Sanur lagoon.

When the sun sets …

Sanur’s nightlife is completely opposite to its western beach resort counterparts in places such as Kuta and Seminyak. It is far more laidback with a focus on great dining and good company. With the setting sun, Sanur begins its transformation from exciting shopping strip to enticing dining destination. All along Jl. Danau Tamblingan as well as along the almost five kilometres of Sanur’s beachfront walk, the lights come on and thousands of candles festoon restaurant tables the length of the coastline. Sanur’s beachfront walk has been delighting locals and visitors for decades as it curves past upmarket resorts, beachfront restaurants, ornate Hindu temples and elegant villas built decades ago by wealthy expats. At night this place really shines. Nothing beats a candle-lit dinner on the beach and Sanur’s beach walk is definitely the place to experience it.

There are literally hundreds of places to eat in Sanur, from street and beachfront warungs to elegant restaurants in 5-star resorts such as the Hyatt and the Fairmont. But you don’t need to spend a lot of money to eat well in Sanur. We usually set a limit of no more than IDR 100,000 for a main course, around AUD $10.00. We have no problem finding restaurants and warungs that meet our quality and price criteria.

Beached in Sanur

Our favourite places to eat? That’s a difficult question, for there are so many great eateries offering local and international dishes.

So, where to eat? Street or beach? Honestly, either is great. There are dozens of restaurants lining the length of Jl. Danau Tamblingan and further south, Jl. Cemara and Jl. Mertasari. Two of our favourites are the Three Monkeys and the Grill Bar. We talked at some length about these restaurants in an earlier post on last year’s visit to Sanur. Both serve great food. The bamboo architecture and décor of the Three Monkeys is something really special and compliments perfectly their selection of local Indonesian dishes. Across the road the Grill Bar also offers great food and to make it a memorable evening, live music most nights.

But for us, dining in Sanur is all about dining on the beach. Here, the restaurants and warungs that line the beachfront take full advantage of their location. Cool sea breezes, swaying palms, flickering candlelight and friendly banter in many languages create an atmosphere that is hard to beat. Then there is the food. We have stayed in Sanur on a number of occasions so we have had the opportunity to dine a quite a few of the beachfront restaurants, but you would need a lifetime to dine at all of them. This visit, we stayed at the Art+otel on Jl. Kusma Sari, at the southern end of Jl. Danau Tamblingan. This is a fun hotel with a focus on art and creativity, as reflected in its architecture and décor. Hence the name. Great location, great rooms that are creatively presented and professionally managed. We would certainly recommend this hotel. Check it out at: www.artotelindonesia.com

It is a short walk down Jl. Kusma Sari to the beach and to the myriad restaurants and eateries on this 4 kilometre strip. The resort restaurants are great but are more expensive than the warungs. We tend to opt for the smaller eateries, often with their tables actually on the beach. There are a number that have specialty menus, primarily Indonesian, but in the main most offer a very good selection of international and local dishes, and of course, fresh seafood. Here are our thoughts.

Izakaya: Get the sand between your toes as you dine literally on the beach. We had a seafood soup. Accompanied by a very nice white wine, it was delicious. Art+otel Beach Club: About a 2 kilometre walk from the Art+otel itself and on the beachfront in central Sanur. Amazing bamboo architecture that resembles a giant tree house. You can catch a shuttle from the Art+otel or you can walk it – about 2 kilometres. If you are staying at the Art+otel, you’ll get a 20% discount when you present your room card. Good food around the pool with nice beach views. The Beach House: On the corner of Jl. Kusma Sari and the beach walk. An indoor/outdoor restaurant with great food and live entertainment. Very popular on Sunday evenings when they have an amateur performance evening. Retro Beach Restaurant: Located on Mertasari Beach at the southern end of Sanur, this is a great restaurant if you are looking for an eatery right on the beach that offers shade, shelter and great food in an area that is often referred to as the ‘Miami Beach’ of Sanur! Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Down Jl. Kusma, turn right towards the Pura Santrian and you’ll find Sari Bobby’s Restaurant right on the beach and serving fresh seafood dishes. Try the BBQ calamari. To die for. And with a small Bintang at IDR18.000 and a glass of white wine at IDR40.000, an excellent value meal.

And after dinner…

While Sanur is not Kuta, for those who feel the compulsion to rage on into the evening there are a number of great late nightspots in Sanur. Two of our favourites are Casablancaon Jl. Danau Tamblingan and The Fire Stationon Jl. Danau Poso.

Casablanca restaurant and bar is one of the most popular night spots in Sanur, presenting live evening entertainment throughout the week, with a regular line-up of live bands performing everything from alternative and classis rock to reggae, blues and soul. Here you can ‘dine, drink and dance’. A great rendezvous point to gather and graze, but be warned. This place can be loud and crowded. A lively pub and grill, the Fire Station is clearly a late night hang-out. Great food and cosy ambiance with mugshots and famous photos of Jack Nicholson, James Brown, Frank Sinatra and the like adorning the walls with red lights, red chairs and centrepieces of red roses all lending to the ‘fire’ theme. Dine or simply enjoy a late night drink.

Our last evening in Sanur and our restaurant of choice is Lilla Pantai. We have eaten here on a number of occasions. This is a beautiful warung with tables that are right on the beach. Dinah ordered the Babi Kecap, traditional pork cooked in coconut milk with rice and vegetables. I ordered the Grilled Prawns in garlic lemon butter with rice and sautéed vegetables. Great Indonesian food at great prices. And a great way to celebrate (or commiserate) the final evening of our month-long Bali odyssey.

Tips for the Trip

Bring a small torchwith you on your travels. Many of the warungs on the beachfront forego practical lighting for mood lighting (tables with tea candles) making it difficult to read the menu and even more difficult to read the bill! Also, handy at night for negotiating dark Bali streets and gangs(laneways).

Other essential items to bring: a small knife to slice the cheese that you will want to enjoy with a Bintang or a glass of wine on your hotel balcony before you go out for dinner, and a bottle opener for the Bintang. You can buy bottle openers from the tourist stalls but invariable they are wooden effigies of men’s private parts and therefore considered way too gross to use in mixed company! In Sanur, you can purchase these and other grocery items from Hardy’s Supermarket on Jl. Danau Tamblingan.

Bali tap water is not safe to drink. Always use bottled water, including to rinse your teeth. Be careful also when ordering salads. Where possible, check to be sure that the salads you are ordering have not been prepared using tap water.

Photo Gallery

Main picture: Pier Eight Restaurant at the Beachfront walk in Sanur

  • Street theatre while you eat
  • The sun setting behind this sculptured driftwood wall
  • Fishing boats aground for the evening
  • This sign on the beachfront walk says it all
  • Bobby’s – one of or favourite warungs in Sanur
  • Lilla pantai – our favourite Balinese restaurant in Sanur
  • There is an elephant in the room
  • Sunset on beautiful Sanur Beach
  • The entrance to the Artotel – our hotel in Sanur
  • Relaxing by the rooftop infinity pool at our hotel
  • The decor of the Artotel is spectacular
  • I just loved the dragon across this villa entrance
  • The sentiment of the Balinese people, etched into the footpath for all to see
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