Sometimes the planets align and building your dream villa in Bali can be relatively easy! For Janet, an Irish blogger and tour operator, finding the best way to build happened quite organically. Read on to discover her build journey!
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Janet Newenham and I am a travel blogger, YouTuber, and tour operator from Ireland. I’ve been living in Bali for 5 years on and off.
How did you begin travel blogging and tour operating?
I studied journalism at university and so I was always into writing. I worked for Lonely Planet for a while and then for a lot of big travel publications. Then I started my own blog. I have travelled the world for the last 12 or 14 years! It started as a hobby and became my job!
3 or 4 years ago I pivoted and decided to do more Youtube. And then Youtube has become my main thing for 2 years. Now it’s mainly YouTube and my tours.
What got you into Youtube?
Well, travel blogging was really changing. From being fun and creative story-telling, it was becoming really SEO focused. I just got a bit bored of that style of writing! However, with Youtube your personality really comes across. You don’t have to plan it so much, you can just open the camera and begin with “Hey guys, I’m in Bali!” and let’s go!
Why did you first come to Bali?
Well, initially I was invited by the Indonesian Tourism Board. It was a work trip! I was invited with 10 or so other journalists. It was across Indonesia. We went to Jakarta, Sulawesi, and a lot of different places. We ended in Sanur, Bali on the final day.
All the other journalists flew home on the final day. I just said “No”. They had my ticket home and I just said “No thanks, I’m not leaving”. So I ended up staying for a few months! I went travelling again and came back for about 6 months.
Generally, I do 6 months stints in Bali at a time. Of course, Covid was different. I stayed here long-term.
Why did you decided to create your home base here in Bali?
I just love Bali so much! I love the Balinese people, the culture, the nature so much. And the rice fields! I come from Ireland, and I don’t like the weather there so I’m so happy to be in Bali. I’ve made so many friends here. That’s why I live in Canggu.
Why did you decide to build your Bali dream villa?
I don’t know! It was an accident! Totally unplanned! I never thought I could afford it!
I signed a long-term lease on a different place at the end of last year. Then in January this year, the owner Made said to me “Hey Janet, see that field over there? I’m going to build some villas there”.
So he offered me this great deal where I can pay a little up front and the rest as we go. The initial time period is 10 years. Then I can pay later to extend my lease if I want to at a price that is already locked in. Of course, I designed it and picked how it looks etc.
They had the basic structure locked in already. The footprint of the villa on the land was set in stone, but I could change the interiors. Everything on the inside I have chosen. So this arrangement gave me a lot of control. For example, I made an indoor kitchen/living (rather than open to the elements), I turned the third bedroom into an enclosed living room. They wanted a high wall but I removed that. They wanted no windows, but I wanted windows! So it was great to be in control.
I thought about it for a few weeks, and then I said “Let’s go for it!”.
What was your Bali villa build timeline?
I saw the site in January 2022, and then they started building in March. And by the time I came back from my group trips at the end of July the villa was built!
I was away for at least half of the build. Every time I came back there was significant improvement, like suddenly the swimming pool was there!
However, every time I came back I noticed issues, so I’d have to speak with the builder to fix this or that. So many things! They kept on increasing the height of the wall or not putting in the windows I wanted. Then they installed the windows but none of them could open! So many little things!
Luckily I have friends who would come literally every week and keep an eye on it for me.
What does your villa consist of?
1 level with 2 bedrooms and an enclosed living. Also with a private pool. It has an accessible rooftop which will be perfect for sunset BBQs and drinks. Soon there will be sunbeds and sofas!
I know you love your rice field views. What are your farmer neighbour’s plans for his land?
For now, they are not building. But, this is Bali, so there are no guarantees! I have views of lots of different rice fields so hopefully I can keep some of my views!
But I know that things can change and you have to just go with the flow. My landowner promised me that the neighbouring plot in front of mine would not be build on for 10 years. It would be a community garden. He planned to keep it for his children…….Well, clearly that plan changed because they’ve just started building on it!
Speaking to my friend Siobhan we’re going to build a plant wall so we will look out onto a plant wall. The land owner has promised to buy a lot of banana plants in pots and line them up to block the view of the construction. We’ll see what happens!
I’ve been here long enough to know how things work so I wasn’t even that annoyed when they started building on it!
What research into building a villa in Bali did you do?
The main thing that I got lucky with, which meant that I didn’t actually have to do much research, is that I already knew the land owner really well. We had a relationship already. I knew I could trust him.
I’d also had friends who had rented from him for 3 years. He’s already built a villa for my friends Susie. And the contractor, Putu, had build another friend’s villa, and did a really good job, so I knew what they were able to do.
To be honest, I didn’t need to do much research because I already knew the people involved very well. I knew personal cases of people who had had good experiences, so I felt confident.
Obviously, I also spoke with people who had built or taken a long term lease, and they gave me some tops on things I should look out for, especially with the contract. I had a friend who had more experience that I do ready over my contract and he suggested we change a few things and add a few things etc.
Do you think you’ll extend after the initial 10 years is done?
To be honest, I don’t know! I like the area a lot but my issue is that Canggu is getting built up so fast. It’s hard to know what it will look like in 10 years! I’m in the middle of the rise fields now, but there are guarantees! For now, it’s my dream villa. But we’ll wait and see. For now, I definitely do want to live here
How do you feel when you walk into your home?
Happy! Super happy! I love it! It really feels like home. I used to work so much from cafes. I used to live out of cafes. This week I’ve barely left my villa. Sitting here, working or reading my book, just watching the view. I love it!
Do you like your area?
I’ve got fantasy supermarket, a gym and my favourite, jungle paddle, all within walking distance.
What advice do you have for others ?
There are so many different ways to build here. First of all, come here. Live here for a while.
You need to come and do your research, because it’s not the same way as in America or Australia. Come and live here for a while first.
Some people buy off-plan and it’s a turn key experience. Everything is included, even the furniture. Others want to find their own land and their own builder. It depends how much you want to customise it to make it your own villa. There’s pros and cons of each way. But you need to be here to see what works for you.
Follow Janet’s villa here
Words by Bali Interiors
Photos by Bali Interiors + Janet Newenham
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