The “Creative Hub” of Bali

Bali, known for its tropical lifestyle, surfing, hair braiding and cheap beer, is now becoming one of the ‘it’ places for creative types such as designers, photographers, and models to get together and, well… create. Not only is this tropical ‘Island of the Gods’ luring the Gen X’s and Y’s for a getaway, there seems to be a growing expat community of creatives congregating over coconuts and Nasi Goreng.

Bali is becoming a place where these young entrepreneurial types can bring their dreams to life in relatively short succession, adding a pinch of Bali time and they have the perfect work/play balance. Those who have made the move to Bali or are involved with Bali work-wise, seem to have the same opinion of the lush island: ‘paradise’. It is this sense of paradise, living like a king and escaping the daily grind of big city life, that is luring in the artistic folk.

The Bikini Designer

Designer of Balini Bikini, Noni Janur is just one of many designers living and working on the island. Noni explains that Bali is a place that is “seemingly casual, though simultaneously so intricate. It creates a suspension in the mind, a space for creativity to flow in new and interesting ways.”

Wandering around Bali it is not hard to imagine yourself living here and wanting to be apart of the enriched culture and laidback lifestyle. Noni, along with many other creative souls, lives in South Bali, with 2 friends in a private villa, complete with plunge pool and maid. The lifestyle creates “a lot of downtime”, self-reflection, and time to socialize and meet new people. This time is definitely well spent, with so many of these designers, photographers, models and creatively diverse beings able to work freely on their own watch without the pressures many Westerners are faced with.

You’ll first notice the tanned, blonde-tipped and somewhat disheveled bunch, sporting tie-dye and crochet in packs as you ride through Seminyak, Oberoi and Canggu. “Canggu is more for the surfers with a bit of a happy-go-lucky vibe, and Seminyak is more for shopping and trendy restaurants and cafes. Uluwatu is also close and has many pristine, perfect beaches. Nusa Lembongan is a little bit further but well worth the trip. The crystal clear waters are to die for!”


The Photographer and Creative Director

Yasmin Suteja, founder of Culture Machine and SALT Studio, lives and works from her villa and private studio. Culture Machine is “a creative services agency representing photographers, filmmakers, stylists, hair and makeup artists and creative talent living and working on the island of Bali”. SALT studio is a professional photography studio with adjoining villa accommodation for creatives visiting from overseas.

It’s also Culture Machine HQ and base-camp for their team meetings and test shoots. Yasmin is one of those girls that you can taste the talent pouring from as soon as you get within 2 feet of her. Her studio has seen many popular and up and coming names walking through the doors, a great achievement for such a new space. For Yasmin, Bali is the perfect environment to incubate creativity.

“You get on a scooter and ride through rice paddy roads, wind in the hair, shirt unbuttoned, blowing in the breeze. You lose your inhibitions, you’re inspired by the landscape and the culture, and you’re enthusiastic about meeting new people.” It is this attitude towards life that is cultivating amongst all these like-minded people, where it seems that Bali is the place where anything is possible.


Where to Go?

So what about Kuta, often considered a dirty word with the cool and in-the-know Types?  A decade ago, Kuta was the go to place for travellers and those wanting to get the most out of their time in Bali. But for Yasmin and Noni, these girls won’t go close to Kuta. You’ll find Yasmin and Noni, along with their model and designer friends, hanging out in Canggu (or the ‘GU’ for those down with the lingo).

Yasmin says that Canggu is “where all the groovy people hang.” The artistic hub headquarters seems to change frequently, with new ‘it’ cafes, restaurants and galleries–come-bar’s popping up all the time. For now though, it seems the action is in Canggu and Seminyak, and for those wanting to get in on the artistic and cultural hub, these are the top 4 jaunts that you should be ticking off your list:

1. Crate Café, Batu Bolong, Canggu

Complete with cool art/graffiti wall and a hippie surfy vibe. This new hot spot attracts an overly good-looking crowd. Boasting the ‘best coffee in town’ and eggs anyway you want for Breakfast, this new hot spot could almost be tugging away the cool factor from the hipster hood of Bondi.


2. Deus Ex Machina, Canggu

This place is packed on a Sunday afternoon with shoulder length surfer boys and girls with legs up to their armpits.  Aptly named the ‘Temple of Enthusiasm’ for a reason, this place even has a skate ramp in the backyard.  One can also purchase a custom bike or surfboard in between drinks. If you visit this place on a Tuesday evening, you’re in luck as it’s ‘Taco-n-Tattuesday’, with free tatts after 6pm.

3. Old Man’s, Batu Balong, Canggu
Described as a ‘beach front beer garden’ with live music and chilled vibes, Old Man’s is a place where you’ll find young, old and everything in between. This place is grade-A cool with a slight Byron Bay hippie vibe. Complete your visit with a picture in front of their personalized mural wall, made Instagram famous by fashion bloggers and models visiting the popular spot.

4. The Straw Hut, Seminyak

Known around town for pumping out some awesome jazzy beats, delicious 2 for 1 cocktails and fresh and local produce. As soon as you spot this place from your bike, you instantly feel like you have stumbled slightly off the beaten track and into a life size cubby house complete with a straw roof, almost dream-like. So when is the best time to go? Noni say it’s great for a “boogie on a Friday night.”


Creatively speaking, Bali is a place where inhibitions get left at the departing airport and ‘no’ is not a commonly used word. Bali is a place where ideas flow into reality and like-minded people get together and collaborate with one another freely. Yasmin sums it up perfectly; “it’s the transience of the place that keeps the energy moving and the creativity flowing.” With new and exciting projects and great cafes/hot spots opening up all the time, Bali’s cultural hub is definitely headed towards the sun.