I Spent 2 Months in Sumberkima, Northwest Bali, to Focus on Work: This Was My Experience (2023)

I Spent 2 Months in Sumberkima, Northwest Bali, to Focus on Work: This Was My Experience (2023)

In June of 2023, my girlfriend and I decided to spend 2 months in the hills of Sumberkima, living and working on our online businesses. Prior to that, we were living in Uluwatu, in the South of Bali. Why spend 2 months in Sumberkima you might ask? It’s a good question. The entire island of Bali is suitable for online work. Our intention with the experience was to go into a deep focus bubble – free of distractions, and really overcome some of the challenges we had both been facing.

On the 7th of June we packed up our Uluwatu lives, put things into storage, and made our way to the northwestern part of Bali to embark on our focus bubble experience. For me personally, I termed it “Hermit mode in the mountains” although technically we were not quite in the mountains.

Living at the Sumberkima Hill Retreat

As the director of work focus bubble experience, it fell on my shoulders to pick the place we would stay. I knew from previous experience in Bali that the most ideal location was perched up on Sumberkima Hill – the Sumberkima Hill Retreat. Initially, the plan was set to go for 1 month, and see how it would pan out. So I had booked us a month to stay in one of the Madya Suites up on the hill.

The Madya suites were cozy in comparison to some of the bigger villas on the hill, but still had a clean stone interior, large bathroom, and plenty of space to swing a cat. The long wooden benches in the room had space to sit and work from, but if a more cushioned work nest was required, there were also the couch, and the comfy bed. Despite the small size, the room had plenty of space for us both to work from. The room also had some suitable photography and video backgrounds, which were an important feature for my partner who was creating video content.

Sumberkima Hill Retreat
Sumberkima Hill Retreat
Sumberkima Hill Retreat

How much did it cost to stay at Sumberkima Hill Retreat for 2 months?

All up, for 2 months we spent 37.5m IDR on our room. The first month was during low season, so it was cheaper than the second month. Had we just paid the overnight prices for the Madya Suites, it would have run closer to 90m IDR, which is a considerable chunk of change. I have to add a disclaimer here and say that I was able to negotiate this directly with the owners, so the deal we got was pretty good.

As with all accommodation in Bali, the shorter your stay, the most you pay (per night). Sumberkima (and Northwest Bali for that matter) is not yet a popular destination for long term stay’s. The region itself is perfectly suited for nature immersion, romantic getaways, and family/group stays, so most of the region runs on the overnight rental market. But for individuals or couples just looking for a place to get into an extended work bubble, it’s relatively untapped. So if you are planning a longer stay (at least one month) you have the ability to negotiate a custom price for yourself, wherever you choose to stay.

Expert tip: if you’re booking a place to stay anywhere in the region, it pays to book directly with the owners. Find a Whatsapp number and contact them directly. Because the booking fees for platforms like Agoda and AirBnb are so high, they can usually offer you a better rate simply by booking directly with them.

Another Expert Tip: The region experiences a significant high season as tourists from abroad flow in during July, August, and September. The high season and low season are a night and day difference. When we arrived in June, the hill was incredibly quiet – even on the fringe of the high season, and in July the place was fast to be fully booked out. Suma restaurant started almost empty, and by the end of July, almost every seat was filled. One night I counted over 60 people in the restaurant out of interest, because of how big the change had been. If you are looking for a quiet time to go, consider going before July. But don’t shy away from the high season either, if that’s really when you want to visit. For the monthly prices, expect to pay an additional 50% during high season.

What was it like living and working from Sumberkima?

Overall, the experience met all of our needs. Our biggest concern before embarking on the trip was “How are we going to get oat milk in Sumberkima?”. Whenever planning a focused work trip there are many things to take into consideration. Will the place be comfortable? What will the food be like there? How is the internet? In fact, while I was staying there, a few of my friends had actually enquired into doing the same, and many had the same questions – so I’ll detail the answers to those questions here.

The Level of Comfort

As I mentioned earlier, the room that we picked was perfectly suitable for 2 people to work from. What it lacked in size, it made up for in quality. But expanding on that, most of the villas on the hill are of a very similar style and build quality, so if you choose to follow in our footsteps, you can be sure that almost any villa on the hill will offer you comfort for work.

The Internet

A question that I was asked frequently was “What’s the internet like up there?” Honestly, compared to other parts of Bali the internet was not the greatest. Most of the time it was good enough, but there were also just enough instances of it not working to be of annoyance. We would get speeds above 25MBPS, but also as low as 2MBPS. I’m a problem solver though, and my way around this was to tether my mobile data, which combined with the wifi connection I had, enabled me to skip around the poor speeds for the most part.

If you need a blazing fast internet speed for your work, you might find it frustrating at times – especially during the early evening when the load on the infrastructure peaks, and speeds tend to drop. I’m still not sure exactly why that happens, but my theory is that everyone goes home to stream video at exactly the same time. Sumberkima Hill Retreat did their best to help us out with our connection speeds while we were there.

The Food

The food is a big question mark for most people. Had we stayed elsewhere in Sumberkima (or Pemuteran) our convenient food options would have consisted mostly of local Warungs, with a small selection of western style restaurants. There are not very many cafe style places in the region suitable for long laptop sessions. But up on the hill, there are 2 really great restaurants, offering really top notch food. Honestly, the food at Suma Restaurant is VERY good. And if you stay in one of the rooms or villas on the hill, you can order from the restaurant directly to your room.

The Northwest of Bali doesn’t have Gojek or any similar food delivery service, but up on the hill this service is provided by the retreat. 75% of the time we would order food directly to our room. The nice part of this is that each bill is simply added to your room bill, so you don’t need to whip out your card and wait at the machine twice a day. You simply settle the bill at reception one time per week. All these little conveniences add up!

