Who has been to Bali? I'm not sure of the statistics, but a quick google tells me that in 2014 over 600,000 Aussies touched down on the Island of the Gods.
I've been to Bali four times over 13 years. Once when I was 12 years old, and we walked the rice paddy-lined street between Legian and Kuta. Another for our honeymoon, staying in Tuban. The next with friends, staying in a Seminyak villa, Ubud and Sanur with our nearly one-year-old daughter. And the last time, with our two children, staying at a surf resort in Canggu, Menjangan National Park and Legian. We also took a look at Medewi on the way up to Menjangan and like the look of that area.
Of all those places, Canggu has been my favourite. I see Canggu as the expat area where you have activity but nothing like the crazy business of Seminyak and Legian, just a few minutes away. We stayed inland, but with free bicycle hire, we were easily able to get to all the nearby beaches (some which were deserted on our visit bar fisherman's boats and huts), Echo Beach cafes, and peddle our way around the winding roads through rice paddies.
The vibe at Echo Beach is chilled and relaxed. A few restaurants and bars line the beachfront, with a few beanbags brought out for sunset drinks on the beach. I only ever saw the one hawker there, who came and asked, but then left as quickly as he appeared if we didn't want company. Sometimes we had a chat with him. I can imagine living here, and coming down here in the afternoons - surfing and having a sunset beer.
The road down to the beach is dotted with shops, warungs and restaurants. But there is still a lot of space between each, rice paddies reaching up towards to road. There are cars, taxis and motorbikes, but with a steady mind, I felt safe enough to cycle around on a loan bike. It is nowhere near as busy as the main tourist area.
Batu Bolong (Canggu) beach is even quieter still. In the mornings, after our morning surf, we would head to a warung for a coconut water. A few tables and the shack are behind the beach carpark, with a free cold outdoor shower for patrons. Great for washing the sand off after being crashed around in the waves. There is a surfboard rental place, temple and not much else. Away from the beachfront a few metres is the appropriately named Old Mans. We stopped here for a Bintang, watching expats working, checking out surf and arriving with friends on mopeds. Again, I thought aloud how great a lifestyle this looks - I could live here.
After messing around in white wash and small waves, our surf group asked to go to better waves. A short walk around the front of the temple took us to Old Mans surf break. As a newbie surfer in 6-8 foot (Bali standard) waves, it was scary. I'm thankful I only lost one fin in the shore break and walked out just a bit shaky - not hurt. But next time I will be pushier with my surf guide and say I'm not confident going out in waves that big.
Canggu does it for me - surf, relaxed, beautiful beaches, close to everything but quieter. Kuta, in Lombok also gives me this feeling, but that's a different story.
Where is your favourite Bali location?