We Went on a Nighttime Tour of Bali's Abandoned Places
There's more to the island than surfers, sunbathers, and schoolies.
All photos by Orly Even
Bali is undeniably beautiful. This Indonesian island is the country's biggest tourist draw—a sunbathers mecca of posh hotels, swanky beach clubs, and gorgeous vistas. But Bali is also home to a startling amount of abandoned places—hotels, theme parks, and university grounds that were left to rot in the tropical sun when the cash flow ran dry. These spots are testaments to the fact that even in a tourist hotspot like Bali, not every project is destined to succeed.
We took a nighttime tour of five of Bali's creepiest abandoned locations to see what we could learn about the past, present, and future of the island.
1. Taman Festival Bali
This $100,000,000 USD amusement park was built with grand aspirations. Taman Festival was going to be Southeast Asia's answer to Disneyland—an entertainment destination with a multi-million dollar laser show, thrill rides, and even an artificial volcano that would erupt nightly.
But that was before the Asian Financial Crisis gutted attendance rates and cut off any future funding. Today, Taman Festival looks less Disneyland and more Jurassic Park (minus the velociraptors). Thick tropical vegetation is slowly taking over this massive 9.5 hectare theme park. But it's still a pretty easy visit for curiosity seekers. The complex is located on the island's east coast in Padang Galak Beach, Sanur. It's a mess of mosquitos, brush, debris, and a lot of bats. It's also pitch black at night, so be sure to bring a flashlight.
2. Bali Cliff Resort
Promotions still on the internet read: "Nestled on a secluded plateau by a cliff that overlooks the azure waters of the Indian Ocean" with "200-well appointed guest rooms with tropical swimming pool." It claims to be "the only hotel in Bali that offers the view of both sunrise and sunset."
Today, those guest rooms are empty. The resort, which is allegedly owned by former President Suharto's son Sigit Harjojudanto, abruptly closed its doors in 2005 for six months of renovations. It never reopened.
The main gate to the hotel was closed and manned by security so we had to drive along an adjacent road took us to the rear cliff side area of the property where you access the Green Bowl surf spot parking area. Ibu Made at the nearby warung pointed us toward the best spot to access the property.
The resort was surprisingly intact. We found one abandoned villa with an unlocked door and peeked inside. All the living room furnishings were eerily still in place even though the resort has been closed for more than 11 years. It was like a scene out of a zombie movie where the living scavenge from the deserted homes of the dead. It's a vast property and probably almost a kilometer to the actual hotel from the cliff but in between we saw some parked cars and a building with a porch light on so we aborted the operation out of fear of ending up in the back of a black Kijang SUV never to be heard from again.
3. P.I. Bedugul Taman Rekreasi Hotel & Resort
The "Ghost Palace Hotel," is a derelict resort that sits atop a hilly ridge in foggy Bedugul where it is has become an offbeat Bali attraction. While they sometimes allow you to enter in the day, at night we had to tip the caretaker who first told us it was closed to gain access.
But the nighttime is the right time to visit Taman Rekreasi. Of all the places we investigated, this one had the highest scare factor because once you penetrate the dark, multi-storied interior of the hotel it's quite easy to get lost wandering winding halls, passing creepy empty rooms and descending flights of weird wooden stairs that lead to more hallways and even more rooms.
It's difficult to get the real story of what happened to Taman Rekreasi. The hotel was built in the early 1990s, allegedly by another of Suharto's sons, Tommy Suharto, or, by other accounts, an unnamed Chinese Indonesian businessman. There are a million stories about what happened next. Some say the hotel was cursed, others say the workers fell into some dark netherworld. The most likely story is that either it too fell short on funding in the aftermath of the Asian Financial Crisis, or that Tommy abandoned the project in 2002 to focus on more pressing legal matters.
Regardless of the reason, it's a seriously spooky place, made even more so by locals insistence that it's haunted by the ghosts of laborers workers who died during its construction.
4. Lost Plane #2
There are two "lost planes" in Bali, but the other one is located next to a Dunkin Donuts on a well-traveled toll road heading to the airport. So it's abandoned, but not exactly lost. The second "lost plane" is situated in a limestone quarry near the Bali Cliff Resort and Pandawa Beach. The narrow body, twin-jet Boeing-737 was abandoned in what looked like a gigantic, one-hectare plane graveyard. Unfortunately, the area was closed off with a corrugated steel gate that was impossible to scale so we could only hop above a precarious structure nearby to take a photo. But under the moonlight and even from a distance, the sight was sort of creepy enough to make us feel a bit relieved that we couldn't sneak in.
It's a mystery as to how it ended up there but evidently the owner had plans to convert the aircraft into a dine-in restaurant, perhaps after relocating it one day.
5. University of Udayana Museum
The last stop on our nighttime tour of abandoned spots was actually on the way to Lost Plane #2. Directly opposite the Universitas Udayana Institute for Peace and Democracy (UPD) there's a monumental three-story building that appears to have only competed the early stages of construction. There are no vertical walls on the outer edges of the building, or on the concrete stairways or the elevator shaft so it can be quite treacherous to wander around at night. But the sheer size of the structure was impressive enough that we had to stop and take a look.
We walked across the street and asked the very friendly UPD security guy what the building was meant to be. He told us that it was intended to be a government-funded museum for the University of Udayana that began construction in 2011, but had to stop in 2013 when the funds ran dry.