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The important and historic realm of Buleleng is a narrow strip of land running the entire length of the island. Bounded to the north by the Bali Sea, it shares borders with Karangasem to the east and with Jembrana, Tabanan, Badung and Bangli to the south. The spectacular chain of volcano that stretch right across the island for a distance of some 150 kms form the natural frontier, between Buleleng and all of the southern regencies. These mountains often appear as a distant backdrop, while at other times they seem to gently unfold right down to the coast. Lying between the mountains and the sea, Buleleng is a region of exquisite natural beauty.
In former times, the mountain range hampered contact with the rest of Bali, which in turn gave rise to Buleleng's discrete culture. Buleleng also differs geographically from south Bali: its climate is drier and wet rice cultivation is not as widespread. In the western portion of Buleleng much of Bali's fruit is produced, while the area is also renowned for the cultivation of coffee and cloves.
The modern administrative unit of Buleleng consists of nine kecamatan (sub-districts). It covers almost a third of Bali's total surface area, is more than half again as large as any other kabupaten, and has the largest population with some 546,000 inhabitants.
In former times, Buleleng was the site of Bali's major port, and was therefore the island's traditional point of contact with the outside world. Even today, there are many Muslims and Chinese here (though there are now many more in Denpasar), and the main city of Singaraja has a feeling that is quite different from any other town in Bali.
Since the main harbor was relocated to Benoa in south Bali and especially since the removal of many government offices from Buleleng to the south in recent years, there has been quite an exodus of government employees and skilled workers, and, as a result, a corresponding diminution of the region's influence within Bali. But do not let this situation mislead you - Buleleng was never a sleeping giant, as its vibrant history and rich cultural legacy attest.
According to local historical texts, Buleleng rose to prominence in the second half of the 17th century under Ki Gusti Ngurah Panji Sakti, founder of the Buleleng dynasty. During his reign Buleleng conquered territory both in Bali and in east Java and became a major power broker in the region. But its glory soon waned under the reign of Panji Sakti's great-grand children, whose rivalry enabled the ruler of Karangasem to usurp the throne. In 1823 Buleleng successfully revolted against Karangasern, although its independence was to be short-lived.
The Dutch, eager to establish a foothold in Bali, subjugated Buleleng in 1849, but only after suffering two military defeats at the hands of determined defenders. Even so, sporadic uprisings against the Dutch took place over the next two decades. Ironically, Dutch control of Buleleng brought the region into a position of great power once again, for Singaraja became the center of the Dutch administrative presence in Bali.
Dutch control of north Bali predated their conquest of the south by more than 50 years consequently the Dutch presence is more in evidence here. Dutch architecture has influenced many buildings constructed during the colonial period, while the character of Buleleng's inhabitants tends to be more egalitarian and direct than that of their southern counterparts.
Culturally, as well, Buleleng has always been a leader. Famed in the traditional arts, Buleleng's dancers, musicians and singers have made a dramatic impact on south Bali in this century. The fast and furious kebyar style of music and dance, perfected in the south by Mario, originated in Buleleng. Following the Japanese occupation and the struggle for Indonesian independence, Buleleng's hegemony in the traditional arts began to wane. But as always, Buleleng has succeeded in reemerging as a leading force, this time in modern expressions of Balinese culture such as the drama gong and creative gamelan compositions.
Both the beauty and the cultural uniqueness of Buleleng make it rewarding to visit, and tourism continues to increase each year. If you like the sea and are looking for a place that is scenic, quiet, clean and culturally distinctive, include Buleleng on your itinerary.
The following information on the sights of Buleleng is divided into two sections. The first treats sights in and around the capital of Singaraja, located in the central part of Buleleng, and the region to the west. The following section concerns sights in the area to the east of the capital.
The sights of Singaraja reflect the city's successive historical incarnations first as a royal court center, then as the center of Dutch commerce and administration on Bali, and now as a modern district capital.
Starting from the western end of the city to visit Pantai Lingga, just few step before the Banyusari bus station. The road to Pantai Lingga ends at Bukit Suci ("sacred hill") an old Chinese cemetery bordering on the sea. Some of the graves are most unusual, such as that of an illustrious member of the Chinese community. Surrounded by a rail, it is guarded by lions and two life-sized black guards swathed in white turbans and bearing lance. Walk through the cemetery to Pantai Lingga, a swimming spot much favored Locals
From Pantai Lingga ahead east to Jl Dewi Sartika 42. This is the Pertenunan Berdikari Hand Woven Cloth Factory, specializing in beautiful replicas of antique Buleleng textiles, many in silk and all highly-priced. Watch thread being spun, cloth being woven and buy direct from the manufacturer.
