A month on Bali is almost coming to an end!
We know it sounds cliché but the time has been flying past way too fast. But seriously, we were having so much fun exploring the island, surfing, practising Yoga and meeting friends that life on Bali almost felt stressful. We were staying in Canggu, hipster central on the west coast of Bali and favorite of expats (maybe even more than Ubud) and after having travelled so many “remote” places (think Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), we were absolutely mind-boggled by how easy and smooth everything was made for foreigners on Bali. We probably saw more Westerners in our first three minutes in Canggu than during our entire three months before. If you consider us semi-insane for traveling Central Asia, Bali is just about the opposite.
So this is it: Our story on how we spent a month on Bali!
Traveling Bali during the rainy season
Through sheer luck (and some bad planning), we ended up traveling Bali during its “low” season, the rainy season. We had already traveled Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China pretty off-season during freezing winter so we are sort of developing a habit. Obviously, Bali doesn’t have winter, but the year is divided into two parts, the dry season, more or less from May to September and the rainy season, from November to March with April and October somewhere in between. And from everything we’ve read before coming to Bali, December is about the rainiest month ever.
So how bad is it? Not too bad at all actually! In the first two weeks of December the rain almost did not affect us.
Yes, it rained two out of three days or so, but it was mostly a shower in the afternoon and then at night, so mornings were almost always great. In over a month in Bali, we had to cancel on surfing twice because of the rain and that can basically happen everywhere, right? The worst part about rainy season is probably the rubbish, which gets swept to the west coast (so Kuta, Seminyak and also, Canggu) and can make the ocean pretty dirty sometimes.
But everything has two sides. In the case of rainy season (and in combination with the almost-exploding Mount Agung), it meant that there were basically no tourists right up until Christmas, which was pretty awesome! To give you some perspective, our plane from Chengdu to Denpasar had exactly nine passengers!
That being said, we think that next time we come back to Bali, we might choose April or another month of the shoulder season, should be better weather and still no tourists (for Bali).
Where to stay in Canggu
In the last three months, backpacking through Central Asia meant that we were mostly staying in hostels and guesthouses, often switching location after just a few days. So for Bali, we knew we wanted a fix place to live in, kind of like a home. After doing some research, we quickly ruled out the classic tourist and party regions (Kuta, Seminyak) and Ubud (too far away from water), so naturally, we ended up in Canggu.
There are guesthouses and hostels every hundred meter or so on our street (almost like police stations in Xinjiang), but we decided to go for an airBnB and this was probably the best decision. We got a beautiful room in a house with a double bed and some basic furniture, our own bathroom, an amazing outdoor kitchen and a small swimming pool plus cleaning service. All of that cost around 400 Euros for the two of us together, so less than a room in a shared flat in Munich.
It’s probably possible to pay even less if you are able to negotiate with the owners of homestays and guesthouses (for example by suggesting to cut out airBnB which a friend of ours did) or by hanging out in the Facebook communities. AirBnBs come in all shapes and sizes and for New Year’s Eve, friends of ours rented an entire villa with a gigantic pool and chefs who made lobster!
How to get around on Bali
For such a touristy region, public transport is quite limited on Bali and there is definitely none available in Canggu. There is UBER and its cheaper, Indonesian competitors, GRAB and Go-Jek (for moto-taxis). In Canggu however, there is apparently a taxi-mafia that restricts all of these services so GRAB cars are quite reluctant to drive to and stop in Canggu, which tries to advertise its own (insanely overpriced) taxi service.
Our neighbor sometimes hired a driver to get around, but it would probably have been financially unsustainable to do this for over a month, so we were basically forced to get our own transport. In Indonesian terms, that meant a scooter. Our rental company, Fajar Bali, charged us IDR 50,000 per day but it is possible to negotiate quite steep discounts for a month. We made the mistake of not doing this because we weren’t sure if we would use a scooter every day. The most popular scooter model around seems to be the Honda Scoopy with quite a big trunk which was very handy when we traveled to Ubud and Munduk.
While getting a scooter is easy (no one asks for your license) driving around is about as insane as you think it would be on Bali. Everyone just jams into the tiniest spaces between cars, motorbikes drive on sidewalks and there are a number of cross-roads where people drive in every direction at the same time. In Kuta and Legian, buses drive through uber-narrow cobbled streets which in Europe probably wouldn’t serve as biking lanes. Everyday, there are horror stories of Australians getting severe injuries in scooter-related accidents (a lot of them also don’t have health insurance, like why?) and there are literally hundreds of deaths each year.
So naturally, driving around was quite scary in the beginning! After a while however, we got quite good at it, Kevin driving and Nicole sitting in the back checking the roads on Google Maps. We even drove all the way from Canggu to Munduk (and while it’s only 70 kilometers away on paper, in Bali that means two and a half hours driving).
Where to have the best food in Canggu
Courtesy of our airBnB kitchen, we actually cooked quite a lot ourselves during our stay on Bali. But there is obviously no need for that because food is amazing and relatively cheap (sometimes the sizes of meals were a little bit dubious though). But even if we had eaten out every day, we probably still wouldn’t have explored half of the restaurants in Canggu.
