The heart of the Canggu tourist area is Old Man’s beach which can be found at the end of Batu Batong road. There you will find a surf break that breaks about 300 meters off shore and reforms three or four time on the way to sand. While out in the water one afternoon I contemplated the name Old Man’s and imagined that this break was named due to conditions making it likely that it is where the older men liked to surf, as opposed to the fast and hollower waves that can be found just down the beach at Echo Beach. These days the water is full of tourists of all nationalities learning to surf.
As well as the learners on their big blue soft surfboards, there are young fit Indonesian surf instructors in the water looking after their students, like farmers hearding their sheep. It is easy to see why the surf coaches love their jobs, especially when there is so many beautiful young foreign women in bikinis that request their help. They play, laugh and joke all day, while pushing their students into wave after wave.
Whilst I was visiting the trade wind came in between nine to eleven in the morning. So I found myself surfing Old Man’s in the afternoons on the best mini mal I could find to hire, the waves were mushy but everyone was happy and getting a wave was easy.
On the black sand of the beach, supporting all these learn to surfers and afternoon grovelers like myself, is hundreds of beaten and battered surfboards in rough wooden racks ready to hire for just 50,000 IRP (roughly $5 Aussie dollars) for a session. There are stalls selling the Bali essentials; water, Bintang, coconuts … constructed with worn makeshift tarpaulin tents. Old Indonesian women roaming the beach selling their massage services as well as hundreds of cushioned deckchairs and beanbags that you can hire if you want to get off the sand.
Whether you are on the water or the beach, there is so much going on the atmosphere is addictive and I found myself going down there a few times a day to, eat, drink, surf or take photos.
Back off the beach is a gravel carpark mostly full of scooters and motorbikes and behind that is “Old Man’s” bar, the place to be once the sun goes down. It’s a welcoming pub and stands out from most of the other venues with its laid back, casual vibe, patrons coming in off the beach are greeted with free showers and surfboard racks, the beer is cheap and there is no table service, so to me it felt like home. It regularly hosts events, whether weekly parties or with guest big name acts. “Old Mans” style is free entry, no minimum spending required and taxes included. Very different to most of the other pubs!
Heading back up the street (Jallan Batu Batong) there is signs that this area, up until recently, was largely made up of terraced rice fields. There is the odd vacant lot on the main street that has flooded rice terraces but they are quickly disappearing to make room for the multiple new hotels and restaurants being built. The tone of the street is modern and very westernised, lots of great cafés, restaurants, boutique clothes stores, tattoo parlours, barber’s shops and day spas that wouldn’t look out of place in Perth.
Travelling with my wife who strictly adheres to a gluten and dairy free diet, I can attest finding somewhere to eat is difficult especially when we travel. However in Canggu there was an abundance of choice, even the raw balls and turmeric laced drinks we are accustomed to in Perth were easy to find in Canggu, just with a cheaper price tag then we were used to. It’s a great place to get away from the Perth winter without missing out on the things you love from home.
If Canggu gets a bit too easy you can also venture off the street to see some of the sights around the island, is easy to get a driver to show you around for the day for around 700,000 IRP($70 aussie dollars). Our excursions took us to the Tanah Lot temple and to the relaxing area of Ubud where tourists can enjoy the monkey forest, rice terraces and markets. It becomes clear though that you are still in Bali when every stop is packed with fellow tourists and as much as it is good to explore the island the unescapable crowds, the fees and mandatory ‘donations’ do make you feel a bit like you a worker in the Bali tourism factory. Some of my favourite photos from the trip are of fellow tourists or beautiful temples surrounded by tourists. I found myself happy to at the end of the day when I got back to Jallan Batu Batong and finished the day with a massage and a nice, cold Bintang.