Idyllic Sanur: Bali

Sanur has a unique history and is unlike Kuta, with its reputation for great surfing, or Seminyak, which offers trendy shops and upscale restaurants. Here, tourists can get a taste of the real Bali and experience how the Balinese people live.

Derived from the two words saha and nuhur, Sanur translates as having a passion to visit a particular place.

Sanur is also where troops from the Netherlands first came ashore in 1906 and went to war against the Balinese, who fiercely defended their island against Dutch colonization. This war was later known as Puputan Badung, a heroic event that was commemorated with the erection of a monument at Puputan Badung in Denpasar.

There are many who would say that Ubud is the birthplace of Balinese art, but others would argue that Sanur is the true pioneer of arts and tourism.

It was here that Le Mayeur, a Belgium artist, made his home in the 1930s. He fell in love with the people and the abundance of nature, which inspired him to paint hundreds of paintings. And it was here that Donald Friend, a gifted illustrator, also known as Tuan Raksasa, or Lord Devil Donald, also settled. He bought much of the beach on which today’s Sanur is built.

Sanur has several special places that are worth visiting. The Hyatt Bali is almost an historical landmark, along with two other properties, Tandjung Sari hotel and Villa Batu Jimbar, which celebrities often visited.

Mick Jagger and his former wife Jerry Hall stayed at Tandjung Sari and were wedded there in a traditional Hindu Balinese ceremony in 1990.

By the 1960s, Sanur was the “in” place. Walter Spies, Sophia Loren and even some royalty came to stay in Sanur, where they were able to keep a low profile and immerse themselves in paradise. Seminyak was not known then — it was just a jungle with rice fields.

Sanur is also well known for its history in magic. In the ’70s, wars were ongoing between the shamans of Sanur and of Kamasan village in KlungKung regency. It is said that many people witnessed strange occurrences during the time, such as red lights darting above houses and other unexplainable phenomena.

Today, Sanur retains its laid-back atmosphere with a few changes for the good. There are no signs of magic, though.

Many new restaurants that offer a wide variety of both Western and Indonesian cuisines have opened. Trendy restaurants such as Batu Jimber, Four Points and Ryoshi are situated on the main road, Jl. Danau Tamblingan, which runs through central Sanur. There are also many good restaurants on the beach or down side streets.

If you are looking for a more authentic culinary experience, then you should definitely check out Ibu Wetty’s Warung, a favorite among locals. She only opens from 6-10 a.m., so it’s best to get there early, but it is well worth the effort. She is reputed to make the best Nasi Campur (rice with condiments) in Sanur.

The beaches of Sanur are perhaps the best feature of this quaint village. They span from as far north as Padang Galak Beach, with its expansive stretch of black sand, and down south to Mertasari Beach. Several beaches lie in between, and all blend together seamlessly with an attractive boardwalk that spans the tract from Sanur to Mertasari. Visitors can take leisurely walks or cycle stress free, because no motorbikes are allowed here.

Recently, all Sanur beaches have been reclaimed under a project sponsored by the World Bank and the Japanese government. Tons of sand was brought in from the ocean to replace the sand that had been washed away. The boardwalk was also repaired and extended to Mertasari Beach, and several small gazebos were built on the jetties for visitors.

Sanur’s beaches are ideal for families, because the water is much calmer than at Kuta or Seminyak, and is a lot safer for children. Many fun beach activities are also held in the area for everyone to enjoy.

By the Hyatt Bali at Semawang Beach, visitors can choose from a variety of water sports, such as parasailing, jet skiing, water skiing or even book a diving trip to Nusa Penida, where they can view all kinds of beautiful tropical fish and colorful coral.

For those seeking less thrills who prefer to experience a bit of the “old” Bali, try renting a jukung — a traditional wooden boat decorated with multi-colored paint. These boats are customarily used for fishing the seas, but local boat owners often supplement their income by taking tourists out to the reef for snorkeling or sightseeing. Yes, there are hawkers here too, but they don’t hassle visitors as much as they do on other beaches, and escaping them is easy enough with a smile.

Sanur is truly a magical place where people can find respite from the busier areas surrounding Denpasar, and there are more and more visitors seeking out this lazy beach town that offers much more than meets the eye.

Michele Cempaka