Medewi: A great Bali getaway
Updated on 25th January, 2013. First published 10th March, 2012
I've always been a bit of a big wrap on Medewi in west Bali. It's one of those places that tends to get short shrift in guidebooks as a "surfer hangout" but when I spent some time there last year while motorbiking around Bali, it struck a chord with me and I decided it was more than just a surfer hangout. And so, this weekend, I returned with my family in tow.
It's true: Medewi is a surfer hangout. But, like Balian half an hour to the east, it's also a stupendously beautiful area. The beach starts with smooth boulders and pebbles that are a bit of a challenge to scramble across. After the river, the pebbles give way to a jet black volcanic sand similar to what you see in Lovina -- the difference is in Medewi there are no touts trying to sell you wooden dolphins. In fact there are no touts at all.
Peak hour at Medewi Beach.
To add support to the guidebook stereotype, we (or at least I) were in Medewi to surf among other things (read more about the travel writing scholarship here), and while last time I'd stayed at the decidedly fabulous Brown Sugar Surf Camp, this time we opted for the decidedly welcoming Medewi Surf Homestay. What a place. But more on that later; first a bit more about Medewi.
A silver dollar for you a silver dollar for me.
Like many Balinese stretches of beach, while tourists refer to the entire area as Medewi, you've actually got a series of villages skirting the surf, roughly east to west (and I'm happy to be corrected on this -- there may be more!) Pekutatan, Medewi and Yeh Sumbul are the main spots. Pekutatan marks the spot where a spur off the main road leads to a fabulous alternative route to Munduk in the highlands, and is also home to the rather fancy Puri Dajuma. Medewi proper has the bulk of the surfer digs and the only Western-orientated restaurant(s) that was open in the area. Yeh Sumbul is home to a terrifically placed mosque with terraced ricefields running down, quite literally, to the high water mark.
Simple pleasures at Yeh Sumbul.
We don't leave Seminyak till mid-afternoon so it's just on sundown by the time we pull into Medewi Surf Homestay after calling our contact Ugis from the beach to come show us where it was. It's a village homestay on the non-beach side of the main road, a solid 10-minute walk (or two-minute drive) from the water. The family house is at the front, but as you walk back it opens first to a banana grove and soon to be garden, while to the left and right rice paddy stretches out. You cross a foot-wide, teeming canal and then look up and see the "Welcome to Medewi Surf Homestay" sign.
Our own little getaway.
The homestay is a two-storey wooden house that has three rooms in total. The master is downstairs and two smaller rooms are upstairs, with shared bathroom facilities (including a bloody cold shower!) at the rear on the ground. In front is a cute little garden and beyond the rice goes and goes and goes... and goes.
Quick, that coconut is about to go!
The guesthouse is a collaboration between Austrian Mike (who was in Austria when we visited) and Balinese Ugis. The rooms are very simple and after one night reading the kids books by torchlight there's certainly some scope for improvement with the lighting. Otherwise, bring your book light and it's a very comfortable spot. After dashing out for a quick meal at Mai Malu (the only tourist-focused restaurant, that is, they had surfing videos on and burgers as well as local dishes) we return and I snooze on the lazy chair upstairs to a backdrop of the mosque warbling, with a light seabreeze and the distant electrical storm over the ocean making me want to put my glasses back on.
Ribboned black sand.
Later that night the storm arrives and I wake to the thunderclaps. Torrential rain at its best, the teeming water throws itself at the house, but there's almost no breeze, so it's like we have a bungalow in a waterfall. It's otherwise silent. Even the mosque is quiet.
Morning comes and I meet my surfing fixer, Mano. Adorned in a knock-off straw fedora hat, a pair of board shorts and, well, not much else we talk about where to surf.
Travelling with the family? Rent the whole house for around 3,000,000 rupiah per week.
Surfing is a bit like pole dancing; you can either do it or you can't. I learned long ago that overstating your ability (umm, lying) equates to gross pain for you and inconvenience for everyone else. So, yes I can stand up but no I'm not confident on a fast unbroken wave on a boulder base.
We go for the beachbreak, you know, just to be sure.
After picking a board, the whole tribe -- Mano, Sam, Lyla, Will and myself tramp through the fields and wiggle between the fishing boats and hop over the pebbles till we reach the river.
Boogie board class for little people.
Sam doesn't know about the river, and not wearing swimmers, and not being all that comfortable with the surfer moll identity she's adopting, isn't so keen to wade across. Mano exclaimed no worries, only waist deep!
Mano is short -- but not that short.
We ferry the kids, the boards, the bags across the river and keep walking, soaked to about half way up our chests -- at least Mano's hat is dry. Perhaps another 200 metres up the beach we set up camp in front of some curious cows and off we go.
Beach scenes near Pekutatan on another, sunnier, visit.
