December 2007

Sanur, a Relaxed Beach

Sanur is the area on Bali where mass tourism first got a foothold. The 11 floor high Bali Beach Hotel, the first large hotel on Bali, was built in 1965. It is still the highest building on Bali, due to a law made after the completion that bans any building higher than a palm tree. High buildings was considered to be a lack of respect for the gods, and the law is still valid all over the island.

The largest attraction on Sanur is the beach and the many luxurious hotels, and it’s a more relaxed place than Kuta. There are not as many pubs and nightclubs here, even if the number is rising, but if you’re looking for nightlife the distance to Kuta is short.

Sanur, Gunung Agung in the background.Padanggalak on the southern part of Sanur is a historical place; it was here the Dutch arrived in 1906 in order to conquer the kingdoms on South Bali. The arrival 15th of September 1906 was caused by an incident with a Chinese steamer, Sri Koemala, which ran aground outside Sanur and was robbed by local fishermen. The king refused to pay any compensation to the Dutch for their lost goods. This was used as an excuse to invade South Bali. The Dutch invaders were met by the king’s army, and a bloody battle took place before the royal palace in Denpasar was conquered.

Almost the entire royal family then killed themselves in a “puputan”, a collective suicide where they walked towards the Dutch rifles only armed with keris (a seremonial knife) to avoid the humiliation of being sent in exile (see facts about Bali).

During WW2 the Dutch also came ashore here, but then escaping the Japanese. The Dutch also used the Padanggalak beach in 1946 when they tried to reclaim control over Indonesia as the jewel in the crown.

Sanur Beach.Sanur is a popular destination for families with children and people who want a quiet spot to relax, but at the same time to be within short range of the attractions on Bali. The Sanur hotels have in general a better standard than hotels on Kuta, but not as luxurious as on Nusa Dua. The beach is long, about 3 km, and good for relaxation. The waves are small compared to Kuta Beach, and at low water you have to walk far out over sharp corrals to take a swim. At high water the conditions are good for swimming and snorkeling. You can also rent a boat and go sailing, dive or try your fishing luck. Another popular alternative is to go by boat to Lembongan and Nusa Penida, about two hours away.

Shopping is good in this area, and there is a large number of hotels and restaurants, several with reasonable prices. Sanur is strategically located, only a short way to the Ngurah Rai airport. The area is administered from Denpasar. For expats who prefer to stay by the sea this is the preferred area, you can find luxurious villas here with swimming pools, large gardens and perfect lawns.

Article by Indonesia Photo

Lovina, The Beauty of North Bali

Lovina is located just southwest of Singaraja in the Buleleng region, it covers an area of about 8 km including the Anturan, Tukad Mungga, Temukus and Kalikbukbuk villages. Lovina has a growing number of shops, restaurants and hotels, but is not by far as crowded as Kuta. The hotels are spread along the coast, with the majority in Kalikbukbuk, which also has some activity in the evenings.

Lovina has always been a favorite destination among backpackers, but lately also more exclusive hotels have been raised here. More and more people will discover this area which has a more relaxed atmosphere than southern Bali.

A beautiful sunrise is the reward for getting out of bed early in the morning.The conditions on Lovina and the surrounding area is good for swimming, snorkeling and diving. The best spots are on the reef a little bit outside the coast, to get there you should pay some to take you there with a boat. Trips will also be arranged by the local diving centers, and you can do a PADI diving course here. The beach is narrow and consists of black volcanic sand. There are almost no waves because of the corral reef that protects the coastline.

If you are lucky you can see another activity here; bull racing. In this area the most important thing about a bull race is not the speed, but the style. The bulls are all dressed up with colorful decorations.

Dolphin safari just outside Lovina, a few dolphins can be seen in front of the boats.To join a dolphin safari is quite popular, but can be a frustrating experience with about 20 boats at full speed chasing the poor animals until they are forced to dive again. if you are lucky you can have a short glimpse before they disappear. What may make this trip worthwhile is the beautiful sunrise, this early you can still clearly see the high mountains before they disappear behind the clouds which usually cover them all day. You will have to get up about 4:30 in the morning to join a dolphin safari.

Lovina is a perfect place to stay when you explore the rest of North and Central Bali. You can get around with a bemo, but you better rent a car or a motorbike, the prices are quite reasonable.

