I’ve been asked “how is Bali” by my friends quite often since relocating here. I’ve decided to write this post instead of answering the same thing multiple times. As a late 30 something Video creator this post will appeal to expats, all type of creators, and digital nomads that intend to stay a month or longer. My lifestyle preference is for value and comfort. I booked 4 days at an airbnb and ended up staying at least a month to take footage, get some online work done, relax and experience what Bali has to offer. Is the grass greener on this island? Keep reading this super post to find answers. There is already a ton of info on Ubud so my main focus will be in Canggu Bali. Canggu is a coastal town (North Kuta) that is becoming a popular destination for surfers, and freelancers/entrepreneurs. It less touristy and less expensive than Seminyak, but that is relative to who you speak to. I heard about Bali almost every week while living in Chiang Mai Thailand for the past year. With the Chiang Mai burning season approaching I decided this was my opportunity to base myself in Canggu Bali for a month, experience it, and of course share it with you.
When to visit Bali
Chiang Mai burning often happens in Febuary to March. March also happens to be the month before the busy season and the tailend of the rainy season. Be prepared for some rain and hot and humid weather. It feels hotter than Thailand over here. The advantage of coming is you’ll have better choices for accommodation.
I also did visit Ubud in a secluded retreat on the way to the Tegallalang Rice Terrace for a couple of days. I can share some videos and things I did, but I can’t call myself an expert for this location.
After living in Chiang Mai for almost 2 years I was fearful that Bali would be too expensive for me. The truth is that after living in Chiang Mai almost anywhere is more expensive. I’ve used a lot of what I taught in my course “ How to start an Online Video Business“ to leverage Chiang Mai to build up my online business to give me an opportunity to relocate to places like Bali and other destinations. I think Chiang Mai is a great destination to start your Entrepreneurial journey and meet great people, but I believe you should stay hungry and not fall into the trap of becoming too complacent there. There are other places to live and experience, but I Chiang Mai does feel like a second or third home.
My forecasted monthly budget for everything in Bali will be around $900-1100 Us a month living quite comfortably. I’m glad that with the right information and decisions I’m projected to spend about $1000 US a month in Bali. I made some videos to answer some questions you may have on the following:
- Getting into Bali
- Tips on where to stay in Bali
- Getting around in Canggu Bali
Places to Stay & Areas – Villa Retreats of Canggu & Ubud
The first place I chose was a villa, which is known as a homestay. It is a fully furnished spacious studio room with marble flooring, large desk, good wifi, flat panel tv and air conditioner. It has a proper western style bathroom with a regular shower and rain shower head with good water pressure and hot water. There is a shared outdoor kitchen for occasional cooking and social interaction with my neighbors. There is a beautiful swimming pool just in front of the kitchen that I use for some laps and aquatic exercise. There is daily cleaning and the staff are friendly. There are 10 units so it’s a nice mix of bachelors and couple and unlike some of the othe homestays doesn’t feel too crowded. I really like the spacious balcony and the fact that the pool is literally outside my villa. It’s a nice relaxing oasis that is a 4 minute motorbike ride to Pererenan beach. Pererenan beach is one beach north of Echo beach. I’ve parked at the beach and done a 7 minute walk from Pererenan to Echo beach where my co-work space Dojo Bali is. The cost is around $375 US for the villa for the month. I stayed 4 days at an airbnb here and decided to settle here while looking around at the other options. In short this is a good life, but its a 15-20 minute motorbike ride away from the central Canggu area.
The second villa I stayed at for 5 days is in an area in Bali called Berewa. It’s a bit further from the beach and further South towards Seminyak. This area is further away from the beach, but it seems more of a trendy mature area rather than the hipster echo beach area. This villa was a bit more upscale. The swimming pool was larger and it featured a huge shared kitchen and living room area overlooking lush green rice fields. I also got to use the office upstairs, which offered similar views and fiber internet throughout the villa. My private villa was a bit smaller, but it was charming. I did hear loud noises of birds that woke me up early every morning though. I didn’t feel this place was as private. However, as I discovered this is a very central area. Many of the cafes, restaurants, and grocery stores are in this area. This would would be about $600 US a month.
