Who has been to Bali? I’m not sure of the statistics, but a quick Google search tells me that in 2014 more than 600,000 Aussies touched down on the Island of the Gods.
I’ve been to Bali four times over 13 years.
Once was when I was 12 years old, and we walked the rice-paddy-lined street between Legian and Kuta. Another time was for our honeymoon, staying in Tuban.
The next visit was with friends, staying in a Seminyak villa, Ubud and Sanur with our nearly one-year-old daughter.
And the last time, with our two children, we stayed at a surf resort in Canggu, Menjangan National Park and Legian. We also took a look at Medewi, on the way up to Menjangan.
Of all those places, Canggu – a large coastal stretch north of Seminyak and Kuta – has been my favourite. I see it as the expat area where you have activity but nothing like the crazy business of Seminyak and Legian, just a few minutes away.
We stayed inland, but with free bicycle hire we were easily able to get to all the nearby beaches (some of which were deserted on our visit, bar fishermen’s boats and huts) and Echo Beach cafes, and peddle our way around the winding roads through rice paddies.
The vibe at Echo Beach is chilled and relaxed. A few restaurants and bars line the beachfront, with beanbags brought out for sunset drinks on the beach.
I only ever saw the one hawker, who came and asked, but then left as quickly as he appeared if we didn’t want company. Sometimes we had a chat with him. I can imagine living there, and going down to the beach in the afternoons – surfing and having a sunset beer.
The road down to the beach is dotted with shops, warungs and restaurants. But there is still a lot of space between each, with rice paddies reaching up towards to road.
There are cars, taxis and motorbikes, but with a steady mind, I felt safe enough to cycle around on a loan bike. Echo Beach is nowhere near as busy as the main tourist area.
Batu Bolong (Canggu) beach is even quieter. In the mornings, after our surf, we would head to a warung for a coconut water. A few tables and the shack are behind the beach carpark, with a free cold outdoor shower for patrons – great for washing off the sand after being crashed around in the waves.
There is a surfboard rental place, temple and not much else. Away from the beachfront a few metres is the appropriately named Old Mans bar. We stopped here for a Bintang, watching expats working, checking out surf and arriving with friends on mopeds. Again, I thought aloud how great a lifestyle this looks – I could live here.
After messing around in white wash and small waves, our surf group asked to go to better waves. A short walk around the front of the temple took us to Old Mans surf break. As a newbie surfer in six to eight-foot (Bali standard) waves, it was scary.
I’m thankful I lost only one fin in the shore break and walked out just a bit shaky – not hurt. Next time I will be pushier with my surf guide and say I’m not confident going out in waves that big.
Canggu does it for me – surf; relaxed, beautiful beaches; close to everything but quieter. Kuta in Lombok also gives me this feeling, but that’s a different story.
Canggu is just over 30 minutes’ drive from Seminyak, and less than an hour’s drive from Kuta, and can be reached by taxi, or private bus/van.
Heidi Linehan is a location photographer and writer based in Adelaide. You can read more about her travels on her blog, Heidi Who? Photos.
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