East of the main crossroads of town lies Singaraja's main Shopping District. A few shops sell tourist souvenir items, though generally-speaking the shopping is much better in south Bali. Interestingly, however, basic items tend to be cheaper here. The Buleleng Market (pasar) is down a narrow lane runs behind a northeast group of building. Around dusk this area turns into an animated night market - not to be missed.
From the main shopping district it is just a short drive to the Old Harbor. The few old buildings lining the port date from the Dutch colonial period. Have a look at the gigantic Yuddha Mandalatama independence monument with an Indonesian fighter bearing the flag. An unusual sight in the same vicinity is the Chinese Temple or klenteng, one of the few on Bali and evidence of this community's long presence in the town. While one may not enter the temple, a good view can be gained from within the compound. It houses many exquisite antique pots and cloths.
At the southern end of Singaraja overlooking the junctions of Jl Ngurah Rai and Jl Veteran, stands the imposing statue of Singambararaja. A winged lion who have gazes imperiously over the city. The name "Singaraia" means "Lion King."
Heading east from here along to Jl Veteran, stop in at No. 22 on the fight-hand side. Ibis is the Gedong Kertya, a library founded by the Dutch in 1928 for the preservation of lontar (palm-leaf) texts collected in Bali and Lombok. A glass display case in the second room contains these traditional manuscripts, as well as several Prasasti (ancient copper plate indiscretions). You may be fortunate to witness one of the employees copying an old lontar onto new Palm-leaves, or even see the now rare art of making prasi (drawings on palm-leaf).
Directly behind the Gedong Kertya (entry on the left) is Puri Kawan (the "Western Court") - part of the former palace of the king of Singaraja. It is currently the location of Perusahaan Puri Sinar Nadiputra, a textile mill where sarung are woven.
A few meters to the east is a major crossroads with a market on the southeast corner. To the southwest is the Sasana Budaya (the Buleleng Arts Center), and to the northeast lies Puri Kanginan (the "Eastern Palace'), formerly part of the Singaraja court and now a private residence.
Two sites to the south of Singaraja, Bratan and Gitgit, are well worth a visit. The village of Bratan a few kms away is a center for silversmith. They make religious items and, less frequently, jewelry. You can watch the craftsmen at work and buy directly from them, or purchase their wares at shops located on the left-hand side of the main road.
If you have private transport, a visit to Gitgit is a must. Ten kin south of Singaraja, this is the site of Bali's most dramatic waterfall. The road to Gitgit climbs steeply, offering fine views along the way. The waterfall, located about 500 in from the main road, is surrounded by lush vegetation. A fine, cooling mist hangs in the air, providing a refreshing welcome after the walk down. Dip your feet in the rushing river below. A rest area suitable for picnics has been built near the base of the falls.
The major attractions of western Buleleng are mainly concentrated between Singaraja and the village of Seririt, 21 kms west along the coast, as well as in the hills to the south.
Six km west of Singaraja, the popular beach resort of Lovina is a long stretch of black sand bordering the coastal villages of Anturan, Tukad Mungga, Kalibukbuk, Kaliasem and Temukus. Numerous hotels and restaurants have sprung up here, lining the coast for some 7 km. The pace of life at Lovina reflects the calmness and safety of the sea. This is an excellent spot for swimming and snorkeling, particularly near the reef, and local boats are for hire. The sunsets at Lovina are particularly spectacular.
The name "Lovina" was coined by the last king of Buleleng. A convert to Christianity, he gave the name to a small tract of land that he purchased at Kaliasem, where he built the Tasik Madu ("Sea of Honey") Hotel in the 1960s. The name Lovina signifies the "love" that is contained "in" the heart of all people.
From Temukus it is 3 kms to the twin villages of Dencarik and Banjar. Pass through Dencarik to the neighboring village of Banjar Tegeha, home of the splendid Buddhist Brahma Arama Vihara. This wihara is the residence of Bali's only Buddhist monk and it plays a central role in Buddhist religious life
and education. Opened in 1971, it replaces another founded in Banjar in 1958. It combines architectural and iconographic elements found throughout the Buddhist world. Quiet, cool, and set high in the hills, it commands a view down to the ocean. For 10 days each April and September the wihara is closed to the public while people from around the world assemble here to practice meditation. Visitors are requested to dress in a respectful manner, to speak softly, and to remove their shoes before entering.
