For my first 10 days in Bali I hung out with one of my best friends and his fiancé (Lars and Kinsey). They had been traveling around Australia for the past year and living in a van, and this Bali trip was their last hoorah before returning home to the states. They both rock and have an awesome blog documenting their travels.
We spent the first few days in Canggu, a fun little town full of expats, young travelers, and Australian hipsters. It’s about an hour and a half north of Kuta, the most touristy part of Bali, and has a couple of pretty good reef breaks. The lineup can get crowded, and it’s a popular spot for long boarders, but we woke up at 5:30 every morning and managed to mostly beat the crowds. I’d of course always heard how amazing the Bali waves are and I wasn’t disappointed. The water is warm and the waves are beautiful and powerful. The wave in Canggu is mostly a left but rights can be had as well and there were consistent peelers in the 4-5 foot range. It’s not particularly fast but still faster than most of the beach breaks I’m used to surfing back in California.
We spent the next few days up north in Balian. It’s a really tiny town that hasn’t been developed nearly as much as the the southern end of the island; no resorts or hotels, just a handful of guesthouses. The way wave here is a little finicky with the tide but when it’s working is super fun and doesn’t need much swell to break. There’s no nightlife to speak of here but there is an amazing night market that we ate at every night we were there; chicken noodle soup (bakso ayam), goat skewers with peanut sauce (satay kambing), stuffed pancakes (martabak), fried fish, and all sorts of other delicious stuff. Indonesian food doesn’t get a great wrap but if you get outside the guesthouses and restaurants catering to foreigners you can find some really interesting and tasty stuff.
We also went exploring for surf on a couple different mornings and found a pretty fun beach break all to ourselves. The waves weren’t as good as the well known breaks but these were some the most fun sessions because it was just Lars and I, hooting and hollering and having a ball.
One thing I learned in Bali is that Balinese people love cockfighting (tajen), and it’s actually the only place in Indonesia where it’s legal because it has a place in their religion. Our Balinese friend Agung took us to check one out one day up in the mountains above above Balian. It was a Tuesday afternoon in a small mountain village but there was easily 150 people there in the makeshift arena. It was only men, though there were a few women selling food and drinks at stalls around the edges, and there is healthy gambling on every fight. There’s no ‘house’ or organized odds makers like there would be at a horse race, you just bet with other people on the crowd and everyone settles up at the end . Apparently it’s unheard of for someone to be dishonest or not settle up on a bet
Anyone can train and bring a rooster to fight, but there are a few ‘professionals’ who choose which roosters will fight and actually prepare them for the fight (this involves strapping a razor sharp talon to the back of one of their legs). One of the most interesting twists on the whole thing is that the owner of the winning rooster gets to take home the losing rooster and have it for dinner. When you eat chicken in a restaurant or grocery store it’s usually just a few months old and has been fed a lot of grain (and likely hormones) to grow quickly for slaughter. A gamecock has to train for 2-3 years before he is ready for a fight and so the meat is much different than normal chicken and is considered a delicacy in Bali. You can’t buy it at the market, the only way to get it is at the cockfight. I tried some of the soup that they make using these chickens and it’s not bad though I wasn’t nearly as excited about it as our Balinese friends. While the fights are definitely brutal this was a really awesome experience a part of Balinese culture that most tourists don’t get to see.
For Lars and Kinsey’s last few days in Bali we headed down to the Bukit, which is the surf mecca of Bali and houses most of the most famous breaks. Unfortunately the breaks are also super crowded. Our second day there a big swell came and the waves were topping out in the 8-10ft range. These were the heaviest waves I’ve ever been and it was a little too much for either of us to really have fun and get many rides. We motored to a place called Turtle Island on the other side of the island though and got some really good waves with almost no crowd.
Our last night in Uluwatu we did a some nighttime beachside cave partying, and then the next morning Lars and Kinsey flew back to the US.