Some Personal Remarks on the History and the Idea of Cilik’s Beach Garden

by Rüdiger Krechel


Since 1983 I’m living most of my time in Southeast Asia. The beauty of the area, especially of Indonesia and Bali, its intriguing nature and culture made me desire to have a permanent place to stay here. Together with Balinese, Swiss and German friends we successively built up this small and very private resort in order to have a beautiful place of peace and harmony for ourselves and for guests as well and in addition a sustainable income for our Balinese partners.

At the very beginning there was no touristic object at all. There was a young Balinese couple and a beach property, stimulating the imagination of their German friend. Slowly this fantasy condensed into a plan and, together with the Balinese friends, was turned into reality in the mid-eighties. Step by step German and Swiss partners came along, and thus the very private beginnings turned into a small guest resort.


Two historic fotos: The beach in front of our property in 1985

A ritual Baris dance during a Melis ceremony 1995


Due to the above described origins a style developed with more individuality, privacy and familiar atmosphere than possible in an usual commercial hotel. The cooperative partnership with the Balinese friends over many years resulted in a close fusion between Balinese traditions and lifestyle and western dreams and wishes of a tropical place for tranquility. This we enjoy ourselves during our annual stays in Bali, and we are delighted to see that our guests appreciate it too.

Our somehow unusual concept often results in misjudgements and misunderstandings on both sides: the Balinese as well as the foreign guests. Balinese first of all ask for the number of rooms. And every number below 20 makes them pitifully laugh. The Westerners assume that the German or Swiss person is the owner or manager of the resort. And to both sides our CBG project has to be explained – sometimes in depth.

We are a group of partners: currently 2 Balinese, 2 German and one Swiss family. We all contributed to our joint project. The Balinese partners first and foremost their land and property, additionally their Balinese Know How, their permanent commitment and their confidence in our partnership. The foreigners financial investments, their western Know How, a good amount of idealism and trust in our partnership as well.

The owners of Cilik’s Beach Garden are our Balinese partners without fuss or quibble. We “strangers” are guests and became friends, and we don’t have any intention to possess something in Bali. But whereas the normal tourist has to book and pay board, lodging and service of each stay, we have teamed up with our Balinese friends and invested proactively and for the longer term, in order to jointly create something, that didn’t exist before: Cilik’s Beach Garden. The benefit: A beautiful place was created, which the Balinese, the Western partners and our guests can enjoy as well.

The Balinese were enabled to build something which wouldn’t have been possible without our help. And we, the foreign guests, have attained a family-like position. We feel at home and familiar, when we come “home” to Bali every year. And amazingly this homely atmosphere was transferred to our guests as well as shown by many guest reactions and reviews.


How it started

It was in 1983 that I first visited Air Sanih, avoiding the southern part of Bali because of its reputation as a tourist place, and actually being on my way from Java to Lombok – and simply stayed. The beautiful coast and the friendship that developed with Cilik and his family were my reasons for staying.

From the eighties and nineties: Cilik and Rüdiger at the Gunung Rinjani 

The young family: Cilik, Cening and their son Jersan


I was working as a visiting lecturer at a state university in Bandung, Western Java, and from that time returned every year, even while working in Thailand, China and Germany and then after my return to my adopted country, the Valais in Switzerland.

My friendship with Cilik gave birth to the plan to design a beautiful place together, in which the wishes and dreams of a Westerner merged with Balinese traditions. We built Cilik’s former house, where he stayed with his wife Cening until 2007 and which became the service unit for the later compound. And we built Villa West, which was the first house – and for many years the only one – that was rented out to friends and colleagues. Slowly the garden was transformed into a well-groomed palm- and beach park. And by and by the number of our guests increased, among them Dr. Oldenbruch and his wife, who, after several sojourns at our place decided to join our ‘project of a beautiful place’. That was when Villa East was built. And economic considerations entered our project, which until then had been characterised by improvisation and spontaneity (hardly surprising, if a philologist and a Balinese are in charge).

