Did you know that when I was about 6 years old, living in Canberra Australia, I toddled off to school one day where we were given the creative task of designing our very own placemats to take home (very exciting!). On one side I drew my family... and on the other I drew this little island, with a coconut tree and an 'islander man' in a grass skirt. I wish I still had it - but it looked something like this:
So even as a wee girl who had never even experienced a tropical island, and who was growing up in the inland depths of a man made political city (could you get any different!), the intention was set. So far I have visited Fiji, Tenerife, Rarotonga, Atiu, Aitutaki, Lombok and Bali.
The most basic airport I've ever been to in Atiu - this was it!
The thing is, when you hang out on a tropical island for long enough, and with this amazing technology called the internet... I am asked questions all the time about Bali from all walks of life - mostly from Facebook but even from places like Tinder! ...where to sleep? where to go? where to hold my retreat? In fact if I had $1 for every time, I'm pretty sure I'd be well on my way to owning my own tropical island.
So basically, to make my life easier (yes this is a self indulgent blog) here are my personal recommendations... but please note, I take no responsibility for your Bali experience. This island is pretty special and will dish out all sorts of obstacles for you if you need to learn something (just sayin'...).
Hubud in Ubud. My first main hang out that I used to visit a lot. Hubud has truly expanded since I first walked in their doors. I'm not there so frequently these days, but I do still duck in from time to time - and their social events are pretty awesome. I have made some very cool friendships and working relationships from this amazing bamboo office... totally has my thumbs up.
Dojo Bali in Canggu. Now here is a place that is starting to capture my attention (and probably because I'm keen to make a sea change to Canggu). A Co-working space with pool and 5mins from the beach... not bad! Dojo used to be another co-working space a couple of years ago and the referb they have made is outstanding - loving it.
Outpost in Ubud. On the days I know I need peace, quiet and a studious atmosphere to get a pile of to-do's done... I head here. Downstairs is a huge air-conditioned room that feels like a library. No talking allowed (!... but sometimes you need that), spacious desks and plenty of light. Great coffee too and they can organise food delivery.
Cafe's with Wifi
You pretty much can get wifi at every cafe in Bali... in fact I think it's more readily available than in countries like Australia! Perfect for wanderlust entrepreneurs who are tripping around while bring their online creations to life. I've also met new friends, had unexpected deep conversations with strangers and even learnt a thing of two from hanging out in coffee shops.
Seniman Cafe: Ubud. Right in the middle of town you'll find a hub of coffee connoisseurs. They are currently even creating a specific coffee workshop area! However, inside the cafe you'll find a huge communal table to sit at which makes meeting others super easy. Unfortunately the coffee & fast wifi does outweigh the food - can be a hit and miss.
Kismet: Ubud. This restaurant & boutique is also right in the middle of Ubud and is my new favourite to frequent at. Funky tunes with fast wifi & amazing food. Plenty of room with an upstairs and downstairs, pets and sometimes random roosters running over rooftops (funniest thing I've ever seen), and they do a really good dirty chai!
Earth Cafe & Market: Ubud. Right across the road from Kismet is Earth Cafe that is surprisingly quiet and has great wifi. If you are craving some super healthy food & smoothies, head this way. Next door is also Paradiso which has the world's first Organic Vegan & Vegetarian Cinema... eat your heart out! Or maybe not..? But, it's actually pretty cool inside - very comfy, great selection of flicks and meat eaters are allowed... just don't mention it.
Clear Cafe: Ubud. Nice location overlooking a gully and local temple. You'll be greeted by marigolds and friendly smiles. Multi level with all sorts of seating to suit cushion dwellers or those who prefer thy chair. Good food, good wifi. Nice wall to use as backdrop for selfies!
Sage: Ubud. Schmicko decor - really love the round window... personal fetish of mine. Very cosy, super healthy vegan food although if you are a coffee snob, probably not your coffee house of choice. However, they do a killer cocoa smoothie. Great wifi and nice chilled out atmosphere.
A load in Ubud, but Canggu.... hmmm haven't worked from cafe's down there for a while, but here's where I used to go a lot:
Milk & Madu: Canggu. Nice ambiance and setting, super tasty and nice variety of food options. Even better than that, are their comfy couch seats if you mange to get there in good timing to grab one. Good wifi, great coffee and fresh coconuts come with love... you'll see ;-)
Places to Stay:
Honestly, your best bet is bookings.com or airbnb.com. There is such a variety from cheap and cheerful to complete luxury. And, I've been in private Villas for quite a while now... so I'm not really in the know when it comes to short-term accommodation.
However, here are my best picks from the places I have stayed... and yes, not all of my experiences have made it to this list... and really - you're going to need a scooter to get around quickly & easily:
Riviera House: Canggu. My very first home away from home - hostel style. Basic but clean and inviting rooms... they had no pool when I was there - but I think they now have a pool! Pretty good wifi from what I remember. Super friendly people that are more than willing to help you with what ever you need.
Villa Honey: Seminyak. Prefer to be closer to the bright lights of Seminyak? This is an awesome 2 bedroom villa that's super cosy and homely. Nestled away from the hustle and bustle it's nice and quiet, but still close enough to all your Seminyak action. (Can be found on Airbnb)
Villa Manuka: Kerobokan. A little closer to Canggu & Eco Beach, while still an easy distance to Seminyak. Awesome view out to rice paddies and on a clear day volcano's can be seen. Super comfy and beautiful 3 bedroom villa with an eclectic touch... just don't break anything! Ha! I know the owner of this villla and Villa Honey - he totally cries when people don't respect the place. (Can be found on Airbnb).
