Travel guide: The bohemian Bali bucket list
Beyond the waves and raves of Kuta, there are plenty of hidden pockets of happy, hippy hangouts still waiting to be explored.
Here’s how to catch the best bits of Bali over a long weekend…
The hipster ’hood: Canggu
A decade ago, most of the southwest of Bali was still underdeveloped. Kuta was the crazy party town and Seminyak was the calmer, cooler older brother. Now the chaos has spread north and much of the area plays host to a bevvy of Bintang tanktop-clad tourists.
But if you head further north, you’ll find a pocket of calm and cool in a little beach community called Canggu. Affectionately known as the Brooklyn of Bali for its proliferation of all things natural, there’s no shortage of cold drip coffee, lush yoga sanctuaries, hand-hewn diaries, and barefoot-only vegan-happy, eco-friendly cafés.
The boutique café: Sisterfields
A buzzing café in the heart of Seminyak, Sisterfields is worth braving the hectic traffic for. The venue itself is drop dead gorgeous and has three distinct areas: a cool outdoor decking with a high marble-top bar, a huge fully-air conditioned indoor area and a typically-packed out courtyard in the rear. Sisterfields prepares almost all of their dishes from scratch including their buttermilk, ricotta and preserves. You won’t regret ordering the açaí bowl, which includes house-made nut milk combined with blueberries and bananas and locally-sourced coca honey and granola.
+62 811-3860-507, sisterfieldsbali.com
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The beach club: Ku Da Ta
Suck up the Dhs280 minimum spend – that’s a steal for the best spot on the coast – and lean back against the cushions of your carved wooden day bed with an unpronounceable cocktail, as you watch the sky turn amber across the ocean waves. This fashionable spot on Seminyak’s stretch of beach clubs is one of the most popular in the area and for good reason – the view is good enough to make you cry. Food? Sushi rolls with fresh tempura, tender fried chicken pieces, freshly baked pizza and vegetable gyoza.
+62 361 736969, facebook.com/KUDETA
The yoga hangout: Desa Seni
Worlds away from the hustle of Kuta and Seminyak, Desa Seni looks like a hamlet from a fairytale with cobbled footpaths that meander through flowerbeds and vegetable patches. People donning active wear float around the grounds between outdoor yoga pavilions and meditation lawns. Worn wooden cabins, decorated with bright cushions and spiritual artefacts, cluster around a saltwater pool like a miniature Hindu village.
Technically speaking, Desa Seni is a retreat of sorts, and it makes for an excellent alternative to the perfectly polished five-star resorts in the south. Alternatively, you can pop in for an afternoon of yoga and meditation, taking advantage of their Dhs39 drop-in sessions. We recommend the sunset ashtanga class.
+62 3618446392, facebook.com/desaseni
The concept store: Deus Ex Machina
Visiting Deus Ex Machina is like a rite of passage when travelling through Bali. The experimental space is literally a collection of wooden huts surrounded by rice paddy fields. Part motorcycle and surf shop, the store brands itself as the “temple of enthusiasm” where you can, if you choose, pick up a bike, a board, a beard trim, a tattoo and a cold glass of Kombucha (that’s fermented green tea, just so you’re up to date with the latest hipster swill). It’s also part beanbag theatre space and art gallery. You could literally spend all day here, and most folks do.
+62 811388315. deuscustoms.com
The hit new restaurant: The Savage Kitchen
Locally-sourced ingredients and compassionately-farmed meat are the perfect couple at The Savage Kitchen in the Canggu, where the two come together to create wholesome fusion, one-of-a-kind dishes like the crispy skin barramundi, and shoulder of lamb with spiced yoghurt. Most plates are meant to be shared and paired with an unpretentious cocktail or mocktail from the sizable roster.
+62 8196414541, facebook.com/thesavagekitchen
THREE THINGS TO EAT WHILE YOU’RE IN BALI…
Ikan Bakar (grilled fish) Jimbaran-style
A must-try for any visitor to Bali, head to Jimbaran Bay for a whole grilled fish, marinated in mild chillies and spices, by the seaside. Restaurant shacks line the beaches, candles flicker atop plastic tables as you flex your toes in the sand. It’s a quintessential Bali dining experience.
Jimbaran seafood cafés, past Jalan Four Seasons, Muaya Beach, Jimbaran
Bali’s take on satay, the classic meat-on-a-stick dish, minced meat is pounded and blended with coconut and other spices. It’s then quickly barbecued, often while hand-fanned, over hot coals and served on skewers.
Crispy ricotta corn fritters
OK, this isn’t exactly a Balinese staple, but the crispy ricotta corn fritters at the unassuming Nude café in Canggu are a delicious breakfast treat. Three golden ricotta patties are served with a soft-boiled egg and a handful of avocado. Healthy, hip and hearty.
+62 852-3821-4003, facebook.com/tastyfusionz
Get me there
Emirates flies direct to Denpasar daily from Dhs2,550 return. emirates.com
dnata Travel has a fantastic November offer for two people to stay for four nights at the world renowned Ubud Hanging Gardens Hotel – often listed as one of the best resorts in the world, with an unbelievable infinity pool hanging off a cliff – plus two return flights with Emirates for Dhs11,407. If you want to be closer to the beach, however, the Oberoi Hotel package – which is situated right next to Ku De Ta Beach Club – costs Dhs9,000 including two return flights with Emirates. dnatatravel.com