Conventional wisdom suggests you follow the backpackers to find the best emerging destinations, but in Indonesia’s Bali you do better by following the expats: And the expats are building their dream homes in Canggu, an arc of land nestled between what used to be a well-kept surfer secret, and yawning stretches of enameled rice paddy.
Bali’s next wave of serious development is poised to hit this west coast area, where volcanic sands are just a short drive from the sophisticated restaurants and ever-sprouting local designer shops of Seminyak.
But for now, Canggu offers old school Bali. Pack a picnic, jump on a pushbike and work up a sweat as you roll through glorious patchwork scenery dotted with villages and temples shrouded in wafting incense.
Pro surfers lament its growing reputation but still gravitate to the three excellent breaks on Echo Beach, while their spectators feast on Sunday afternoon fresh seafood barbecues washed down with local Bintang beers at the Beach House, or munch on cheese toasties in foreigner-friendly warungs.
Sipping cocktails at Sticky Fingers’ rooftop terrace while the sun dips is another option.
Despite the relative isolation there’s no need to forsake creature comforts. Stay at one of several unique hotels in the Canggu surrounds or a plush private villa to savour your own little patch of serenity.
Desa Seni boasts an array of antique wooden houses shipped in from around the Indonesian archipelago and reconstructed village-style. Their fairyland garden includes an organic veggie patch that backs up their eat-local philosophy, and their breezy yoga space plays host to daily classes.
The lavishly decorated Hotel Tugu bills itself as a museum boutique hotel and is literally overflowing with Indonesian antiques and art. Guests can take their meals anywhere on the meandering premises.
The three-year-old Canggu Club has cemented the area’s reputation as a haven for expats and also offers passes for tourists, giving them access to play sports such as tennis and squash or take a yoga class ($30 plus 10% tax per day, $100 plus 10% tax per week, http://www.cangguclub.com). The splash pool is excellent for kids, and the popular Trattoria Italian restaurant chain now has an outlet open to the public here.
Canggu is a 30-minute drive from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, which is well served by foreign airlines
WHERE TO STAY
Desa Seni (62-361-844-6392; www.desaseni.com; houses from USD150, plus tax and service), Hotel Tugu Bali (62-361-731701; www.tuguhotels.com; suites from USD265, plus tax and service) or Pantai Lima (62-361-844-4555; pantailima.com; villas from USD1,400, plus tax and service)