Destinations, Indonesia, Travel log

Canggu: surfing in Bali

Bali, from West to East

While this was Silviu’s first time in Bali, it was my third time here. I never felt in love with Bali, although I enjoyed some parts of it. But I wanted Silviu to experience the buzz behind the mystical Bali before it is too late. By “too late” I mean “completely over-crowded, over-rated and spoiled by mass tourism”. And we are slowly but surely getting there. But Bali also became legendary for good reasons and this is what I wanted to show to Silviu: the different sides of Bali.

We were supposed to enter Bali by the West and leave it by the East. Unfortunately because of the weather conditions on Java, we had to change our plans. Instead of coming by ferry from Java we therefore flew directly from Yogyakarta to Denpasar. From then, we agreed on three stops: Canggu to discover surfing, Ubud to emerge ourselves in the spiritual Bali and Tulamben to enjoy some diving before continuing towards the Gili Islands and Lombok Island.

Canggu, the new hot spot

By the past I had always avoided Kuta area, except to visit Tanah Lot temple, as it is famous for its traffic and partying tourism (including alcohol, drug and prostitution). But lately I had heard several positive feedbacks about a city in the North West of Kuta: Canggu. As we wanted to try surfing for the first time during our trip we thought this would be the perfect location for it!

I’ll be honest straight away: we didn’t really like Canggu. It doesn’t mean you should avoid it or that everything was bad, it just means it was not our “vibe”, even though we did have some good moments there. It is indeed the new hot spot of Bali: it is all about surf, yoga and healthy eating. Which sounds great at first. But we soon realized that it is actually a big cover for a real hipster spot. Nothing against it but we just found the place to have little to do with the actual balinese culture, the people there to be particularly superficial and on the show-off side. Probably people were not weird enough for two weirdos like us to connect with. 🙂

We stayed at The Uma Canggu and can highly recommend it: it was a good price for a spacious basic but comfortable room in a quiet place with a nice garden with swimming pool. Count 20 minutes by foot to get to the beach so we would recommend to rent a scooter with them!

Surfing in Canggu

So… we had our first surfing class! We found some instructors directly on the beach and agreed to meet the next day at… 7am! Aaargh!

Our instructors were two local boys who spoke a sufficient English for the need of the class. They gave us a beginner board each: a huge, heavy board that is not so good for surfing but much steadier to actually be able to stand up on. We headed to the beach and they took 10 minutes to show us how to position ourselves on the board, how to paddle and how stand up. And here we went!

Paddling is not easy. And it is even less easy with this huge board because your arms can barely get into the water! Anyway we paddled towards the other surfers as they are all gathered where the waves are. You need to know that with a beginner board you NEED an instructor, because even if you paddle hard to get a wave, the board is too big and heavy for you to paddle hard enough to actually get it. This is where your instructor is essential: he will give you the push that enables you to get that wave!

Once you’re on that wave, the challenge is to 1) stand up, 2) stay standing as long as you can, 3) be aware of your surrounding to not hurt anyone or get hurt by anyone, 4) be able to fall properly in the water not to hurt yourselves as the water gets quite shallow. And this is on the two last points that we had mixed feelings about our experience in Canggu. There were a lot of surfers gathered there and many of them pretending to be surfers; however you soon realize that they cannot control their board better than you but they still feel entitled to get the waves even if you go for it too (with our big blue boards it was clear for everyone that we were complete beginners here). What does it mean? Well that you have a 50/50 chance that you will crash with someone. Some will care about trying not to hurt you, some will not…

All in all, we really enjoyed our first try at surfing as it is a tiring but fun sport and we were both glad to be able to stand up quite fast (Silviu on his second try!!) but we would reiterate the experience only in better conditions, aka less crowded.

Experiencing yoga in Canggu

Now that Silviu had his first yoga class ever in Luang Prabang, Laos, it was time to go on! Canggu has some relatively “big” yoga clubs so it was a good opportunity for us to try another session. We opted for the club called The Practice, which is one of the main club in Canggu. The structure itself is very beautiful and peaceful, all in bamboo. The prices are a bit higher than in other places but that the cost of such a beautiful structure and equipments.

We opted for a “Moon Hatha” class, open to all levels, that focuses on the breathing. This is my description. Their website description is: “Standing poses and floor work, coupled with a focus on conscious and extended exhalations are used to guide awareness inwards to touch that pure space of stillness that exists beyond the thinking mind.”…

I enjoyed the class because it helped posing your breath on the moves which is often my struggle but Silviu was a bit more disappointed because he found it… well… boring. 🙂

As I say, the important in yoga is to find the one style that fits you, at least we know it is not this one!

Food, food, food

Being the hipster place it is, Canggu has tons of fancy places where to eat smoothie bowls, organic salads, avocado toasts and other nice dishes… The prices are much higher than normal Indonesian prices but if you are coming for a two weeks holidays straight from a Western countries you will find it cheap. Of course you also have some very nice, and cheaper, local food options (for instance we really liked the Warung Jaba)! Check it out if you get a chance…

To be honest many of the options are relatively similar so just go for it if you like one place. Out of the main ones you have: Crate Cafe (always crowded), Monsieur Spoon, Deus Ex Machina, Rise & Shine…

Here are some of the places we can recommend otherwise:

  • Moana Fish Eatery – Tahitian kitchen: some very good fish dishes option in a nice setting
  • Sizzle Wraps: there is one in the city but we tried the one outside the city, on the road going towards Tanah Lot. It’s owned by a former chef and it is a family business; they cook every thing in front of you and it is very good.
  • Kedai Roti: also on the Tanah Lot road, very good food in a nice setting by the rice fields.
  • Kombuchi Brewing: locally made Kombucha; it was our first try but if you like it this is the place to go as you can taste their different flavors!

I am not Plastic

One last word about a cool movement growing in Indonesia: replacing plastic (bags, straws, etc…) by other alternatives like cassava starch. We also saw many places using bamboo or metallic straws as an alternative to plastic and we really like the idea. There are more and more campaigns to clean up beaches and reduce the use of plastic and you can slowly feel the difference even though there is still a lot to do on that side!

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