Crate Café: This place basically has hipster written all over it. It’s super-stylish and everything on offer (bowls, smoothies, salads and brunch) is basically healthy. Kevin stuck with the breakfast plate (with salmon and fried eggs) because that was the best value for money in Canggu available.
Warung Dandelion: Dandelion was literally across the street of our airBnB so naturally we came here a couple of times. The staff was almost too friendly (we are grumpy Europeans and really couldn’t deal with all the smiles) and they even try to remember your names. They offer great Indonesian food but the best deal is probably the grilled tuna-steak, where we basically got a huge chunk of protein-loaded fish.
Kantin Madame: We were kind of disappointed with Indonesian street-food, especially compared to China. There were not too many variations and it was not as cheap as we thought, plus it sometimes took ages to prepare freaking fried rice! Kantin Madame, although it’s not a street-food place, became our replacement with an amazing Nasi Goreng and fresh juices for very little money.
Motion Café: This is a super-healthy shop where you can get advice for your ketogenic or paleo diet and eat whatever is the latest food trend. We came here mainly because between two and five pm, they sold extremely tasty whey protein shakes for IDR 30,000.
Bro Resto: We are now seriously deprived of Chinese food! So we found this little gem, which makes fusion French and Chinese food. It’s obviously much more expensive than in China but the dumplings were pretty amazing!
Betelnut Café: The general rule in Canggu seems to be that at the beach, you were served junk food (aka burgers) while everywhere else, you had to content yourself with hipster-healthy green stuff. Betelnut Café is somewhere in between as they have salads and bowls, but also burritos and burgers. And awesome cakes!
What to do in Canggu?
The biggest question is obviously, what did we do with all that time in Canggu? Eating is obviously nice but it’s hardly fulfilling for a month. We took some trips to other regions of Bali and had to do a couple of visa runs, but in any case, Canggu kept us extremely busy!
Surfing: This is the biggest sport on Bali and maybe our main reason for coming to Bali! Bali has waves for every taste and Surfing level all year round. During the dry season (May to September) conditions are best on the west coast including infamous Kuta beach and Batu Bolong/Old Man’s in Canggu. When we were there in December, the wind has turned and so we had to drive out a little bit more to the east coast. Our favorite places included Serangan and Nusa Dua.
You can rent surfboards basically at every beach in Bali where there are waves and there are more surf schools then we could count. For better quality however, we were advised not to get classes from the beach shacks at Batu Bolong Beach, but to seek out a professional school. We went with Prosurf School and had an overall amazing experience. In the beginning, we had a couple of theory sessions before going on surf trips to different breaks around Bali. Over the course of the month, we definitely improved our surfing skills quite a bit and moved down in board sizes ;-). Prosurf is currently based in Kuta so we had to commute a lot, but they will soon move to Canggu!
Yoga: Though most people in Indonesia are Muslims, Bali is unique as it’s population is almost completely Hindu. And with that, Yoga also has a special status on Bali. We have both practically never done any Yoga before so this was a rather new experience. As with surf schools, there are tons of options on Bali.
Our favorite style was Fly High Yoga, an aerial yoga where you do poses on a rope that hangs down from the roof and get into all kinds of upside down inversions, giving our spines a completely new dimension of movement. It’s definitely different from the high-intensity work-outs we used to do in gyms, but no less exhausting! The Vinyasa and Ashtanga classes are also great and every Wednesday afternoon Samadi offers a Charity yoga class for which you pay as much as you want and the money goes to local community projects.
Wellness: Different massage offers are also omnipresent on Bali and as with surf schools, quality differs enormously. The most popular stop in Canggu (and therefore a little bit pricier) is Goldust Beauty Lounge with their infamous backbuster and signature massage. They let you choose between different levels of pressure and the last time we went there, Kevin chose “strong”, which literally busted his back. There is also “extra-strong”, but you would probably need bones of steel to withstand this.
Become a hipster, instagrammer or digital nomad: Unlike other places in Bali, most foreigners in Canggu are actually not tourists but expats living there (more or less) permanently. Apart from the surfers, there are also a lot of hipsters, (would-be) instagrammers and digital nomads, so Canggu seems to be good place to get into these things. The most important step is obviously to look like an accomplished hipster and Canggu is a place to shop to your hearts content. Our street is lined up with unique stores selling the latest instagrammable fashion. Luckily for us (and our wallets), we are already carrying way too much stuff in our backpacks so really couldn’t afford to buy any of it.
Sunset Watching: Bali sunsets on its west coast are legendary (one of the most important streets in Kuta is Sunset Road). While Batu Bolong Beach in Canggu is really not the most beautiful strip of sand on Bali, the views across the ocean are still amazing. We would sometimes also chill at Old Man’s, the most popular bar in Canggu and enjoy the evening over a cold beer.
Canggu is already changing rapidly and becoming more crowded by the minute. So the time in which Canggu is THE PLACE to be on Bali might soon be coming to an end. But as long as it lasts, we will certainly be back!
Kevin & Nicole, written in Canggu