Goa Gajah, The Elephant Cave

The mysterious Goa Gajah (elephant cave) is one of the oldest relics on Bali. The exact time of origin is uncertain, but archeologists estimate the cave to have been built around year 1022 AD. This was long before Majapahit entered the island, and also hundreds of years before the first Europeans set foot here. The site is a mix of Hindu- and Buddhist symbols, among them the cave with the entrance in an artistically carved cliff, a bathing pool with fountains, a statue of the Buddhist goddess Hariti, as well as several other Buddha figures.

The cave was only known by the locals until 1923, when a young Dutch found the place after hearing some conversation about a monster head with elephant ears.

The left wing of the cave: three linga, symbols of fertility.It soon became apparent that it was rather a head of a demon, not an elephant, but this misunderstanding probably gave the cave it’s name. Another explanation for the name is that it comes from the statue of the elephant god Ganesh, a third explanation is that Javanese writings from 1365 says that a Buddhist hermit lived near Lwa Gajah, the elephant river. This probably points to the Petanu river close by and probably also to the cave, which is quite similar to hermitages found on East Java. Yet another interpretation of the name is that the cave was created by the legendary giant Kebo Iwo, who also according to the myth built Gunung Kawi and Yeh Pulu. The demon above the cave entrance should then be a portrait of the same Kebo Iwo.

The demon is in fact meant to protect the site, this is quite common on Bali were demonic faces like this is found on temples and other buildings all over the island. Who this particular demon is meant to portrait is still disputed, except for Kebo Iwo it has been suggested that it is the witch Rangda or maybe Shiva Pasiputi. Shiva Pasiputi divided the cosmic mountain Mahameru in two and created the rival mountains Agung and Batur, as well as the characteristic split gate that can be seen everywhere on Bali. The fingertips of the demon seems to push aside a jungle of carved animals, cliffs, leaves, waves and demons.

Three of the statues in the old bathing pools.The cave is manmade and has the shape of a T, it is two meters high and one meter wide. It contain 15 niches which is regarded as proof that this was not a temple. At the end of the left wing there is a one meter tall, four armed statue of the elephant god Ganesh, at the end of the right wing there is three half meter tall “linga”, fertility symbols of the Hindu God Shiva. On the walls there are some old-Javanese writings which has helped to establish the time of origin of the cave.

The bathing place in front of the cave was not discovered before 1954. It then became apparent that the whole complex has been an important religious site in old Bali.

Parts of the statues in the bathing pools were first found close by the cave, and later the bathing pool itself were excavated. The bathing pools are divided in two, one for men and one for women, each part with three water sprouting statues. The statue parts first found fit perfectly to the parts found by the pools. Another bathing place were later found further down the hill, with steps leading down to it. These findings is said to be the most important done on Bali since WW2.

The old bathing pools.To the left of the cave there is a statue of the Buddhist goddess Hariti, a child-eating witch worshipped in India. She converted to Buddhism and transformed into a fertility goddess and a protector of children. On Bali she is also known as Men Brayut, a name often used on poor women with many children. South of the cave there is a small shrine with two Buddha figures, or it used to be two until 2000 when one was stolen. Close by there is some fragments of old relief’s, probably much older than the cave.

Goa Gajah can be difficult to find on your own, from south you drive towards Gianyar, by the “baby monument” after Batuan you continue straight ahead towards Ubud, then turn right at Teges towards Bedulu. The site is on the right side two kilometers before the Bedulu village. You know you’re there when you see the large parking lot and the many souvenir stalls. From Goa Gajah it is possible to take a walk through the rice fields in Bedulu and to Yeh Pulu, it is recommended that you pay one of the local kids to guide you.

Article by Indonesia Photo

Besakih, Balinese Mother Temple

At the foot of the great Gunung Agung mountain sits the most sacred of all Balinese temples; Pura Besakih. A more spectacular location for this huge temple complex would be hard to find. If you are lucky to visit on a clear day you can see Gunung Agung (3.142 m), a background that can give anyone a religious feeling. There has been a temple here for more than one thousand years, it is first mentioned in an inscription from 1007 BC.

Today’s role as the “mother temple” were achieved during the 15th century, when Bali became independent from Java and got it’s own ruler; Batu Renggong. He ordered the construction of nine temples, of which Besakih was the central one. Since then there has been continuous expansions and Besakih now consists of about 30 different smaller temples.

