My Bali Go To Guide: Canggu & Ubud
Can we just please pretend I didn't write this three weeks ago?! K thanks. :))
My time in mama Bali comes to an end today, and as I sit here at my favourite Crate cafe (the first place in Canggu to open at 6am and somewhere you'd be crazy to try and go past 8am), reflecting and journalling on the month that was, I feel SO incredibly grateful for this place, its people and the experiences I've had while I've been here. I've never been so inspired, grounded and content -- and whilst I'm sad to say goodbye to Bali for now (relax, I'm back in August to run my next retreat and will stay at least a couple of months) I'm looking forward to spending a few days back home in NZ with my mum for her birthday. I don't think I'm quite prepared for the cold though... What even is cold?!
(Update: it was pretty damn cold.)
So what is it about Bali that makes millions of people vacation and live the digital nomad lifestyle here every year? To me it's the ultimate adult playground. There's literally no road rules (yet no road rage, go figure) and it's sunny all year round. You can jump on the back of your scooter (NZD$5 per day to rent); go wherever you want to go, when you want to go. You surf. You work when you want to work and just spend your days at cafes and beaches. A delicious meal of organic goodness will set you back about $8. (Keep reading to find out my favourite places to eat). STRANGERS SMILE AT YOU. WTF?! It's paradise.
It would be remiss of me not to give gratitude to the people of Bali. Despite not having much (in the western, mercenary sense of the word) the Balinese are so happy and content. They live to give and serve and they are always smiling. They love tourists as it's the source of their livelihood.
If you haven't already been following my Bali love-fest on Instagram, I want to share with you all of the reasons I love this place. I know that I have already convinced a few of you to book a trip, so hopefully this answers all of your burning questions about where to eat, sleep, work and relax. And, if you're going to be there in August or September I would LOVE to meet up, so holla at me.
I'm personally biased between Canggu and Ubud as they are the only places I've actually been, soooo.....why change a good thing? I have stayed at, eaten at, played at and recommend the following places:
Where to stay
I spent a week at Gosling Homestay prior to flying back to NZ on this most recent trip in May 2018 and I can say it's one of the best places I've ever stayed; certainly in Bali. Newly built, in a really great location close to the centre of Canggu, to restaurants and to the beaches. Comprised of 4 individual guest rooms (each with an ensuite bathroom and patio), there is a pool and shared kitchen area. The managers - Niluh and Nyoman - are the sweetest people alive. You can hire the whole place, or just a room. Approx. NZD$59 per night.
I spent one night here in May 2018 and it was great for a quick trip. Really great location, similar to Gosling, right in the heart of Canggu; immaculate rooms, a great pool, and lovely hosts who will go out of their way for you. Close to Cafe Vida which is one of my favourite eateries in Canggu. Approx. NZD$65 per night.
I stayed here for a week in May 2017 on a yoga retreat and it was excellent! The rooms are really basic, but the pool and grounds are lovely and it's situated overlooking a beautiful rice paddy field so you get to see the most incredible pink sunrise in the mornings. The staff here are really lovely and helpful. Great location, on the same street as Gosling and Exotica (can you tell I have a favourite location?!) Approx. NZD$44 per night.
I stayed here for a week in April 2018 and instantly fell in love with it. Comprised of 3 villas, a large communal lounge, kitchen and pool, Ossom villa has the most incredible furnishings, a large communal table to work at, and is situated just off the main road in Canggu so a great, quiet location. It's within walking distance to many great cafes including my personal favourite, Crate. Alex and Aliki - a gorgeous young couple from Greece - manage the villa and are always on site to answer any questions you have about the area, or to help hire a scooter. Approx. NZD$59 per night.
Where to eat
As y'all probably know, I mostly go to Bali for the food. You can eat like an organic, vegan, locally-grown KING for under NZD$30 per day. And the thing I love most is that you don't get frowned out if you whip out your laptop at a restaurant to bash out an email, like you do in *ahem* Los Angeles. Here are my favourite places to eat.
One of the largest menu's I've ever seen in a restaurant, and it's difficult to order something that isn't utterly delicious.
The menu is vegetarian and there's plenty of vegan options. AND, you can order anything from the menu at any time of day. Nachos for breakfast? Sure! Smoothie bowl for dinner? You got it!
