Surf Trip Diaries: Canggu
Hi! My name is Andrew and this is the second part of my journey in Bali. If you missed the first part click here to catch up with the story. This time we will explore Canggu and find out why this is one of the most trendy destinations in the Island of Gods. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did. Terima Kasih!
After one week of staying in the Bukit, I was ready for something new. The forecast was for small waves for the next few days so I decided to go to Canggu and check out what the fuss is all about. I left the Padang Padang Yoga & Surf Camp early in the morning on my rental scooter to avoid traffic and the heat of the middle of the day. One of the guys staying at the hostel was also heading to that area so we tagged along and went together. He is a super funny French dude called Skandr and we instantly became friends while we were staying at the hostel. The roads were pretty empty only with sleepy dogs, workers going to their duties and surfers heading to the beach for the morning surf. Approximately one hour later we arrived in Canggu and split because this time we were not staying at the same accommodation. The place I chose to stay was right on the main road called Batu Bolong, where most of the cafes, restaurants, and bars are located. My first impression of Canggu was that it was way busier than the Bukit. But busy in a good way. There were people walking in the streets, having breakfast at the nice cafes or heading to the beach for a surf lesson. So much going on at the same time. I arrived at Batu Bolong Surf Camp and was very welcomed by the staff. They showed me my room and told me that I could have breakfast if I wanted. I still haven’t eaten anything so I gladly accepted that. As soon as I finished eating I sent a message to Skandr telling him to meet me at Echo Beach for a surf.
The waves were small but Echo Beach is very consistent and we found good waves at the break in the middle of the beach called Rivermouth. This break is an a-frame with nice lefts and rights breaking on top of the reef. The right-hander is way more crowded than the left. Both of us are goofy footers so we sat on the left side of the peak and shared the waves with a few other surfers that were on the lineup. Everybody was super friendly and eventually, we started talking with two girls that live in Bali. They told us about where to eat, party and have breakfast in the area. Canggu has lots of options for food. Vegan, Asian, Italian, you name it. After they gave us all the insights they said they had to leave but before they left we invited them to have dinner with us later at a Japanese restaurant called Ji. We had a couple more waves until the tide got too high and we were already too tired anyway.
Echo Beach has many warungs in front of the beach with sunbeds and umbrellas. We got two beds and two coconuts at a place called Favela Chic and just laid under the shade chilling and watching the surfers shredding the waves at the most popular surf break of the beach, The Sandbar. This spot is also an a-frame but as the name says it breaks on top of a sand bottom. After one hour of resting, we were ready for another surf session. We decide to try The Sandbar this time. Although it was a bit crowded there were plenty of waves for everyone. The wave usually peaks at the outside, gets a bit fat and then reforms on the inside ending with a nice closeout section perfect for airs. There were a few Indonesian pro surfers in the water and it was fascinating to watch them perform all kinds of crazy airs, reverses, and full rotations.
We had our share of surf for the day and it was time to have some food. We were both very hungry and decided to have a shower and meet at a local restaurant called Warung Local. This is a classic Indonesian food restaurant where all the food is displayed on a shelf and you can choose the kind of rice (yellow, brown or white) and which topping you want. I was starving so I had yellow aromatic rice, sweet-sour chicken, green chili tofu, vegetables, and mushrooms. The best thing about this restaurant is that you don’t have to wait for your food. You get there, pick what you want, pay, and in 5 minutes you are sitting and eating a delicious local meal. After we both finished I was ready for my classic afternoon nap.
I woke at 5:30 because we had scheduled to be at the Japanese restaurant at 6 to watch the sunset. The sushi bar is located at the terrace of a hotel and has a beautiful view of Batu Bolong Beach. We arrived all together at the restaurant and ordered beers and some rolls to enjoy the sundown. The girls were called Mel and Sofia. Mel is from the US and Sofia from the UK. They met in Canggu during a surf session and instantly became friends. The swell was dropping, even more, the next day and they asked if we wanted to join them for a surf early in the morning. They were going to drive to a super consistent surf spot 25 minutes driving up north called Yeh Gangga. Apparently, there are no crowds there and really good waves so we instantly agreed on skip the party that night to wake up early the next day. When we were saying goodbye everybody was excited about the dawn patrol session. The meeting point would be at Deus X Machina at 5 am. It was only 8 pm but after such a long day I was happy to go home and sleep to be in good shape for the next adventure.
I was so excited to go surfing that I woke up before the alarm went off. The promise of uncrowded waves instigated my imagination and I dreamed about surf the whole night. Something was telling me that this surf session was going to be epic so I rushed to the meeting point and was the first to arrive. The streets were super quiet with only some occasional people coming back home from a long party night and of course early risers like us trying to beat the crowd and going for a morning surf session. Soon our two surf guides showed up together and finally Skandr just a few minutes late. We left in a convoy with the girls leading the way up north to a novelty surf wave. It feels so good to experience a new surf spot. Learn about the sections where to paddle out and how the mechanics of the break work. Of course, it’s a bit harder than surfing a wave that you already know but the feeling of paddling into the unknown is priceless.