With a property twice the size, a second villa and our own Gamelan orchestra CBG continued to consolidate and became rapidly known to insiders as THE PLACE to relax on the northern coast of Bali, remarkable not only for its beauty but also for the care and consideration with which it is looked after. The Rough Guide to Bali already 1994 gave us the title ‘The real gem in the area’, and the renowned Fodor’s Guide to Bali and Lombok  mentioned CBG in a small series of a few selected places of accommodation in Northern Bali. You will today find further descriptions in The Lonely Planet; in Footprint Handbooks, in Peter Rump’s Reise Know-How; in Stefan Loose’s Bali und Lombok; in The Online Travel Guide to Bali etc. Since 2002 we are on the excellent Bali-Map of German Nelles Publications and of the Insight Guides as well, finally the 2009 edition of the Polyglott APA Style Bali listed us amongst their Top Ten Accommodations in Bali.

Then the expansion pattern repeated itself: A guest who had been visiting us for several years, Inge Croé, fell in love with the place, which, like all earthly paradises, admittedly has its blemishes, and decided to become a partner in our group. Two additional houses, the Oktagon and the Lumbung, were built on the adjacent property, just a bit smaller than the two villas, but in a similar architectural style and with the same service provided to the guests. The ownership structure involves a second Balinese family, Gede Putu and his wife.

In 2012 the Swiss family of Reto Zbinden replaced the Oldenbruchs, who couldn’t travel any more for reasons of age. And in 2014 Gede Jersan, Ciliks first son, took over our management. These changes will continue, they rejuvenate our partner group, which is a necessary process, if we want to be sustainable also for the future.  


“The kampung” (the houses) of our Balinese Partners 

The extensive garden of our guest villas


You will sense very quickly what is special about our place. Already when you arrive at Ciliks Beach Garden, entering the resort from the parking place, passing the area with the houses, where our Balinese partners live and from where they take care of ourselves and our guests; then passing the estate’s beautifully kept vast palm garden and eventually, when you have your first look at and into the individually designed and furnished houses. And during your stay, while your dinner is served in your private pavilion, while you are listening Jazz or classical music in your house, while dreaming in the garden, during a table-tennis match with a Balinese partner, or while doing a trip with our traditional outrigger boat – all in a very private and personal atmosphere: This is not one of the usual cottages for rent, but a place that is as individual and specific as you yourself are, and we sincerely hope that you will enjoy this to the utmost – just as we do.

In designing this complex we have first of all made our own dreams come true – we have created a place that we love and hope will be loved by others. Moreover, we have attempted to realise a concept of tourism that takes the requirements and interests of the Balinese into consideration, that minimises negative consequences of tourism, fosters sustainable development, and that, besides offering rest and recreation, gives our guests the opportunity to experience an unknown culture from inside. Those goals will be elucidated by some following examples:


Targeting Natural- and Social Sustainability

Our commitment to protect the environment started well before building the compound, when we joined a group of villagers in their efforts to preserve and protect the coast which was seriously affected by the removal of sand and gravel that had taken place over many years. By means of setting up and practising more restrictive prohibitions on the commercial removal of sand, by means of building a massive wall to prevent further erosion, and through a revival of traditional economic structures (the agricultural use of coastal strips, boat building, cultivation of sea grass, fishing, salt production etc), but also because a number of other private resorts have been built in the area, it seems now possible to achieve an ecological equilibrium once more. Apart from this we also have been careful to save energy and to dispose our waste in an environmentally friendly fashion for years.


Our Villa East in the early evening seen from the pavilion 

The individually designed and furnished interior of Villa West


Our resort is – as already described – a cooperation between by now three German-, one Swiss- and two Balinese families. The profits we gain are first of all used to ensure the economic safety of the families of our Balinese partners and staff members as well as the maintenance of the property. We provide fixed salaries and thus economic safety for fifteen Balinese families. Beside the basic salary we allocate child- and educational allowances, contributions for insurance and social security.

