Guide to Bali – (North)

Digital Nomads Guide Bali – Diary notes:

Digital Nomads guide Bali is another quick start resource to help you find places you can trust at affordable prices.

Among the small group of travellers I have met on this trip so far, I have become famous for leaving things in bars. This is nothing new. Ask anyone who has spent time with me at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, or any of the smaller fringes around the UK. I am constantly stopping dead in my tracks and then sprinting off in a panic.

At the North Devon fringe, I left my laptop, (and therefore my show), in bars no less than three times. In Edinburgh, I arrived at my venue with twenty minutes to prepare for my show, only to realise I had left my freshly dry cleaned clothes, and laptop bag at the other end of Cowgate. This forgetfulness is one of my more frustrating traits. I try not to get too stressed about the situations I cause myself. When stressed, opportunities are easily missed.

Chance meetings are all part of the travelling experience

While in Pai, I had met with a young man from Munich called Fernando. He was staying in the complex next to mine, and we had a connecting moment in the Jazz House. I met him again in Art Of Chai, and we spoke for a long time. With shared interests in music production, philosophies and shared birth date, we got on well.

My last night in Pai was spent enjoying a rare gin session with Fernando, and we met again for breakfast. Feeling ropey, and not looking forward to the 781 curves between Pai and Chiang Mai, I bid my new friend farewell and jumped into the minibus. We were ten minutes into the journey when Fernando WhatsApp’ed me a picture of my water bottle, and its carpetbag hanging on the cafe chair. Three hours with no water, and a hangover is bad enough, let alone losing yet another expensive water bottle.

I recognise that man!

Fast forward to Gili Air, three weeks later. I am sat on the beach with Lucy, and who should stride up to us with a beaming smile, and my water bottle?

Fernando and I have had time to hang out a lot more on Gili Air. Lucy has returned to work, and I am starting to feel restless, so we discuss travelling together for a week or so. He is up for seeing North Bali, and I am keen to see if the North will inspire more than the South. We head to see Hassan at Coco Loco Resto and purchase two fast boat tickets to Amed.

Digital Nomads Guide Bali-travel tip

The sea crossing from Gili Air to Amed can be a bit choppy, so if you are thinking of taking the “Freebird Express” be prepared. We arrived safely if a little shaken. The ferry pulls right up onto the sand at Amed. Taxi drivers and merchants swarm around us new arrivals creating the now-familiar mele of touting. Booking any fast boat will automatically guarantee you a free taxi ride. Aware of this, we stride confidently through the crowd of eager drivers. Sure enough, our private minibus is waiting in the car park for us. Within fifteen minutes we arrive at our first destination.

What Digital Nomads can expect in North Bali

The North of Bali could not be any more different to the South. This side of the island is a mixture of lush jungle, panoramic views, acres of rice paddies and endless temples. Indonesian architecture is a beautiful sight to behold. The temples are straight out of a DMT trip; geometric, digital and awe-inspiring. The architecture takes me straight back to the Animatrix series of short films. I find it easy to imagine we are in some futuristic alien landscape.

One impressive feature of these incredible temple buildings is the gate. Each column is a mirror image of the other, creating a beautiful entrance which looks just like a portal.

A beautiful Indonesian Temple Gate

Indonesia is one of those countries where you feel a connection to the ethereal. Where you can peek behind the veil, and see more than the reality in which we reside.

Indonesia is famed for its warm and welcoming people

The other thing you can expect in North Bali is the warmth and empathy of the indigenous people. I have heard a lot of more experienced travellers saying that some countries have become less friendly and locals more distant. Seeing how some tourists behave, I can completely understand why.

There is an ever-growing need for responsible tourism. Not just ecologically but socially too. The effect of irresponsible tourism is a subject that has been discussed many times on this trip.