The way to Yeh Gangga was really beautiful. Bali has an astonishing scenery and a very interesting Hindu cultural background. We passed through green rice paddies, local temples, and little villages. By the time we got to the beach, the sun was already warm so I was eager to get in the water. Yeh Gangga looked a lot like what I imagine Canggu would have looked like back in the days. The sand is also black but there were no warungs or people at the beach beside the fishermen coming back from a long night in the sea. The girls gave us a quick breakdown of how the break works while we put zinc in our faces and waxed our boards. The waves were looking good and as we expect nobody was out. There are a few peaks spread along the beach. The main one is an a-frame on the right side of a big rock. The right-hander usually has a hollow barrel and the left is perfect for airs on the closeout section. It was a paradise for the four of us, and even though some people showed up a bit after us the atmosphere in the lineup was super chill. Everybody was sharing waves and communicating really well to let them know who was going left or right. It feels so good to split the peak with one of your friends. You start paddling for a good set wave and look to your friend doing the same. You make eye contact to make sure each one is going in the right direction, share a smile and take off for a sick ride. After you pull out you check out how was your mate’s ride and you are both stocked paddling back to the lineup. The girls were also shredding the waves and I lost count of how many times I thanked them for bringing us there.
After an intense two and a half-hour session we were exhausted and still had to go back to Canggu. Before we left we sat at a warung to have coconut water in order to catch our breaths and hydrate. This was a very local warung and all the Indonesians were looking at us wondering what we were chatting about and why we were so happy. Indonesians can be quite curious and they usually are very direct and ask what they want to know. A friendly guy that spoke some English started making conversation and we explained to him that we just had an epic surf session. He asked if we were coming back the next day and the answer was probably yes. I asked if he sees lots of surfers coming to Yeh Gangga and he said that lately there were more people coming which made me wonder how long it would take for this place to become the same as Canggu. I put that thought away and jumped on my bike to start the way back.
Once we got to Canggu we stopped to put petrol in the bikes and the girls told us that Sunday was a good day to go out. They said that Old Man’s had fine music and attracted a solid crowd. We still didn’t see any of the nightlife and the forecast was for even smaller waves on the next day. Sounded like it was going to be a big night out. We said goodbye and they left to carry on with their day while Skandr and I headed to our hotels to freshen up and go for lunch. This time we decided to try one of the most trendy vegetarian cafes called Shady Shack. The restaurant was busy, which is always a good sign. We were greeted by one of the waiters who asked how many we were and if we didn’t mind sharing a table with other people. We were starving and told him that we could eat standing up if it was the case but he accommodated us with a group of Aussie girls. After we ordered our food we started to chat with them and found out that it was their first time in Bali and they just graduated in medicine school. It was their second day on the island and they were also going to Old Man’s later that night. They had already eaten and were heading to a famous temple called Tanah Lot. I heard many good things about this place so before they left I got their contact in order to find out if it was worth going there. As soon as they left our food arrived and we started to eat with great enthusiasm. I ordered the Vegan Burger and Skandr got the Nori Bowl. They were both delicious and the presentation was very impressive. Although I’m not a vegetarian, I’m very enthusiastic about this kind of food and how they can recreate famous dishes with a plant-based approach. We finished our meals and the look on our faces told everything. Skandr was almost passing out on the table while I was trying to figure out how I was going to crawl back to my room. I felt it was that time of the day to turn the AC on the max, close the curtains and shut down for a couple of hours.
I woke up with someone knocking on my door. It was Skandr telling me that we should go watch the sunset at La Brisa but we had to hurry because it was already 4:45 pm and he made a reservation for us at 5 pm. That was when I realized that I had slept for way longer than I thought. I jumped out of bed put my clothes on grabbed my sunnies and followed him still half asleep. La Brisa is a beachfront beach club located at Echo Beach. As soon as we entered the club I was already impressed with the decoration and the friendly staff. The whole place was covered with vintage objects. All the walls had shelves with vintage objects and in the garden old canoes were used as benches.
One of the tables had this beautiful swing seat coming down from a tree. I felt as if at any moment Peter Pan would show up and ask me if I wanted to join the lost boy’s crew. One of the waitresses showed us our seats and we instantly ordered two beers. If this was going to be a night out so we should probably get started asap. We sat in bean bags right at the beach with a perfect view of the sunset while surfers were catching the last waves of the day. It was an exceptional setup and I didn’t wish to be anywhere else. Skandr and I became really good mates and I was stoked to have someone to tag along with. As I mentioned before, the best thing about traveling alone is the people you meet along the way. We ordered some snacks and appreciated the view until it was time to go for dinner. Skandr had already taken care of that as well and made reservations at Billy Ho, a super fancy Asian infusion restaurant at Batu Bolong. I was just going with the flow because I could feel that this night was promising to be a great one.
