Om Swastiastu (hello in Balinese) cherished readers,
just announcing that this week´s travel journey will take us on a slight detour from Chiang Mai to Bali, before heading back to Leila and the Land of a million rice fields next week.
On this week´s adventure, we will encounter Rangda the daemon-queen, a Balinese prince with feverish dreams and the unusual and mighty sounds of Gamelan music. You will also join me for a kind of weird yet fun Balinese dance class!
I had written and published half of this post in January this year, but the powers of WordPress denied a new notification to you lovely ones. As a bonus, I´ve also added an audio-story. So here you go, you are all caught up – stoked to have you join me in Bali this week as we learn more about the immensely intriguing culture of the so-called Island of the Gods.
Sampai jumpa lagi (see you soon in Indonesian), your Gypsy friend
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Majestic cows calmly grazing on lush green fields. Local farmers doing their daily chores with humble composure. The sound of salty ocean waves sensually caressing the rocks along endless beaches. Doesn´t really sound like a trendy hangout for hipsters, graffiti-aficionados and global citizens, does it? Think again, my friend, because you are smack in the middle of cutting-edge, vibrant Canggu, a formerly pretty sleepy village and surfing spot that has been transformed into a much sought-after mecca of intriguing culture and trendy cafes as well as a cool Bali Street art hotspot.
Let me take you for a little bike-ride through this piece of pretty darned special Indonesian island, alright? Excuse me, what did you say? You wanna know what you are getting yourself into beforehand? Alright, let me tell you that this trip will involve places where motorcycles meet art, sexy hangouts where pissed-off dogs encounter beautiful people chilling out to the latest tunes, inspiring graffiti-art waiting to be discovered in forgotten places, and the creme-de-la-creme of healthy, clean cuisine. And I´ll serve you a tiny tale of a very failed attempt to surf on the side.
Sounds good? Cool, you know what to do then: Put on that helmet and join me as we cruise through this cutting-edge neighborhood on the Southern coast of Bali.
Stop 1: Morally correct breakfast at inviting Betelnut cafe
After a short ride along emerald green rice paddies and the occasional graffiti art piece making a pleasant contrast to grey murals, its time to take that helmet off again, shake off the dust and enter Betelnut cafe, located 5 minutes away from popular Echo beach. Betelnut cafe is one of many, many hipster-hangouts dedicated to serving food that´s good for your tummy, your energy level, and your whole magnificent being. Choose between teas such as Japanese Sencha or strong, smokey Gunpowder tea from Java, opt for the obligatory green smoothie or just go for a fresh young coconut.
While munching on the ingredients of your Betelnut Bowl, a tropical fruit melange, or a Mung bean breakfast (tomato, avocado, and sprouts on your choice of bread), you´ll be able to watch digital nomads from all over the world and chilled-out locals interact in their natural habitat. Alternatively, let your gaze wander over the adjoining rice fields and dream a little dream. Don´t get too sleepy though, it´s about time that we head off to our next stop! Ready? Let´s do it!
2. Check out inspiring, off-the-beaten-path Bali Street Art
Enjoy the feeling of freedom pulsing through your veins while riding along hip hotspots for hot-deskers and slickly designed Yoga studios alternating with pure Balinese nature-scenery until our arrival at Jalan Lkr Neyalan. See if you can spot the gorgeous, orange-colored street-art-tiger set against a deep blue background that seems to run at full speed over the adjunct rice field! Inspired by his vitality, we´ll continue on to check out the abandoned shacks at Batu Bulong Beach, where creative mavericks have come up with pretty quirky art pieces.
If you feel tempted to take a refreshing dip in the delicious ocean waves and let all the new impressions sink in, take your time, I´ll wait at groovy Old Man´s beach bar for you, no worries. You could even try your luck at surfing here, of course, if you feel adventurous!
Let me tell you, I did the same thing a few years ago and despite my best efforts at surfing managed to not just lose my favorite ring, custom made at Istanbul´s Grand Bazaar , but also my balance and a few more things… let´s leave it at that, I´ll spare you the embarrassing details. You go, girl or boy, though, try your luck cause I heard surfing can be a pretty fun thing to do!
3. Hang out at breezy beach bars and mesmerizing motorcycle-temples of hedonism
While you try your luck at catching a wave or two, I´ll be enjoying a drink and maybe a quick lunch at Old Man´s (you snooze, you lose hehe). I can´t really remember what day it was today – am in my thirties, after all. But in case it´s Wednesday, there will be some alluring party action taking place after sunset, and if it´s any other day, there´s probably gonna be live bands playing anything from reggae to rock or DJ´s showcasing their skills to an attractive crowd of locals and expats.
Chilling out on a colorful bean bag and deeply inhaling that delicious sea breeze is another great way to enjoy Old Man´s charm… and in case some barking dogs wanna join your restorative moment, just stay relaxed and let it be. Barking dogs belong to Bali like its volcanoes and transformative magic, after all. Or at least that´s how it was a few years back!