Tall pagodas, so-called meru. The more levels, the more sacred.The largest temple is Pura Penataran Agung, which has a large shrine in honor of the holy Hindu trinity Brahma, Wisnu and Shiva. Symbols of this trinity can be found in temples all over Bali. The most important ceremony in Besakih is called Eka Dasa Rudra, which is held once every hundred years according to the Balinese calendar, that is 115 years after our calendar. Last time, in 1963, it had to be cancelled due to a major eruption of Gunung Agung.

About 2.000 people lost their lives during this eruption, but miraculously Besakih was almost undamaged. A new ceremony were held in 1979, this time with more success.

Pura Besakih, on a clear day you can see the great Gunung Agung in the background.The site is open daily, try to visit early in the morning before the mist is too dense. The best time to visit will probably be during one of the many ceremonies, when hundreds of Hindus in lovely traditional cloths and carrying offerings meets to honor the gods. Even if the Besakih complex is huge, each single building is not so impressive on it’s own. In front of the entrance you will find the inevitable souvenir stalls, where you can by a sarong which you need to be allowed inside, or you can rent one by the entrance.

Many so-called guides will offer their service, it is perfectly ok to say no, in any case agree about the price in advance. It is no problem to explore the site on your own, but be aware that most of the temples are closed for entrance by none-Hindus.

Besakih is a good starting point for a hike to the top of Gunung Agung, you can hire a guide for the walk here. There are no high standard hotels around Besakih, but you will find some restaurants and simple accommodation.

Candidasa, a Place to Meditate

Candidasa can be a good alternative if you’re looking for a pleasant place to stay a few days while you explore East Bali. This is a tourist area about three km long, located along the main road from Semarapura (Klungkung) to Amlapura. A large part of the business is owned by people from the Bali-Aga village Tenganan not far from here. The name Candidasa is probably derived from “Cilidasa” which means “three children”.

The tourist industry here probably began with the first visitors to a Hindu religious society; Ashram Candi Dasa, who came here to meditate in the middle of the 1970’s. The society still exists today, and people still come here to pray, meditate and study the philosophy of Gandhi. It is said to be the only society of it’s kind in Indonesia.

Most of the facilities is located along the road from Semarapura to Amlapura.Like Kuta this area can offer a large number of accommodation in all price layers, but is a much more quiet place where the local people are more relaxed and pleasant. The most negative aspect is the lack of a good beach, caused by a good example of human greed and lack of respect for nature. In the 70’s this was the beach everybody should be at on Bali, and the tourist industry flourished. To speed up the development the coral reef just outside the Candidasa beach were used as material to make cement for new buildings.

This should not come as a surprise, but without the protective reef the sand was washed away. Suddenly the beautiful beach had disappeared. Some ugly T-shaped concrete barriers were built to try to rescue what was left, but even if some of the sand has come back the beach is too small. The currents caused by the large barriers makes swimming almost impossible. Fortunately this experience has been taken into account during other developments on Bali.

A freshwater lagoon full of lotus flowers beneath the temple.On top of the hill overlooking the village is an old temple, and on the opposite side of the road a large freshwater lagoon full of lotus-plants. The temple is dedicated to Shiva and Hariti (se Goa Gajah), and serves both Hindus and Buddhists. The fertility goddess Hariti was always surrounded by children (after she converted to Buddhism and stopped eating them), and couples who want children come here to pray. A statue of Hariti stands by the road, a long stairway leads up to the temple.

Candidasa is not far from other main attractions on East Bali. You do not have to drive a car to explore the nearby area, you can rent a bike or just take a walk in the hills behind the village or to Tenganan, were old rituals in a traditional Bali Aga society is still being maintained. The walk to Tenganan is 5 km long and will take about 2.5 hours from Candidasa.

The small islands in the background is a good place for snorkling and diving.In Candidasa you can also enjoy the view towards Nusa Penida, or on a clear day all the way to Lombok. Other activities here can be shopping, and of course to enjoy a good dinner in one of the many restaurants. There is a large variety of seafood here. In the evenings there are regular dance performances.

Even if the beach is not much to look at there are many possibilities for water sport here. Not far away there are several good beaches where you can swim, and outside Candidasa there are some small islands with very clean water and good conditions for snorkeling and diving. You can get there in 30-40 minutes by boat, preferably with some locals who knows the ever-changing currents.

