The tropical island of Bali is not generally known for its street art, especially in comparison with other Indonesian regions like Yogyakarta. Balinese culture, of course, has historically placed a high value on the arts, being home to a plethora of unique painting styles, not to mention wood carving, dance and music traditions. Some artists participating in Bali's small yet burgeoning graffiti scene are hoping that street art can one day be an active part of Bali's rich creative heritage. As evidenced by some of the murals in places like Canggu, the talent is certainly there.
Just north of Kuta on Bali's western coast, Canggu has long been regarded as not much more than a sleepy surf town. While the area is still popular with surfers, more and more tourists and Indonesians alike have been flocking to Canggu in recent years, as 'hip' new cafes and bars are opening up seemingly everywhere. The popularity of Canggu among the hipster crowd has even lead to its nickname as the 'Balinese Williamsburg.'
After my brief experience in the town, I'd say that Canggu's nickname is pretty fitting - either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your opinion of Williamsburg!
Though I didn't base myself in Canggu, I was intrigued after hearing about its growing street art scene and knew I had to make a trip there during my time in Bali. I ended up seeing some fantastic pieces of work that made my journey across the island well worth the visit.
As is always going to be the case with street art, any of the pieces pictured below could vanish or be replaced at any moment. And it's likely that a number of them already have. Accordingly, plenty of fresh new pieces have likely already popped up that I've missed. But that's what makes hunting for and documenting street art so much fun. Two street art scavengers are unlikely to ever come across the exact same pieces.
When hunting for street art in Canggu, there's no better place to start than ALLCAPS. Established just recently in 2016, ALLCAPS is now where graffiti artists from all over the island go to buy supplies. But that's not all. ALLCAPS itself is where you can find some of Bali's most stunning murals.
Around the corner from the store are a number of local factories, the walls of which are completely covered in art. This massive concrete area is run by ALLCAPS, with all the artwork having been done with the blessing of the building owners. The space is also used as a place for parties, children's graffiti workshops and other events which help promote street art culture in Canggu.
During my visit I happened to meet the store's owner Julien, who provided me with helpful advice on where else in town I could find street art. Though I'd done some research in advance, his generous advice really came in handy.
While I was there, the interior of the store also featured a "regular" art exhibit featuring works by a local painter, showing how ALLCAPS is hoping to bridge the gap between the urban street art scene and the more established gallery scene in Bali. I was also happy to find a nice little collection of T-shirts for sale.
ALLCAPS gallery also happens to be one of the main organizers of an annual street art event called Tropica Festival. Held in July, the festival is an attempt to promote urban art in Bali, inviting prominent artists from around the world to gather and create together in Canggu.
Mural by Awshit
Gg. Nyepi Area
From ALLCAPS, head west on Jl. Raya Canggu and then turn left onto Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong, heading south. Eventually you'll get to a street called Gg. Nyepi. That street, Jl. Batu Mejan and Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong for a triangle, inside of which you'll find a parking lot. From the parking lot you'll be able to see a few murals, along with one of Canggu's more iconic pieces of art.
On the Way to Batu Bolong Beach
Next, head southwest on Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong and make a left onto Jl. Lkr. Nelayan. You'll find plenty of good stuff on this street itself as well as on many of the nearby side streets, so don't hesitate to head off the beaten path. Just be careful, though, as some of the art is being safeguarded by a local bull!
Around Batu Bolong Beach
Eventually you'll want to head over to Batu Bolong Beach, but not to the more busy area. Get to the beach via Jl. Nelayan. Turn left, and you'll find countless murals painted over the abandoned shacks. It goes on for quite a while. Just when you think it's over, you'll keep on finding more!
While I got to see a lot during my day trip to the area, I still left with the feeling that there was much more waiting to be discovered. After all, a lot of the best murals in Canggu can be found in some of the most unassuming places.
If you have more time to spend in Canggu, there's also supposed to be some good street art around the Echo Beach and Berawa Beach areas. This includes not just the beaches themselves but the roads and alleyways leading up to them.
And if you're interested in finding even more astonishing murals, then you really can't miss a trip to Taman Festival, the abandoned theme park on the opposite side of the island!
I didn't stay overnight in Canggu, although I was considering it before my trip to Bali. After visiting the area, though, I'm happy with my decision to stay in Ubud instead. Aside from the awesome street art, the overall vibe of Canggu is not really to my liking.
But that's just me. Some people love the place, and as it gets more popular, more and more accommodation options are popping up. Take a look at some of these deals below:
You don't have to base yourself in Canggu in order to explore its street art for a day. I stayed at a place called Kenari House in the outskirts of Ubud which I would highly recommend. It's located in between the town center and the eastern suburb of Bedulu, home to the Goa Gajah caves.
Kenari House features private rooms inside of a family compound, so you can enjoy your privacy while also getting a glimpse of local Balinese family life. You can also eat a delicious breakfast each morning while looking out at a fantastic view of the local rice paddies.
The places mentioned in this article are pretty spread out, so you'll want to have some kind of vehicle. The most affordable option would be to rent a motorbike. Luckily, the Canggu area is much more tame traffic-wise than other parts of Bali. But in any case, be sure to wear a helmet and pay close attention.
If you're staying in another part of Bali, you can hire a driver for the day for around $40 USD. He should be able to take you anywhere you want to go on the island, including a bunch of street murals if that's what you ask. If you don't want to stay in Canggu then it's fairly easy to head on to some sightseeing spots like Uluwatu afterward.
Ridesharing might not be a good idea, as its outright banned in certain parts of the island, especially in the Ubud area. You should be able to get a ride to Canggu from another town in southern Bali using GoJek, Grab or Uber, though.
Bali only has one airport, which is located in the capital and largest city of Denpasar. The best way to reach your accommodation in Ubud from the airport would be via taxi, which can be arranged for around Rp. 300,000 or even a little bit less. Your hotel or host will likely be able to send a driver to meet you at the airport, which can save some of the hassle of trying to negotiate after a long flight. Expect the drive to take roughly an hour.
The most common way to reach Bali is by plane. The Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar is very well connected. You can find direct flights from all over Indonesia, in addition to plenty of international cities throughout Asia and even Europe.