CANGGU / KUTA / SEMINYAK —> UBUD —> GILI T
Having spent the last month wandering around Indonesia, I put together a list of the top tips and recommendations that I would have liked to have known before visiting:
CANGGU / KUTA / SEMINYAK
Best way to get around : Download GoJek – Indonesia’s answer to Uber. The nifty app (and Indonesia’s first unicorn) comes complete with food delivery service and on-demand moto pickup, to beat the heavy traffic jams. The price is around 10 times cheaper than in the UK, the catch is that most drivers will cancel on you when they find out that you’re not travelling further than 10 miles. Do not rely on this for airport pickups before flying.
GoJek/Uber/Grab Taxi are technically ‘illegal’ in most of the main areas of Bali. You can still order one but some destinations are ‘drop off only’, as I found out on my first day of arrival… Having ordered an uber to the hotel, no sooner had I hopped in than I turned around to see two very angry security guards shouting and running down the driveway towards our vehicle. White as a Gringo and shaking like Grass jelly, our driver put his foot to the ground, almost careering with the equally annoyed oncoming traffic.
In a moment of utter confusion I wondered if we were being kidnapped! However, after witnessing shear relief wash over our poor driver, he explained that due to competition with local taxis, many uber vehicles face defacement from angry mobs (security, the banja or locals). Safe to say that after that, I didn’t stick my phone out, eyes glued to the interface whenever I needed to wait for a non-specific and in no-way app-associated ‘private driver’. You could always rent a scooter but I imagine your life expectancy would still be worse on one of those.
La Sicilia Italian Restaurant, Seminyak : A beautifully unique Italian-themed restaurant that makes it feel as though you’re stepping off the shop-filled streets of Seminyak, straight into an enchanted castle. There is a mysterious glow that caresses every doorway and stone arch, as you take in the chandelier encrusted interiors. As a passing bystander, you cannot help but be drawn in. Aim for a seat near the centre, directly in front of a crystal-lit pond brimming with life. The oxtail lasagna is the best thing on the menu, despite some tough competition.
La Laguna, Canggu : La Laguna epitomises the chic, laid back, beachfront atmosphere of canggu. Settle into ‘gypsy-inspired’ surroundings and enjoy the ocean breeze, cocktails and music. As a lover of gimmicks I had to visit just for the resident Tarot-reader, the accuracy of whose abilities are directly proportional to the number of drinks consumed.
Motel Mexicola, Semiyak : Seminyak has a reputation for having a bit of a stiffer upper-lip. However step into this Mexican Resto-Club on a Friday night and any predilection for shying away into the dark depths of a pretentiously quiet bar, shall be rapidly reconfigured. I loved the atmosphere of people of all ages standing on tables, peering over the balconies or having their Marilyn Monroe moment on stage. Expect cheesy classics and a lot of fuscia pink neon light.
Metis, Seminyak : One of the most beautiful restaurants in town. Metis Bali was designed by the famed Artalenta Indonesia Architecture and Interior Design Group. Relax by a fire-lit water Lilly pond and taste some of their specialty foie gras.
The W Hotel : Perfect for chilled vibes by the beach, sipping on coconuts and engaging in plenty of not-so-subtle people watching.
Dojo Bali : Whether you’re a nomad or simply find yourself missing the office, Dojo is the workspace you can rent. I would use it if you are after some reliable wifi for an extended period of time. Do not leave without devouring one of the Nalu Bowls next door – fruit smoothie bowls topped with homemade granola and banana. There is also a hotel next door (the name of which escapes me) that runs weekly yoga sessions, singing bowls and gong baths from 7pm.
The Canggu Studio : Try a dance class or fitness session at The Canggu studio. It’s not just all about the surfing, the area offers many different types of dance classes from traditional to contemporary to pole.
Old Man’s Pub : Go to Old Man’s on a Wednesday, or for the full moon party which happens once a month, starting here and carrying out onto the beach.
Best for Shopping: Seminyak Village Centre (small), Beachwalk Mall Kuta (medium), Mal Galleria Shopping Centre (large)
Best Salon: The New York themed Think Pink Nails. Surround yourself with butterflies, Audrey Hepburn inspiration and everything pink and glittery.
Best Bunny Cafe : Warung Dandelion ticks all the boxes – delicious food, a menu full of charm, amusing stories and character. Expect great staff and little balls of fluff that manoeuvre themselves between your feet, should any of your salad miss your mouth.
Tea Workshop at Hotel Tugu: I did a herbal workshop at The Tugu Hotel and learned how to make different types of Jamu – traditional teas made by boiling a mixture of fresh ingredients such as Tumeric, Tamarind, palm sugars, Papaya Leaves and raw honey.
Best Boutique Hotel : Hands down one of the best hotels for animal lovers is the Bali Bohemia, which lives up to its name in the decor and is conveniently situated right next to the Moneky Forest. Such a location leads to plenty of most welcome visitors (not for the staff – courtesy sling shots provided in your room), just don’t leave anything of value out on the front porch. In the morning I preferred to eat breakfast in the upstairs cafe area, as its quiet and prime time for plenty of the scoundrels to come scampering out like unsupervised children.
