Saturday, April 4, 2009

Today I'm heading into the hills ...

... to a Body & Soul Retreat which is next to the Brahma Arama Vihara Temple, Indonesia’s largest Buddhist temple and not far from the Air Panas hot water springs.

On my last day at Villa Agung, an Australian family from the Sunshine Coast, mother, father, and three teenage kids plus blow-up rubber dinghy complete with paddles, flippers, snorkels and masks, invaded the 'intimate'-sized pool and left me with no regrets about leaving.

In the afternoon, Gus, Villa Agung's gracious mine host, had taken me up to Derek Hambling's house in Kayuputih, just past the "Lovina House" and close to the Daima Resort. Derek has what is probably Bali's, if not the world's, largest horizon swimming pool with panoramic views of the coastline below and the tropical sea stretching to infinity.

His property is up for sale at Euro 395,000 - see footnote - but we went there to see him because he had a much smaller place for sale in the same area which is rented out to another expat - who turned out to be no other than the grey-faced and ageing Dutch painter Theo Zantman whose paintings I had wanted to see anyway. As it happened, neither the house nor the paintings inspired me.

So here I am now, at the Banjar Hills Resort which consists of four bungalows, NUTMEG, CINNAMON, CLOVE and GINGER. I am in GINGER!

The place is owned by five Australians. It's a lovely little complex which was built in 2000 for some Balinese owners. They couldn't make it work and so it was sold to some Australian(s) in 2002, who in turn sold it for AUS$150,000 to the present owners, a group of five Australians, who are all absentee owners and leave the running of the place to Ibu Made, an absolute gem of a woman, who cleans, washes, cooks, serves meals, mixes drinks, checks you in and out - and all that for a monthly pittance of Rp. 750,000

Even with such ridiculously low labour costs and its very low purchase price, the place is not making any money, and probably never will, as with just four bungalows it lacks the economies of scale. To top it, the place has had white ants, a fire, and some villagers have also disputed the title. The joys of owning Bali real estate!

Forever being the accountant, I figured that at time of writing this place averages AUS$600 a month in room revenue, against a minimum monthly expenditure of some $700 (and that's not counting major repairs and maintenance and capital expenditure).

The restaurant, a potential source of revenue as great if not greater than the bungalows, has been sub-contracted out to caterers from the coast who pay a marginal 10% of their gross takings in rent. The hotel needs the restaurant more than the restaurant needs the hotel as without it, the hotel guests would have nowhere to go for their meals at all. Indeed, the hotel's greatest appeal, its distance from the coastal tourist belt, is also its greatest drawback.

Which brings me to the end of this blog as it's time for dinner. I've ordered the 'Nasi Goreng Spesial'.

Footnote: Five years later, this beautiful villa complex on a hillside at Kayuputih is still for sale - click here - albeit at a slightly higher price - €485,000 instead of €395,000 - and while the owner is waiting for a sale (which may never come), he's offering it for rental under the name "Villa Merpati" (Indonesian for "dove"). I've left a guestbook entry to say that I will rent it next time I come to Bali - if I don't buy it first! ☺ (seriously though, unless you have heaps of money to burn, you simply wouldn't want to take the risk of "investing" in Indonesian real estate - unless you are an Indonesian citizen or have a spouse who is - because the danger of losing it all is just too great - click here to read several articles about real estate fraud in Bali)