When looking for a place to dial in the ultimate work focus – having convenient food options is a HUGE part of holding a consistent, undistracted work flow. Living in Bali for 4 years I have learned this lesson many times. Being a nomad expat is fun on the surface, but when you are trying to juggle high quality work sessions from a different cafe everyday, your work tends to suffer for it.

Expert Tip: The Tuna at both Suma Restaurant and Mangroove Bay is really good.

Suma Restaurant
Suma Restaurant
Mangroove Bay
Mangroove Bay

Restaurants & Cafe’s

We spent most of our time working during our stay on the hill, but every few days we would pick a new place to try the food from. Noteworthy mentions are:

  1. Suma Restaurant up on the hill (best overall).
  2. Mangroove Bay Hostel down by the water (second best overall).
  3. Senja Restaurant up on the hill (best views, but Indonesian menu).

Those 3 restaurants provided 95% of our food.

A Vegan's Food Guide to North West Bali - Top 5 Restaurants
Suma Restaurant
A Vegan's Food Guide to North West Bali - Top 5 Restaurants

Groceries

Restaurants and cafe’s offer the bulk of your calories, but what is life without a bit of flexibility and variety? Having the freedom to buy whatever ingredients you like and make some things at home is important for most people, and we were no exception.

And so to answer the most important question: can you get oat milk in Sumberkima? Yes. Yes you can. But they only sell it from convenient stores in the tiny bottles.

Our grocery shopping was done mostly at the Alpha Mart down by the main road, some of the fruit stands scattered around, and surprisingly – Tokopedia.

Yep, you can get Tokopedia deliveries to Sumberkima. We had our deliveries sent to the main reception, and they would message us when they arrived. On Tokopedia you can buy almost anything you want, so that became a viable option for groceries as well (and as much oat milk as our hearts desired).

Did you know?… Every accommodation on the hill has a fridge. So you won’t need to worry if you want to keep some groceries fresh at home. If you stay at the hostel, they also have a fridge – but it’s a shared fridge so space may be limited.

Getting around

If you’re staying for more than a couple weeks in the region, it’s VERY handy to have a scooter. Sumberkima Hill Retreat has a shuttle service that can take you and pick you up from almost anywhere in the region, but for short little trips – down to the mini mart, fruit stands, Mangroove Bay Hostel, and whichever nearby attraction we wanted to check out – having a scooter helped a lot.

So how to have a scooter there? If you are going for a long trip, you probably want to bring a fair bit of stuff – so for that you need a car to get to Sumberkima with all your stuff. In our case, I had my partner take the car, and I drove the scooter.

It’s also possible to rent a scooter when you are there. There are a number of options for renting.

But let’s say you don’t have a scooter. Could you get by without one? Yes, you could if you stay on the hill. The shuttle service is a viable transport option, and the hill can also help you get a scooter driver to go someplace far away if you need to.

Was 2 months too long?

For us, 2 months was bordering on being too long, and 1 month was too short. After the first 2 weeks we knew the place had everything required for the ultimate hermit mode focus bubble experience. So we decided to extend a second month. But after 6 weeks, things started to feel a bit stagnant. This stagnant feeling was caused by a combination of factors, namely being in the exact same routine, day in and day out.

For us, this was more because of how focused we both needed to be on work, and less because the place is boring. While yes, Sumberkima Hill is a very quiet and peaceful place – perfect for a lot of things, it doesn’t have to be boring. There are a TONNE of different adventure activities you can do in the area, and unfortunately my partner and I just didn’t get around to doing them due to work focus.

Additionally, one does grow accustomed to having a rich diversity of novel restaurant options to choose from, and in Sumberkima Hill, we ended up eating our way through the entire menu’s, and settling on the same things each day (really good food though).

Sumberkima Hill Colloseum Walk

The hidden gems

There are definitely a few hidden gems in the area that hardly anyone in Bali knows about.

The most notable thing is that you can actually go for a walk here. Almost everywhere else in Bali, it’s impossible to walk out your door and take a relaxing stroll in nature, but here you can do that. There’s minimal traffic, and the hills are just at the doorstep, with many paths to take. Walking is great for the body, and great for the mind – perfect if you are in a creational work bubble. It helps with looking at things from a high level, and also mulling over specific problems in your mind. This was an unexpected benefit for work focus.

Not to mention, pretty much anywhere you walk in nature is going to have killer views for sunrise and sunset, the ocean, and the distant volcanoes on Java.

Sumberkima Hill Colloseum Walk
Sumberkima Hill Colloseum Walk

Would I do it again?

Short answer, yes. But if I went again, I would prioritise getting out and doing the activities a lot more than I did. My biggest regret after leaving Sumberkima was that I didn’t do or see enough of the nature in the area – especially the ocean activities like snorkelling, kayaking, and diving around Menjangan Island.

Final Verdict

In the past 4 years living in Bali, I’ve lived in Ubud, Canggu, Uluwatu, and stayed in many different places.

Looking at things objectively, I achieved more focused, deep work in Sumberkima than I have been able to achieve anywhere else on the island. Canggu has great networking opportunities, and a hustle energy. Ubud is spiritual and has it’s own energy. Uluwatu is more laid back and has it’s own energy. No surprises, Sumberkima also has it’s own energy.

Sumberkima Hill is categorically a peaceful and quiet place, free of distractions, and overflowing with convenience. It has a spiritual energy, a sense of history and culture, and untouched nature. I once went for a walk in the hills and felt like I was walking somewhere that hadn’t been touched by humans for hundreds of years. This unique combination of features makes Sumberkima Hill a noteworthy place for healthy, distraction free focus.

Temple on the Hill
Temple on the Hill
Temple on the Hill

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