I love surfing. Which is unfortunate as I'm terrible at it. As mentioned previously, I paddle like a girl, and while I get a few rides in, we take a break while Mano goes back to get his board and I give Lyla some boogie board lessons (as if I'm qualified).
Mano returns and we head far further out. I struggle to understand why 20 years of beer drinking hasn't developed my upper arm strength -- those pint glasses were heavy I tell you. Nevertheless, with the aid of Mano-power I catch some great waves -- they're faster, and far more exhilarating, than anything I've ever caught before. But each time I ride them in too far, necessitating a painful, strength sapping paddle back out.
Low tide at the fishing village part of Medewi.
I snap one fin. Mano demands we keep going: "Just one more wave". I snap another fin. If he'd forced me out again I'd have snapped off the third with my teeth.
Shattered and the tide very high, Sam and the kids wait while Mano and I walk back to get the car to drive around and pick them up. The tide is peaking and the river that we previously waded across is far deeper. We have to swim across and the freezing river water cuts through the rashie and my ample padding like a knife.
With one especially cold, shiver-inducing blast I exclaim, "Shit it's cold!" and Mano looks back saying, "Get on the board and paddle!" Given at this stage I'd rather freeze to death in a Balinese river than paddle another stroke, I shut up.
Medewi: A veritable hardship posting.
Then we emerge from the river and the fishing fleet is in. Fish are everywhere. Baskets of long thin ones, stubby ones, a sting ray-like critter, crabs. Women are carting bucket loads back from the jukungs that continue to rush in with the waves, berthing on the river bank. Fishing nets being emptied, produce bought and sold.
I'm exhausted but fascinated. And free of a camera, I'm happy to point and ask and stare and inquire. The people are incredibly hospitable -- lots of laughs and smiles.
We get back, dump the boards and go to gather up the family. And this takes me back to my most poignant memory of Medewi -- the mosque run down to the beach. The blueish mosque sits atop the rise that runs down to the beach -- for a large part it is still all paddy. But walls are creeping in -- at least some put up by a Hawaiian, another a German, who take long leases or buy with a partner then start to convert the land to residential.
You will eat at Mai Malu.
We pull aside a traditional plough to get to as close to the family as we can, but they're still a good 200 metres away, so Mano goes to help them while I watch the waves.
Afterwards, back at the homestay, Sam talks to Ugis about a massage -- on the website, particular mention was made of his massage skills so, well, you know ... just for research purposes ...
Ugis asks Sam if she has any problems, and she says she doesn't, so he suggests she gets a massage by his wife. I, meanwhile (who at that stage could barely walk thanks to the surfing class), have a long time back problem so I volunteer for a Ugis test case.
The afternoon football game gets underway.
Ugis ain't cheap.
Ugis delivered arguably the best massage I've had in my life.
I'll wager I've had more massages than you and your entire family combined.
So, I know I started this story saying Medewi isn't really a surfer hangout and then proceeded to write 800 words about surfing there, but the thing is, Medewi is much, much more than surf.
More than just waves.
It's a predominantly Muslim area, so you'll feel more like you're in Java or Lombok than Bali, and while I don't want to resort to the cliche of saying the "locals are so friendly", the thing is, they are.
The first morning, I said to Sam, "Why haven't we been doing this every weekend for the last four years?"
Take from that what you will.
Medewi is a three to four hour drive (depending on traffic) to the west of Seminyak. Both the above-mentioned homestays are excellent value. For those looking for something more comfortable, Puri Dajuma is a good option. There are a number of other mid and upper market places in the surrounds, see the Pekutatan section on Agoda for more well-priced hotels and resorts.
There are no ATMs in Medewi, the closest is in Negara. There are a couple of internet cafes on the main road and there is a good 3G signal in this area. Check with your hotel beforehand if you require WiFi.
Western style restaurants are very limited, on this visit in March 2012, Mai Malu was the only one reliably open, but in high season (June to September) there are more options.
Related readingLearn to surf in Bali
Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
Read 9 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (12)
- All stories
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma (8)
- Cambodia (22)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- A honeymoon in Cambodia
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking in Virachey National Park
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Which Cambodian island is right for you?
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (13)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (16)
- All stories
- A breeze through Luang Prabang
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- Temples in Luang Prabang
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- Malaysia (7)
- Singapore (9)
- Thailand (73)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend in Phra Phradaeng
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- An extra day in Krabi
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Charoen Krung Road
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Eating on the edge
- Elephant's World Kanchanaburi
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Five days in Khao Lak, Thailand
- Floating markets around Bangkok
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Learning Muay Thai in Bangkok
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The best places to stay on Ko Kut, Thailand
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- The road to Sangkhlaburi
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- Two days in Kamphaeng Phet
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay at Railay Bay, Thailand
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Where to stay on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (31)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Sapa or Bac Ha?
- Saving Vietnam's bears
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (21)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The best hostels in Bangkok 2014
- The best places to stay on Ko Chang, Thailand
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (15)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (16)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.