Digital Nomads guide Bali-where to stay

The Anuragah Villas Hotel is a family run business. The staff are all very attentive, and Putu, the owner, will happily arrange to drive you to any places of interest, or your next stop. The hotel itself sprawls over three levels. At the very top is a terrace cafe with fantastic views over the coast and the hills behind the hotel. I paid a little over £9.00GBP for a double room, with four-poster bed, private bathroom, terrace and air conditioning. The rate included a modest breakfast. Superb value for money, and if you are holidaying rather than travelling, then this would make a great base.

 

Amed has a busy little beach area, several bars and restaurants and it seems to be a hot spot for scuba diving. As soon as we land, I can feel that this side of Bali is nothing like the South. It has stunning views, very few crowds of tourists and lots of little Warungs. Bali, it seems, is all about the North.

 

Amed is the perfect spot for divers and explorers

We stay for two nights in Amed, relaxing in the pool, walking to nearby restaurants and down to the beach. The North has a rugged coastline, so expect to put in some effort. The hills can be quite steep. You will be rewarded with a beautiful coastline and clear blue waters. The food is excellent value, and typically Indonesian.

Mopeds are available if you need to get further afield. Fernando hired a bike from Anugerah villas with no issues and had a ride up to the top of the range of hills behind the hotel. They are stunning by all accounts. I opted to chill out. Riding on Bali can be hair raising. Chiang Mai was less daunting!

Bali North can claim the strangest thing I saw on a moped in Asia, which is no mean feat in itself. Imagine a small 125cc step through with mum and three kids, (nothing unusual so far); and a seven-foot swordfish strapped to the rear, complete with sword. 

Digital Nomads Guide Bali-Must see: Tirta Gangga and the water temple

Our next hop is to Tirta Gangga. Putu kindly drives us two hours to Puri Sawah bungalows for a modest fee. Tinta Gangga shows off Bali at its best. Puri Sawah Bungalows is owned by English Ex-pat Liz and her Balinese husband. The place is very rustic, having been owned by the family for around 30 years. Liz explains how her daughter, (an architect) is re-designing the restaurant and villas. I hope they retain the quirkiness, and basic feel as the bungalows are charming if a little dated. Staying in the budget room means cold water only. I am entirely okay with that. If you need a bit of luxury, then go for the “superior” room.

These are budget rooms. Don’t expect five-star accommodation. The beds are comfortable, the rooms are clean, and the view is astounding. Each of the bungalows looks over rice paddy fields. The paddies rise up towards the foothills of Mount Agun which rises ominously in the distance. Agun is an active volcano, which smokes during our stay. The prospect of an eruption added an exciting edge to an already inspiring place.

I have seen a bunch of negative reviews for Puri Sawah. I can only assume these people were expecting a five-star service from a budget cost homestay. A general tip for reviewing, don’t just slate a place and give it one star, explain what you expected, and why it failed to deliver that. At least the reader can see whether you have a genuine complaint, or if you just booked the wrong kind of accommodation. I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this place. I want to return and write a novel here. It is perfect.

Bali North is an entirely different experience to the South

Tirta Gangga changed my entire perception of Bali. It is magical. The people are lovely, and the surrounding countryside is some of the best I have seen throughout this journey. The local Warung is affordable and offers a laundry service. The infamous, soon to be Instagram famous Tirta Gangga water temple is a place of wonder. You can feed the giant carp, swim in the volcanic waters and stand in the sacred courtyard at the top of the gardens. There you will find some incredible statues.

The feeling that this place is still alive with very spiritual energy is overwhelming. Look out over the jungle to the left, and the rice paddies to the right and breath it in deeply. Please go and see this place before the recent rush of Instagrammers sends the investors running to turn it into another overpriced resort.

Thankfully a genuine man with a kind heart may have foreseen this issue. I won’t name him as I have not had permission. Suffice to say he bought all of the lands around the water temple many years ago. His sole aim was to stop development and protect the place. We need more people like him in this world.

Gilimanuk Ferry will take you to Java for less than a fiver!

