My first visit to Candidasa (Bali East coast) was on my first trip to Bali, approximately 25 years ago and my last was about 18 years ago, other than a short visit in November 2015.
On my first visit, Candidasa seemed underdeveloped with a slight shortage of facilities. The accommodation was primarily simple bungalow and home-stay accommodation with Candidasa Beach Hotel being the stand out ‘luxury hotel’ The restaurants were a mixture of simple local Warungs and local eateries offering food to satisfy most tourists. The entertainment was large screen TVs and current release movies on laser discs and Balinese dance offerings on weekends. Everyone seemed to be running at about 50% to 60% capacity and there was a feel of prosperity.
Fast forward 25 years and there is an oversupply of both accommodation and food outlets and a sense of desperation amongst the local inhabitants. The encouragement to try a Warung’s offerings and the requests for ‘transport, or maybe tomorrow’ are now tinged with a sense of pending doom.
I stopped in Cafe Wyan for a beer and fries late yesterday afternoon and the owner asked me to become a 50% stake holder in his business as the lease ran out in 6 weeks and he claimed to not have enough money to extend it.
The multi tasking waiter, room cleaner, gardener and pretty much everything at my hotel summed things up nicely for me over breakfast.
Candidasa used to be a simple and relaxed getaway spot then became increasingly popular and everyone was doing quite well. Then the number of hotels and restaurants increased to cash in on the rise in demand. This was followed by a drop in tourists after the bombings and at the same time as other areas were opening up (eg Amed beach on the far east coast), the combination resulting in an oversupply of accommodation and restaurants with noone doing well and most only just surviving.
The Rishsi Candiasa Hotel being a prime example. It used to be the very ritzy Candidasa Beach Hotel and the biggest and best in town. Now it has half of its 68 rooms and 1 of it’s pools closed as there is not enough demand to cover the costs. The second pool has 30 cm of green water in the bottom of it and the 30+ rooms that are vacant are literally falling apart.The ramshackle appearance of the closed section detracts from what is still being run as a hotel and the glamour of its heyday is now long gone.
The staff members are worried about what they will do if the hotel closes as there are no jobs available. There is a sense of powerlessness and uncertainty that culminates in a poorly veiled sadness and despair.
A sad state of affairs for this once prosperous and charming beach front town.