Canggu Bali, Indonesia

Paul and Kate

Paul and Kate, who are around 50 years of age, moved to Bali simply because they could live a lot more cheaply and a lot better.  Paul is an IT professional who works remotely and Kate is a stay-at-home mum.  The move not only added a lot to their life socially and culturally but it was also an economic triumph. Paul’s business is thriving yet his costs have been more than halved.

Rent in Bali is more than 75 per cent lower than in Sydney, restaurant prices are about 70 per cent lower, groceries over 50 per cent lower and, critically, a beer 70 per cent lower. Link to “Cost of Living/Bali”

Paul and Kate frequently visit the Canggu Club, which is located on the coast up from Kuta Beach, and that’s where we met with them.  They do not live far from the Club and Paul works from there.  The Canggu Club is a sprawling white colonial structure that looks over immaculate playing fields.  Undercover tennis courts are off to the left, to enable the game to be played through the wet season, and a large pool area sits alongside the clubhouse.  Sun lounges, adorned with perfectly rolled blue and red striped towels, surround the pool.  Outside, there’s also a bar, restaurant and coffee areas. Large French doors, with crisply painted white frames, lead to the club’s facilities inside, including the air-conditioned gym, library and cafe.

It is pristine and it is expatriate to the bootstraps.  The club is neo-colonialist in character—testament to a lasting although mythical Raj in Bali.  It is a club for ‘yummy mummies’ swanning from the gym for a post-workout latte; for burnt-out Aussie millionaires wondering what to do with their lives; for couples disillusioned with the mundane nature of life in Australia and wanting more for themselves and their children.  And it is a club for retirees looking for a more interesting lifestyle that’s both affordable and luxurious.

The staff is predominantly Balinese and the vast majority of members are not—Australians predominate.  The children of members are treated like royalty.  They have no understanding that their privileged attitudes, particularly towards the staff, edge on the offensive.

Lobby of Canggu Club

Lobby of Canggu Club

Graham Greene’s views of Malaya under British rule could equally apply to the Canggu Club in Bali.  Greene complained of a society ‘of British clubs, of pink gins, and of little scandals waiting for a Maugham to record them’.  At one point during our conversation in the club cafe, Paul suddenly said, ‘That’s him—that’s the porn star.’  And it somehow seemed to fit.  A club like the Canggu really needed a porn star as a member to round off its expatriate character and to highlight the social fluidity of life in Bali—or at least the lifestyle of those who live in Seminyak and surrounding coastal areas.

A couple, who were recent arrivals were shocked to discover a rather active expatriate wife-swapping game on the island.  Life is easy here; staff plentiful; there is a lot of free time; perhaps too much.  This is one side of a multi-sided expatriate Bali.  But living in Bali is not all about the Canggu Club and the Western comfort and security blanket such clubs provide in the midst of a chaotic Asian country.  It suits some people.

For many, the sea-change to Bali provides a real alternative to staying in Australia or the US or Canada or the UK and watching the days pass as they have passed many times before.  It is about finding a new, exciting and fulfilling life.