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Karangasem Sight Seeing
Karangasem Place of Interest
The beautiful eastern regency of Karangasem is truly something special distinguishing itself in so many ways from the rest of the island. Physically it is dominated by the towering presence of Mt Agung (3142 m), the island’s most sacred and highest volcano, whose dramatic foothills and lava flows provide some of the most spectacular landscapes found anywhere in Bali. High up on Mt Agung’s southern flanks perches the great ”ėMother Temple”Ě of Besakih, while to the south and east lie a number of more or less isolated villages that have played a key role in Balinese history.
Culturally, Karangasem is in fact a very conservative area. Here, for example, the use of the various Balinese speech levels is more strictly adhered to and a number of archaic ritual, dance and musical forms have been maintained right up until the present day. The eastern and northern parts of the regency are quite arid, and overall this is a less denselypopulated area than southern Bali. In fact, it has many affinities with the drier and more rugged islands of eastern Indonesia ”Ē more so than any other part of the island.
Altogether Karangasem encompasses ao area of 861 sq km. and according to the 1987 census the population numbers around 350.000 souls, meaning that the average population density is about 400 per sq km. Most the populace, however, lives in central and southern Karangasem, especially around the capital of Amlapura. and population densities here are much higher than the average.
Following the main road from Klungkung. you cross the border into Karangasem shortly after the village of Kusamba and the well- known temple of Goa Lawah. The road continues eastward through coconut groves for several kms before reaching a turn-off. To the right is a road leading to Padangbai, a major harbor for ships to Lombok and points east, as well as for smaller boats to Nusa Penida. It is worth the 2 km detour to see the picturesque, semi-circular hills surrounding a sparkling blue bay.
The village itself has several small hotels and restaurants. A famous temple, Pura Silayukti, where the Buddhist sage Mpu Kuturan is said to have lived in the 11th century, is also located here.
Time is reckoned differently in Tenganan Pegringsingan. Here, each new day begins with 21 deep, throbbing drunibeats and lasts until the same pulsating tones are struck the next morning. Tourists arrive when the sun is at its zenith and the valley is glowing with light. They leave towards evening, when the all-important religious ceremonies Commence. A month in Tenganan lasts exactly 30 days. Modifications to the calendar are needed to adjust to the lunar-solar year; altogether 15 days are added every three years.
Continuing east another 7 km, past the villages of Ulakan and Sengkidu, the main road enters Candi Dasa just after the Tenganan turn-off. The name Candi Dasa was originally applied just to two small temples. one for Siwa and the other for Hariti, that overlook a beautiful palm-fringed lagoon by the beach, Hariti is mainly worshipped by childless parents who pray for children.
Toward the end of the 1970s the first bungalows appeared by the beach here. From 1982 onwards a building frenzy set in and is still continuing so that new hotels, shops and restaurants seem to open almost weekly. As a result Candidasa is now encroaching on the Buitan area to the west site of several luxurious bungalows hotels which specialize in snorkelling and diving trips.
Candidasa today is a bustling seaside resort with the full range of hotels, homestays, disco-bars, moneychangers, shops and restaurants. How long the development will continue is an open question, as the beach is oding quickly and the once-spectacular view across the sacred lagoon to the beach is now blocked by two-storey bungalows.
Dance and music performances for visitors are being developed, but these do not seem to be of high quality. The main attraction of the area is as a base from which to visit the neighboring village of Tenganan, some 5 kms away. Swimming is only more or less possible at high tide. Despite these disvantages, Candidasa enjoys cool breezes and is a good resting point for trips to the east and north.
The Palace of Karangasem
The main attraction of Amlapura is its traditional palaces or puri. There is a western, a northern, a southern and an eastern puri as well as several others, all still occupied by members of the royal family. Of these, only the Puri Kangin (the eastern palace) on the main road to the market is easily visited. This is worth a look, as it gives a vivid impression of how local royals used to live.
The palace buildings themselves are in fact an eccentric blend of Chinese and European details set what is essentially a traditional Balinese com pound with several pavilions and rooms surrounded by pools and connected by walk ways. The main hall is called the ”úBale London”Ě and the furniture curiously hears the crest of the British royal family. One can even rent rooms here the perfect accommodation for the aspiring aristocrat.
Puri Taman ujung ( Floating Palace )
Ujung- 8km to the south of Amlapura, is a small fishing village with distinct Islamic and Hindu-Balinese quarters. The lavish palace complex here a vast pool bordered by small pavilions with a massive stained glass and stucco bungalows in the center was completely destroyed by the eruption of Mt Agung and subsequent earthquakes. Little else but a few sculptures and portals remain, though there are plans afoot to restore the palace to its original condition as a tourist attraction. Now the restoration is still underway over there.
The cool, spring-fed pools at Tirtagangga which literally means ”úGanges Water”Ě and refers to the sacred river of the Hindus are located some 15 km northwest of Amlapura along the main road toward Singaraja. A dip in the poois is deliciously refreshing after a long drive, and they are surrounded by a captivating landscape of terraced ricefields. The village itself is small and quiet, and is a good place to pause and rest for several hours or even several days to take advantage of the many delightful walks from here.
One can stay overnight inside the pool complex itself, known officially as Tirta Ayu (”úlovely waters’), where a son of the last king of Karangasem operates a small homestay. Another exciting possibility is to stay in a small lodging on a nearby hill with a view over the famous Tirtagangga rice terraces.
Abang Rice fields
From here there are a number of excellent treks through the surrounding countryside. One of the most spectacular begins to the north in the village of Tanaharon, quite high on the slopes of Mt Agung. One may reach it on foot or by car. To get there, follow the main road north from Tirtagangga in the direction of Singaraja for several kilometers, then turn left at Abang and follow a small climbing road up to the end. From here one may continue on foot, enjoying the broad panoramas in all directions and the thick, tree-fern vegetation.
Besakih "The Mother Temple"
Driving up to Besakih from Menanga, the silver-grey cone of Mt Agung looms above, its summit still bare from the ravages of the 1963 eruption. At 3142 meters, this is the highest peak on Bali, and a major locus of divine power in the Balinese cosmos.
The huge temple located here, Pura Besakih, is the greatest of all Balinese sanctuaries the most sacred and powerful of the island’s innumerable temples. For this reason, it has always been associated also with state power. It lies at an altitude of 900 meters on the southwestern slope of the mountain, offering spectacular views over the whole of southern Bali.
Tulamben Beach, a diving heaven
Some of Bali's most interesting diving is gound at tulamben, where the shallow wreck of WWII Us cargo ship is now festooned with colourfull corals and schools of tropical fish. It is also one of the few places one can stay on the east coast, north of Candi Dasa. The beach although pebbled, is quite pretty and the water is clear and good for snorkelling. There are numbers of losmen and warung along the main beach, and it can give quite busy here on the weekends and throughtout June and July.
The wreck of the Liberty is the most popular dive site on Bali. It was torpedoed by a japanese submarine about 15 km south west of Lombok on 11 January 1942. Two US destroyers tried to tow it to Singaraja, but it started to take in water and was beached at Tulamben. The crew were evacuated, but its cargo of raw rubber and railway parts were never retrieved. It sat in the beach until 1963, when the eruption of Mt. Agung caused it to slip into deeper water where it broke into two pieces.
It lies only 50 metres offshore, parralel with the coast, and its bow only metres from surface. There are over 400 species of reef fish, mostly accustomed to divers, and they will often eat out of your hand. The wreck can be visited by up to 40 divers at a time, especially between 11.30am and 4 pm, so avoid the site at that time.
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