Sunflowers & Surfing in Bali

What to do in Canggu:

When I set out for the beach town of Canggu, just over an hour south of Ubud on Bali’s southeastern coast, I didn’t plan to learn to surf. Actually, I didn’t plan to…plan. My whole goal was to go somewhere new with absolutely no plan at all and to say “yes” to any (reasonable) suggestion that came my way. So, when the first person that I met said, “you must learn to surf when in Canggu,” I gulped a little.

But I said yes.

Surf lessons in Canggu
Here we go!

I have written on this very blog about how I don’t love beaches and how I dropped out of scuba-diving school, so I was, naturally, a little nervous that I would be sitting here writing yet another blog post about my dubious relationship with water.

But it turns out that I love being above water! Yes, when I finally dragged my board back to land, I had to deal with sand, but it was well worth it for the feeling of gliding over the waves with my surfing instructor Luki cheering me on.

Surf lessons in Canggu
Luki and me during a break from surf lessons.

OK, let’s be honest, it was Luki who dragged my board back to the safety of the beach. He also brought my board out to the waves, held the board for me when I jumped onto it, and pushed me into the waves at just the right moment.

Without that one-on-one instruction, I would probably be sitting here typing about the two hours I spent choking on salt water. Instead, I’m typing away with arms that are still a bit sore from pushing my body into a successful standing position on top of the long and low waves in front of Charlie Brown Bali Surf School.

Batu Bolong Beach, Canggu
Surfers at Batu Bolong Beach, just down the beach from where I learned to surf.

I mean, I was a bit wobbly and I performed my fair share of nose dives, but that’s just part of surfing.

Surfing is really a lesson in resilience. Even when you catch a wave just right, you’re going to fall at the end. It’s all about accepting that nine times out of ten, you’re going to fail, but knowing that it’s all worth it for that one time in ten that you literally walk on water.

Charlie Brown Surf School, Canggu
The guys at Charlie Brown Surf School jamming before hitting the waves.

And there is nothing better than relaxing tired limbs while watching the sunset over waves that you feel like you know.

When Rosé Saves the Day

The next day, after a much-needed yoga session to stretch my aching muscles, I set out for Seminyak, a beach town that is a big brother, of sorts, to the smaller Canggu.

Getting around this part of Bali without a scooter is a bit of a challenge. While I’ve gotten perfectly comfortable hopping on the back of a scooter, I’m not quite ready to drive one yet (given that I just learned how to ride a bike and all!)

There are signs posted all over Canggu banning ride-hailing apps like Grab and Go-Jek (the Asian equivalents to Uber and Lyft) and even Blue Bird Taxis.

Ride services are banned throughout Bali
It’s generally cheap to get around Bali, but a bit confusing.

The result is a confusing jumble of legal taxi “stands” in which men will find a scooter or car for you after a bit of haggling. Though scams abound, this system tends to work well enough most of the time, but I simply prefer the ease of an app and the upfront rate (that tends to be cheaper anyway).

The man at the reception desk at the Sedasa Lodge understood my plight and knew how to order me a scooter to a legal pickup point. (The night before, the restaurant server at the Sedasa had actually just driven me on the back of her own scooter when I couldn’t find a ride.)

Go-Jek Driver
My Go-Jek driver brought me a helmet and everything!

This time, my Go-Jek driver showed up in no time and, for less than $1 USD, we were standing in front of the Motel Mexicola in Seminyak, the famed Mexican restaurant recommended by a well-traveled friend of mine.

I was all ready to order a margarita on the rocks when the restaurant hostess informed me that my reusable water bottle was not allowed inside. Given that I recently pledged to go without plastic water bottles, this presented something of a challenge for me. And, besides, what the Hell is that?

Luckily, I looked to my left and…

This will do.

…problem solved.

The Rose Social in Bali
The Rosé Social saved the day!

Fueled up on vegetables and rosé rather than fajitas and margaritas, I took a stroll through Seminyak, ducking in and out of the endless shops that line the streets. I stopped at one of the many bars filled with Westerners drinking champagne and Bintang and decided that I missed the quiet, artsy vibe of Canggu.

This was confirmed when I went to the bathroom and found that it too had been converted into a shop. Women were asked to navigate through a maze of on-sale lingerie to get to the toilet. That was it. I hailed a metered taxi at five times the cost to get back to Canggu in time for sunset.

Sunset & Sunflowers

This is better!

Back at the beach, I found the Sand Bar setting up for a musical open-mic night. While the sun was setting, musicians from all over the world borrowed a guitar and played with the band. This was much more my jam.

When my pre-arranged driver messaged to say that he was on his way to pick me up and take me “home” to Ubud, I went back to pick up my stuff stashed at the Sedasa.

There I found the sweetest of surprises. Maha, the server who had driven me on her scooter, and another Sedasa staff member, Novi, had a bunch of sunflowers waiting for me.

Sunflowers in Canggu
A small gesture sometimes means so much.

There was no way for these two sweet women to know that sunflowers serve as a guiding sign for me.

Maha and Novi at Sedasa Lodge in Canggu.

I rode back to Ubud smiling.

Thinking of traveling to Canggu, Bali? Save this for later!

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