Right now, the hottest new places in Bali are popping up between the rice fields in Canggu (pronounced Changoo) – a string of fishing villages and beaches on the island’s lower west coast.
The following spots provide 10 of the best reasons to go to the ” ‘Gu”.
1. The Temple of Enthusiasm
Back in the 1980s, when university dropout Dare Jennings said he was going to take on the surf apparel industry with a brand based on T-shirts of dogs farting and humping legs, people laughed.
But it was Mr Jennings who laughed all the way to the bank after he sold that brand, Mambo, for $20 million.
In 2011, when he opened the flagship store for his second brand, Deus ex Machina, in Canggu – which felt like the middle of nowhere at the time – people laughed again.
Today, Mr Jennings’ airport hanger-size space known as the Temple of Enthusiasm also houses an Italian restaurant, cocktail bar, outdoor cinema, art gallery, barbershop, surfboard shaper and showroom for custom motorcycles. It is credited with driving the gentrification of Canggu.
2. Finns Recreational Club
On a four-hectare estate behind Canggu’s Batu Belig Beach, Finns combines a water park, sports centre and old-school country club with an open-door policy and family-friendly vibe.
“If you’re in Bali with your family, you could spend your entire holiday here and never get bored,” says former Olympic swimming champion Michael Klim, who has lived in Canggu since 2012 and coaches kids’ swim camps at the club.
“I come here to do laps, to use the business club or watch the footy on Saturdays while my kids use the trampoline park, play tennis or use the waterslides. There’s a whole world in here.”
3. Ji at Bale Sutra
Set in a 300-year-old Chinese temple from Java that was dismantled, shipped and reassembled piece-by-piece in Canggu, Ji is rated on Tripadvisor as Bali’s best Japanese restaurant.
Created by Indonesian sushi master Nyoman Antara and Colin Buchan, the one-time private chef to David and Victoria Beckham, the menu fuses teppanyaki, sashimi and yakiniku (a Japanese take on Korean barbecue) culinary techniques with modern-Asian flair.
Ji’s signature dish, Dragon of Ji – a prawn tempura and avocado maki roll – is actually shaped like a dragon.
To drink, choose from 15 hot or cold sakes, expensive bottles of French wine or cocktails such as the Tugu gin and tea or cherry sogu martini.
4. Silicon Bali
After making his fortune in software, Michael Craig gave up Perth for Bali to to surf and party and drink from coconuts on the beach.
When that got boring, he opened Dojo Bali, a co-working space on Canggu’s Echo Beach with Skype booths, meeting rooms, a swimming pool and smoothie bar.
This year he upped the ante with Dojo Co-living Space, a villa in the quiet backstreets of Canggu with 10 cosy wooden rooms set around a quadrangle lawn and pool. Rates start at $500 a week and include airport pick up, a surf lesson, yoga lesson and unlimited access to the co-working space.
“Co-living makes it really easy for people who’ve never been to Bali before,” Mr Craig says. “We pick you up from the airport, take you to a safe place where you’re welcomed into the Dojo community, have everything about Bali explained to you and can make friends with other travellers straight away.”
Canggu has gone burger crazy. There are dozens of burger joints to choose from, though few take the job more seriously than Burgerz, a colourful and funky cafe-style diner cut straight out of Happy Days on Batu Bulong Road.
Plus-size burgers combine 120-gram Australian beef patties, crunchy baguette-style buns and a volcano of homemade sauces.
There are also chicken, lamb, smoked salmon, sesame-seed tuna and vegan options customisable with extras such as bacon, smashed avocado, caramelised onion, tempeh, hummus, blue cheese, goat’s cheese, camembert or good old cheddar. The wedges – double-fried in sunflower oil and stuffed with mash potato – are a hit, while crepes with Nutella or crushed grandma’s brownie make for a smashing dessert.
7. Bangkok Hustle
Five years ago, Jordie Stybros of Byron Bay came to Bali on his honeymoon – and to catch up with Pablo Fourcard, his best friend from high school.
The duo came up with the idea of opening a Byron Bay-style organic cafe in the upmarket dining precinct of Seminyak. Watercress, as it’s called, became an overnight success, as did the next seven restaurants and cafes the pair opened in Bali over the years.
Their latest, Bangkok Hustle, on Canggu’s Berawa Road, dishes up unpretentious Thai street food such as fish cakes, papaya salad and massaman curry in a hip little diner with ’80s hip-hop tunes blaring in the background.
7. Canggu Cooking Retreat
In the early noughties, Scotsman Will Meyrick was a celebrated part of Sydney’s restaurant scene as chef of Longrain, Jimmy Liks and other modern-Asian eateries.
Today he owns and runs some of the most successful restaurants in Seminyak – including Mama San, a gentrified ode to Asian street food, and Sarong, a high-end curry house that looks and feels like a sultan’s palace.
In June, Meyrick made his long-anticipated move into Canggu – with a live-in cooking retreat set in a luxury pool villa that can be occupied as a whole or as one of five large and airy en suite bedrooms. Activities include Indonesian cooking classes, street-food tours of Canggu and mountain biking with Will through the rice fields.
8. Two Trees Eatery
Bali’s health-food movement was born in the hill retreat of Ubud, but it came of age in Canggu, with trend-setting eateries such as Two Trees.
Set in a whitewashed plantation-style house a stone’s throw from Canggu’s Berawa Beach, it offers healthy, organic and sustainably-sourced foods sans the holier-than-though attitude.
The new dinner menu has gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan options such as a bun-less tempeh and mushroom burger and whimsically named “mis-take” – black pepper tofu fillets with miso gravy.
But there are also old-fashioned cheeseburgers with beetroot and caramelised onions, beef steaks smothered in Hollandaise and a succulent rare roast beef sandwich. Wash it down with a fermented jasmine kombucha or a rose sangria spiked with gin.
9. Hotel Tugu
Auspiciously positioned between two Hindu temples on Batu Bolong Beach, Tugu is Canggu’s oldest and most visually mind-blowing hotel – a living museum festooned with one of Indonesia’s largest private collections of art and antiquities, including a 500-year-old stone bowl found right here in Canggu.
Accommodation options include 21 traditional wooden stilt houses and two villas made of coral, all of which are set in a lavish water garden bursting with fairytale details: winding stone pathways, lily ponds crisscrossed with footbridges, moss-covered statues and shrines, miniature waterfalls, an electric-blue swimming pool and shaded bamboo pavilions.
10. The Lawn
With drop-dead gorgeous sunsets, Canggu is the undisputed capital of beach clubs in Bali. The king of them is The Lawn – a hot as Hades day club with an al fresco rooftop dining area, another open-air dining room downstairs plus a thumping cocktail bar set around a fake-grass lawn with daybeds, outdoor lounges and an inviting beachfront pool.
Entry is free, the music is smooth and sexy and the crowd is as beautiful and hip as it gets. “The Lawn is a celebration of sunsets, great music, the beach and most importantly a celebration of Bali,” says co-owner Tai Graham, a pro surfer from New Zealand.