Not only the planning and realisation of the project have been a cooperative undertaking in which Cilik had a decisive voice, but also now we share the responsibility for the maintenance and possible developments of the compound in an ongoing process of discussion and consultation. Our model is therefore very different from the normal procedure, which typically starts with a foreign investor leasing a property, then taking on all responsibility for planning and management, hiring local hands to carry out his orders while claiming all profits for himself.  When the lease runs out, the property is once again taken possession of by the local landowners, who could not collect any experience in managing and maintaining such a resort. There are numerous examples of such compounds in Bali that have been badly neglected and do no longer attract visitors. We feel that our concept of ongoing cooperation and shared responsibility, the continuing dialogue between traditional Balinese ways of thinking and our western ideas and wishes is clearly discernible in CBG, and we hope that it is a recommendation for our project.

In our efforts to achieve social integration and compatibility we make a point of exclusively hiring people living in the village for all necessary tasks, with whom we have formed a close network of cooperation. Thus the relationship between Cilik’s family in Air Sanih and the villagers has not been impaired by the social changes effected by our project – on the contrary, it has become more intense.

In 2004 Cilik was elected as the head of the ritual community (Kelian Desa Adat) in Air Sanih. This is a most honourable and responsible position that is usually given to a meritorious older member of a village community. He was re-elected into this position in 2008, but after these two terms gave up this time-consuming function in order to have more time and energy for our resort again. In 2015 his oldest son, Jersan, who helds a B.A. degree in Tourism Management, took over our resort management, and Cilik was elected for the third time as Kelian Desa Adat. Putu, the landlord of the two Bungalows Oktagonal and Lumbung, is one of the priests (Pemangku) of Air Sanih – so in Ciliks Beach Garden we and you as our guests have a close connection to traditional rural Balinese life.


A Benefit: Opportunities for Diverse Cultural Experiences

For many years the local Gamelan players rehearsed traditional Balinese Gamelanmusik in one part of our palm garden, which is nearly 2 hectares large. Since recently they use the meeting room of the village, where a group of young children has its gamelan- and dance training every Sunday on the initiative of Pak Cilik. Pak Nyoman, our service chief and boat man is the head of the village’s Gamelen group, one of Nyoman’s brothers is Dalang, the shadow play master, and several of our employees are members of the Gamelan orchestra as well. You can meet and come into closer contact with members of the village community in Cilik’s house every day. You can watch Cilik’s wife Cening or Jersan’s wife Tri Utama Dewi creating artful sacrificial gifts. You may join Putu as the village priest or one of our staff to their place or elsewhere in the village to witness sacrifices or purification rituals.

Although as a guest at Cilik’s Beach Garden you can enjoy calm and privacy in your house, in the Balés, in your spacious and secluded garden and on the beach, there are thus numerous possibilities of establishing contacts in individual encounters with the local people. This may help to cross cultural boundaries and to take a look at what is behind the cliché.


A female dancer performs a Teruna Jaya Dance and

the Gamelan Orchestra group plays in our CBG garden


Since tourism is still comparatively rare in the Northeast of Bali, everyday life in this area is by now rather untouched by distortions and mannerisms. Apart from the above mentioned  examples of genuine Balinese culture in CBG and the nearby village there are lots of further options: leave the resort and village and visit the Dalang (the master of shadow play) and see one of his Wayang performances in their authentic ritual context during family- or village ceremonies. Take a look at the production of traditional Ikat textiles, to Wayang Kulit puppets or watch local artists doing glass paintings. Or visit a blacksmith in the village Sawan, where gongs and other traditional Gamelan instruments are made. Watch the production of palm sugar, participate in a Odalan (temple anniversary ceremony) or a Ngaben (a cremation ceremony), where barely other tourists turn up. Make the truly unique experience of a Wayang Wong performance with old masks and gowns which may not leave the temple of Tejakula. Observe the deep-sea fishermen using the traditional method of kite-catching tuna which during the years has become a rarity…To what extent you avail yourself of these opportunities or prefer a more secluded recreational holiday is of course entirely up to you.

We wanted Cilik’s Beach Garden to become a genuine synthesis of Bali-Hindu traditions, stylistic elements typical of Balinese culture and the expectations and aesthetic requirements of the Westerner. 

Staying with us enjoy the habitual and open up to the unusual, the exotic – or even the strange. This will increase the sensitivity and receptiveness of your senses and could probably turn a ‘merely’ exotic holiday into a cultural tour de force for your senses and intellect.


Would you dare to climb???