For those of you who are still on the fence—and at the risk of causing a mass migration—let me provide some insight based on my experience in Bali. South Bali, better known as Kuta Beach, is a tourist Mecca. It is packed full of every kind of tourist accommodation from hostels, to exclusive 5-star resorts, and private, fully staffed villas. The white sand beach, and the rolling waves bring in surfers and sun worshipers from around the globe. The numerous malls provide seemingly endless air-conditioned passageways filled with shoppers of all stripes. The day-trip opportunities run the gamut from Bali Safari Animal Park, to Ubud (the artistic capital of Bali), to Amed (the scuba divers dream), the Waterbom water park, mountain treking, bicycle tours, river rafting, and elephant riding. Restaurants abound, serving up both local fare, and international cuisine. There seems to be a spa around every corner to massage your aching body, manicure your fingers and toes, and restore your well being. This is the Bali that is so often written and talked about, the Bali of your wildest dreams. This is not the Bali that I have come to love
The Bali I love is the Bali of the traditional village way of life, the Bali of natural beauty, the Bali of peace and tranquility. The Bali that I love is some three hours north, across the mountain range where you seem transported back 100 years in time. Life is simple. The people are friendly. The air is clean, and fresh.
My first trip to Bali was in 2010. I went with the soundtrack to the South Pacific still playing in my head from my early childhood. I could almost taste the anticipation. What I found was nothing like what Rodgers and Hammerstein had conjured up in my early dreams: crowded sidewalks, traffic snarled streets, dirty back alleys filled with unscrupulous money changers, over priced hotels with under filled breakfast buffets. This was not my envisioned retirement paradise. As luck would have it, my driver suggested that I take a day trip up to Lovina Beach on the North coast. I agreed. A day trip turned into 5, and I was hooked.
Singaraja (lion king) is the Capital of Buleleng Regency encompassing most of North Bali. It was the Colonial Capital of Bali when Indonesia was still the Dutch East Indies. It is the second largest city in Bali, and is home to some 150,000 people. It boasts 5 hospitals, 2 western style supermarkets, several open air markets piled high with fresh seafood and produce, and many of Bali’s universities. Still in the planning stage is an expressway connecting north and south, and a new international airport to be located east of Singaraja served by light rail.
The cost of living up here is almost embarrassing. The requirements to obtain a retired visa to live here year round are: 55+, $1500 USD per month pension, and health insurance valid in Indonesia. If you rent a place to live, the guideline is $500 per month, and you must employ a helper. You can hire a housekeeper for less than $100 a month. Food runs around $90 per person per month, maybe $150 if you like to dine out a lot. Most everyone rides around on a motor scooter… not me. You can hire a driver with a car for a couple hours for $20, or buy your own car and hire a driver for around $75 a month. The only real downside is a bottle of local beer is $1.50. I thought, this is great… this is a place I can retire and live a very comfortable life. For the first few years, I kept it quiet. A secret private paradise. I, like others, feared if the word got out it would soon all be gone. But as hotel construction in the south continued to out-strip tourist arrivals, and occupancy rates dropped to 40%; up north, things have remained quiet and peaceful.
I decided the timing was right for me to share my retirement secret. Indonesia was pleading for foreign investment. Exchange rates rose by over 30%. Construction up north was almost at a stand still, builders remained idle, fuel prices stabilized at $0.50 a liter ($1.89/gal). I went ahead with my plan to build a 16 apartment retirement village on a 2000 square meter plot of land in the village of Tegallinggah overlooking the Bali Sea. It has an 8 x 16 meter pool with swim up bar, a 64 square meter pool house/cabana, two guest suites for overnight visitors, a reflexology walking path, and plenty of gardening space for those with a green thumb.
The apartments are 60 square meters (642 sq. ft) with 9 foot ceilings, one bedroom, full bath, open kitchen/dining/living and a private terrace/balcony. These units will come fully furnished, you only need to bring your clothing… and don’t forget your swim suit! The $200 per month maintenance fee includes housekeeping 6 days per week, weekly linen service, round the clock on-site security, satellite TV w/ US channels, WiFi internet access, all perils insurance coverage, complete buildings and grounds maintenance, water, septic, gas, twice weekly transport to the supermarket, on-site management, and concierge service. You pay your own groceries, and electric—that’s it! I don’t know if you have priced out retirement communities in the States, but they can run you upwards of $2000 per month for just pool, clubhouse, and golf course. That pretty much wipes out your social security, and then some.
Take a close look around the website. Run the numbers, and look at what your money will get you in Bali. Sit back, and listen to the South Pacific soundtrack, and let your dreams begin. Paradise is more affordable than you think.
- John Mickelson
The Bali Retirement Villages