Bertrand is a retired airline pilot who is building his Bali dream home in Pondok Gede, just north of Canggu. The area is still close enough to all the restaurants and amenities of Canggu, but still retains the flavour of “old Bali”.
What’s your name and what do you do?
I’m Bertrand and I am now a property developer. I used to be an airline pilot for Cathay Pacific, based in Hong Kong, for 20 years.
What brought you to Bali originally?
About 11 years ago I moved to Bali with my family. We lived near Ubud. I kept my job in Hong Kong and I would commute each week.
What do you love about Bali?
As you can imagine, Hong Kong is a very congested and polluted big city, with a lot of stress. Not great for kids! We wanted something different. I want my kids to be playing in the mud, so we went to the Green School near Ubud.
I had visited Bali in 2001 and fell in love immediately. As a European, it’s a dream come true to live on a tropical island. The people, the holistic energy, the scenery, and the spiritual energy here is incredible. You have to play along with what Bali offers, you must adapt and enjoy it.
Is this your first project in Bali?
I bought a beautiful piece of land of 25are near Ubud. It took me 3 years. It was on the river cliff with beautiful views. It was big project because the land was very sloped. I really wanted to build my Bali dream villa there.
My ex-wife, and current business partner, Annie, is an interior designer and we had done a few projects in Hong Kong. We had a background in renovation, but this was our first construction.
It was a very challenging project. We had our share of bad experiences, which in the long run helped us, but at the time it was horrific. Things like money getting stolen, workers disappearing, landslides from the rain, and bad planning. And the hardest part was not having any help, we were on our own!
In addition, I was still working as a pilot so I wasn’t in Bali all the time so I couldn’t mange everything.
What did you do next?
After 2 and half years we moved into Canggu for our children’s schooling and I started to find some houses and do some renovations. This was a much better experience because over time I could establish a connection with my team and workers. Slowly, I began to build relationships.
So I realised that now I can consider building something from scratch because I have much better contacts than before. I can pick my people very carefully.
That first house, near Ubud was supposed to be my retirement home, but I couldn’t keep it. However, the house we are building now in Pondok Gede, will be my retirement home. This is my Bali dream villa!
My project here is a Wabi-Sabi project, which is looking for perfection in the imperfection. There is a spirituality behind it, which I really love.
Why did you start your company?
I wanted to share my experience with others. 11 years ago, it was very tricky and stressful, but now I trust my people, I know they are professional and we can accomplish our goals. I want to share that with my friends, and family, and other people.
We can do legal help, architectural design, construction, interior design. We do it all. It’s called Island Living Bali. It’s an a la carte menu and our clients choose what they need.
Why attracted you to this project?
This area, Pondok Gede, is still the real Bali. It’s full of lush vegetation, but it’s 10 minutes to amazing restaurants. So we have the quiet and solitude at home, but we are close to everything we need.
How did you find this land?
I like to go and get lost! I drive around on my motorbike and I deliberately get lost. I talk to the local people. I sit and eat at the local warungs and we talk. They know the landowners. We chat and get to know each other. It’s often about the people, because we’re going to living close together! And I got a great feeling about this land, so I did my due diligence and checked the legal work.
This land is 13are and the building will be almost 900 square metres. 5 bedrooms, 2 living and a 30 metre pool, surrounded by jungle.
When you swim in the pool, you swim towards the jungle, it’s incredible!
Tell me about your designer Annie. We first met her as part of Siobhan and Joe’s renovation
Annie is an amazing designer! She’s also my business partner.
In fact, Annie and I were married for 10 years and after we sorted out our black cloud, we make it work easily now. We see each other everyday, we discuss things everyday. We have a fantastic working relationship because we know each other so well. We have similar taste.
Annie is very creative and artistic, while I’m a very organised and structured, and this makes for an ideal combination. Actually, we are very lucky to be able to work together!
How much did you design yourself?
I wanted to use the architectural idea of compression and decompression, and so I planned this technique for the entranceway of the home. I used to do 2 long haul flights back to back, so I had 16 hours to design. Everywhere I went with my work, I took notes and planned. During the flights I would sketch!
Sometimes I would encounter problems, but they were useful. If your idea doesn’t fit, then you have to be creative, you have to find ideas that you would not have thought of without this problem. This is where the magic happens!
When did you start building? When will you finish?
We started in August 2021. Even though there was the pandemic, it was still a good time to start. We expect to finish around July 2022. All our furniture will be custom-made for the villa and it takes about 3 months, so we have to be careful with timelines.
We want this Wabi Sabi style, so for example we are flaming wood to give it an old look. It really is beautiful. We want organic living, with light grey and beige tones, with vegetation everywhere.
How often do you visit the build?
I go about once a week. Not because I have to, but because I want to see it. However we have a WhatsApp group with Annie, my builder, my architect, project designer, electrician etc. They send photos and videos and if there is a small problem, we can solve it remotely and easily.
The experience right now is so good because I can trust my team. I have no headaches, I can sit back and relax and just keep an eye on things. I can only do this because I have known them a long time and I have worked with them many times. We have built up a lot of trust and confidence in the relationships.
What advice do you have for people wanting to build in Bali?
You must do your due diligence. Do your homework! This is essential. From day 1! From checking the land with a notary to checking your contractor’s previous work. I don’t like surprises!
If you are building in Bali (or have just finished) and would like to be featured in our Build Diary, please contact us at email@example.com