Sanur has been nicknamed, among other things, as “Snore” by the younger, party loving types who prefer a more nocturnal lifestyle on the western side of the island, and perhaps more graciously as “Morning of the World”,a phrase initially coined by the aficionado of spiritual and tropical enchantments, the Indian statesman Nehru. It is a term which has been happily adopted by the many expats, families and locals who appreciate its quiet, laid back lifestyle and the gentle daily rhythms of life in a sleepy fishing village.
It is probably best to get an early night in Sanur anyway, as the best time to walk along the beach and watch the sun rise from behind the Badung Strait is pre-dawn; before the fierce, late morning tropical sun sends you indoors or to the pool side of the town’s many resorts, hotels and villas.
The coastline of Sanur, often referred to as “Sanur Beach” spans some 8km from north to south. Beginning with the volcanic black sand beaches of Gianyar Regency, the coastline curves into a circular bay and opens out into a wide, sandy white north-south strip until meandering westerly toward the mangrove forests of southern Denpasar and to Serangan Island.
To walk along Sanur Beach just before dawn, it’s advisable to start north so you can see the sun rise and by the time you reach Mertasari Beach car park, the sun will be on your back. If you are feeling energetic, get dropped off or cycle to the end of Jalan Padang Galak, by turning right at Big Garden Corner on the Bypass. At the end of this road is the gloriously eerie, fabulously creepy and quirky abandoned Taman Festival amusement park; struck by lightning on Friday the 13th March 1998 and closed in 2000. It has since been left to the encroaching vegetation, graffiti artists, budding photographers and Instagrammers, and most alarmingly, constantly thriving throngs of mosquitoes. The sand here is coarse and black, the waves lap up on the man-made rock walls and as there are no trees on this section of walkway, an unencumbered view of the sun rise. On a clear morning, turn your head north east to witness the majestic outline of the mighty Gunung Agung, Bali’s most sacred volcanic peak, which although quiet for now, last erupted with gusto in 1963 and whose recent rumblings have left tourists scattering and locals being temporarily relocated.
For a one to two hour ramble, it would be best to start your walk at the end of either Jalan Matahari Terbit or Jalan Hang Tuah, both accessible from the bypass. From here you will pass the bustling section of boats and enthusiastic tour touts preparing to take passengers to Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida, with the omnipresent snack vendors and purveyors of colourful souvenirs along the way. If biking, there are plenty of obstacles, so you will need to ‘walk’ through some sections.
Sanur Beach is comprised of several main areas; heading south from Hang Tua, you will find the beaches of Segara, Sindhu, Karang, Duyung, Cemara, and finally Mertasari at the southern end.
This beach path is also a testament to the history of Sanur, and of Bali itself. The Pantai Sanur seems to have been the preferred landing spot for anyone to catch a foothold in South Bali; the Javanese in the 900s CE, the Dutch in 1906 and the Japanese in 1942. Not to mention the smatterings of part time resident tourists from the 1920s, after Bali was first advertised in the Dutch tourism agencies with enticing posters of scantily clad girls and palm trees. Nowadays much of the southern beachfront along the paved path is taken up by warungs, hotels, villa resorts and restaurants.
Most of the initial bohemians who began arriving from Europe drifted mainly towards Ubud, however Sanur also attracted a number of artists who established homes here - among them the painter Adrien Jean le Mayeur Merpes. His former home, and first point of historical significance past Jalan
Hang Tua is the Museum Le Mayer. It opens at 8am (8.30 on Fridays and shut on Sundays) so depending on your walking speed you may need to return later!
The Belgians settled in Bali in 1932 having fallen in love with the colours, landscapes, and lifestyle of south Bali- and most notably- for his breadth of artistic output- a beautiful young Balinese Legong dancer by the name of Ni Pollock, who eventually became his wife. Their bungalow in Sanur became a focus of the artistic and alternative expat lifestyle in the 1930s. His paintings can give us an insight of the tropical, mystical, sensual and more often than not, bare breasted images of Bali. Their former home was bequeathed to Indonesia upon their deaths and is now a museum to his work and a time capsule of the artistic zeitgeist.
Further down the shaded path, and rising from the manicured gardens in front of the Sanur Golf Club is the Grand Inna Bali Beach Hotel- a monolith of 1960s architecture, complete with a giant blue diamond shaped function centre. Commissioned by Sukarno-the first President of the Republic of Indonesia- it was one of the first tourist hotels in Bali and is still the tallest building in Sanur.
You can walk, cycle or jog along the paved walkway or along the beige sands. Depending on the tides, you may be greeted by the rippled dunes and small rock pools of low tide, or the gentle waves of the high tide for dipping your toes in the salty water. You may see surfers twisting and bobbing in the waters beyond the reef. Jukungs -the brightly painted fishing boats with long outriggers- are anchored near the restaurants waiting for the next catch or to take some tourists out for a snorkelling trip. As the sun rises, you may also see paddle boarders, kite surfers, jet skiers and kayakers. Compared to many other beaches in Bali, the purveyors of massages, hair braiders and souvenirs are very laid back, and unlikely to overtly harass you on your morning stroll.
At the end of Pantai Segara Ayu is ‘Nasi Bali Made Weti’, arguably the best local breakfast in Sanur. A carnivorous concoction of their version of nasi campur (mixed rice) consists of crunchy pork crackling, rice, vegetables and sambal. Line up with the go-jek drivers and hungry locals and tourists alike and then pull up a seat on the gutter- there is limited seating in the form of plastic stools but the deliciousness is totally worth the discomfort.
Dawn is a magical time in Sanur- the promise of a new day, with the scratching of the bamboo brooms against the uneven paving, the chatter of cocks and chickens, the buzz of motorcycles and the ringing of bicycle bells. Locals walk languidly with baskets, perhaps on their way to the morning markets to buy fresh produce to prepare the family meals for the day. The path is dotted with temples, wandering dogs, and the shuffling of women clad in their kebayas -patterned skirts and lace blouses- laying down the canang sari- offerings of flowers, food and small treasures. The perfumed curls of incense smoke waft into the still, hazy air, and vendors begin unpacking their wares to open their market stalls.
By this time, the breakfast cafes will be filling with contented holiday makers and smelling of coffee and toast and pancakes. Along the path are also bales available for anyone to sit in rest upon, and between 730 and 830 every morning at Pantai Karang is a free beachside yoga class, conducted in Bahasa Indonesia. A giant chess board is outside the Mercure resort if you wish to exercise your mind as well as body. By this time, you may be ready for a little snooze and a snore. Go ahead- you are in Sanur, after all! Enjoy!
Written by Jane Stevenson and edited by Clare Srdarov