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The island of the gods

Sanur, Bali

The simplicity of life, the infectious smells and the vibrant colours are captivating.

What hasn’t been written about this Indonesian island located between Java and Lombok? Indeed, what Australian hasn’t been there? Well, until recently, my wife Dinah and I had never been to Bali (Balikapapan). We’ve travelled all over the world, but we had never to Bali. I must say, having now visited this island paradise, we’ve discovered that we have been missing something really special. Now we know why Bali is called the “Island of the Gods”. The island boasts a rich and diverse culture that is truly unique. There’s a spiritual feel in the Balinese land that you are immersed in every day. Little wonder that Bali is one destination that visitors return to again and again.

While the island is best known as a tourist mecca for Aussies due to our geographic proximity, Bali is a beautiful place, particularly when one ventures beyond the gaudy Kuta tourist strip. We opted to stay in Sanur on the east coast of the island. A little quieter and a lot less touristy than the traditional tourism spots of Kuta and Denpasar. Once again, my favourite travel app ‘I Know the Pilot’ alerted me to budget return airfares on Jetstar to Bali, and based on the recommendation of our son George and his wife Sara, we opted to stay at the Griya Santrian Beach Resort, a 5-star resort right on the coast in Sanur. George and Sara raved about it, so we booked 10 days there.

Sanur is about 35 minutes by taxi from Denpasar’s Ngurah Rai International Airport. As I‘ve mentioned previously, we chose to pre-book an airport pick up. It saves haggling with taxi drivers, particularly if you are a first-time visitor with no in-country experience and have just endured a long flight. In Bali we chose BaliCabs. They guarantee to pick you up whether your flight is on time or delayed. Our cab was spotless and the driver spoke good English. The cost is about 250,000 IDR (AUD$25.00) from the airport to Sanur. You can pre-book and pay online at: booking@balicabtrans.com

Arriving in Bali is easy. These days if you have an Australian passport and are staying for less than 30 days you don’t need a visa. At the Immigration Counter you will get a Visa Exemption Stamp in your passport. If you are traveling on other than an Australian passport, you should check how the visa requirements apply to your country.

Truly Balinese

Sanur is an ocean-side town in the southeast of the island and is famous for its spectacular sunrises. It was Bali’s earliest beach resort town and offers a relaxed coastal ambiance, and despite the tourist development, it retains much of its Balinese character and old-style village charm. In this way, it is the opposite of Kuta both in characteristics and nuance. It is home to dozens of well-known restaurants and beach bars and some of Bali’s chic fashion shops. It is also the location of many of Bali’s top beach resorts, including the Hyatt and our home in Bali, the Griya Santrian Beach Resort Hotel. Located about half way along JI Danau Tamblingan, the main street of Sanur, the Griya Santrian Beach Resort is a beautiful place to stay in Sanur. We found it to be more than reasonably priced and its location means it is the ideal positioned to explore Sanur and the island of Bali. You can check out the Griya Santrian Beach Resort Hotel at: www.santrian.com/griya

You will need a ‘special passport’ to stay at the Griya Santrian, but that’s no problem. The hotel will provide you with your own unique Griya Santrian passport when you check in. This invaluable little document provides you will all the information you’ll need to enjoy your hotel stay. It details the myriad things to do within the resort; from authentic Balinese cooking classes, themed evenings in the restaurants, to the many outdoor and water activities you can enjoy. And for the ultimate in Balinese-style relaxation (after your long flight or torrid day around the pool) there’s the Rama Sita Spa to “heal and rejuvenate your body and soul” – as the brochure explains!

Fine dining in Sanur

The Griya Santrian Resort Hotel certainly lived up to our expectations. This is a beautiful hotel set in a magnificent location on the east coast of Bali, with every resort facility you could want; sparkling swimming pools – the main pool with its own pool bar, spacious gardens to walk in and relax, restaurants, spas and water sports on the beach. As keen gardeners, Dinah and I loved the expansive gardens of the hotel and being located in the tropics, everything is lush and green. The Balinese have a very special gift for outdoor garden décor. The grounds of our hotel were spectacular with ornate Balinese archways, statues and artefacts set amid manicured lawns, water features and thatched bungalows.

The rooms are spacious and well appointed, and the staff are super friendly and helpful. Our room looked out over the garden pool, and the balcony in the afternoon was a great place to relax and enjoy a cold beer. Speaking of beer, you can buy Bali Bintang beer in bottles or cans from the ‘quickie market’ for around 230,000 IDR (Indonesian Rupiah) – about AUD$2.30. However, if you are a wine drinker, the news is not so good. A half decent bottle of white Sauvignon Blanc will cost you about 230,000 IDR, or around AUD$23.00 in the ‘quickie market’ and considerably more in a restaurant. And by the glass it is even more expensive. If you must drink wine, I suggest picking up a couple of bottles duty free at the airport on your way in. This may help ease the pain.

