Photos and Words by Dave Stevenson
In general people tend to ask me two questions about Bali: How many times I’ve been, and where I stay when I’m there. The short answers are that I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been there, but I always stay in Canggu.
Canggu (pronounced chung-goo) is a small village west of Bali’s capital city, Denpasar, amongst rice patty fields and along a stretch of black sand beaches. The area is quickly becoming one of Bali’s main destinations for surfers, travellers and expats, with access to good waves, decent infrastructure and fun nightlife (yet just far enough away from the over-run hell-hole of Kuta). This growing popularity of the area has been met with a large influx of professional surfers, surf and beach culture labels, models and photographers. Consequently, Canggu is rapidly becoming a surf-cultural hub with a vibe similar to Byron Bay or Venice Beach.
Despite the recent influx, the place retains an overwhelmingly friendly atmosphere devoid of any obvious pretentiousness. If you are looking for a fun tropical surf getaway, have Canggu in your radar, but get here soon because the place is changing quickly.
Bali is best known for its heavy left-handers over sharp coral reef, although Canggu is one of the few places on Bali that offers decent surf across a broader selection of set-ups. The main break (named Canggu) is more of a log wave breaking over black sand and volcanic rock. There can be upwards of 100 people out, but there are peaks and reforms all over plus the line-up is generally packed with hot girls so there really is no losing here. The next road north leads to Echo Beach, which offers a barrelling left-hander, a punchy river-mouth and a few more reefs and banks scattered along the coast. No matter what you’re after you should be able to find a decent wave around Canggu. The place attracts people from all over the globe so depending on what surf etiquette you are used to it can get a bit interesting.
The nightlife around Canggu is generally pretty relaxed yet exceptionally fun with loads of outdoor restaurants and bars scattered throughout. People like to have a good time here no matter whether they’re on vacation or living here full time so grab a sunset beverage and let things escalate into the evening. The drinks are cheap, the locals are friendly and the vibes are good. Here are a few of staples to get your nights started.
Old man’s is a beer garden style bar over looking the main Canggu break. They’ve got a happy hour from 5-6, which offers 2-1 drinks and is generally packed with surfers, back-packers, ex-pats and a myriad of other generally good people. You will want to be here or in the general vicinity each night to kick things off. On Wednesday’s Old Man’s has their weekly beer pong tournament which will coax the inner frat-boy out of the best of us. A bottle of Jose Cuervo is at stakes, so be sure your pong game is on point.
Pretty Poison sits amongst the rice patty fields on the short cut road between Canggu and Berawa. They’ve got a kidney shaped pool to skate and a bar full of cheap drinks. On Thursday’s is their Skate Jam & Skin Stickers party, which generally involves a few local dudes skating the pool, DJ battles, cheap tattoos and a packed dance floor. On Saturdays they boast a skate jam + dance party, which is essentially the same thing as Thursday minus the tattoos. I have never had a bad time here. Go to Pretty Poison.
Deus Temple of Enthusiasm
Deus Ex Machina can generally be credited for putting Canggu on the map since the erection of their Temple of Enthusiasm about a decade ago. The Temple of Enthusiasm sits amongst the rice patty fields and is more of a compound, which contains a custom motorcycle shop / surf shop, a café / restaurant, artist studio spaces and even a barbershop. Their Sunday Session is one of the best parties on Bali, so you will not want to miss it. Tuesdays at Deus are Tacos-N-Tattoo-Tuesdays, which is pretty self-explanatory and typically a more chilled out vibe compared to Sundays but definitely worth hitting up. The first 16 tattoos of the evening are on the house, so get in early if you plan on getting inked.
On any given night there is bound to be something fun happening around Canggu from art & photography exhibitions, shop parties, bar / restaurant openings, pool parties at villas, etc. If you’re willing to put yourself out there (and are not a total weirdo) you will likely get invited to something.
I love Balinese food. Everyone loves Balinese food. How could you not? It is cheap and delicious. When in Canggu I eat most of my meals at the local restaurants called warungs. Varuna is an authentic family run warung with a good atmosphere, free WiFi and a water cooler to refill your bottles. The Nasi Campur (mixed rice with a selection of prepared dishes) here is out of control. I once spent 25,000rp (less than $2 USD) and could not finish my plate.
I often burn out on eating mixed rice every meal, plus I require decent coffee to live, so I often hit up Betelnut and Crate Café for breakfast or lunch. Betelnut offers good coffee, smoothies, wraps, scrambles and various nutritious items. Owing to the healthy nature of their menu, Betlenut is often packed with health conscience people from local yoga retreats etc. (read: hot girls).
Depending on budget constraints, how high-maintenance you are and how comfortable you want to be, accommodation around Canggu can basically be broken down into 3 categories.
1.Ghetto – For the backpackers, surf rats or just the general tight-asses you can find cheap accommodation from 100,000 to 200,000 rp/night, which will get you a room in a homestay with a bed, a fan and a very basic bathroom. If you’d prefer saving your money for beers and are ok with being woken up by roosters and stray dogs this is your go.
2. Sensible – Boutique hotels and surf camp accommodation are available for those of you who are not on a super tight budget, but still don’t need to be waited on hand and foot. On my most recent visit I stayed at Canggu Beach Inn, which provides nice, air conditioned and serviced rooms at a good rate. If you enjoy a warm shower and don’t feel like sweating your bag off all night, this is your best bet.
3.Extravagant – If you require a private pool, a maid, a security guard and want to stay in a place nicer than anything you could ever afford back home then I recommend you get a villa. Over the past few years a number of high-end villas have been popping up, often over taking former rice patty fields all across the region.
Nobody walks in Canggu. Everybody drives scooters and motorbikes everywhere. For the most part this is unnecessary since most things are within a short walking distance from one another, but renting a scooter is a bit of a right of passage and will provide you with some freedom to get out and explore. You don’t have to go very far to get out of the areas inundated by western culture and generally speaking Bali is quite safe, so grab a camera, fill your water bottle and go explore.