Billy Ho was exactly what I expected it to be. The decoration was particularly interesting with lots of colors creating a vibrant ambiance. We sat at the table and since Skandr was already taking over control of the night I let him order whatever he wanted. I hate to go through menus and choose what to eat, especially in places like this where all the dishes are supposed to be delicious. So I gladly let him take charge of this while I savored another cold Bintang. In the end, he ordered a few appetizers for us to share which was actually an excellent idea. You don’t want to eat too much when you are going to party and drink heaps of beers and this place is quite pricey so it was a smart move to keep the budget of the night under control. The food arrived and it was divine. Oh my god! Now I understand why this restaurant only has good reviews. Everything he ordered was simply delicious. It was the perfect meal and Old Man’s was just a couple hundred meters down the road which made all very convenient.
We arrived at Old Man’s around 9 pm. On our way there we passed through a Mini Mart that was packed with people prepartying. There was even a DJ playing hip hop and the crowd was so large that they took over one of the lanes of the street. We passed straight through the gathering and headed to our final destination of the night, or at least that’s what we thought. The club wasn’t packed yet which was nice because there were no problems to get to the bar and buy some more beers. Loads of people were arriving every minute and I could tell that soon this party would be full-on. I was already getting tipsy when Mel and Sofia arrived and met us at the bar. After everything they did for us the least we could do was to pay them a couple of cocktails. We started to chat and told them about our flawless day so far. Soon the four of us were on the dance floor while a DJ played electronic music on a big stage. It was super fun and even though I’m not a big fan of electronic music I was having a great time. All of a sudden the music stopped the lights went on and I asked myself if this was it? I didn’t realize that it was already 1 am and the club was closing. I guess time flies when you are having fun. I thought we were calling it a night but when we were leaving the club, instead of jumping on their bikes, the girls started to take off their shoes. Mel looked at my puzzled face and said we were going to the Sandbar, which was just in front of Old Man’s at the beach. Sofia had already told this to Skandr who was already leaving his shoes in the trunk of his bike. Apparently, I was the only one that didn’t know about the plans but I did as always and went with the flow. Sandbar is the official after party of Canggu. Every day there is a party going on somewhere and after midnight Sandbar starts playing some nice tunes, mostly Hip Hop and old classics. It was the perfect ending for a marvelous day. I don’t remember what time we left all I remember was Mel dropping me at my place with her scooter.
On the next morning when I woke up, or should I say midday, I felt as if a train passed on top of me. I had a massive headache and couldn’t open my eyes without my sunglasses on. But I remember it was super fun and worth it. I took a paracetamol pill and sent a message to see what Skandr was up to. He was also waking up and in a terrible need for coffee. I had to check out of my hotel because as usual I only booked this room for a couple of nights. This place was really cool and the location was perfect but I wanted to try another one called Echo Beach Surf Camp that I checked on the Nomad Surfers website. So I told Skandr to start his day without me while I moved to the new hotel. The next accommodation I chose was on a very quiet road that I almost didn’t find. First I had to pick up my scooter because I left it at Old Man’s parking lot which was a very wise thing to do. Then I started to follow the directions that Google Maps was showing me but I kept passing straight through this tiny road that gave access to the hotel. Once I got there it was like a hidden oasis. Echo Beach Surf Camp looked like a tiny village that was lost in time, disconnected from society. It seemed that I was in a completely different part of the Island. Later, I would find out that this felt a lot like Ubud but that’s another story.
The staff hosted me and took me to a shared room. I had a bed in a room with three other people but they were not there at the time that I arrived. I left my stuff in the room and went to the swimming pool to chill for a while. The vibe was so relaxing that my hangover merely disappeared. I haven’t eaten anything yet so I ordered Nasi Goreng (typical Indonesian fried rice) and asked them if they could serve it in the pool area. The food was very good and I could feel that I was almost back to normal. All I needed now was a good massage so I asked the staff if they could arrange one for me and for my luck, they said that the masseuse had just arrived and was available. This was too good to be true! Went from the pool straight to the massage table and had one of the best massages of my life. The surf from the last few days made my back and shoulder very sore but the lady that was doing the massage found does knots and untied them gently but with a firm hand. I came out of the massage feeling like a new person and went for a shower to clean the oil from my body. As I walk out of my room I saw people walking and carrying yoga mats heading to a big hut in the middle of the property. Looked like a yoga lesson was about to begin and I was totally down for that to complete my zen day. When I arrived at the hut I asked the Yoga teacher if I could join or if I had to previously book to take part in the lesson. She said that I was more than welcome and handled me a spare mat. It was a Vinyasa yoga class and I quite enjoyed the flow and the postures that she told us to do. Even though the lesson didn’t demand much of my body I felt really tired after it but with a good feeling inside my chest that at least I moved my body and stretched my muscles.