Batu Balong is one of the main roads just South of Echo beach. This is where all the action is. Trendy cafes, restaurants, and attractive people. Usually I like to stay near the action, but in this case I preferred to visit. In my short time here I get the impression that its a culture of people always trying to look good and impress each other. If you can get past that it is the central area that is close to the beach. You’re probably looking closer to $1000 US for a place here.
I like villa living. It’s not as private as condo living in Thailand or Canada, but the shared kitchen design encourages social interaction. I still have to get used closing the curtains as my privacy as most of the front doors are made of glass.
Secluded meditation Villa in Ubud
I originally was looking at some airbnb’s in the Ubud city center. However I stumbled on a beautiful property pretty much at the rice terrace and picked the remote secluded option. This airbnb was located in a village between the Ubud city center and the famous Tegalalang Rice Terraces. I think this location is great for a romantic getaway, meditation retreat, or an aerial videographer. There was solid wifi while being surrounded by nature. The space was a great place to chill, mediate, work, relax, and even cook a meal.
Video Creator/ Photographer/ Creatives
As a video creator & entrepreneur I was looking for a change from the Chiang Mai scene. It’s hard not to be inspired by the available scenery of oceans, balinese architecture, rice paddies, and greenery. There is amazing scenery to shoot footage of and it’s awesome to have a system to monetize on this footage through Stock footage, which I’ve been doing full-time since 2014. If you ride a motorbike It’s breath-taking to ride your motorbike past huge green lush green rice fields.
Canggu is close to the ocean and it’s convenient to hunt beautiful sunrises and sunsets to film the the waves or surfer. On certain days the Balinese sunsets have been glorious offering vivid warm orange and red skylines. I’ve seen some photographers & videographers out to shoot the scenery. I’ve brought my Phantom 3 Pro drone with me. This trusty and reliable drone has more than paid for itself with the great footage I’ve gotten with it. There are amazing aerial video and photo opportunities of the surfers and the waves. It’s a joy to fly with you have plenty of scenery and airspace to fly. I’ve been shooting 4k and slow- motion aerials of the surfers. It’s easy to loose sight of your drone and the risk of losing your drone over the ocean. I like to use Course-lock mode to make sure I’ve comfortable controlling the drone no matter which way it’s facing. In my Travel Aerial Photography & Videography I share my knowledge being an aerial videographer for the past 4 years with Phantom drones.
I continue to find new ways to create amazing videos and photos with DJI Osmo. I picked up several new upgrades before this trip in Singapore. I’ve incorporate ND filters, purchase the Osmo stand, and purchased the 3rd party app Litchi to unlock the motion control shots. I’ve been using Osmo in Bali for Pov shots from the motorbike, slow motion shots of surfers, talking head videos, vlogs, and selfies. The osmo stand is a small upgrade, but is such a powerful upgrade. It’s essential a small tripod that fits in your bag. I think the DJI Osmo or Osmo mobile are next wave camera’s that only a company like dji would come up with. You can learn more about these camera’s and how to master them in the DJI Osmo & Osmo mobile course.
Rejuvenate your creativity
It’s very likely that Bali will fuel new creative ideas. The beautiful natural surroundings, zen-like experiences, and change of environment have inspired me to come up new business ideas that I can later incorporate later on in the year. It’s easy to create a quiet environment for yourself to allow these ideas to manifest. I’ve also created audio recordings, some of which may become a future podcast on the greghung show. Of course I wanted to get this blog post out to you.
Depending on where you stay and spend most of your time you could get away with just walking. If you’re at Echo beach there is access to your essentials that you would not need a motorbike. Motorbike really is the most common and practical option to get around. Most areas in Canggu are not well paved and it is too hot during the day to walk. You can get a motorbike for about 50,000 IDR a day or 800,000 IDR per month. Uber and Blue-bird are difficult to use once you’re actually living in Canggu due to restrictions from the local taxi company. I drove a newer 125cc Honda Spacy while in Bali. I have mixed feelings about driving a motorbike long term in Asia. It is dangerous to drive the local drivers are crazy and bigger vehicles always try to bully their way through. When it rains it isn’t fun. Still is cheap and it’s nice to have transport independence, but long term I would opt for good public transit like the Singapore MRT, comfortable walking paths, or the option to take an uber.