Banjar is also the site of the so-called Air Panas, a sacred hot-spring. In 1985 the sulphurous spring water was channeled into public bathing area consisting of 3 pools, set in a tasteful blend of jungle and garden. The water is a pleasant 38' C. There are changing rooms, showers, toilets and a restaurant.
If traveling by public transport, it is easy to reach the wihara and Air Panas from main road. At the entrance to Dencarik and Banjar you can pay a man to take you there by motorbike.
Just 3 kms western of Banjar lies Seririt; the former commercial center of Buleleng. It was devastated by an earthquake in 1976 and was subsequently rebuilt. Seririt does not in itself warrant a visit. However, if you have private transport, there are two scenic drives worth taking that commencing there.
Turn south at Seririt and follow the r as it climbs through the villages of Bubunan petemon, Ringdikit and Rangdu. The further one ventures along this road the more impressive the scenery becomes. At Rangdu you may take a right turn at the T-intersection, which leads to Denpasar via Pupuan. Alternatively, you may choose to continue along the road from Rangdu to Mayong, Gunungsari, Banyuatis and Kayuputih, spectacular views are to be had of rice terraces, coffee and clove plantations, the surrounding hills and, behind, the Buleleng coast. From Kayuputih it is a further 13 km to Munduk, located 1200 m above sea level. Although presently undergoing repair, the road between Kayuputih and Munduk is neither for the faint-of-heart nor for vehicles with bald tyres. It comprises a series of narrow hair-pin turns and alternates between asphalt and dirt, with many deep potholes.
From Munduk the road runs atop hills that surround two lakes - Tamblingan and Buyan (the latter is also visible on the left hand side of the approach to Singaraja from Bedugul). These lakes were one body of water until a landslide split them in 1818. The road then emerges at Wanagiri near l1ancasari, just north of Bedugul.
After Seririt the road leaves the coast, taking a sharp turn inland - for much of the rest of the journey to the west, the ocean is no longer visible, and the landscape is dominated by the mountains and hills of the south.
The sheltered harbor of Celukan Bawang, 16 km west of Siririt, now serves as the port for Buleleng's import and export trade.
Further west, near the village of Banyupoh, experience the delights of Pantai Gondol, a superb beach with clean sand and a beautiful coral reef Pantai Gondol is a marvelous spot for swimming and snorkeling. It is also the site of a fishery research project.
A cluster of temples, the most important and easily accessible of which is Pura Pulaki, lies some 30 km past Seririt on the coast. Pura Pulaki is located in unusual terrain - a rock-face rises perpendicularly on the left-hand side of the road while the glimmering ocean laps the right-hand side. Pulaki, the home of monkeys who have a repUtation for snatching bags and cameras, has recently undergone restoration and extension. The temple has a fascinating history that is linked to the legendary personage of Nirartha, a Javanese priest who migrated to Bali in the 16th century. It is told that prior to his arrival; a village of 8000 people existed here. When Nirartha visited, the village leader requested a boon that Nirartha granted: the entire village was to be given supernatural knowledge that would enable it to attain an immaterial state. The invisible occupants of this village became known as gamang or Wong Samar and form the entourage of Goddess Melanting, whose abode is the nearby Pura Melanting.
The Balinese in these parts fervently believe in the existence of the gamang and routinely make offerings to them. For example, it is held that the entry of gamang into one's house yard is heralded by the howling of dogs. Occasional reports even circulate of the sighting of gamang who have momentarily materialized - they are said to have no upper lip and carry a plaited bag over one shoulder.
The final stage of this journey through western Buleleng is passes through Taman Nasional Bali Barat, the West Bali National Park. Past Labuhan Lalang jetty, boats to Menjangan Island can be hired.
At Teluk Terima, a short distance down the road, visit Makam Jayaprana, the gravesite of Jayaprana. According to Balinese legend, Jayaprana was an orphan who was raised by the ruler of Kalianget village. As an adult he married the lovely Nyoman Layonsari from the neighboring village of Banjar. However, the ruler himself became enamored of Jayaprana's bride and schemed to kill Jayaprana to have her for himself. He dispatched Jayaprana with an army to contain a band of pirates who he said had arrived in northwestern Bali. On arrival at Teluk Terima the ruler's minister killed and buried Jayaprana. When the ruler asked Layonsari to marry him, however, she chose to remain faithful to her husband and committed suicide.
