Sanur on the Cusp – But of What

Sanur, on the Cusp – But of What?

Sanur is the grande dame of Bali’s resorts and the historical locus of much of Bali’s interaction with foreigners and their traditional entry point to Bali. The town itself has a distinct air of prosperity and benign self-confidence, due perhaps to the fact that the town is pretty much a theocracy run by a group of Brahmin families instead of the customary aristocratic house. For many foreigners here Sanur had descended into a genteel tropical torpor, which suited some but not most. With the coming of the by-pass the town was effectively bisected while the rest of Bali sped by on their way to more leisure-filled and businesslike environments North and South of the town.

The effect of this has in fact been good for Sanur in that a protected and extremely well positioned crescent has been created between the ocean and the by-pass, bounded in the South by the mangrove swamp and Padangalak in the North. This now effectively provides a tourist and residential enclave already fully matured and unlikely to be destroyed by runaway development. Jalan Tamblingan the road that runs through it serves effectively as the resort’s high street. As a result Sanur is creeping back to the status of prime residential territory.

In as much as Bali has adequate infrastructure anywhere, thanks to her city fathers, Sanur is as good as it gets. The traffic still flows, the pavements and roads are well kept. There is no honky tonk area and like Ubud, discos and raucous music do not proliferate. The limited numbers of bars close early. Things appear well-ordered here. Violence and muggings are rare. In Californian terms, if Kuta is Venice then Sanur is Santa Monica. And that is pretty much how the long-term denizens of Sanur like it. If there was a price to pay for this pleasant and laid back existence it was culinary.

In the last two years or so things have begun to change. Sanur is waking up. The danger is that unless things are handled well the idyll may be lost, replaced by the standard beachside sprawl that is South Central Bali these days. Sadly we’ve already lost the canopy to Sanur’s green lung on either side of the road past the Hyatt. How is Sanur going to cope with some 1500 extra hotel bedrooms, let alone new stock of apartments and “condotels’ and not forfeit its charm?

A Sanur Municipal Council?

Traffic congestion is the obvious threat. Some two years ago it was decreed that you could only park on one side of the street on Jalan Tamblingan. That has worked well up to now but there are signs it is becoming inadequate. Retail on the high street has picked up considerably. Smart new shops are appearing as are new cafes, not to mention new hotels. As it is, it is now hard to cross the road due to parked cars and 50-yard phalanxes of staff motor bicycles. Already a 300-metre blockage forms within seconds if anyone stops or obstructs oncoming lane. It’s going to get worse.

Sanur is poised for a resurgence and could quickly reclaim its cachet as the premier Bali resort, given the awful self-created problems in Kuta and Seminyak. The 5-star Regent has already opened, though in the process of being taken over, two other large hotels have opened in the main retail stretch of Jl. Tamblingan, the Maya Sanur will soon be opening its doors and a year from now a huge new and expanded Hyatt development will be opening.

There are no easy solutions. There are no carparks for off street parking. The obvious, and perhaps inevitable solution will be to make Jalan Tamblingan a one-way street. The problem is there are really only two entrances and exits to the high street at either ends of the town from the by-pass. The only roads connecting the two thoroughfares are very narrow and winding. Creating two short and straight access roads between Tamblingan and the by-pass would make a one-way system a viable option, but acquisition of land is likely to be problematical. Another obvious part-solution would be the creation of strategically located municipal car parks.

Will the problem be addressed effectively? I rather doubt it. One look at Kuta/Seminyak is not encouraging. There the problems of access and infrastructure, sewage etc. have become so compounded as to be insoluble. Sanur hasn’t reached that stage yet so some smart and well-timed municipal investment could pay huge dividends.

As for the Culinary Curse of Sanur, things do seem to be improving slowly. I’m probably not the restaurateur’s ideal customer in that I seldom if ever go out for dinner, but do so frequently for lunch. The problem with this I find is that chefs, unless they be chef-owners seldom show up for lunch, only appearing to prepare for the evening shift. That usually means a pretty sub-proforma performance at lunch. I’m also not a great fan of what’s termed fine or (god help us) goormay dining. I much prefer a café serving fresh food, simply prepared over a grill or in an oven (i.e. not micro-waved), neither over-cooked nor over-spiced, so you can actually taste what you’re eating. I also like to eat when it pleases me. Sounds simple, but based on experience I could be asking for the moon. Nor does the sort of place offering bevvies of cakes and pastries, along with salads and breads a soup or lasagna dish on the go do it for me. That sort of place is not serving real food, it is simply a better class of fast food joint.

It’s also become easier to buy the food and groceries in Sanur without having to trek off to Dijon, Papaya, Carrefour, Lotus or Bali Deli.

High Street Shopping

Groceries: Pantry next door to Café Batujimbar reasonable pricing for most items. Manik Organic has certain organic staples at good prices. Alas, the Bali Deli in Sanur…. somehow, somewhere they’ve lost the plot. They were the best place in Sanur to buy fresh fish at reasonable prices and also legumes. For this alone, I’m sorry to see them shuttered.

A welcome addition is the Bali Buda. A limited but acceptable menu mainly fresh and organic but also selling a useful range of foods plus healthcare and other sustainable products.

As a non meat-eater, who rarely eats out in the evening and who prefers to eat his local food at home my wife and I find our options rather limited. In Sanur we are restricted to a familiar rut of Massimo’s whose home Italian cooking is unfussy and good, to Bali Buda, on to the Café Batujimbar, which fits like a comfy shoe but could look to its laurels, and on to the Tandjung Sari for a nostalgia trip and to take in the breeze and sea air.

I say we’re looking to expand our culinary rut and that what I seek is simple, but maybe it’s not. Possibly I expect too much, but when I’m served café au lait made with UHT milk and charged Rp30K++ that says everything and I never go back.

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