Canggu, pronounced ‘Cha-n-gu’ is a small beachside town that’s become one of the major new hot spots in Bali. Its chill and laid-back vibe is a welcome change from the busy neighbouring town of Seminyak. Canggu is home to big waves, surf shops, cute boutiques, healthy cafes and beachside bars and restaurants with front row seats to the sunset. It tends to draw a younger crowd of expats, surfers, yoga devotees, young creatives and brunch lovers who have all fallen hard for Canggu’s charm. As it’s a small town there’s not much to do here but swim, surf, eat and shop. It is however only a 15-minute drive from Seminyak, so if you’re looking for more shopping, drinking or eating options you’re never too far away. You can also explore the rice fields surrounding Canggu or visit nearby Tanah Lot if you’re wanting to experience the more cultural side of Bali.
In terms of transport in Canggu, renting a motorbike is often the most popular way to get around. Trying to get a taxi in Canggu isn’t as easy as Seminyak, where you can get a metered taxi for only a few dollars. Here they have a monopoly and it’s a standard rate of 60,000 IDR within the central Canggu area and up to 150, 000 IDR if you’re traveling outside the main area such as Finns Beach Club. In keeping with its small town vibe Canggu isn’t home to many large resorts or big hotel chains, instead they have a selection of smaller privately owned villas and properties. While the area is rising in popularity, it still hasn’t been completely overrun by tourists and the construction that comes with it … yet.
Where to stay: Jungleroom
If you’re looking for a trendy Airbnb type accommodation that is different to anywhere you’ve stayed before.
Located in a quiet area of Canggu, Jungleroom is one of the most unique places I’ve stayed in Bali. Their property centres around 7 traditional antique wooden houses that have been imported from various Indonesian islands. Each house has their own intricate carvings, boho décor and furniture, which all make for the perfect backdrop for a photo-shoot (it’s actually a very popular location for models and fashion brands to shoot their campaigns). If you’re staying here for more than a couple of nights, you may as well split your time across two different houses for a change of design and décor. We stayed in the River View bungalow that had beautiful views of the river and neighbouring resort. The back wall even opened up to the stunning jungle view, though we had it closed for most of the time to really let the A/C do its job. With a mix of white lace and retro furniture our bungalow had some major country style vibes happening. While there was no TV, this wasn’t an issue as the Wi-Fi was fast enough for streaming shows in the evenings or during a downpour.
Breakfast each morning was served from their Juice Bar, which has a small menu of vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and raw options. It’s definitely one of those trendy, health food places Bali is known for. The open-air yoga pavilion also offers early morning yoga classes should you wish to really experience daily Balinese life.
Where to stay: Villa Sungai
If you’re looking for a 5 star luxury villa experience.
Villa Sungai is located in the rural village of Cepaka, just a short drive from Canggu. It’s perfectly suited for families or groups of friends traveling together, with the choice of a 2-bedroom suite villa or a 3-bedroom suite villa. There’s of course always the option to take over both villas for the ultimate holiday experience. Both villas are perched along the banks of a small river that’s surrounded by jungle and offers complete privacy. The local village also features sprawling green rice fields, temples and marigold fields (my new favourite flower). Staying here not only gives you the experience of living in a local village, but it also feels a world away from the congested roads and tourist filled paths of Seminyak.
The overall vibe and design of the villas is a mix of white and neutral colours so as to not detract from its stunning natural surroundings, and it works as everything seems to blend in seamlessly. All rooms of course feature an outdoor shower, with the master room also having a bathtub. I mean are you even in Bali if there isn’t an outdoor shower?? However, the main feature of the 3-bedroom suite villa we stayed in is clearly the 18m-lap pool with an infinity edge that plunges into the river and jungle below. There’s also a spa facility where you can indulge in anything your heart desires, from massages to facials or manicures.
The staff at Villa Sungai have been exceptionally trained to ensure every guest feels truly looked after. This all started from the moment I was picked up from my previous accommodation by the villa manager Made, with the car stocked with water, peanuts and cold towels. It’s the small details like this that really sets Villa Sungai apart. Made also offers tours of the local Cepaka village where he and the majority of the villa staff live. I was able to spend a morning walking around with Made through the quiet streets visiting the local shop where families buy their supplies each morning, through the rice fields and my personal favourite the marigold fields. We also visited his home to see the difference between the design and layout of a Balinese family compound compared to homes in the Western world. Made also hosts an English program in a make shift classroom that’s been built at his house for the children in his village. Guests at Villa Sungai are encouraged during the reservation process to bring pencils and books or simply make a donation to the English program. It really is great to see when hotels and guests are able to give back to the local community.
Villa Sungai also has perhaps the world’s largest movie collection, which comes in very handy during those rainy days. With an entire booklet listing every single movie including a synopsis, they’d clearly gone to quiet some effort to ensure you have a never-ending supply of movies. In regards to the meals at Villa Sungai, they were easily on par with the most well known fine dining and award-winning restaurants in Bali. With fresh locally sourced ingredients and their innovative approach to food (in particular their Indonesian dishes), their 6 star quality meals were truly the highlight of my time there and what I’ll remember most.