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Nasty Bali Hotels - Balinese hospitality's shameful skeleton in the cupboard full of cheats and worse.

I have to say I have never professionally as a travel company director or as a traveller found such bad hotels and such bad value hotels as I have in Bali. That is not to say there are no good hotels in Bali, in fact there are some great Balinese hotels, but too many are well overpriced and it gets worse.

In comparison with hotels say in Thailand, I find that too many Bali hotels not just are worse value, when they should be better value given Thailand has higher minimum wages, etc. but they are also much less ethical and even illegal. For example, I do not know of one hotel in Bangkok which markets itself as a family orientated hotel yet which also blatantly allows sex trade workers to visit single male guests' rooms; they do in Bali.

The more I stayed at the internationally acclaimed hotels of Bali, the more I realized what a phony world of false marketing and hype we westerners live in.

The Balinese irony is, I believe you can save a lot of time and find the truly great hotels of Bali by immediately dismissing any members of both the Bali Hotels Association and PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association); I consider these two organizations to a) deliberately mislead people with their names (they make them seem something they are not), b) be only interested in sales and marketing, with culture and public service programs token PR spin attempts to further make them seem something they are not, c) be solely institutional tourism business representatives in a country where institutional means corruption and inflicting human misery. I say; "To find the best hotels and travel businesses in Bali with a clean conscience where you help the Balinese and make a better world, avoid PATA and the Bali Hotels Association members like the plague!"

Let me point out the references I make to hotels in two other of Nasty Bali's pages: Bali Experiences and Ethical Bali Tourism; the later dealing with how to avoid hotels and travel agents who cheat on taxes and service charges. Let me make an educated guess, I would say that over 90% of Bali's hotel workers get cheated by their employers and agents in regard to the service charge element which should all legally go to them but hardly ever does. When you consider that your Bali vacation / holiday is as good as it is primarily because of the gracious, smiling Balinese on just US$50 a month salary (if they are lucky enough to be paid the minimum wage rate), please do not therefore in good conscience allow them to be cheated; it is your duty as a decent human being if that is what you claim to be.

Next comes my own personal ethical problem with hotels owned in full or part by members of the Suharto family. After all, I read reports that thousands of Balinese were state murdered under the Suharto regime, that much of the land "Suharto hotels" are built on was effectively stolen (compulsory purchased at below market rates) from the land owners and, that it is alleged the Suharto's got all their money from extortion and corruption. It seems somehow distasteful and downright hypercritical to me that western hotel groups would partner with Jakarta based companies majoritively owned by the Suharto family or that western tourists would want to stay in them but they do. As far as I know the following hotels and tourism businesses are all significantly owned by Suharto family members; Sheraton Laguna Nusa Dua, Bali Intercontinental Resort Hotel, Bali Turtle Island Development, Nustra Tours & Travel, Four Seasons Resort Hotel Sayan, Four Seasons Resort Hotel Jimbaran, Lor In Bali Resort Gianyar, Mabua Intan Express, PT Bali Benoa Marina Benoa Bay, Sempati Airlines, Gatari Air, PT Ayung River Rafting company, Bali Cliff Resort, Nikko Bali Resort & Spa, Westin Nusa Dua, Amanusa Resort Nusa Dua, Uluwatu Ocean Resort, Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, Ramada Bintang Bali Hotel, Radisson Bali Hotel Sanur, PT Sanur Hastamitra, PT Sanur Dinamika, Sahid Bali Seaside Hotel, PT Sahid Gema Wisata Tours & Travel, PT Sahid Visantara Tourindo, Royal Seminyak / Bali Imperial Hotel, PT Arha Bali Semaranta Rafting. And I am sure there are plenty more.