Article by Indonesia Photo

Goa Lawah, The Bat Cave

There is no doubt why Goa Lawah, the bat cave, has got this name. Thousands of noisy bats fill the air in and around the cave, with a sharp smell of bat droppings covering the ground in a thick layer. It is also said that pythons live inside the cave, feeding on the bats. The entrance to the sacred cave is at the foot of a hill. According to legends it continue all the way to the base of Gunung Agung via an underwater river, and surfaces inside the Pura Goa temple (the cave temple) within the Besakih temple complex, about 25 km away.

A legend describe how a prince of Mengwi once entered the cave and came out in Besakih, but later nobody has tried to repeat this journey.

A Shiva temple with shrines guards the entrance.Today it is not allowed to enter the cave, which may be fortunate. This is also home of Naga Basuki, the mythical and sacred dragon of the Agung mountain, caretaker of the earth’s equilibrium. He is honored with offerings in the temple outside the entrance.

A Shiva temple guards the entrance, with several shrines covered in bat droppings. Pura Goa Lawah is like Goa Gajah one of the oldest attractions on Bali, probably dating all the way back to 1007 AD, founded by the holy man Empu Kuturan. A meeting should have taken place here in 1904 where the princes of Bali made a plan to stop the Dutch invasion.

Pura Goa Lawah is one of the most important state temples on the island. The temple buildings in front of the cave is new, similar to other newer temples on Bali.

In and around the cave there are unknown numbers of bats in the air and hanging upside down on the cave walls.The site has undoubtedly become a tourist trap, with many souvenir stalls and very persistent hawkers. When you have fought your way through this you will see an interesting place, but probably not be able to hang around for long because of the smelly and noisy bats. After the visit can have a relaxing walk on the beach just opposite the main road, with an excellent view towards Nusa Penida.

Goa Lawah is located along the main road on the south east coast of Bali, about 9 km east of Semarapura (Klungkung). This is an interesting road along the coast where you can enjoy hills, forests and rice fields.

Tenganan, The Bali Aga (Ancient) Village

When Majapahit conquered Bali in 1343 there were some Balinese who did not accept this change of rule, and therefore built their own villages in remote areas. The descendants of these people are today known as Bali Aga or Bali Mula, meaning “the original Balinese”. They still live in villages like Tenganan in East Bali or Trunyan at the shores of the Batur lake. Many of the old traditions are still maintained, and it is still possible to see their unique ceremonies and dance performances.

The Tenganan people are convinced they are descendants of the gods. Even if the Bali Aga people today are Hindus they still practice a religion which is partly a heritage from pre-Hindu times, with obvious Polynesian characteristics.

An old woman in Tenganan’s streets.The holy “Usana Bali” text tells the Bali Aga to take care of this land, to honor the descendants of their creator; Batara Indra. This can explain why they still hang on to the old ways of life, even if modern symbols like television, telephone and motorbikes have entered the village. Prior to the Indonesian liberation Tenganan was surrounded by a high wall, still today you have to pass through a gate to enter. Land and common property belong to the entire village community.

The rice fields are usually leased to the neighboring villages for the price of half the harvest. In that way the Tenganan people can concentrate about more artistic pursuits like weaving, dance, music and religious ceremonies. Some do also own business in nearby Candidasa, and the people here is said to be among the richest on Bali.

A narrow path between the buildings. Most of the buildings have thatched roofs.More than 100 families today live in the village, under strict laws. Until recently it was not allowed to marry anyone from outside the village without moving away from here. Because of this there has not been any growth in the population. The village counsel, in close cooperation with the gods, decided that the newcomer could undergo a mock cremation ritual from which he or she is brought back as a Tenganian, and so be allowed to live in the village.

The village has a characteristic architecture, and cover a rectangular area of about 250 by 500 meters. The buildings are mainly made of stone and thatched with straw, many has the shape of a longhouse. Tenganan do resemble primitive villages on Nias and Sumba. Wide streets cut through the village, between the houses there are narrow paths. Here is of course a temple, Pura Jero, on a hilltop at the back of the village. Around Tenganan there are some smaller versions of this village.