Set in a laid-back, tree-enclosed shady old house and garden setting, tucked in behind the main road - there's always plenty of (free) scooter parking and they deliver for next to nothin (via Go-Jek). If you're dining solo - which I often am - try and sit at the large communal table so you can strike up a convo with your neighbours.
My favourite dishes would have to be the tempeh bowl, the green bowl, the bees knees nachos, and the jackfruit tacos. Oh and you HAVE to try the choc tops smoothie - it has like 56 ingredients and is a game-changer.
If you're not already following Crate on Instagram, please go and do that right now.
They give new meaning to the term 'foodporn' with their delightful array of mountainous dragon fruit chia puddings, smoothie bowls, and good old-fashioned avocado on toast.
Having recently moved into new (much larger) premises, just off the main road in Canggu, Crate is the perfect place to go if you want to get some work done before the rest of Canggu gets moving (they open at 6am) or if your ovaries need a little shake up (the hot dads start arriving with their beige linen-clad babies around 7:30am). It's also a great place to sit and get some emails done before the crowds arrive. Don't even attempt to go here after 9am.
My favourite dishes are the why so cereal (cacao smoothie bowl with peanut butter, hells yeah), the veto (smashed avo, smoked salmon, poached egg, feta, sourdough) and the chia boi smoothie bowl chia pudding mashup. If you're going with a group I recommend grabbing a few things and sharing them.
Set on the main road of Canggu - Jalan Pantai Batu Balong - Vida is a great place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Probably a bit more intimate for dinner as they have the candles going. Also a great place to get the laptop out and do some work. They have a great menu with lots of different local and western options. The only downside is that my strictly vegetarian friend found some chicken at the bottom of her vegetarian salad....so I would just presence that. My favourite dishes are the healthy salad and the fish tacos. They also have a great cabinet selection of raw and vegan cakes.
If you are looking to impress someone, or have a large group or just want to make everyone jealous with your instagram snaps I would recommend Milu. It's set in the most incredible setting overlooking the rice paddies, so you feel like you're outside (which you are). A sister restaurant to Nook in Seminyak, the decor at Milu is incredible and everything on the menu is delicious and affordable. It's located in Berawa, so about 5 mins scooter from Canggu. Plenty of parking outside and it's never too busy. My favourite menu items here are the anti-inflammatory juice, the baby pink smoothie bowl, the sunshine and the vege nasi goreng. (Yep, I eat here a lot.)
A few other places that need a special mention: Bali Buda - a great place to pick up snacks, chocolate, raw cakes and fresh baked goods. The Loft Bali - a slightly fancier place to go and grab a cocktail or dinner with friends. Green Ginger Noodle House - a Canggu institution serving traditional vegetarian dishes. Mad Pops Bali - for your vegan icecream fix.
Where to play
Old Man's is the perfect place to go for afternoon drinks and to watch the surfers roll in from the beach. They have an artisan market there once a month I believe. Happy hour is chocka so expect to wait a while for a drink. For those unaware that it's happy hour, don't be surprised when you order one cocktail and they hand you two. You're welcome.
The most magical place I have ever practiced yoga; set way up high in a bamboo shala on stilts with the most beautiful winding bamboo lined staircase. They are very traditional Hatha and Yin based (don't even ask them if they do Vinyasa because they will cut you) and every Tuesday night they have a free talk or community movie. I highly recommend going to Nik's Yin class, and to Octavio's Advanced Practice. Plenty of scooter parking / valet right down the driveway.
The perfect place to go for a sweat sesh, The Canggu Studio offers an array of classes such as Barre, Pilates, Brazilian Booty, Muay Thai, Boxing, Yoga for Surfers, Jamaican Dancehall - you name it, they've got it. My beautiful friend Stella teaches a killer Pilates class here, one that you'll be feelin' for days afterwards. It's close enough to Batu Balong beach that you can do a class then walk a couple hundred metres and dive in the ocean to cool off.
I first visited Samadi to enquire about their retreat facilities when I was looking for my next venue. They regularly run yoga teacher trainings and retreats on site. During my bali retreat in May this year, our group decided to do an ecstatic dance class which was INCREDIBLE. Definitely something everyone should try at least one in their lives to shake up any stagnant juju and to drop into their bodies. I'm surprised by how many men let loose in those classes.
