Approaching the building people now refer to as the 'Ghost Palace Hotel,' I had no idea what lay in wait for me inside. From the outside, the large hotel is an impressive sight. Originally intended as one of Bali's most luxurious and extravagant hotels, the structure stands at five stories tall, not including the basement. As I walked up the entrance steps, I immediately encountered an area blocked off by yellow tape, as if I'd just entered a crime scene.
It wasn't clear exactly what the tape was supposed to be blocking off, as it was only preventing access to the large square in the middle of the floor. It was easy to walk around, so I decided to ignore it and head further into the massive lobby until I reached the reception desk. Unsurprisingly, there were no staff on duty. Surveying my surroundings to make sure that I really was alone, I made my way deeper through the abandoned hotel's dark and grimy hallways. The deeper I got, the heavier the air seemed to grow.
'The deeper I got, the heavier the air seemed to grow. '
The Uncertain History of the Ghost Palace Hotel
No one can really say for certain what happened to PI Bedugul Taman Rekreasi Hotel and Resort, the official name of the Ghost Palace Hotel. What we do know is that construction began in the 1990's and it was meant to be a high class luxury resort. Even with the hotel's current empty and decaying state, that much is still evident today.
The most popular rumor involving the hotel's abandonment has to do with Tommy Suharto, the youngest son of Indonesia's president and dictator, General Suharto. Over the years, Tommy got himself involved in all sorts of shady land deals and other business dealings. And in most cases, he was able to get away with them due to nepotism and his family's immense wealth. But not every time.
Some accounts say that the hotel was officially abandoned in 2002, which fits in with the Tommy Suharto version of the story. After hiring a hitman to kill a judge who convicted him of corruption, Tommy was finally imprisoned in 2002 (albeit for only four years). Another reason why 2002 makes sense is because that was the year of the Bali bombings in Kuta. The bombs killed a couple hundred people and subsequent tourist numbers plummeted.
Confusingly, another account says that the hotel was abandoned as early as 1995 after being in development for just a couple of years. And that it wasn't an Indonesian elite, but a wealthy Chinese businessman who was behind the project. Still, another likely reason for the project's abandonment could be the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis which also spelled the end of other large developments in Bali like Taman Festival Theme Park.
It seems odd how there are so many conflicting stories regarding exactly what happened to the Ghost Palace Hotel and when. We're only talking about 15 to 20 years ago - hardly ancient history. But this ambiguity contributes even more to the abandoned hotel's mystique, as it continues to attract increasing numbers of ghost hunters and urban explorers from around the world.
What we do know for sure, at least, is that the hotel was already mostly complete at the time of its abandonment. As I walked around its dark, crumbling and sometimes wet interior, it was easy to imagine where dining halls, reception areas or banquet rooms might've been - even if they were losing the battle against nature.
'it was easy to imagine where dining halls, reception areas or banquet rooms might've been - even if they were losing the battle against nature.'
Despite the Ghost Palace Hotel's dark and ominous interior, visitors today can still be treated with what was supposed to be one of the hotel's main selling points: its marvelous panoramic views. Not only does the location offer views of Mount Agung, Bali's largest and most spiritually significant mountain, but it's supposedly the only hotel on the island from which you can see both sunrise and sunset.
Some of the verandas of the empty rooms provide fantastic views of the nearby forests and mountains of Bedugul, but it takes some stepping over indoor vines and bushes to access them. Wanting to get an even clearer view of the surroundings, I sought out the nearest staircase and made my way toward the top floor. But just then, I heard a chilling scream in the distance.
Though I'd jumped at the sound, I was lucky to have a view of the courtyard in front of the hotel at that moment. A group of four tourists were making their way to the building and were simply playing pranks on each other. I shrugged it off and continued exploring the upper floors.
I'd been alone in the hotel up to that point, but it wouldn't be much longer before I'd encounter some other guests. Or so I thought.
Though the upper floors provided more light, getting to the hotel's rooftop terrace wasn't quite as easy as I expected. One of the bigger rooms on the top level was completely covered in a large puddle of murky water, at least several centimeters high in some parts. After backtracking and finding a different route, though, I finally made it to the terrace to reap my reward.
The top of the Ghost Palace Hotel provides stunning 360 degree views of surrounding Bedugul, a region of Bali known for its pristine lakes, forests and hiking spots. Looking down at the neighboring town, it becomes especially clear how this abandoned hotel is far from secret or hidden.