After three days at Tirta Gangga, it is time to move on again. We opt to split the journey to the Gilimanuk ferry port in West Bali into two. We find a beautiful looking place on Agoda which sits on the beach, about halfway between Tirta Gangga and Gilimanuk ferry port.

Liz arranges transport with her husband, who drives us two and a half hours to the next villa. The Indonesian people are so kind. We spend the time chatting with him about his life on Bali, his family and all of the places of interest we pass along the way. I am so looking forward to seeing them again.

Digital Nomads Guide Bali- Top stay

Villa Aditya sits adjacent to the beach at Tejakula. Tejakula is a weirdly linear place, as all of the shops, businesses and hotels line the main coastal road which circumnavigates the island. The layout makes for a couple of long walks as we explore the area. Agoda offered up Villa Aditya at just £14.00 a night. The rooms are well-appointed. I have a king-size bed, air conditioning, private terrace and open-air bathroom. Each room has a kitchenette and personal water fountain. You cannot beat this kind of deal.

The villas sit in dense coconut groves offering a swimming pool and yoga terrace. Breakfast is included, but we choose to eat at the nearby Warung Seni for evening meals. Aditya is seriously chilled. I can get some writing done, meditate and begin recovering from a nasty ear infection. (If you go swimming in Tirta Gangga volcanic pools, wear earplugs)! Things are so relaxed; we opt to book an extra night as neither of us is ready to leave.

Villa Aditya is relatively remote. This place is ideal if you want to crack on with a complex project, tear into some fiction writing, or any creative work that requires peace. If you don’t like roosters, then north Bali is not going to be fun for you. Villa Aditya seems to have a high population of them, and they regularly let you know they are here. I like having them as part of the audio backdrop, but fair warning, they are relentless.

Digital Nomads guide Bali-where to eat.

One big reason for visiting the North is the Bali Asli Restaurant. Owned by Australian Chef Penny, and her business partner, the Bali Asli has to be the best restaurant I have ever visited. Around thirty minutes from Tirta Gangaby vehicle, the Bali Asli offers a lunchtime menu of Indonesian inspired food. If you are feeling brave, then you can walk across the paddy fields. Fernando and I did just that. It took two hours, but it was one of the highlights of this trip. The look on the faces of the locals as two western men dressed in hippy clothes, and with me wearing flip flops, was priceless.

We found ourselves in a few tight spots and had to wade in the knee-deep drainage channels more than once. On the subject of footwear; don’t wear flip flops. Mine broke, and I had to walk for an hour barefooted. Expect to get a bit wet, and very hot. Don’t let this put you off, because it was a fantastic afternoon. Thankfully I had some Elastoplast tape in my bag, so once we were on normal roads again, I taped the sole of my flip flop to my foot. Ingenious, I know.

A two-hour hike across the Paddy fields works up an appetite.

Explore the Warungs, markets and smaller villages.

As for the restaurant, the food is incredible. If you have read my earlier blogs, then you will have read about Cempedak. Penny is the consultant chef for the menu on the luxury island, and her restaurant was the main reason for heading to the North of Bali.

I am so glad we did. The building itself rests in the hills east of Agun, which dominates the view from the terrace. Penny offers a day-long Indonesian cooking workshop and a street food tour which is well worth doing too.

Bali Asli is a bucket list experience in terms of food and location. Go. Aside from Bali Asli, Warung Seni and the many street vendors are a must

 

 

DigitalNomads Guide Bali– Summary

North Bali made an impact.

I look forward to returning. Next time I will make sure I get a tourist SIM card on arrival. I struggled with the internet throughout the whole of my Indonesian experience, and there was no need. A tourist SIM offers the best WiFi you can get in most places.

I plan to spend a month here at some point. There is so much to see and do, especially if you like hiking, water sports or merely riding a scooter around. The people are beautiful, and the food is exquisite. Bali is a destination for the adventurous Digital Nomad. One who wants to balance work with activities. I will return to write a book. Puri Sawah will be my first stop.

Jumpa Lagi Bali North