Next come the hotels with highly questionable / contentious building permits which appear only to be possible through corruption. These include Waka Shorea (Menjangan Island / Bali Barat National Park), The Four Seasons Sayan, Le Meridien Nirwana. Waka Shorea was given a building permit the locals say was bought from Suharto to build in protected national park land after the park authority had ruled hotels were not legal on park land. The Four Seasons Sayan (reputed to be really owned by "Tommy" Suharto) faces often constant demonstrations by locals for their buildings being too close morally and legally to their sacred temple. Le Meridien Nirwana overlooks the second most sacred temple in Bali, Tanah Lot and the Hindu Balinese locals are not very happy about that. It is a fact that many if not most hotels and villas are built without building permits in Bali and that permits are somehow secured after. I know that corruption occurs around the world, but in Bali it is blatant, institutionalized and endemic; there is a difference. Also I will be the first to admit I have stayed at Le Meridien Nirvana, loved it and done business with them, but I would not have done had I known. As a PS, Le Meridien Nirwana is substantially owned by the influential Indonesian family of Bakrie who underwear model Michelle Leslie claimed had threatened her by phone with death not to name their son who was with her when she was busted for drugs in Bali. The Bakries are also significantly involved with the Freeport mining operation in West Papua (Irian Jaya) which has drawn so much worldwide condemnation, plus also the gas drilling accident through operational negligence that led to the East Java mud flow.

Then come hotels with less than ethical practices (besides cheating on taxes, etc.). For example, the Hard Rock Hotel Bali markets itself as a family friendly resort, but the adjacent Hard Rock Cafe is a well known place for "Night Butterflies" (local prostitutes) to hang out looking for wealthy western male clients, predominantly those staying at the hotel. After comments were made along these lines to me, I contacted the Hard Rock Hotel Bali feigning being a potential single male traveller guest who had heard that it was possible to bring a local girl you had met in the Hard Rock Cafe through the special connecting entrance into the hotel and the rooms themselves. The Hard Rock Hotel Bali confirmed this was indeed possible for such a girl to spend the night with me in my room as long as she registered at reception. Given picking up a non-prostitute Indonesian girl in the Hard Rock Cafe was highly unlikely if not impossible, it was clear the hotel reservations staff knew what my enquiry was about. For a so called family friendly hotel I find the fact they allow prostitutes into hotel rooms with male guests totally unacceptable. It was quite ironic though that my business had caught the Hard Rock Hotel cheating them and had terminated taking reservations for them just before this admission of theirs would have had to. I am not saying the Hard Rock Hotel Bali is any worse than other large non-Balinese hotels on the island, I am just pointing out what goes on there.

I finally would like to point out the amount of crime that I believe goes on inside hotels in Bali. Most people know the stories about young children such as a 2 year old girl being left in a 5 star Nusa Dua hotel crèche who was raped and given gonorrhea by one of the male staff. But other less serious crime against guests is excessive and often legitimized. For example many hotels cheat their guests rotten when they pay their hotel bill by credit card; the hotel shows a foreign currency conversion rate which makes them a lot of money. So the guest pays a bill quoted in say USD, which the hotel then converts to Indonesian Rupiah using their dishonest rate, which the credit card company then converts back to USD; when you see the foreign currency charge on your cc statement, it is clear the hotel defrauded you out of perhaps an extra 10% on average. In addition, hotel room robberies are commonplace in Bali and worryingly often can only be explained if the hotel staff were involved (e.g. guests say they were burgled but there was no sign of forced entry and the thieves seemed to know they were in the hotel's spa for an hours session). This is also when foreigners are likely to see police corruption if they call the police to investigate. For example in one 5 star "Suharto hotel" in Nusa Dua, a guest reported that the police took statements, etc. but when they returned home (Korea) and followed up with the Balinese police, the officer said they (the guest) had not made a proper complaint so the police could not investigate the robbery. Of course the fact that police attended the incident but did not help the guest make the complaint "properly" or that the hotel is owned by a Suharto has nothing to do with it! Other stories of stolen money, items and hotel bike rentals which go missing while locked up and on the hotel grounds (where the hotel demands the guest pays them to buy a new bike) just go to show the hotel business in Bali is too often not that hospitable.