A significant number of locals must look up and see this large, decaying structure every day, though most Balinese themselves refuse to step foot inside. That means that a large majority of visitors are foreign tourists. Another group of which I happened to see approaching the hotel from my position at the top just then.
The most perplexing part of my entire visit to the Ghost Palace Hotel is the fact that I never ran into a single other visitor during my time there. And this is after witnessing 8 or 9 people in total walk in. I didn't hear a single peep from anyone either, despite them making so much noise on the way to the entrance.
Except for the sound of some large insects flying around, the interior of the hotel remained deathly quiet throughout the duration of my visit. It was as if those other visitors got sucked into a vortex upon entry. Maybe that yellow tape just past the entrance, I realized, was blocking off something important after all...
The Haunted Island
An offering left by someone near the hotel's entrance
Most haunted places around the world have some kind of tragic story attached to them - often a grisly murder or some other type of tragic accident. Afterward, they remain haunted by the restless spirits of those who died there. But haunted places in Bali don't really need such tragic backstories for locals to be cautious.
Some might say, in fact, that the entire island is haunted. Or at least, it's crawling with invisible spirits - both good and bad - at every square meter. That's why in their daily offerings, the Balinese often pay tribute to both the benevolent spirits in the addition to the pesky dark ones, typically referred to as bhuta or kala. Providing these darker entities with offerings is one way to keep them from getting out of control or too 'hungry,' so to speak.
But abandoned places, where such spirits often love to gather, are not home to the regular purification rituals or offerings which occur all the time in the villages. That's why places like the Ghost Palace Hotel are believed to be teeming with darker entities, left to run amok and do as they please. Many locals avoid such places out of fear that an entity might even try to attach itself to one of their human visitors.
The only way to purify such a place would be some kind of mass exorcism ritual. But even then, locals might have a hard time believing that all of the darker spirits have vacated the area. That's why, despite their pristine locations, places like the Ghost Palace Hotel and many other abandoned buildings throughout Asia are left dormant for so long.
Theories on bhutas and kalas aside, though, the Ghost Palace Hotel actually does have a dramatic urban legend associated with it. The story goes that the hotel was just about to open, with all staff members, in addition to the hotel's first guests, on location to get ready for the big day. All of a sudden, though, everyone in the hotel inexplicably vanished. As you can likely predict, the souls of the hotel's staff are said to still lurk the premises to this day.
'As I roamed through the empty hotel, there was a very distinct and constant feeling that I was not alone.'
Out of all the abandoned or supposedly haunted places I've visited around the world, the Ghost Palace Hotel was by far the creepiest. It's not that any one thing happened during my visit that was particularly frightening in itself, but the overall atmosphere of the place was unsettling in a way that's difficult to describe with words.
As I roamed through the empty hotel, there was a very distinct and constant feeling that I was not alone - even from before the time I saw those other tourists approaching. Furthermore, the hotel also seems to have a magnetic energy that beckons you to keep on exploring its dark hallways and empty rooms, even when common sense might suggest you turn around and walk away. With that said, I'm already thinking about coming back to visit again during my next trip to Bali.
Interested in learning more about the relationship the Balinese have with the 'unseen'? Be sure to pick up the book Bali: Sekala & Niskala by Fred B. Eiseman, probably the most comprehensive work on the topic.
The Ghost Palace Hotel is clearly visible to commuters and local residents. If you're getting there on your own, look for the place marked “The Abandoned Resort” on Google Maps. It's just off Jl. Baturiti Bedugul, a little south of Danau Beratan lake.
If you're hiring a driver or taxi, many of them seem to know where it is, as it's become a common sightseeing spot for those on their way to other Bedugul landmarks like Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.
Outside of the Ghost Palace Hotel there will likely be a guard man who will ask for a small donation/ticket/bribe of Rp. 10,000. Just pay it and he will happily let you on your way.
Bali only has one airport, which is located in the capital and largest city of Denpasar. The best way to reach your accommodation on Bali island from the airport would be via taxi, which can be arranged by your hotel or simply negotiated at the airport.
The Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar is very well connected. You can find direct flights from all over Indonesia, in addition to plenty of international cities throughout Asia and even Europe.