Like when I was in Chiang Mai, I generally found it hard to be productive in my room in Bali. I was staying along the very touristy Jalan Pantai Batu Bolong, and found that many of the cafes there were far too annoying, overpriced, bullshit instagram zones. Matra, a co-working space a short distance away, was none of those things, and quickly became my go-to choice for productivity.
Matra is a combined co-working and co-living space in Canggu, Bali, Indonesia. It’s open between 8AM-9PM, is fairly small, and can become quite busy during the day. Particularly between 9-5PM on weekdays (which I find ironic! One of the supposed draws of the ‘do your own thing’ digital nomad movement is to be able to escape ‘the daily grind’. I guess some people can’t give up their habits!)
Like C.A.M.P. in Chiang Mai, Matra doesn’t have an entry fee of any kind - instead, they make their money from selling food, drinks, and access to the Wi-Fi. This means that if you have a data package that is sufficient for your needs, it’s essentially free for you. Matra is also a co-living space, meaning they make money from people staying here too - I think my friend Aiden was staying here before he had to leave Bali! There’s a pool, a few spaces to relax, a basic gym, and the rooms seem quite nice; all in all, it’s an attractive proposal for a place to stay.
There are eight or so along the north window (these are my favourite), as well as a collection of desks in a square position in the north and east sides of the room. In the middle of the room are two closed off rooms with blinds, which seems to be the favourite spots, presumably because it reduces eye strain, but also because it’s quieter and perhaps cooler (the main room has the windows open, creating a pleasant breeze which I like, but which lets in the noise from the outside). Every desk has several power sockets so that you can power your devices and they are plentiful - for instance, in the 8 seats against the north wall, there are 12 plugs. There’s also a bar outside the entrance, where you can order food and drinks to eat within the co-working space - the prices are very reasonable considering it’s the main source of income for the space.
Whilst I was staying in Batu Bolong, Canggu, I found it to be a bit of a pain to get to Matra on foot. There’s a stretch of narrow, steep road that you have to cross to get to the side of Canggu where Matra is. It’s called ‘the shortcut’ - actually, on Hoodmaps it’s referred to as
the infamous "shortcut", which I feel is appropriate. This is problematic, because two cars can’t cross at the same time, meaning there is often a lot of blockage and congestion. The motorbikes and scooters that go past can feel quite dangerous, so generally I didn’t like going there on foot. In fact, the first time I went across this way (and I didn’t know anything about it), one of the cords from my bag got snagged on the side of a van because things were so tight, and he dragged me 5m when he started moving before the cord snapped. Scary stuff!
Needless to say, I didn’t go to Matra too much whilst I stayed in Batu Bolong because of the infamous “shortcut”. Instead, sometimes when I stayed with my Balinese girlfriend Ni, she would drop me off directly at Matra before she went on to her workplace in Kuta (or sometimes I would work at the restaurant at her workplace instead!).
Matra is 4 stories tall, and the co-working space is right at the top. Bali doesn’t have a lot of tall buildings - the ones surrounding Matra are mostly one or two story - so you can see for miles and miles. In the immediate area around Matra are rice paddies, where you can watch farmers working. Further out, there are lots of buildings with orange tile roofs that make me think of somewhere like Portugal or Spain (though I haven’t visited those places yet). In the far distance, clouds and fog permitting, you can see either the mountains or the ocean, depending on if you look out of the north or south windows respectively.
I’d like to say that as soon as I get here I immediately start cranking out writing, coding, and whatever else, but I find that I actually spend waaay too much time staring out of the window. Bali is very beautiful and I like looking at the flags waving and the trees swaying. I also look out across to land to see how many fires I can see burning - the farmers burn piles of yellow plant matter, in what I believe to be stubble burning.
It might sound like a bad thing to go somewhere to be productive and then spend lots of time looking at the landscape, but I find that it helps me calm down and then I can focus better because my thoughts aren’t racing. Incidentally, I just noticed that my favourite things about Matra and about C.A.M.P. was the view of the mountain(s). At least I am consistent!
Incidentally, in case you were wondering why Bali doesn’t have tall buildings, this is because it’s forbidden for buildings to be taller than Puta Besakih (‘The Mother Temple’) - at least that’s what my Balinese girlfriend Ni told me… in reality, Pura Besakih is at an altitude of 1000m, so the story doesn’t quite add up to me, but perhaps I misunderstood and it relates to the height of the temple structure itself, not the altitude. I think another reason you might not see tall buildings in Bali is because there is also a lot of (justified) fear and superstition about tall buildings because of earthquakes.
Matra’s co-working space is mostly used by young westerners of both genders, though for some reason I unexpectedly saw a big group of Balinese/Indonesians doing an arts-and-crafts-looking project-type deal one weekend. The westerners are a fairly motley group, from muscled, topless surfer guys, to women wearing smart casual clothes, to guys with big hipster beards, clothes, and glasses, to women wearing tube tops and skimpy shorts. Meanwhile I sit here looking like I’m permanently ready to go for a run!
I’m realising more and more that being alone in a location (like my room) prevents me from having a productive time. I guess that there’s some value for me in being in a public place because there’s a sense of ‘public accountability’ - I don’t want to be seen watching YouTube, for example, so instead I do something useful, and therefore I get more done than I would elsewhere.
Oh, and there’s also this really cute mischievous cat!
He likes to jump on the tables and try and eat people’s food! What a pest! But we still love him.
And he loves me!