That having been said, there are some wonderful hotels around Bali and my words should only be taken to avoid that which is bad, not that everything is (bad). For me, some of the best hotels I would recommend friends and family to in Bali are;

Puri Bambu Hotel, Jimbaran (the suites / "villas" are superb)
Santika Beach Hotel, Tuban-Kuta (despite the fact I do not like their management's business ethics plus they owe my company money)
Bali Royal, Tanjung Benoa (as close to the beach as possible or the Honeymoon room)
Aston Resort Hotel, Tanjung Benoa (despite having no beach left due to erosion)
Puri Santrian (Club Rooms), Sanur
Alam Indah, Nuh Kunning Ubud
Tegal Sari, Ubud
Ulun Ubud, Campuhan Ubud
Cahaya Dewata, Sayan Ubud
Bunga Permai, Sayan Ubud
Gubah Bali, Tegalinggah Ubud
Villa Semana, Singakerta Ubud
Gerebig Homestay, Penestanan Ubud
Coral View Hotel (Beachfront villas), Amed
Alam Anda, Sambirenteng (when the German owner Uwe is not there - he really makes the place turn sour)
Agung Bali Nirwana, Sambirenteng (yes I do know the owners, but it would be here even if that were not true)
Hotel Rambutan, Lovina
Puri Bagus, Lovina (the beachfront suites on the west side; the east side suffers from noise from local mosque)
Pondok Sari Hotel, Pemuteran (even though they owe my company money)
Taman Sari Hotel, Pemuteran

My above recommendations are not a guarantee the hotels involved are acting honorably and / or legally regarding guest charges and taxes or service charges; you need to ensure this for yourself.

The above represent an incredible price range from just US$15 per night to US$200 per night, but they all in my honest opinion are worth every cent they charge and often a lot more. When I compare these with the so called luxury US$100 to $140 a night rooms (which I think are really only worth US$50 to US$60 a night) in large blocks of concrete owned by the Suharto family in Nusa Dua, I think you would have to be nuts to want to stay in Nusa Dua. One small caveat, I think the Hilton Nusa Dua is the best hotel with the best beach in that anti-Balinese gated tourist community, although when I stayed there (2002) their rooms were a bit tired but the food, etc. was streets ahead of the likes of the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel (see: Bali Experience). It is not just about how bad I thought the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel was, it now is also the anti-Balinese nature of the hotel as I have discovered; built on "stolen" land (land compulsory purchased under Suharto at well below market rates), seemingly predominantly Javanese staff, the hotel beach is unlawfully blocked off so the Balinese can not use it, the hotel restricts Balinese from even getting near the grounds, the hotel buying provisions from army officers not the Balinese, being significantly owned by the Suharto family, etc. I can not imagine why anyone would want to stay there, let alone claim it to be a great hotel. I think westerners who stay there are nuts (as the value and quality are so bad), deluded (as it is about as Balinese as an iceburg) and support the nasty Indonesian system that abuses the island they claim to love.

My regrets regarding hotels I wanted to come and stay at but never likely will now. These hotels (that I really would like to have visited) are Rumah Bali (Tanjung Benoa) and Blue Moon (Amed).

I would also like to point out my favorite hotel for a long time in Ubud was the Hotel Villa Bukit but when its rooms were US$50 to US$70 a night. They closed for renovation but I have not seen any pictures that look different from before and now charge up to US$370 per night; although some sites say the hotel is closed now.

Finally, the hotels I stayed at or next to which I thought were awful, the worst value for money going and I could not wait to leave / get out of are the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, Grand Mirage, Melia Bali, Sanur Beach Hotel, Bali Hai Resort, Hotel Risata, Damai "Villas" Lovina, and Jepun Bali. I found these hotels so fundamentally flawed that the only way to to improve them would be to close them down and start again with all new management.

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© Copyright 2006. Mark Austin / Nasty Bali Org. All Rights Reserved.