BONITA GRIMA discovers that Seminyak’s little sister has an easier pace and cool vibes.
With winter on its way, you may be planning your Bali escape and if you’re looking to shift down a gear from Seminyak, without having to venture too far, Canggu may be your perfect alternative.
The once-sleepy surf village located just 15km north of Kuta, has awoken fully with boutique hotels, designer shops, day spas, yoga studios and some of the island’s hottest new culinary offerings.
And the good news is it has done so while managing to retain the bohemian edge and local vibe that attracted people here in the first place.
Embrace the spirit of “The Gu” by making these four Rs your mantra...
The Bali you originally fell in love with was probably a bit simpler than it is today but you can rediscover those simple pleasures in Canggu.
With its lack of high-rise buildings, spread-out streets and lush green rice fields, there’s more of a village feel to the place.
The surf at local beaches caters for all levels. Old Man’s at Batu Balong is good for beginner’s waves, Berawa suits intermediates and Echo Beach is known for its expert breaks.
Hire a scooter or bicycle to explore rice paddy trails and the area’s backstreets; stopping to admire the colourful murals and street art, for which Canggu is becoming known.
Wander into one of the many warungs to get a taste for local cooking or take it a step further and learn to do it yourself with a lesson at Canggu Cooking Retreat, using ingredients fresh from its farm and garden.
And at the end of the day, what else to do in Bali but head to the beach.
Grab a drink and snack at Old Man’s beach bar at Batu Balong before you pull up a beanbag, listen to the live music and watch the sun sink into the sea.
Bali is known for its wellness culture and these days there’s every type of therapy available, from traditional healing arts, like those still practised by the island’s balians (medicine or spirit healers), to high-tech facials and digital detox programs.
In Canggu especially, yoga studios and juice bars are just as popular as standard bars and cafes in terms of places to hang out. The Practice, centrally located, is a popular choice, with classes, events and its own lounge and shop.
For all-inclusive retreat-style wellness packages, Desa Seni on the outskirts of town, offers accommodation in restored wooden joglos, imported from Indonesia’s islands, and has its own spa, farm and restaurant. Samadi at Echo Beach, provides a similar experience with a more contemporary feel and hosts a weekly farmers’ and artisans’ market.
If you’re wanting more momentary time out, try one of Canggu’s day spas. Spring is New Zealand businesswoman, Ina Bajaj’s third luxury lifestyle spa in Bali and where you’ll find indulgent beauty or massage therapy options amid chic surrounds, where the spa DJ spins island tunes.
Gold Dust is another favourite, its signature treatment being a 24-carat gold facial, using gold leaf that is rolled out on to the face.
For therapy of the retail kind, spend a day browsing the many clothing, jewellery or homewares boutiques.
A must visit is Australian- owned, Deus ex Machina, makers of vintage motorcycles, surfboards, clothing and coffee. A hub for digital nomads and travellers, the “Temple of Enthusiasm” combines workshop, shop, cafe and lounge bar, making it the perfect space to kick back or create.
Canggu has become a foodie hotspot, catering for all tastes.
In addition to Deus ex Machina, other good places to fuel up for the day include local favourite Betelnut or Cinta Cafe, for breakfast with a rice field view.
In the evening, brush the sand from your feet and stroll up Jalan Batu Balong to Fishbone Local. Opened last year by the Australian team behind Brett Hospitality Group — founded by Dominique Brett, Isabella Rowell, Brant Bauer and chef Benjamin Cross — the creations crafted from the ground up from the finest locally sourced ingredients employ ageless cooking methods such as smoking and woodfire grilling.
Billy Ho is Canggu’s latest offering by renowned chef and restaurateur, Will Meyrick. With the aim of creating a space to nurture body and soul, Meyrick has combined forces with chef Tim Bartholomew to create a menu that is a sophisticated take on the comfort food of Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.
Together with a carefully designed interior that includes a native flower mural by Canggu artist Ogud, a high ceiling decorated with giant black bamboo and chairs made by handwoven loom, it’s an elegant, relaxed mix that encourages you to linger.
As well as Old Man’s, The Lawn is another great spot to come to watch the sunset. Meals here are standard Western fare but its prime position, atmosphere and pretty island decor, complete with pool, lawn, daybeds and huge cream linen umbrellas, amid fairy lights and palms, make the beach lounge worth it.
Boutique hotels are the thing in Canggu but if you’re wanting a resort-style experience, Como Uma Canggu at Echo Beach offers luxury accommodation with panoramic beachfront views. Also located here is Como Beach Club restaurant and the Como Shambhala Retreat, with its indulgent Asian-inspired therapies, yoga classes and 115m lagoon pool.
Ultra-cool, modern boutique hotel, The Slow has a total of 12 suites in the heart of town.
The tropical brutalism aesthetic is complemented by the heavy influence of modern art adorning the walls and space, most of which belong to the owner’s personal collection.
For a more traditional stay, Hotel Tugu Bali has been operating in Canggu for more than 20 years.
The heritage property turned “art hotel” by collector Anhar Setjadibrata, offers a luxurious stay and has been lovingly furnished with curious quality Indonesian art and antiques, to share with guests the romantic stories and legends of the ancient kingdoms of Indonesia.
You may also like
Angkor Thom’s Bayon is Asia’s happiest temple
Welcome to the happiest temple in Asia.
Hundreds of huge faces smile down from Bayon, at the heart of the ancient city of Angkor Thom. STEPHEN SCOURFIELD reports.
More Australians taking out travel insurance
Survey reveals travel insurance an increasing priority for Australian travellers
In praise of escapism
A long-time contributor to Travel’s pages, writer JOHN BORTHWICK recently won the 2020 Pacific Area Travel Association’s (PATA) Gold Award for Best Destination Story.
Here, he takes a light-hearted look at travel and writing, exploring Thailand and the greatly under-rated virtues of escapism.