East of Jimbaran on Bali's southern peninsula is the island's very own Shangri La. The history of the Nusa Dua gated hotel complex dates back to the early 1970s, when it was conceptualised and built by the Indonesian government-owned Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC). The idea was to insulate the local communities from the vagaries of foreign tourists and to insulate the foreign tourists from the vagaries of the local communities.
In many ways they were successful: Nusa Dua feels like a luxury bauble affixed with five-star bandaids to the rest of Bali. The lawns are manicured, the footpaths lack random holes, the roads are smooth and have curbing and guttering. Grandiose resorts overlook (imported) sandy beaches that are as free of roving merchants and hustlers as they are of natural shade. There's not a warung in sight and every bill comes with at least two pluses attached. All in all, the only thing remotely Indonesian about the whole place are the gouging taxi drivers and their forever handicapped meters.
But, Indonesia is just a hop, skip and jump away, and for many, an expensive stay in an artificial bubble is just what the doctor ordered. Spend your day on forays into the wild and uncharted territories of Jimbaran, Kuta, Legian and Ubud and return "home" for a 10 dollar Bintang with a 100 dollar spa session chaser.
As you may have guessed, Nusa Dua isn't at the top of our favourite places list, but for many, especially families looking for an all-encompassing beach holiday and upmarket travellers with the means, Nusa Dua really fits the bill. There's even a golf course.
Indeed some lovely hotels lie within the "reserve" and many international five-star brands are represented. Just bear in mind that there are fabulous hotels across Bali and many have done just fine intermingling with the local communities. Within Nusa Dua, expect to receive premium service and amenities — at a premium price.
If you do opt for a luxury hotel in Nusa Dua, do try to make the effort to "jump the fence" now and then to see what some of the rest of Bali has to offer. Even a trip up to the northern reaches of Tanjung Benoa will give you at least some contact with normality and the island's rich culture.
If the Bukit is the fist and Nusa Dua is the knuckle, Tanjung Benoa is most definitely the finger — stretching up towards Serangan Island and Sanur, what was once a long thin sandbar offers protection to the remaining mangroves and waters of Benoa Harbour.
This is where tourists and locals alike come to either relax on the timid beach or participate in the array of watersports on offer such as jetskiing, parasailing and banana boat rides. Apart from this, there's not a whole lot to do here except relax and read a book.
If coming from Nusa Dua, this is your most accessible part of "local Bali" with warungs and other local, businsesses, bravely unvetted by BTDC. It's far from the most interesting region of Bali, but the northernmost tip, with its mosque and village vibe, make for an interesting wander.
There really isn't all that much to Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa. The single north-south running Jalan Pratama has the bulk of the luxury hotels on its eastern (beach) side.
ATMs are located in Bali Collection, Nusa Dua and the main road of Tanjung Benoa. WiFi internet is widely available in the top hotels of Nusa Dua and some cafes in Tanjung Benoa. Don't be surprised when your luxury hotel stiffs you an extra $10-20 a day for the privilege of internet access in the room.
By Adam Poskitt