Tenganan is known for the uniqueTenganan is open for visitors who come here to look and buy souvenirs. It is known for the unique “double ikat” produced here, called “Kamben Geringsing” (“flaming cloths”). Kamben Geringsing is woven with a complicated, traditional technique, and is used only for ceremonial purposes. On Bali this is a sacred textile; a protection against evil spirits and illness. Because it is not worked on continuously and because the coloring process is so involved, it can take up to seven years to complete a fine piece of geringsing. These pieces are generally only sold upon the death of the owner. The ones sold to tourists are unfortunately of much simpler quality, but is still a popular souvenir. You can watch the production in one of the few houses where this old craft is still known.

Other products you can by here are the so called Lontar books, made from the leaves of the Lontar palm. The books contain artistic drawings and poems from Hindu epics, it can take a month to produce one book with only five pages.

Tenganan is located not far from the main road between Semarapura and Amlapura, before Candidasa there is a sign, turn left and drive about 3 km inland. The closest place to stay is Candidasa, five km away.

Tirtagangga, The Water Palace

Tirta Gangga is a small village built on an altitude of about 500 meters, seven km northwest of Amlapura. Tirta Gangga means “water from the Ganges”, and the place is known for it’s “water palace” and beautiful surroundings. In many people’s opinion this is among the most beautiful areas on Bali. Lately Tirta Gangga has become increasingly popular as a base for exploration of East Bali.

Many visitors prefer to go hiking or biking in the lovely surroundings, or even rent a guide here to take them to the top of Gunung Agung or other nearby mountains. The walk to Gunung Agung’s top takes about 4 hours, including one hour of car transport to the starting point.

The palace was a place for rest and recreation for the king and his family.The village is maybe most famous for the water palace, built by the last king of Karangasem (see Amlapura); Raja Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut. Tirta Gangga was one of the king’s favorite places to go for relaxation. A similar palace can be found in Ujung five km south of Amlapura. The palace in Tirta Gangga was built in 1947 and take it’s water from a holy spring. The complex is made of several pools, one is open for the local population and very popular among the local children, another is open for tourists.

The village has no large number of accommodation and restaurants, but outside the high season there should be room for everybody who find their way here. The prices are reasonable, there are no five-star hotels here.

The small village Tirta Gangga is situated among fertile ricefields.If you continue further north from Tirta Gangga you will climb even higher in altitude and have a beautiful view over fertile rice fields, with the blue ocean in the background and dense forest behind you. The vegetation becomes more scarce after Culik, but many decide to continue to Tulamben on the northeast coast, mainly to dive on the wreck of the American freighter “Liberty”, which was torpedoed by the Japanese outside Lombok in 1942.

Another alternative from Tirta Gangga can be to walk to the easternmost mountain on Bali, Gunung Lempuyang (1.058 meters). Pura Lempuyang, an important temple, is located at the foot of the mountain. This is a state temple, “sad-kahyangan”, with the same status as temples like Uluwatu and Besakih.

Thanks to Mr. Lee

Thank you to Mr. Simon Lin from Singapore for using our service on 7 October 2007.
Please read his comment, sent by email. He visited Kintamani & Ubud. And love it very much.

Bellow comment sent by email:
How are you? I’m Simon, from Singapore, was in Bali over the weekend on 7 Oct which you brought me around in Bali. I enjoy the lunch at Kintamani the most, should have spend more time to walk around Kintamani and in Ubud. However, my itenary was too rush. Will certainly come back next time and look for you.I have some photos which I took…pretty good ones.

I have recommended you to my friends and they will contact you if they are to go to Bali.

Kuta Beach, one of the Sexiest Beaches in the World

According to Concierge.com, Kuta Beach is one of the sexiest beaches in the world.

Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia

The vibe: Beachcombing boho chic

Picture this: Bali is a fine place to drop onto a chaise lounge, pull up a parasol, and sleep in the sun. That’s the best way to detox from the all-night singing, dancing, and hooking-up action of Kuta Beach, in southern Bali. The cafés, bars, and nightclubs lining the streets of Kuta and Legian are the hub of hedonism for the young and the restless.

The crowd: Wall-to-wall buff bodies—many of them honed on the beaches of Australia—in this season’s hot metallics, beads, and bangles.

The sundowner: Take your drink of choice and enjoy the term literally: Bali is famous for its sunsets. Watch the sun turn from bright orange to blood red before slipping into the horizon across the bay.

Come to bed: Take a break from the party and snuggle up at Kuta Paradiso Hotel Bali, with 243 deluxe rooms and suites overlooking the ocean. Sip cocktails by the pool and hang out in the piano lounge for upmarket evening entertainment.

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