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The regency of Bangli covers two distinct geographical areas: the volcanic uplands of the Batur and Kintamani area, stretching down towards the sea near Tianyar and Tejakula and the upper part of the rice-growing area of southern Bali, overlooking Gianyar and Klungkung. Geographically, Bangli is home to the mountain lakes and water couches that make Bali so fertile. Numerous villages are scatted across a landscape of rice terraces, lush valley and forests. This mountainous region is a strikingly different site of Bali Aga traditional communities.
You usually enter Bangli through Gianyar, via either Tampaksiring or the main road branching east from the city of Gianyar. Your discovery of Bangli regency starts here with the Sidan rice terraces, gently rising to a beautiful view over Bukit Samprangan. The road then climbs towards Bangli through Taman Bali.
This southern rice growing area, although containing no specific 'tourist attractions', is still one of the most enchanting areas on Bali, especially if one walks away from the main roads to discover the villages at first hand. You will find all the magical charm of the island - clusters of shrines in the midst of paddy fields, brick entrances along village streets, and giant Banyan trees towering above you.
The town of Bangli is a quiet administrative centre, with the usual Brahmin palaces and mansions, best seen during ceremonies. Part of Puri Denpasar temple has been transformed into a small hotel. But the most interesting monument in Bangli, perhaps is the whole of Bali, is the Pura Kehen temple, just to the north of the town. As the state temple of the Bangli kingom, Pura Kehen occupies the site of an earlier temple which dates back to the 9th century. It owes much of its appeal to its unique ambience, set majestically on a number of levels against the back ground of a hill forest, large trees shade the shrines and gates of its courtyards.
A flight of 38 stairs leads to the meru-shaped gate between rows of wayang statues. Overlooking the gate is the threatening head of Kala, guardian of the netherworld. There is a magnificent shrine with eleven roofs dedicated to the god of fire, the resident temple god.
Penglipuran, two kilimetres from Pura Kehen, is a small village restored by the local government to represent a 'typical' Balinese village.
From Bangli eastwards it's a beautiful drive towards Karangasem and the Besakih 'mother temple' via a seemingly unending succession of hills, valleys and rice terraces. Take the main road northwards to Kintamani and the volcanic scenery of Batur awaits the tourist- the most spectacular panorama on the island.
The Batur Crater area
Bangli's mountainous region centres around the spectacular volcanic crater (or caldera) of Batur. Mount Batur itself is actually just a small volcano, but its setting is in the heart of a huge crater 14km in diameter. Adjacent to the volcano is the large crescent-shaped Batur lake, all surrounded by the high walls of the crater rim. As the road rises steadily from Bangli or Tampaksiring, nothing in the surrounding gray landscape of bushes and garden plots suggests the presence of a volcano. But over one more small ridge a dizzying view awaits the eyes, encompassing the crater and beyond. From Penelokan, the main road runs right round the rim towards Kintamani, the panorama shifting as you circle around the crater.
The sheer size of the crater conjures up images of the massive eruption of the original Mount Batur that occurred tens of thousands years ago. The volcano is still active today as Balinese all over the island who still remember the great eruption of 1917 will testify. It claimed thousands of lives and destroyed hundreds of temples. Old people might tell you this was "the year when the world shook" Other eruptions have taken place since, forcing the local population to be relocated, along with several of their temples including one of the main Bali temples, Pura Ulun Danau. Initially inside the huge crater, this temple has been relocated to the top of the ridge overlooking it. Here it now offers an impressive view of Mount Batur.
For a complete panoramic view, you can drive half the circumference of the crater along its upper rim. The highest point is Bukit Penulisan. Here, one of the most ancient of Bali's temples contains the remains of carvings from the earliest Buddhist period. From Penulisan the road continues towards Buleleng and Kubutambahan.
One very interesting excursion in Batur is the climb down the inside of the crater from Penelokan to Kedisan. You can then drive around the samaller Mount Batur, through Songan. From Toya Bungkah, boats cross the lake to a Bali Aga village called Trunyan. This place is notorious for its mortuary traditions. Instead of cremating the dead, as Balinese do throughout most of the island, the Trunyan community leave the bodies to decompose naturally in a special cemetery.
There are also hot springs and lodgings is Toya Bungkah. From Songan there is a beautiful trek to Tianyar to the north coast of the island. The adventurous traveler may even wish to climb Mount Batur itself.
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