We found that the food prices in our hotel were extremely reasonable and the food was superb. Yes, you can buy cheaper street food at the markets (if you know what you are buying) but eating in the hotels or in the many excellent restaurants is a much more pleasurable experience and is still very reasonable, with a main course costing around 100,000 IDR or AUD$10.00. The tough decision is choosing which restaurant to dine in. There are dozens of restaurants both on JI Danau Tamblingan, as well as along the Sanur Boardwalk that runs the length of Sanur Beach. We had many an enjoyable meal in the Griya Santrian’s Wantilan Restaurant on the beach boardwalk – great for a delicious Seafood soup for lunch. Or for a moonlit evening dinner, may I suggest the Nasi Goreng. It is the national dish and it is to die for!

Our favourites eating places on JI Danau Tamblingan included the Mango Taru Restaurant and Bar. Offering simple, inexpensive food, this is a great spot for lunch and dinner. The Three Monkeys restaurant is famous in Sanur for its outstanding food and spectacular Balinese bamboo décor. Constructed as a treehouse around a giant Borneo Mahogany tree, the Arthotel on the boardwalk is a funky poolside place to eat. And if you are looking for traditional Indonesian cuisine with live music most evenings, the Grill Bar on JI Danau Tamblingan is a great place to relax and enjoy a Balinese evening. All are within a five-minute walk of our hotel. If you are simply looking for a quiet drink (to ward off the heat!), any and all of the restaurants in Sanur can oblige. You can enjoy an ice-cold Bintang while sitting watching the world go by. If you cannot live without your sport; be it European Soccer, F1 Motor Racing or Aussie Rules Football then Barb’s Sports Bar on JI Danau Tamblingan is the place for you.

How to see Bali?

We based ourselves in Sanur and day-tripped to other parts of the island. If you are brave enough, you can hire a scooter, but be careful that this does not void your travel insurance. We found that the best and most comfortable way to explore the island is with a tour driver. Daily rates tend to range between 500,0000 and 750,000 IDR (about AUD$50.00 to $75.00). The advantage is that you are travelling with a driver who knows the island and the best places to visit. And, you are travelling in a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle which is essential during the more humid months of October to March. Our driver Wayan Wira was fantastic and very accommodating, taking us to and waiting while we visited the various locations. Our hotel organised our tour driver for us, or you can contact Wayan directly by email at: wayanbali1975@yahoo.com

When to go to Bali?

Bali has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons – the wet season and the dry season. The dry season running from April to September offers the best weather, sunny days and cool evenings, while the wet season October to March is more humid. Not surprisingly, October to March sees the best accommodation deals. We travelled in November and had one or two days of rain with the rest of the time beautifully sunny.

Dinah and I had a fabulous time, and when we take into account the cheap airfares and off-peak lower accommodation costs, it was also a very affordable holiday. On top of our airfares and accommodation, we allowed 150,000 IDR (AUD$150) per day for expenses – food, drink and in-country travel. This allowed us to eat very well (breakfast, lunch and dinner) as well as see the sites of Bali and buy Balinese gifts for home. And we would definitely recommend the Griya Santrian Beach Resort Hotel as perfect for anyone looking for a laid-back, affordable holiday within close proximity to everything you would want to see and explore on the ‘Island of the Gods’.

Tips for the Trip

Budget airfares invariably do not include the niceties we have come to expect from international carriers. Checked luggage is extra and it is expensive. Inflight meals and entertainment are extra. So are selected seats. So, to keep the price as low as possible, try to travel with just carry-on luggage. 10 days in Bali is easy – just t-shirts and shorts. Weight restrictions apply, usually 7 kilograms, and maximum carry-on bag dimensions are enforced. Check for any conditions that may be applicable to your airfare.

My being quite tall, Dinah and I choose invest in Exit Row seats that offer extra legroom. The additional cost is definitely worth it for a comfortable trip, particularly on those long-haul overnight flights.

Hospital and medical services in Bali are very good, with hospitals in Denpasar and Kuta. As well there are medical clinics that cater almost exclusively to foreigners in Bali. They are western-owned and operated and are well located for access from Kuta, Nusa Dua and Sanur. You can check out Bali medical services through the Australian Consulate-General website: https://bali.indonesia.embassy.gov.au/ Make sure that you check with your travel insurance provider as to what hospitals they recommend. If you are travelling with medication, it is a good idea to include supporting documentation from your doctor, including photocopies of any prescriptions. Ideally, take your medication in new, unopened boxes that are clearly marked as medicine prescribed for you. Countries such as Indonesia (and therefore Bali) have very strict drug laws.

Photo Gallery

Main picture: Balinese craftsmanship on display in the beautiful grounds of the Griya Santrian Resort in sanur

  • Everywhere, colour in Bali
  • The sign says it all!
  • The entrance to our Garden Room at the Griya Santrian Resort Hotel
  • Sunrise is a great time to just sit and think
  • Or meet friends at the start of a new day
  • Friendly but persuasive!
  • Dinah trying her hand at coffee grinding
  • Poolside at sunset and perhaps a cocktail at the Pool Bar?
  • Simple and functional, Balinese-style
  • You can buy anything at the markets dotted along the length of the Sanur Beach Boardwalk
  • Silver jewellery making
  • Dinah and I pounding coffee beans
  • A little shameless self-promotion in the sand on Sanur Beach
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