If you still feel like amping up on more inspiration after your stay at Batu Bulong Beach, finish your Canggu discovery ride at Deus Ex Machina, the self-proclaimed temple of enthusiasm and eclectic motorcycle shop. Here, you´ll be wowed by unique fine art pieces while listening to life-music and browsing through a plethora of the latest in motorcycles, surfboards, and skateboards. The unique hangout amid emerald green rice fields also offers movie nights, Pan Asian cuisine and yummy cocktails, so it might just be just the right place to finish your Canggu discovery day!
By the way, I´m open to symbolical tips in the form of tips – have you been to Canggu yet? What are neighborhoods in your area with an artsy vibe that you´d recommend to culture-and arts-lovers?
Handy information part:
Betelnut cafe – Address: 80351, Jalan Pantai Batu Bolong No.60, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351. Opening times: Every day from 8 AM- 10 PM
Old Man´s – Address: Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.117X, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351. Opening times: Every day from 7 AM-1 AM
Deus Ex Machina – Jl. Batu Mejan No.8, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia. Opening times: Every day from 7 AM-12 AM
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Bare-breasted women graciously balancing heavy goods on their heads, looking just like those on the black-and-white-film-snippets recorded by Charlie Chaplin back in 1932. Exotic looking Bali cattle, descendants of mighty buffalos, plowing the soils of vast rice fields just before the rice seeds are planted. The happy squeals of local children, splashing and playing in the waters of the river. Enchanted looking, hidden away Hindu temples, exuding the whiff of the unknown.
My time in Lothunduh introduced me to a world which was far-removed from everything I had immersed myself in before. In a way, my 5 month-stint in Bali would prove to be so significant that it would divide my life into a “before” and “after”. The intricacies of that story are destined for another post, though…
This story aims to transport you to a Balinese village just a stone-throw away from trendy Cultural hub Ubud, and yet so far removed from it in terms of its deeply-rooted connection to its traditional essence and to a slow-paced way of life lived in harmony with the seasons. Spend a day or even a few hours in Lothunduh anywhere off the main roads, and you´ll get to look through a peephole into the island´s past.
Experiencing authentic Bali: Of worship, gratitude, and oneness with the land
Watch rice farmers donning their traditional working clothes and hats while minding the paddies, observe devoted artists and craftsmen create their unique art pieces in one of the many art shops or workshops, or marvel at the Balinese goddess-women who perform their daily offerings at the many places of worship all around.
Something about Lothunduh and its inhabitants simple, yet deeply connected and magical way of life really stirred my soul. Especially the way in which the Balinese there and on the whole island honor and give back through daily rituals which express their gratitude to the Gods they revere creates a completely different atmosphere to what we are used to in the West. To believe in something outside of oneself and to cultivate awareness for the countless gifts we are given each day of our lives is an inspiration that I hope to keep in my heart.
You will be able to witness the deeply spiritual life of the Balinese just by keeping your eyes and hearts open while wandering along the roads of the farming village.
Lothunduh highlights: Best places to feast your senses
Here are some more places to visit in order to get an authentic feel for what I am trying yet might fall short to transmit with my lines (there is only so much that words can convey, after all):
For beautiful artwork: You´ll be absolutely spoilt for choice here, you lucky girl/guy! As a good starting point for your exploration of Balinese art galleries, head to gallery Semar Kuning on Jalan A.A.Gede Rai 8. Here, two Buddha figures and a big Ganesha-Elephant- statue greet you upon arrival and intriguing contemporary paintings depicting traditional Balinese motives await your visit. Keep wandering around Lothunduh-village and you´ll come across more galleries and workshops, as Central Bali is not only a place filled with rituals, myths, and magic but also home to countless skilled artists and craftsmen. Many Balinese wholeheartedly devote their time to honor their Hindu faith through their visual arts, woodcarving, dance, and other art forms.
For interesting Hindu temples: Even though you generally won´t be allowed to visit these places of worship, it´s still a beautiful experience to take in their charm and interesting appearance while strolling around. Head to Pura Desa Lothunduh or Pura Hyang Api, for instance.
For authentic Indonesian food: Check out Blue Bliss Warung and indulge in specialties such as Nasi Campur or Nasi Goreng, delicious rice (Nasi) based dishes.
Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever visited a village, either abroad or in your country of origin, where time seemed to stand still? What did you learn from or appreciate about that experience? As always, would love to hear from you 🙂
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Traveler, Writer, Artist, Journalist, Language and Yoga teacher, Cultural Scientist. The author of "Speak in Spanish- Fun and motivation on your learning journey" as well as the multicultural novel "Von Fischbrötchen, Sangrianächten und Chaoswelten". Love animals, the arts, laughter, traveling through inner and outer worlds, the healing arts.
Weltenbummlerin. Reisende in inneren wie in äusseren Welten – in Gedanken, Büchern, Filmen, Meditationen, im Schreiben – sowie in fremden Ländern und Kulturen.