The fast paced rush and agenda of Singapore were now behind us, it was time to hop a flight to the Indonesian island of Bali.
The major reason for this part of the trip was primarily business for my husband but it was Bali...and I couldn't wait to see all of what this exotic island had to offer. We arrived late afternoon and settled in at our first villa. We planned to be on the island for a little over two weeks. Knowing this, I booked us at 3 different locations in efforts to sample the flavor of a few different areas. Starting in Canggu (pronounced Chan-goo), the southwest portion of the island, we checked in at The Voyager Creative Boutique. When I travel, I will always choose a small boutique hotel or the like, over a grand hotel chain. In past experiences, from Europe to South America, this has proven to be successful time and time again at achieving a more intimate exposure to the places I'm visiting. Typically, the host of the villa or resort will be more accessible and willing to share tips and suggestions you might not be clued into without insider knowledge. They're also more likely to point their guests to less touristy attractions and restaurants, which I personally love.
Arriving at the Voyager, we were greeted by Don and Justin, the owners. Both nice guys and very laid back, throughout our stay they kept to themselves for the most part but were always available if needed. A small but satisfying breakfast consisting of fresh fruit, eggs or pancakes is served daily on the terrace. There are only 5 villas to the retreat which made for a peaceful and pleasant stay.
Bags unpacked and settled in, it was time for a walk down to the beach. One of the many things I love about traveling is the walking. I get very few opportunities to do that when I'm home and any chance I get, I prefer to walk. Inevitably, you'll stumble across something interesting that would otherwise go undiscovered if traveling by any other means. I should mention that in route from the airport, I was overwhelmed by the pace of the traffic. The better majority of the island travels via moped but it's wild. Cars and vans whipping along a sliver of a road and swift mopeds sometimes with families of 4 zipping right past. It was unlike anything I've ever seen, including the craziness of Italy and Puerto Rico. It's advised to hire a driver during your stay, unless of course you want to brave renting a moped. For me, I know my limits and decided to shun the rental, I'd only be asking for a trip to the hospital. Hiring a daily driver is actually very inexpensive and super convenient.
Fortunately, because our hotel was in such a quiet section, it wasn't so daunting to get out on foot. Just beyond the walls of the resort sits a wide open and serene rice paddy field.
The entire area is largely residential and there isn't much happening in this part of Canggu. It's much more rural than popular spots like Kuta and Legian just to the south of it but I found it to be significantly more pleasurable, as someone who is not a fan of tourist and gimmicky parts of town. Talking with a few of the locals, it seems Canggu's development is on the rise, so I'm not sure how much longer it will be before it becomes overrun like its neighbor to the south. As you'd expect, there are beautiful old temples peppered everywhere around the island but just in front of the wide open paddy field behind our villa, we had this small but lovely temple of our own to enjoy on our daily walks.
On a fifteen to twenty minute walk from the retreat, you'll find Echo Beach, a dark, black sand beach. It is a stark contrast from the hectic, not so clean and vendor filled beaches of Kuta. As we strolled slowly with thick charcoal granules crunching under foot, we watched the dramatic sky flash from burning tones of pink to subtle shades of gray as the clouds folded in over it.
As night fell, walking past a temple on the beach, heavy with incense filled air...it felt as though I had been transported directly into a scene from a film. This simple beauty of the silhouetted temple shadowed by the clouds, waves crashing silently against the rocks, it was an unbelievable image to witness.
There's a good stretch of restaurants along the beach making it really easy to settle into a table under an umbrella and take in a sunset while feasting on fresh grilled fish. On the topic of eating and taking in the sights of Canggu, there was one stand out place just a few feet away from the beach we absolutely loved and I must mention, Deus Ex Machina - Temple of Enthusiasm. Do not be fooled, this is not your typical eatery. The structure is built like a giant lofty beach house set amongst a backdrop of rice paddy fields. The menu is Thai fusion, with a wide selection ranging from familiar curry dishes to fried pork belly with green chilis. One of the most welcoming sights to see was the cocktail menu. A far cry from the $25 so-so drinks in Singapore, I had a wonderfully shaken and refreshing lemongrass & lychee martini for a very reasonable $8.
Lighting wasn't optimal for photo taking but our meals were great. We started with Chicken Martabak (Indian roti filled with chicken, eggs and vegetables). For the mains, we sampled the Black Pepper Beef, Prawns & Squid with chili coconut broth and a sweet and spicy Sri Lankan Chicken. The tables are arranged entirely outdoors and it feels as though you are encouraged to take time to enjoy your food while the mild Balinese breezes lull you into a state of complete relaxation. We were seated around the back facing the tranquil courtyard. Loungy carved wood furniture conveniently placed throughout the gardens entices you to chill out with a cold beverage and watch the palm trees sway under the stars. After our meal, we had a look around inside. Beneath the pitched thatched roof you'll find custom shaped surfboards, sleek speed bikes and vintage rebuilt motorcycles.
Wait, so it's a sports shop too? Nope, there's more. Beyond the main shop, you'll enter the art gallery. The gallery features monthly artists in residence from all over the world displaying paintings, sketches and photography. As if that wasn't enough, on certain nights don't be surprised to find live bands and big crowds or independent local musicians. Deus Ex Canggu is a mash up super cool things and somehow it manages to master them all in a laid back, unpretentious way. It truly is a hidden gem smack dab in the middle of this quiet local village.
Each night at our villa, we fell asleep to Gamelan music playing in the distance...xylophones, gongs and sometime chants. Here we are on the other side of our world for the first time and it was unlike anything I could compare it to. I embraced it entirely. I showered outdoors hidden between palms and shrubs, carried no hair product to speak of and a flat iron was completely out of the question. Regardless of the luxuries I tend to rely on from day to day, I was in Bali and not only adapted quickly to this fuss free daily routine but I also kinda liked it.