It was already dark when I came back to my room and sent a message to Skandr. He was wondering what I was doing the whole day and I told him about my hangover recovery strategy. He laughed about it and told me that he didn’t think I was a yoga kind of person. I asked him about his day and he said he was hanging out with Sofia at the beach most of the time. Apparently, they were going out for dinner together at a Vietnamese restaurant called Leroy’s. Since I lost my teammate I immediately thought about inviting Mel for dinner. She was feeling the same way about Sofia so she was happy to tag along. She suggested a restaurant called Mason and gave me directions to meet her there in half an hour. When I arrived she was already sat with a beer in her hand and another waiting for me. I looked at the beer and thought here we go again. This restaurant has a very diverse menu with lots of options for vegetarians and meat lovers. Mel doesn’t eat meat so she ordered what she usually does, hummus and a tomato salad with pesto sauce. I had the lamb shoulder which was absolutely delicious. It was no surprise for me that the dinner was going on as good as the day before. It was a blessing to meet such good souls in the water on our first surf session in Canggu.
After dinner, she led us to a bar in the back of the restaurant conveniently called The Backroom, where a DJ was playing some fine tunes for just a hand full of people. She explained to me that Monday nights are busy at a pizza place called Luigi’s not too far away from where we were, but this bar was going to get busy when the party was over there. We sat at one of the couches and ordered some Espresso Martinis to give us a boost to endure what seemed to be another party night. Chatting with Mel was super easy and we talked about all sorts of things like how was her life in Bali, what was her plans for the future, how was life back in Rio de Janeiro and of course we talked a lot about surfing. Later Sofia and Skandr showed up and to celebrate we ordered shots of tequila just because why not? The atmosphere at The Backroom feels like a pub in New York rather than a bar in Bali. There are no windows, it’s very dark, and a bit claustrophobic. We were having fun on the dance floor but when the place got too packed I thought it was a good time to go home. I was keen for a surf the next morning and If we ended up at Sandbar again God knows what could happen this time. The others felt the same way and we called the night short.
Waking up at Echo Beach Surf Camp felt so peaceful. There was a mist giving the place a mystic vibe and the temperature there feels colder than in the center of Canggu. The property is surrounded by big trees, bamboo bushes and there is a river passing through the back that cools things down especially in the mornings when the Sun is still low. I woke up early with all the alarms in the room beeping at the same time. I was sharing the room with two girls and another guy and they were waking up early for the morning Yoga lesson. I grabbed my board and rushed down the road to Pererenan Beach. The tide was a bit too low but the waves looked good and there were still not too many people in the water. Skandr was supposed to meet in the lineup so I started paddling out by myself. Pererenan Beach is right next to Echo Beach. The river mouth divides the two beaches and created a channel that makes it really easy to get to the lineup. Usually, when you surf a beach break you have to fight your way out because there is no obvious channel. But at this break, I quickly was on the outside waiting for a wave with my hair still dry.
After saying good morning to almost everyone I sat in position to wait for a set. The forecast was that a high period swell was arriving on that day so long waits in between sets were already expected. When the waves arrived I saw a guy paddling hard to get the left-hander. As I mentioned before I’m goofy so unfortunately for me, the left is more crowded than the right simply because it’s way better and longer. I paddle out to the back to get out of the way of everyone, just hoping there would be a few other waves in the back and one of them had my name on it. For some reason (probably because he was regular but we will never find out) a guy that was waiting in position decided to go to the right and I saw the opportunity and started to paddle to go left. We split the peak and the wave formed a beautiful canvas for me. As I was paddling back I saw Skandr arriving. I joked that he was late as always and he asked what did he miss. There were more waves coming so we never finished that conversation. We surfed for a couple of hours until the break got too crowded and we were starving. Echo Beach Surf Camp serves breakfast in a long table near the Yoga hut. It felt like we were a big family and I got to know my roommates and neighbors a bit better. There were so many cool people staying there which proves my theory that cool places attract cool people. I got a few contacts of people that were going to stay in Bali bit longer and wished safe travels for those going home. I went to my room to pack my stuff because I was checking out on that day. The swell was going to pick up the next day and there were still lots of waves to explore on the East Coast. It was time to say goodbye to Canggu, Sofia, Skandr, and Mel. Skandr was going back to Europe the next day but I told Sofia and Mel that maybe I was coming back and would love to hang out with them again. I was back on the road, alone again, heading to a new adventure. Felt bad to leave my new friends behind but something told me that this was the beginning of a long friendship.
Next stop Keramas!