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So Many Developments in Bali . . . My Head is Spinning

by Susi, 22 October 2008


Apologies to readers of my blog for the past two weeks’ outpouring on (over)development in Bali. I started out hoping to get a general overview of the state of real estate development on the island, and one thing led to another and to another and to another.

It is not easy to get a clear picture of what is being built on this island, because there are no reliable central sources of information, not even government sources. Nobody knows what anyone else is doing, and many developments are taking place in semi-secrecy. So I began searching sites of property agents, developers, planners, engineers, architects, contractors, landscapers and suppliers to try to find out what really is going on here. And I did find out.

The pace of villa, apartment and hotel development in Bali is astounding, appalling, and alarming. It is almost impossible to quantify, and clearly quite impossible to control. It seems that this is a truth which developers large and small do not want to be known. Why? Because if the media, the general public, and the authorities had any idea what a tsunami of buildings is about to flood Bali, somebody might do something to try to stop it. 

So I used non-orthodox means to ferret out information on as many projects as I could. For example, many well-known developments provide lists of the members of their project team. Using these I would then visit the websites of the projects’ engineers, quantity surveyors, landscapers, architects, contractors, subcontractors, and so forth. Those businesses, on their websites, often list projects “on the boards.” Many show masterplans, renderings and other information about those projects, which the developers haven’t yet made public.

Each site I would visit, whether a real estate agent, contractor, or what have you . . . would lead to the discovery of several more developments, planned or under way. And each of those, in turn, would lead directly or indirectly to several more. During the past two weeks I have felt like Alice down the rabbit hole. Utterly bewildered, having tumbled into a world of wonders, horrors and absurdities that defy all logic. That is the state of development in Bali now.

I posted 55 new blog posts about developments large and small, responsible and reckless, in remote and urbanised areas, with designs ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. And I have several hundred files in my computer with masterplans and renderings of hundreds and hundreds of other developments. My head is spinning, and there are still thousands of tunnels in the rabbit hole to explore. The number of developments in Bali is vast, and impossible to count, in just the same way it is impossible to count the number of participants in a riot. 

One of the reasons that no one can get a handle on just how much development is going on is because the players are so diverse. There are Korean, Japanese, American, Chinese, Taiwanese, Italian, French, Dutch, British, Australian, German, Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai, Russian and Canadian developers building here. Not to mention the Indonesians, of which there are many, representing mainly very large, and very small projects. And Dubai is playing a significant role in development as well, both here in Bali, and more importantly, on the neighbouring island of Lombok.

Few of these diverse players are talking to each other, and the various authorities who are supposed to oversee and manage development here don’t talk to each other either. Every galaxy in the development universe seems to be trapped in its own gravitational field, to the extent that nobody has any idea what the whole universe is like, how big it is . . . and whether there is any intelligent life out there . . . in the Bali development universe.

My extended metaphor is not an arbitrary one. After weeks of investigating, I feel like I’m channelling Carl Sagan . . . of late, I am often seen standing stock still with a fixed expression of total awe on my face, chanting, “Billions and billions . . . ”  My partner Bruno is seriously considering which psychiatric hospital to send me to for evalutaion and treatment.

The Bali development universe is vast and mysterious. On the timeline of this universe, I’m afraid, we stand just a few nanoseconds after the Big Bang.  The expansion is fast, the heat is intense, and the outcome is entirely uncertain.

I feel like I did when I was a small child sleeping outdoors in summer, staring up at the stars. I am getting a feeling that things out there are bigger, vaster, colder and stranger than any human could ever grasp. There’s the same enormous hollow feeling in my stomach, and the sense of vertigo, like I might fall off the earth and disappear into space.

Whither Bali? Wither Bali? One feels inclined to actually welcome an economic crisis – – something to slow down the spinning of the galaxies of the Bali development universe – – at least slow it down enough to stop the spinning feeling in my head. Please. 


. . . art, architecture, interiors, design, and textiles. Beautiful things. Not horrifying ones.

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    • Graeme MacRae
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    • November 27, 2008

    Thanks for this Susi - great research - your method is pretty much what us anthropologists do - just follow the links and see where they lead. In a way what you are tracking is what's been going on for years - at least since the days of IB Oka, but maybe it has been on the back-burner for a while and is now back with a vengeance. At least one person, who supported a candidate other than Pastika, told me that this is exactly what Pastikas's agenda was really about (I don't know, but it does make you wonder). And I think you are right about the "economic crisis" - we are overdue for one to slow down the rate of destruction and give us all a chance to catch our breath and reassess priorities.

    • gesang
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    • December 15, 2008

    Nice info.

    • purwalongga
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    • April 16, 2009

    Susi...such a great articles !!! must be write on a book...publish it ASAP...Bali is no longer The Last's already LOST for good !! DEPLATE LANDSCAPE.... Keep your can't be found on BALI POST hic.

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