Nusa Lembongan finally offered the peaceful sanctuary I was looking for. Just a short boat trip away from the hustle and bustle of Bali's mainland, Lembongan feels like what Bali must have once been like: untouched, overgrown, rural and incredibly peaceful. It was fairly uncrowded and some parts of the island felt almost undiscovered (which they of course aren't, but one can pretend right). The waves were super consistent and playful and every now and then we snuck in a surf with only three others out. I both surfed and read excessively and snapped some of these pics in between.
I have little to say about this time in Bingin, other than that I enjoyed the landscape, the food and scooting about much more than the overcrowded surf. You should definitely stay at Mertasari Bingin and have your portrait painted by Eggman (he works at Mertasari) or at the very least buy a painting from him. They are beautiful and he sells them for a pittance.
By the time we arrived in Canggu, our first stop in Bali, we were already down one passport and one laptop (which later turned out to shape our trip significantly though not without teaching us some valuable lessons). After spending the first night and day trying to keep panic at bay, we resolved not to let the issue take over our trip and do our best to enjoy the tranquil surf destination that is Canggu.
Canggu is a magical place complete with rice paddies, trendy eateries, black sand beaches, palm trees, Balinese architecture, delicious food and stylish little boutiques. I was immensely impressed by the fact that even though this once rural area has become fairly developed thanks to foreign investment, all the architecture (even that of the hotels) is humble, beautiful and built in the Balinese style. Despite the throngs of tourists that pass through Canggu, the little village remains strangely calm, as though it is at peace with the fact that it is overrun with tourists. I would assign this, firstly, to the fact that many expats (who are by definition less wild than tourists) call Canggu their home. Secondly, the breed of tourist in Canggu seemed to be more refined than those that get sucked into, say, Kuta which makes for an overall more relaxing atmosphere.
In terms of surfing, on the other hand, Canggu is a bit of a dog show. You'll be hard-pressed getting waves at any time of the day, not because there aren't any, but because you're competing with fifty other people for the same waves. This is not to say that I didn't get any waves, but I had to fight tooth and nail (sometimes also tongue) for them and ended up being more emotionally than physically drained after my surfs, which is not what surfing is about for me.
Luckily for me, I have a wide range of interests beyond surfing (read clothing, all kinds of). Canggu and Seminyak are littered with beautiful little boutiques, some of which are foreign-owned (mostly Australian), others of which are local (the textile and clothing industry in Indonesia is on the rise again). A lot of them have weird, non-descript clothing that doesn't really have a specific target, but some stock truly amazing clothing (not to mention swimwear) that could be from anywhere in the world (with a Balinese twist of course).
Canggu is also home to the famous Deus Ex Machina, a brand expertly built around single fins and motorbikes, with several clothing stores in Seminyak and a restaurant/bike-building/surf "temple" in Canggu. The brand's social media and graphic design is so good that we were a little underwhelmed by its physical presence: the clothing was over-priced/boring and the restaurant/bar wasn't as packed as we expected it to be (I guess that's what social media is all about right- selling something intangible that only really exists in your mind). Below are
Accommodation: We stayed at Echoland (beautifully designed backpackers with air-con, pool, amazing rooftop and optional breakfast, 150 rupiah/night per bed) and Ketapang (locally-owned, clean with air-con, free drinking water and if you're coming with friends you can pay as little as 75 rupiah/night)
Surfing: The main break in Canggu is Echo beach which is a super fun, punchy left beach break. There's another wave to the left of it which was in my experience pretty flat, and then further the the left is Batu Bolong. To the right of Echo Beach is Berawa which I never surfed.
Shopping: For shopping Seminyak is the best, but there are some stores around Echo Beach - look out for the Beach Store which has some of the best bikinis. Seminyak is full of little gems, all you need to do is differentiate between over-priced garbage (prices seem to be targeted mostly at Australians), amazing deals and highly-priced but sublime treasures.
Food: Deus Bali, Crate, Betelnut Cafe... there are plenty of nice food spots, both Western and Indonesian in Jl Pantai Batu Bolong, as well as on the way to Seminyak and well...pretty much everywhere! The local spots definitely also need to be explored.
For the past 10 or so days I've found myself in Singapore and to be honest I thoroughly enjoyed this time out from surfing. Singapore is an exciting place, mostly in that it is so different from South Africa. For one, the rampant, limitless consumerism is jaw-dropping. There are malls upon malls in this place and the excess of food, clothing, household appliances is mind-boggling. With new malls popping up everywhere, it is almost like Singapore has taken the pop-up store trend to a whole new level. On the other hand, there are still some clues of what Singapore must have once looked like. In between all the buildings there are still patches of sweating, sweltering jungle and once you get deeper into it, you can almost feel how terrifying it must have been to discover this place.
Off the top of my head these are some of the things that you should try to do while you are there:
1. Explore the malls. There is something for everyone and they are one of the bigger attractions in Singapore so you just have to. Start with Orchard Street and 313 on Somerset. Once you feel you're ready to take on something bigger go to Mustafas in Little India. It will blow your mind.
2. Take a ferry to Pulau Ubin, hire a bicycle and spend a day cruising around the island. This island is a part of Singapore, but nothing like it. It's fairly deserted, the vegetation is still pretty raw and is feels like time stands still there.
3. Go for the local food. Don't make the mistake of trying to order western food. Anywhere. Ever. The local food is diverse and excellent and western food is generally done pretty badly. I'm a really big fan of Yong Tao Foo which is a soup with veggies and different seafoods and tofus. It's delicious. You can get any Malaysian, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, Indonesian food and I'm probably missing quite a few.
4. Explore Little India and China town. Also visit Arab street which is apparently quite trendy.
5. Explore the local music scene. There is a lot happening in terms of Singaporean music and a lot of money and effort is poured into promoting it. I met Stefan who founded GigOut which is a super cool free app that tells you what gigs are happening when in Asia. You should download it.
6. Get some locals to teach you Singlish. It's super funny!
7. Go to the Botanical Garden - plant and flower paradise!
Here are some of the photographs I took - forgive some "mistakes" in the images I am still learning to handle my new camera. My next stop is Indonesia and I am very much looking forward to getting into the water!
The night before I leave on a surf trip I always get butterflies in stomach in anticipation of the waves I might score and mostly I keep myself occupied for the entire night because I can't sleep. This trip was no different and the waves delivered and all was well.
Victoria Bay is a small haven of unspoilt beauty on the east coast of South Africa with just one modest street of houses and two camping sites nestled slightly higher on the mountain. It's pretty much the perfect destination for a surf trip: the camp site is cheap, it has a magical view on the bay and is about a one minute walk away from the wave. The water is warm and sharks are scarce. The wave is a gentle point break that is super consistent and mostly uncrowded during the week. Somehow this little village escaped the J-Bay hype, most probably because the wave isn't quite as good (but good enough for me any day!) On the odd chance that there is no wave, there are several other spots nearby that pick up even more swell.
After the second day and far too many hours of surfing we were surfed out and visited the skatepark in George, a small town near Vic Bay. As you will see below, my cousin Sam kills it at skating - a real pleasure to photograph. The following day we took a beautiful walk along the railway tracks to visit a friend of my aunt's that lives in a cave (if you plan on visiting him, bring a donation!). Below is a random collection of photos I took on the way. I recommend you go to Vic Bay as much as possible before it gets more popular, which it undoubtedly will!