Eat & Drink
There are a lot of good western options for food. Most of them are concentrated in the Batu Balong road, which is near the Dojo workspace. There are other gems that are spread out across a 15- 20 minute distance. I was really surprised at the quality of the pizza and pastas. Some favorites I have include Red-salt cafe, Quinoa for breakfast, Veda for coffee and breakfast, Golden honey for pizza, and Nook for a nice dinner out with a rice field view. You can try Canggu station for groceries and bootstrap cafe for cold brew coffee. A nice feature is the Go-jek app which you can order food or even anything from the grocery store. The cheapest options are called Warungs, which offer local food that you pick out behind glass. It might feature some vegetables, rice, and curry. It will cost around $2Us and fill you up. The popular local beer is around $1.8 US and a glass of cheap wine will go for $5 US.
Fitness, Health, and Relaxation
There are enough options for you to keep fit. The beach is a great location to not only enjoy surfing, but to take a nice walk or jog from Perranan to Echo Beach. Other than the beach there are not too many safe walking trails and the weather is too hot. Most villa’s have swimming pools, which are a good choice for low impact cardio. It is also super convenient to have right outside your villa, so I recommend picking one that is long and wide enough for you to do laps. There is a good local gym with enough equipment to get the job done and it’s only 20k IDR per use. One of the perks of Bali is the Balinese massage. This is quite affordable (70 – 100k) and uses oil unlike the Thai massage. Of course surfing is one of the main draws for coming to Canggu as your could realistically live very close to the beach. The beach isn’t as nice as Phuket in Thailand, but it has good waves. There are plenty of yoga options in Cangguu and Ubud for your to try.
Internet,working, and productivity
I heard the Internet was slow and unreliable. I came to Bali with low expectations for connectivity and do more offline work like video editing. Perhaps the Internet has improved in recent years. Everyone who knows me well knows that super fast upload speeds (20mb/s and faster) are essential for video work. The Internet at the airbnb villa’s I have stayed and heard about from others have been reliable and fast enough to do some light work. You will occasionally get periods where is a brief outage on the wifi or your sim card data. If you need to do fast uploads then I would recommend the dojo cowork space at echo beach. Dojo is a beautiful and an inspiring space to work at, the desks, and chairs are good enough for all day work. There is a also a better mix of men and women unlike Chiang Mai, which is known as a sausage party. Unfortunately, most of the work space is not air conditioned, but they have plenty of fans and air conditioned rooms. It gets a little hot and busy in the afternoons. There is a cafe on-site that serves decent food and drinks and they even bring it right to your work space. There is a small kitchen that offers free cold and hot water, free coffee, and microwave. Another strong feature about dojo is there are a lot of interesting events from beers after work, workshops, and even speed dating. The price is a bit more expensive than Thailand, but it is the only co-work space in Canggu. If you seriously plan to get work done, and don’t want to be stuck at home all the time I recommend trying it. It is worth the price. I was surprised that I ended being super productive in this environment. My friend has worked at other co-workspaces on tropical islands like Koh Samui and Koh Lanta and he said they don’t compare to Dojo. I’m not an affiliate for this workspace by the way.
There are cafe/restaurants where you can take your laptop and work with scenic views. However, most will lack air conditioning and are ok for 2-3 hours worth of work. Overall, the Internet is better than expected. The speeds are not as fast as Chiang Mai or Bangkok, but for a month on this island it is not a deal breaker.
In Ubud the airbnb I stayed at had solid internet. I visited some cafes and the famous Hubud co-workspace. I only spent 2 days here, but my sense is that the Ubud city center feels crowded. Hubud itself is just before the Monkey forest and is in a busy part of Ubud. The staff were kind enough to let me take a tour of the space. Just from my walk-through I prefer Dojo over Hubud. Maybe its the whole ocean waterfront vibe that I prefer.