The Monkey Forest itself is also worth visiting. Even if just to watch in awe as tourists (myself included) eagerly pay a premium for a bunch of bananas, in order to entice one of the less vicious looking primates to clamber all over them, almost have an eye gouged out in the process and ultimately be left with bits of half-chewed fruit entangled in their hair. Then just wait until they attempt to clamber back down…
Ketut Liyer’s House : If you’ve read Eat Pray Love (and if you’re in Ubud and haven’t read it, you shall be reminded to, by every shop visited) then you will know of the famous Ketut Liyer and his mystical fortune-telling abilities. Unfortunately Ketut Liyer recently passed away. It is now his son who has taken up the mantle of conducting readings in the comfort of the family home. Appointments cannot be made in advance so show up early in the morning, to avoid queues.
Personally I was a little disappointed with my own experience. One reading is about 300,000IDR (17 quid) but the session is relatively short and vague, even if solely pursued for entertainment value (ahem). Taking just a few minutes to skim over the brain, heart, life, luck and marriage lines on my palm, Ketut then proceeded to recommend meditation, relaxation and yoga…Where is the part about selling millions of copies of books worldwide, realising the love of my life, or at least some kind of life changing event that occurs within the next x months?? Well I suppose I’m no Elizabeth Gilbert. And this is no Ketut Liyer.
A local taxi driver did mention to me, that Ketut’s son has earned the name ‘Ketut Liar’ amongst locals and having only had one other person in the queue before me, I did notice our readings sounded suspiciously similar… Western woman you are stressed, very bright (clearly not if I fell for this), stop overthinking, go relax and do some yoga. Basically.
Safe to say I didn’t try much else in the way of Traditional ‘healing’ or readings (stuck to massages) but there was a Water Ceremony that came highly recommended, a healer by the name of Tjokorda Gede Rai and plenty of Ayurvedic Medicine Centres.
The Pyramids of Chi : Located on an isolated plot of land, the Pyramids of Chi are in a wire-less world of their own (apparently the ‘hazards’ of electromagnetic radiation are not endorsed here). Think Sci-Fi film meets Glastonbury – two giant pyramids, a sun and moon tent, sit atop a calm lake overlooking rice fields, along with a restaurant serving only healthy vegan food, of course. I didn’t really buy into the pseudoscience of ‘Ley lines’ and ‘Pyramid power’ but I am privy to a good gong bath and the acoustics inside these tents is second to none. The only annoying thing was that this also magnified the snores of fellow ‘meditators’, killing the vibe.
Pod Chocolate Factory : Continuing along the theme of random combinations in Ubud, Zoo meets Chocolate Factory – why not? Pod Chocolate Factory houses elephant rides, interactions with black honey bears, a tree house restaurant and a small chocolate factory with hands-on workshops available.
Coffee Plantation : Visit one of the many coffee plantations in the area and sample a huge variety of delicious in-house coffees and teas for free. I never actually liked coffee until I visited Ubud and found myself taking away some of the sugar-free Ginger and Ginseng varieties.
Although this doesn’t count as a part of Bali, if you are in Indonesia then you must get a fast boat over to the Gili Islands (Trawangan, Meno and Air). The waters are crystal clear, the skies are cloudless, the sunsets are like no other and it’s great to have a taste of the truly laid-back, island lifestyle.
Getting Around : There are no cars on the island, as it’s so small. Transport is via foot, bicycle or Cidomo (horse drawn cart). A bicycle will cost anywhere between 50-75,000IDR to rent for a whole day (or 20,000 / hour). A Cidomo seems to cost 150,000IDR no matter where you want to go…
Best Indonesian Food : The Banyan Tree Nasi Campur Bar – addictive
Best Pizza : Regina’s Gorgonzola Pizza, magic varieties also available (not that I tried)…
Best shakes : Everyone seems to recommend Banana Leaf Bungalows (not resort) but I found that they tip fairly muddy cups of mushys into a blender without washing, leaving you sucking up a 1/4 cup of dirt. Look for places with decent coolers / fridges available or get your own cup and wash thoroughly, or make it into a tea.
Best Turtle Sanctury : Bolong’s Sanctury on Gili meno. It costs around 100,000IDR to release some baby turtles into the sea yourself ❤
Boutique Hotels : I recommend Gili One and Gili Amor. Gili One is new this year, having only been open for 4 days when I visited. I found it by cycling around the island instead of looking online. Great vibe here – staff often join in with volleyball / ping pong / pool parties and during the day many guests just sit out and relax on the porch bean bags. Breakfast is included and features English, Dutch and Indonesian varieties. They also make a great ginger tea if you are ever feeling nauseous.
Gili Amor is an intimate boutique where all the staff remember the names of every guest staying there. The only disadvantage I can think of is that the rooms are quite close to the mosque during Ramadan, so at this time of the year it can be noisy throughout the night. Buffet breakfast is included, as is resident kitty and a forgiving concierge… I managed to collide the first bike I rented with a Cidomo. Luckily only the basket was damaged and they didn’t even accept my offer of a new one.
Best Activities : If you’re not into Diving then I highly recommend horse riding along the beach at sunset, or into the ocean at sunrise.
Best Beach Bar : Malibu beach bar for great pandan cocktails, shisha and skylines
Safe to say, Indonesia has not seen the last of me yet.