There’s a resort in Bali, set against the stunning backdrop of the mountains in Bedugul, that employs, no staff serves no food and has no beds. But it still gets hundreds of visitors every week.
The PI Bedugul Taman Rekreasi Hotel and Resort – otherwise known as the Ghost Palace Hotel – is now just a concrete shell that, despite never opening its doors to guests, is doing quite a trade.
Bedugul is a beautiful and peaceful part of Bali, set almost in the middle of the island near Bedugul Lake. It’s a quite spectacular part of Bali that gets quite a lot less tourist traffic than hotspots like Kuta and Nusa Dua.
But back to the Ghost Palace, a surprising number of urban legends have sprung up around the demise of this one grand hotel, and they are freely propagated by the locals and tour operators.
The hotel itself is set high above the rice fields of Bedugul and sports views of Gunung Agung, Bali’s most famous volcano.
Entry into the complex is pretty simple. You can either pay 10,000 rupiahs to the two security guards at the gate for a “ticket”, or join a tour and get bussed to and from the hotel, though you’ll pay significantly more for the privilege.
From there you can wander through the abandoned complex, through empty foyers and across marble floors. Gaze out on the open countryside form balconies that were never trodden by guests. it’s quite spectacular and kind of breathtaking in its lonely emptiness. Nature has started to reclaim this concrete behemoth, and it’s almost post-apocalyptic in appearance.
The sensation of abandonment and loneliness permeate the halls of the Ghost Palace, and it can be quite eerie as you wander the halls. Your footsteps echo and there’s the constant chatter of birds and insects in places that you wouldn’t expect them. If you’re lucky, you might spy some frogs or some disconcertingly large lizards scurrying around.
The whole place feels wrong, which is why you can understand the tall-tales that have sprung up around it. Rumours of all the workers disappearing on the same day, never to be seen again, that the ghosts of the workers who died during its construction still haunt its halls, and that the owner was so corrupt that he was cursed and lost all his money.
To be honest, the last one isn’t too far from the truth. The hotel – like a bunch of abandoned resorts scattered across Bali – was thought to be financed by Tommy Suharto, son of former Indonesian President Suharto who’s corrupt regime funnelled money out of Indonesia and into his families coffers. Tommy surfed a wave of nepotism and corruption to profit off many family-owned monopolies. His criminal dealing became so overt that even the Supreme Court in Jakarta couldn’t overlook them, and despite some successful appeals, he was eventually jailed for fraud and – wait for it – murder charges.
One of the crimes he was found guilty of was a land scam wherewith the backing of the military and local police – he forced landowners off their property before offering compensation 1/10 of the value of their property and torturing those who refused. He planned to build another resort, but with his jailing and the disintegration of the Suharto regime, his companies quickly fell apart.
Which leaves us with the ghost hotel. A weird place with a dark history that’s well worth a visit.