Nightlife and social life
As a solo traveler i’ve had to build up my social network basically from scratch. I’ve spoken and hung out with some people at my villa and the dojo co-workspace. The people are friendly and I find have more diversity in the businesses they are working on. I saw a few familiar Chiang mai faces, but it has mostly being new faces. This has been refreshing and is an indication to me that there are strong digital nomad communities outside of Chiang mai. Dojo occasionally has some social events so this has give me an opportunity to get to know some of the members. It takes time to really build up solid friends, and unfortunately I won’t be in Bali long enough to do this. I guess this is the trade off for frequent travel in an unfamiliar city.
For a nightlife guy I actually haven’t gone out a whole lot. This has been an adjustment for me. Part of it is the area I’ve stayed in and I find driving at night here to be unpleasant and dangerous. There are flies in the air, roads are narrow, and there are no lights. Adding alcohol to that mix probably is not a good idea. Many of the digital nomads are quite super focused and reserve the weekends for going out.
There are not a lot of Meetup or Facebook events that I came across in Bali. In general I think you would have to try a bit more effort and do things like attend Yoga classes or go out your way to say hi to people. Foreigners are friendly here if you make the effort first.
Bali isn’t as expensive as you think, but it is slightly more expensive than Chiang Mai. My Canadian friends have it in their heads that Bali is an exotic expensive destination. Sure it can be if you factor in the flight from North America and the choices you make in accommodation and how you spend your time. I think you could be comfortable for anywhere between $1000 – 1500 Us for a single person per month. This could offer a nice modern villa with private room and bathroom, shared kitchen, swimming pool, and about 5 minutes to the beach. Here is an idea of prices in local currency IDR
Roundtrip Airport to Canggu (Uber) 170,000
Accommodation for the month 5,000,000
50 hour workspace membership 1,000,000
Total 12,450,000 ($936 US)
Spirituality, Culture, and Meditation and Balinese New year (Nyepi)
As you experience other locations and other countries it is interesting to see the different cultures. Huge denominations of cash, nasi goreng rice, balinese massage are just scratching the surface. My impression are that the Balinese are quite friendly, but guarded. I found you need to smile first or say hello first for them to warm up. On the other hand I find the Thai’s to be very friendly and open from the start. I wanted to reserve an area for spirituality and mediation. I am not a Buddhist, but I do believe in meditation and trying to observe and experience the culture. I came to Bali expecting to do some type of digital detox. I ended up working more than expected. I ended up being around for the Balinese New Year (Nyepi). The day after there is a mandatory curfew where you cannot go out or use lights. The idea is for local Balinese to reflect on their year. I ended up taking this opportunity to light the candles, youtube meditation music, and mediate for about an hour. I think some people are fearful of being alone with their thoughts. This was a great opportunity to do my digital detox and see where I was at in my journey since beginning in 2011. Perhaps I will organize a future digital detox meditation retreat in Bali in the future.
Bali is a beautiful destination and has a lot of offer at a reasonable price compared to places like Hawaii or Australia. If you are in Asia do yourself a favor and come and try out Bali. If offers a refreshing change and beautiful natural surroundings if you need a break from concrete jungles or a good destination to reflect or recenter yourself. Bali is a big island and I’ve focused mainly on Canggu. Do your research and select the experience that you want. Canggu strikes a unique hybrid of ocean digital nomad lifestyle. I highly recommend you join Dojo Bali if you intend to stay here a month and work online. It has been the hub for where I work and meet people in Canggu. I’ve seen the power of a co-work space to be the community hub of a location moreso here than any other location so far. This is not just a space to get work done. Some people surf and work, and people are here to get stuff done. Whether you need to work online, take some great footage, or take refuge from it all Bali will be here waiting for you. I can’t see myself living here long term, but I’m sure I’ll be back. Its great to know I have another option other than Chiang Mai I could live in, have a great lifestyle, and continue to be productive or not. Bali is also a short flight away from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, which are great travel hubs.
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