A lot has changed in Bali since I was last here three years ago. Wireless and mobile internet went from non-existent to commonplace. Kuta and Legian become a lot more congested. Although I never understood why anyone would choose a car over a scooter on this island, there are lot more cars and paved roads. (Trust me, Bay Area 101 traffic has nothing on Bali.) Canggu has turned from a sleepy countryside getaway to a bustling hippie surfer community. Seminyak has seen an explosion of cute, picturesque cafes and restaurants that would give cultural centers like San Francisco, Paris and Vienna a run for their money.
As much as I lament that Bali is slowly commercializing and scaling up-market, it still retained its friendly, welcoming island charm. The sheer diversity and choice for food are incredible. In addition to healthy portions of Indonesian street food and fresh fruit smoothies, my friend and I had everything from corn tortilla tacos, wood-fired pizza, charbroiled hamburgers, freshly roasted coffee, and perfectly poached eggs. The food still retained an Indonesian flair using fresh spices and ingredients only found in the region.
Food aside. What really inspired me was the interior design and environments of these open-air cafes. Bali is a cultural hub famous for their art, jewelry, handicrafts, furniture, wood carvings and textiles. It's no wonder that the new generation of Bali cafes and restaurants beautifully fused modern industrial design with Bali's organic color palette, wood furnishings, and distinctive textures. Sometimes the cafes are nestled so comfortably in its natural surroundings that I often forget that I'm sitting inside with my laptop.