Villa Warsa: Ubud. Cute little one bedroom place with share pool, smack bang in the middle of rice paddy fields! Contact Komang if you're keen (tell him Melanie sent you ). Super quiet area, 2mins from Ubud Yoga Centre and Outpost. One of my fave's in Ubud so far!
Also check out these Facebook Communities
Ubud House Shares, Monthly Rentals & Sitting
Bali Canggu Housing & Accommodation
Need A Driver?
Totally love my driver Edy. Although I haven't seen him for a while because he's always busy! But if you are looking for a driver, contact him and ask. Can't recommend him highly enough (tell him Melanie sent you!)
The GOLDEN question... where should I run my retreat? Again, there are thousands of possibilities here and it really depends on how many people, the type of retreat, and your budget... I say go for Google & AirBNB! Just to note here... make sure you check out the visa regulations for holding retreats. It's your own decision in the end, but I would be doing you a dis-service if I didn't share that I've heard many stories of retreats being shut down because they didn't have the right visa. That said... plenty still go ahead - so the choice is yours.
Villa Beji Indah: Ubud. If you are looking for a high end venue that is intimate and special for your peeps, and right in the middle of Ubud, I'd highly recommend this location. The Manager, Palani, is super helpful and will go out of his way to make sure your needs are met. Gorgeous grounds, plenty of room to run all types of activities and the rooms are all unique and stunning
Ubud Yoga Centre: Ubud. Stunning new yoga centre that has just opened offering Bikram and Aerobatic yoga. Sounds crazy being on a tropical island... but I totally dig the Bikram. Lydia is a great yoga instructor and they eve have cold coconuts waiting outside for you after class. It's worth the visit just to check out the venue! (Cafe/restaurant open too).
Tamahati Yoga: Nguy Kunning, Ubud. This is my little secret, but I'm going to share it anyway. If you want a truly Balinese yoga experience you must go to a class with Ketut. For me it's one of the most divine classes I have ever experienced. I promise that Ketut will make you laugh and if not he'll make himself laugh. Just go with an open mind and you will enjoy. (Accommodation also available)
Desa Seni: Canggu. This was where I had my first Bali yoga experience... but not until after I had relaxed by their gorgeous pool and enjoyed an amazing meal. Admittedly I've not been to any other yoga class in Canggu other than Desa Seni, however it's a truly beautiful location with regular classes and meditations. (Accommodation also available)
Ubud V's Canggu
There have been many a conversation, many an article and many opinions about what location is better... and to be honest - one isn't better than the other... they are just different. Ha! There is my balanced and very Libran walking on the fence answer for you.
Ubud is renown for it's spirituality, yoga and hundreds of women gravitating to the area for self-healing and to reconnect to the true woman inside. It's a place where more often than not you are asked would you like cashew, almond or coconut milk with your coffee as a standard, and where it's completely normal to line up for Ecstatic Dance at 9am on a Sunday morning. Probably because everyone is usually in bed by 10pm. It's where the spiritual can totally dive into their craft without question, and talk of the moon and stars always comes out to play. And I mean always.
Ubud, does however have a very strong entrepreneurial community and it's up to you which circles you choose to connect with. I'll be honest, when I first arrived in Bali I was in Canggu, but found it really difficult to find my feet down there - at the time there was no awesome co-working space to hang out at, and everyone I was connecting with was in Ubud... so I made the move.
The spiritual circles were nice, but I really needed to find some Entrepreneurial peeps and to that end, Ubud, and in particular Hubud was the place I found my feet in Bali. After tapping into a like minded crew it was then time to grow exponentially on a personal level, and have felt nurtured pretty much every step of the way.
However... you will also know when it's time to leave.
I don't know whether it's the guy that turned up to yoga class in his undies, complete with man-bun and grunted the whole way through the class, or the fact that it seems to have rained so much here for the last 6 months, or that the ratio of women to men does not favour women, that I think I'm ready to head back to the Gu.
Yeah this place has a pulse that oozes masculinity and coolness. Some are put off by 'the scene', and when I first arrived I did find it somewhat intimidating. Perhaps it was the never ending trail of topless, tattooed, muscly men on loud motorbikes, and the just as gorgeous women owning their identities and rocking around in style? Who knows... however, I think how you feel about it is just a reflection of where you are personally. Canggu is filled with incredibly creative people - mostly to do with fashion, design, tattoos and... Crossfit.
Canggu has an edge, but it's nothing to be worried about and I feel it's a great place to let your sexy confident side come out to play and own it. The 'Gu' as it's commonly called is a surfing community, it's not as touristy as neighbouring Seminyak (and I'm not even going to mention Kuta as I don't even think that is Bali!), plenty of beach time, it's easy to stay out late (yay!), and it's a little closer to a western reality than perhaps the high vibing Ubud.
It's definitely worth a visit if not just for the people watching, or to take in a beach sunset complete with Bintang and grilled piece of corn at Old Man's. Actually, I lie, there is plenty of spiritual practice going on down there too... in fact there is an endless number of new places popping up and every time I visit there is something new to check out.
So in conclusion, don't take my word for it - check out both locations for yourself and just trust. Trust when you arrive in Bali that you will meet the right people, you will see the right sign, you will feel where to go and everything will work out just fine.
An avid lover of fresh coconuts, you will often find Melanie in Bali, Indonesia.