The temple marking Jayaprana's grave is a long and steep climb but the views from about halfway across to Mt Semeru on Java, to Menjangan Island, and to Gilimanuk at the western tip of Bali, make the effort all worthwhile. The temple, which contains a glass case displaying statues of Jayaprana and Layonsari, is pure kitsch.
East Buleleng is noted for its archaic villages and its unique temple architecture, especially those found around the coastal area from Singaraja to Kubutambahan and the region to the south. Time and again visitors have labeled this style of architecture "baroque" for so heavily adored with relief are the temples that it seems no piece of stone has been spared then chisel. Another feature of this style relates to the carving of the heads and hands both of temple statues and of characters in relief's: they protrude to such a degree that it seen-ns as if the figures lie in wait to pounce upon suspecting passers-by.
Not far from Singaraja are some fine examples of charming old villages set amid lush vegetation - Simabun, Suwug and Sudaji, reached along a scenic road by turning right at the T-intersection prior to Sangsit.
The best example of Buleleng baroque architecture is encountered at Pura Beji in the village of Sangsit, 8 km from singaraja. A small sign on the left hand side of the road announces the location of the temple. If you subscribe to the view that once you have seen one temple, you have seen them all, then cast this misapprehension aside, for Pura Beji is work of art.
Further examples of old and interesting villages are found not far to the south of Sangsit at Jagaraga, Menyali and Sawan. To get there return to the main road and take the right-hand fork at the next T-intersection.
Jagaraga, the site of fierce fighting between the Dutch and Balinese in the 1840s, bears no obvious signs of this struggle. Visit Jagaraga's Pura Dalem on which the foreign presence in Buleleng has been captured with great humor. See, for example, the relief of a European riding in a car held up by a knife-wielding bandit. However, such caricatures are few; this temple is dominated by the terrifying widow-witch Rangda.
From Jagaraga drive through Menyali and follow, the road as it climbs to Sawan, home of a well-known gamelan and iron smith who can be watched at work. Head for the center of Sawan and ask for directions.
The three km past the Jagaraga turn-off is the old village of Kubutambahan, best known for its Pura Meduwe Karang temple, which perches high up on the left side of the road. This temple is dedicated to the Lord of Dry Fields; those who cultivate dry fields worship here. The style of this temple, though more restrained than Pura Beji, is impressive.
Three tiers of stone statues which are said to number thirty-four figures from the Ramayana are stationed outside the temple. Floral motives predominate within the temple walls. Famous among the reliefs is an old one of a Dutch man riding a bicycle, its back wheel a lotus flower. It is located on the northern wall of the inner shrine.
Seventeen km from Singaraja is the well known beach resort of Air Sanih. Its main attraction is not its beach but rather a swimming pool located near the beach. Its icy water originates from a spring and is said to flow at a rate of 800 liters per second. Not as popular with visitors as Lovina, Air Sanih with its accommodation and restaurants is, nevertheless, a good place to recuperate if you are traveling in the area.
Situated on the coast 7 km east of Air Sanih is the important temple of Pura Ponjok Batu. Built atop a hill it affords a fine view of the ocean and some splendid frangipani trees. Cross the road to the small fenced-in shrine that encloses a number of stones. It is said that the 16th century priest Nirartha, drawn to the site by its immense beauty, sat on one of these stones as he composed poetry.
For a change from Hindu Bali visit the "Bali Aga" village of Sembiran, 6 km east of Pura Ponjok Batu. A steep, narrow winding road brings you into Sembiran. The layout of the village differs from that of predominantly Hindu villages. However, Hindu influence is nowadays visible in the form of temples. The village appears poor with its many mud brick dwellings roofed with zinc sheets. There are excellent views back to the coast.
Tejakula, 3 km past the Sembiran turnoff, is the last important port of call in east Buleleng. Visit Banjar Pande, the ward of silversmiths, and watch them at work as they produce Balinese religious items and jewelry. Also be sure to see the famous horse bath. To get there; turn on south at the T-intersection, this large elaborate structure with its graceful arches has been turned into a public bathing area.