Where to stay
I stayed in Ubud for a week in May 2018 and absolutely loved my stay here. It is ridiculous value for such a lovely, spacious room. Breakfast is included but it's fairly basic. The pool is huge and a really nice temperature. The cottages are located on Jalan Bisma, so walking distance to Ubud market. If you hire a scooter you will need to drive it down a fairly narrow, steep driveway, so my advice would be too not have a few Bintangs before you do it or you'll risk landing in the field. The staff are so sweet. Approx. NZD$44 per night.
Where to eat
You might know by now I'm a creature of habit and fairly risk averse so I pretty much eat at the same places every day. These are my tried and true faves. Most of the good restaurants are on or around Hanoman.
I ate here every day for the week I was in Ubud and I'm not even sorry about it. The wifi here can be a bit sketchy, but the fact that you can sit cross legged on cushions (as well as regular tables) more than makes up for it. They also have a store that sells crystals, jewellery and all sorts of other fun things. Service can be really slow.. particularly when it's empty. I was constantly going - "where the f*ck are the staff to take my order". And you'll probably have to go up and ask them to take your order, but once that little obstacle is out of the way, you're good. There's actually two Atman Kafe's on the same street and I go to the newer one that's on the left-hand side as you're going down Hanoman. Plenty of scooter parking outside and a really extensive menu. My favourite dishes are the coconut-crusted barramundi cubes and the mexican burrito with barramundi (holy shit this was delicious but I would be careful if you're not good at processing white rice and dairy together, which I've realised I am not).
Probably my favourite place to eat in Ubud. It's a little flashier than Atman, so a great place to go if you're with friends or you want to be fancy on a budget. I prefer sitting upstairs at the proper tables, cos ain't nobody ever felt comfortable eating a meal on the floor cross-legged; as much as we try and pretend we do. And the upstairs seats are luxurious. I had the most delicious juice of my life here. It's called the diamond detox. It sounds gross on the menu but it is beyond tasty and you can actually feel it working its magic. I think I had the crazy coconut last time I visited Clear and it was revolting (spirulina-y), so would not recommend. My favourite dish is the Ikan Asli which is a fresh coconut crusted snapper dish. I've even added the menu for you because I believe in this place so much. Click here.
If you're into a super healthy, wholesome and nourishing meal, Sayuri is your place. Also a great place to sit and work on your laptop. Sayuri also offers raw chef certification, and raw cooking classes, plus, like many cafe's in Ubud, they have a giftshop onsite. The dessert cabinet is phenomenal. My favourite dishes are the raw pizza (not typically my vibe but it is to die for!) and the refresh juice which is watermelon and basil oil
Where to play
Without a doubt the most incredible yoga facility I've ever seen, with a plethora of classes from morning til night every day. If you really want to soak up the yoga barn vibes you can stay onsite for about NZD$100 per night. My friend Kara was staying onsite so I would go to 'the barn' most days, sit at the cafe and do some work over a delicious ayurvedic breakfast and then do a class or two. My favourite classes were Power Yoga with Paul, Kundalini with Sofia, and the Tibetan Bowl Meditation. Holy smokes, that was an experience. A word of caution: if it's your first time trying breath-work and you're joining a class at the barn, the attendees go DEEP. Cue orgasms, cat calls, and guttural wailing from woe to go.
I had high hopes for this walk after seeing a gajillion shots on Instagram, but it was truly breathtaking. Armed with tripadvisor recommendations of not doing the walk past 9am, I set off a little after 6:30am, and after a bit of a false start where I took the wrong path, I was soon back on the right one, and following a trail of others in search of the sunrise over campuhan. And when we reached it, it was magnificent. I would recommend walking as far as Karsa Spa, stopping for a drink (or a massage) amongst the lily ponds and then turning back. All up that would take you around 90 minutes if you stopped to take photos as well. About half way along there is a swing tied to a tree, and I was fortunate enough to have some tourists offer to take my photo and help me up on to the swing.
I'm headed back to Bali in a little over a month, and I am so excited to explore further -- AND to head back to my faves. If you have any other suggestions I would love to hear them.. I think I might check out Uluwatu next.