Bali: Sanur and Canggu

Continuing from my last post, I’ll talk about Sanur and Canggu, two other areas in Bali that I visited.


I stayed Sanur for a couple of nights. It was perfectly fine but didn’t make much of an impression on me. The town was full of couples and families, and I saw only a handful of solo travelers and groups.

On the east side of Sanur is a long beach with a pathway. Walking down this path was pleasant since the beach was breezy, and many areas were shaded. Gazebos dotted the beach, which were great spots to watch kite surfers. I watched a determined group swim to a couple of gazebos on the water.


Before coming to Bali, I had heard so much about Australians swarming the island and was surprised when I saw just a few in Seminyak and Ubud. When I visited Sanur, I realized all the Aussies were camped out there.

In most of the eateries I visited in Bali, the prices listed in menus didn’t include a 10% government tax and an additional service tax. As an American, I should have been used to this, but it took some time for me to adjust after getting used to paying the advertised prices in restaurants in most other parts of southeast Asia. I’m not sure why, but this wasn’t an issue in Sanur, and all the checks matched the menu prices. I didn’t question this too much; it worked for me.


When I asked other travelers for recommendations for Bali, the resounding suggestion was, “Go to Canggu. You’ll love it.” They all described Canggu as a relaxed surfing town. Normally that wouldn’t have been a major selling point for me, but I figured I’d stay in Canggu for a few nights to see what it was all about.

The travelers were right: I adored Canggu. I wouldn’t have enjoyed Bali nearly as much if I hadn’t gone there. Canggu’s beaches aren’t the cleanest or prettiest, but the vibe was perfect. I can’t figure out what specifically made Canggu so amazing, but I’ll be annoying by continuing to use the word “perfect” to describe my experience there. (I dare you to count the number of times I use the word “perfect” in this post.)

I couldn’t leave Canggu without surfing, so I signed up for a lesson with Baruna Surf Culture. I had taken a surfing lesson in New Zealand a few years earlier, but the lesson was so long ago that I started from scratch.

My instructor Rudi was a 20-year-old who managed Baruna with his older brother Adi. Rudi was everything a 20-year-old should be: playful, a little flirty, and eager to crack jokes that an 11-year-old boy would love. He was also very careful with my Taiwanese classmate’s and my safety. He taught us the basics of paddling and standing on our boards and showed us the areas of the water that we should avoid.

For such a skinny dude, Rudi had superhuman strength. He paddled on his own board while towing me and my classmate around. He told us when a good wave was approaching and gave us a push to provide extra momentum. It would be a stretch to call my activity “surfing” since Rudi did so much of the work–“wobbling on a surfboard” would be more accurate. After a number of failed attempts, I shakily stood up on my board for a few seconds. My classmate was able to do the same.

My classmate and I loved our lesson so much that we signed up for another one the following day. On the drive back to our accommodations, Rudi had us sing along to Ed Sheeran and “Despacito” (the original and not the Bieber version; regardless, the only lyric we knew was “des…pa…ci-to”). He also played a song called “Miles Away,” which he described as the perfect song to listen to while watching a sunset on the beach with a beer in your hand. I’m clueless about music, so I hadn’t heard the song before, but I agreed with Rudi once I heard it and promptly added it to my Spotify playlist.

After the lesson, I walked to Canggu Beach and watched legitimate surfers owning (pwning?) the waves. Since there was a steady breeze, a few people were flying kites. I kept getting distracted by the clouds overhead.


The clouds provided an awesome foreground for sunset. It was an absolutely perfect day.


Canggu, you’re perfect.

The next day’s lesson was just as perfect as the first, even though I was dealing with sore arms and ribs. My classmate and I were such fangirls of Rudi that we had to take photos with him once we were done.

baruna surf culture

He insisted on keeping the towel on his head. 20-year-olds!

Rudi also happened to have a board that referred to Alice in Wonderland. I took advantage of another photo opp.

canggu surfing

As expected for a surfing town, Canggu had a lot of hipster eateries. I was missing Malaysian food, so I loved a restaurant called Roti Canai. The roti tasted just as good as ones from Malaysia. I also had avocado toast numerous times and remembered to snap a photo.

shady shack canggu

I’m hugely indebted to whoever invented avocado toast.

My Dutch roommate from Bromo and Ijen recommended that I visit a bar called Old Man’s, which was right beside Canggu Beach. The bar had stools outside, which provided a laid-back atmosphere to chat and have a beer. The inside of the bar was spacious and provided plenty of seating. They played house on the night I visited, so some people were killing it on the dance floor. The bar closes at midnight, so many people relocate to nearby Sandbar, which stays open later. I had no energy for Sandbar, but I did notice that a bunch of the dancers at Old Man’s made a beeline for the afterparty.

I stayed at an excellent hostel in Canggu called WaterBorn. I was in a five-bed dorm, which felt more like a hotel room. I had my own comfortable bed–no bunks!–and both the room and bathroom were palatial. We each had a huge locker/closet that had hangers(!) and a couple of shelves. The hostel also had a pool, which was the perfect place to relax.

waterborn canggu

This is a hostel?!

Netflix is banned in Indonesia, but I was somehow able to finish the second season of Master of None while hanging out by the pool. I have no idea what kind of magical wifi WaterBorn had, but I wasn’t complaining. I had slowly been watching the season over a couple of months and absolutely loved it. If you don’t think the “New York, I Love You” and “Thanksgiving” episodes are perfect pieces of television, we can’t be friends. My next task: make my way through the fourth season of Bojack Horseman.

Finally, some general notes about Bali:

  • I stuck to the more touristy areas of Bali, so I don’t have much advice for travelers looking for a more authentic experience. Other travelers told me that Amed and Lovina in the north were beautiful and less crowded than the south. Amed has a good view of the volcano Mount Agung, while Lovina is known for dolphin-watching.
  • I expected to come across hordes of gap-year travelers in Bali, but I ended up meeting a lot of people around my age. Bali probably had the highest number of travelers in my age group that I’ve encountered so far on my trip. Don’t get me wrong: most of the younger travelers I’ve met have been wonderful. That said, it was nice to finally not be the old lady of the group.
  • Transport within Bali is expensive. For instance, I paid 350,000 IDR (about $26) for an hourlong transfer from Canggu to Ubud. This would be a steal in New York, but it was a big change from previous countries I visited, where 30- to 45-minute rides cost less than $10. Many places in Bali ban transport apps like Go-Jek, Grab, and Uber, so it’s tough to find less expensive transport. Blue Bird taxis are metered and reliable, but they’re not always readily available. Downloading the Blue Bird app might be your best option for transport.
  • Since Bali is so large, travelers often rent motorbikes to get around the island. Many people recommended that I do so, but I stuck to my policy of only being a passenger. It’s common for police to stop tourists on motorbikes to demand bribes, so motorbiking travelers should avoid carrying a lot of cash.

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