Published: 28 May 2018 by: Rachel Lovelock

Discover Bali's need-to-know spots and live like a local

Bali’s creative energy and carefree spirit has long attracted artists, musicians, writers and designers of the world, making this magical little island home to a super-cool crowd. The tropical destination's full-time and part-time expat residents number an estimated 200,000, in addition to about 800,000 migrants from other Indonesian islands. 

Many describe themselves as digital nomads; many more work in the fields of tourism, export and real estate. Others have followed their hearts and passions, carving out enviable niches for themselves. And by introducing new creativity, talent and products to the Bali scene, or facilitating services and venues, they’ve given travellers more to experience than ever. Here, five of those creating a buzz in Bali share their insider secrets and local tips so that you can enjoy the best the Island of the Gods has to offer in 2018. 

Related article: Bali's 14 coolest wine-and-dine spots

Amed Kiwi singer, guitarist and songwriter, Phil Stoodley, moved to Bali in 2015 and quickly established himself as one of the top entertainers on the island, performing at venues such as Old Man’s in Canggu, Single Fin in Uluwatu, Sundara at Four Seasons Jimbaran, Alila Seminyak, and The Orchard in Seminyak.

“My favourite hangouts are Warung Dua in Umalas for its superb coffee and a great mix of local and western food; Taco Beach Grill in Seminyak is the place to go for the most innovative tacos in Bali; while The Orchard Bar is a good-old English pub with Guinness on tap, good pub grub and plenty of live music. Finally, Amed is my beachside bolthole. It’s a pretty laidback location with spectacular scenery and great for swimming.” Head to Phil Stoodley's website to check out the music video for Phil’s single ‘This is Home’, showcasing some of the attributes that entice people to this paradise.

The Beat CafeStuart Wilford moved to Bali in 1996, then founded The Beat magazine in 2000, and The Beat Café in 2017.

“While sitting in a swimming pool with a graphic-design friend, I suggested starting a gig-guide magazine. Four months later I had one called The Beat. My lifestyle took off like a rocket from day one – from a humble surfie dude to an engorged nightlife uber-lord. At that time, press was all about tourism in Bali, but we gave a voice to the other side of town – the fun side of nightlife, the underground scene, parties, DJs, live music, food, art, local youth and fashion. 

Last year, we opened The Beat Café outside the front of our office. It’s all about international street food and live music; a totally chilled space where people can feel at home. There’s nothing glitzy about it but it has a certain local soul (well, when we’re there). My other regular haunt is Jenja nightclub. It has the best music. My favourite restaurant is Ultimo; it’s an oldie but a goodie, and I find my inspiration on the beach out the front of Ku De Ta. I love walking my dogs there.” 

Pearl RestaurantWith a passion for massage and travel, American-born Susan Stein continually sought out massage experiences in the many countries she visited. When she moved to Bali, she decided to choreograph a “massage for connoisseurs”.

“My vision was to offer young men the opportunity to learn vocational skills, so I trained and built up an all-male team of expert massage practitioners and opened two Jari Menari Massage & Training Centres – in Seminyak, as well as in Nusa Dua. My favourite place to eat is Pearl Restaurant in Jl Arjuna (aka Double Six Street, Legian). It’s set in a frangipani garden and serves French-inspired dishes that are cooked to order. For sunset beers, I head to Kantina, a rustic little beach bar at Batubelig; and I never tire of the Jimbaran Beach feet-in-the-sand seafood experience.” Book in for one of Susan’s treatments at Jari Menari and Jari Menari Nusa Dua.

Purpa GalleryAn inspiring Balinese woman from Ubud, Ari Purpa moved to Seminyak when she married in 2014 and decided to open Purpa Gallery to promote and give opportunities to young up-and-coming local artists.

“My father is a self-made art connoisseur, so I grew up with art and artists in every corner of my house. I was told, ‘If you have the eyes of your father, you will do well’. However, I didn’t want to simply follow his lead; I wanted to discover new talent and believe in my own choice of artists (of whom 80% are Indonesian, including the occasional maestro. The other 20% are expats). I love pop art and traditional Balinese art, and my customers are nearly all Australian.

I used to love Ubud but now I like the Seminyak area better, especially the vibrancy of Jalan Kayu Aya (aka Oberoi Street) with its homeware stores, fashion boutiques and restaurants. I have a massage at least once a week; it’s a Balinese tradition like nowhere else and something that I have been experiencing since I was little. In Seminyak I go to Sundari Spa and Jari Menari for treatments. My escape is the Sideman Valley in East Bali. I’m still blown away by the beauty of the place.” Read more about Ari’s gallery at Purpa Gallery's website.

Lake BaturBalinese tour guide Putu Sudiarsa hails from East Bali’s Karangasem regency and lives in Sanur. Driving a convertible West-German-army- style Volkswagen Type 181, he takes visitors on personalised tours all over the island.

“I love my job because I get to meet so many people from other countries and have the opportunity to show them my beautiful island. My customers are mainly couples and families, and I can arrange multiple open-topped cars for large groups. Most want to see Bali’s wonderful rice terraces in places such as Jatiluwih, or I might take them on an exciting journey through Mount Batur’s volcanic lava fields, close to the lake.

I enjoy living in Sanur because it has a very relaxed atmosphere and a golden-sand beach to swim in. After driving all day with the wind in my hair, I like to chill out at Casablanca, which is a hole-in- the-wall bar in Sanur.” Book a tour with Putu here.

Looking for romantic Bali accommodation? Find plenty of inspiration here...

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