The moment I arrived in Bali, my head was on a swivel. The sheer number of scooters weaving in and out of lanes, and many times making their own lanes, was a spectacle. Dogs, children, surfboards, pottery and building materials were all catching a ride as well! The roads are congested, narrow and dotted with temples, upscale interior design shops, cafes, and warungs, or stalls, housing small family businesses.
Every drive in Bali takes longer than you expect due to traffic. The drive to Canggu (pronounced ‘Chan-goo’) was no different. The road narrows to one lane once you leave Denpasar. I arrived after the sun had set, but could already see that Canggu was awash with tourists. The patrons were mainly Aussie and British. The Balinese were on scooters, and in service roles. And ‘local’ meant ex-pats rather than Balinese.
I was so happy to have signed onto Hannah’s plans, booking the same hotel that she did. I’d done no real logistics except to read the events on the wedding website. I did know there was a welcome night at Luiggi’s Hot Pizza so I quickly showered, and started my walk down the road. There was no sidewalk. The rate of scooter drivers who offered to taxi me was about one per minute and this was a ten minute walk. I was astonished at how close they would pull up beside me, and relieved at how accepting the drivers were of my consistent ‘no thank yous’. I could hear Luiggi’s before I could see it. The music blaring, and the yelling-over-music-type-conversations could be heard half a block away. Clearly, the number of people inside was way over capacity, and there was still a line out the door! I made the quickest, soberest decision ever and returned to my hotel to rest up.
I ran barefoot on the beach the next morning. Surf schools pack onto the beach, along with small bits of trash at the shoreline. I saw a washed up blowfish, and bits of dog poop, too. The wind felt nice though, and for me, it’s always refreshing to be somewhere new.
The cafes were filled with tourists and ex-pats working remotely on laptops. Though I’d have preferred to bend towards Balinese fare, the restaurants with more Western options didn’t disappoint. Hannah, Chris and I ate at Milk and Madu for brunch. I was very well hydrated with my water, chai, watermelon juice and turmeric ginger shot. In Canggu, the wellbeing ‘craze’ or ‘community’ is in full force with juices, quinoa, yogurt bowls, and raw protein balls aplenty. But I hear it’s not even close to the wellbeing culture in Ubud (the Eat, Pray, Love location).
Hannah and I took a walk after brunch, looking into small shops and finding more lushly decorated smoothie shops. We picked up a ‘tropical sunshine’ before heading to the beach. We sought shade in the shadow of a small boat on the sand, and watched windsurfers launch into the surf with their parachutes. After catching up for most of the afternoon, she went for a swim, and I went to meet Zoe on a rooftop bar where she was doing some wedding admin. I was introduced to some of her oldest childhood friends over spicy margaritas, Bintang beers and a sunset. It was nice to spend some time with the bride before the true festivities would start in just 24 hours. We met Freddie and his mates for some more Bintangs on the beach, and ended up sharing nasi gorang and tuna steaks at a restaurant around the corner. I ended the night with Hannah and Chris, chatting away on their balcony in a cool breeze.
Wednesday was a half day in Canggu. We ate at Penny Lane, a musical themed restaurant with an idyllic atmosphere. I also had the best breakfast sandwich ever, complete with a hashbrown, egg, bacon and a beef patty! I quizzed Hannah on the musicians looking over us during our meal, and then we returned to pack up and wait for our driver.
Bali Beach Glamp-site did not disappoint. The tents were kitted with huge beds, bench-swings, and impressive air-con. The first stop was the infinity pool with Bintangs. The second was checking out the ‘hammocks’ during sunset- a contraption of nets built off the side of the restaurant to look out on the beach. We reserved the BBQ dinner, which we didn’t know would be an exclusive table with lanterns glowing overhead. I met Bella and Chris, more friends of the groom, and we talked and ate into the evening. The mahimahi was delicious as was the nasi gorang and onion, ginger, pepper condiment that I have to learn more about (I looked it up: sambal matah). We all went to bed too full and very happy.
Thursday, I ran the short stretch of beach at the glamp-site. The glamp-site and wedding villa really were the only things developed on the beach front so far. The run was short but enough to see that glamp-site would likely have neighbors in the next 5-10 years, and the rice fields could likely become obsolete. But for now, I inhaled the lack of crowds and fresh air. The morning swim at the pool was followed by a game of giant Jenga! I lunched with Zoe’s school mates, two of whom were moms who had left their kids at home, too. We hugged hard.
The best part of this day was the wedding of course! The long flowing dresses, the gorgeous villa just a five minute walk, and seeing Zoe and Freddie’s big day finally unfold! All forty-seven guests were abuzz knowing they had waited three years for this day. Zoe looked stunning. The ceremony reminded me of the gift I have in my partner. And then it was all lychee martinis and canapés to set us up for the rest of the evening. I got to hang out with Zoe’s mom during happy hour. I loved the personal touch of the cards for each guest at our place-settings, complete with a limerick and personal message. I teared up reading mine, and smiled at the fun Zoe and Freddie must have had creating these personalized thank you cards. They spoke as a couple during their speech before the roasting and toasting began.
Zoe and Freddie warmed up the dance floor with spins and dips, and then it was a full on rave! There was a dry ice/fire extinguisher type gadget that billowed cool air at our feet, and sometimes our faces depending on who was at the helm. The drinks overflowed, and the rain stayed away. We were all a sweaty mess but everyone kept dancing with Zoe leading the charge! I only made it to 1am when the first rounds of pizza came out. The stories the next morning highlighted that the party went on until 4am, complete with a jump in the pool.
Friday, everyone’s movements were a bit slower but we were still in a celebratory mood. Zoe and Freddie hosted a pool-side BBQ where they’d been swimming only hours earlier just before dawn. I spent my last couple of hours swimming and chatting with a couple just engaged and another set to be married on 9th July. I felt gratitude for the many years Corey and I have shared together. Seeing couples towards the start of their journey made me realize how much we’ve learnt together and what we’ve experienced as a couple. The newness in their journeys was refreshing and made me reflective. It wasn’t lost on me that the time away was needed. To make time for myself with Corey’s support brightened my appreciation for our little team. The only thing I wanted now though was to hug my girls, and share all the adventures with Corey on our couch.
A big congratulations to Zoe and Freddie. Thank you for letting me be part of your special day, and for planning my first ever solo holiday. You did it!