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Jembrana

For those traveling by land and ferry from Java to Bali, Jembrana regency is where you start your journey of discovery. The distance between the two islands is only 4kms. The ferry ports of Ketapang is Java and Gilimanuk in Bali, first opened in the 1970's have recently been upgraded to handle the massive increase in transportation needs between the two islands.

Jembrana is perhaps the most ethnically heterogeneous regency in Bali. The Loloan area is populated by a Malay-speaking populace of Bugis descent. There are also many Balinese Christians, because part of Jembrana was converted  into a settlement area for Balinese  who converted  to Catholicism and Protestantism at the start of the century. And there are, of course, plenty of traditional Balinese communities, particularly in the rice-growing areas of the regency.

The natural scene is no less varied than the cultural one. Jembrana  contains a large mountainous  northern half which is part of west Bali National Park, while in the south there are 71 kilometers of beaches. The sand on the coastline is mostly volcanic, hence black, but there are also some beautiful white coral beaches especially at Medewi, and some mangrove forests. Southern Jembrana also has some of the most beautiful rice terraces on the island, while the mountainous northern half is part of West Bali National Park.

Mekepung & Perancak

Jembrana is best known for the Makepung-traditional  buffalo races. The regency even calls itself "the land of the Makepung". The Makepung was originally held as part of the harvest festivities. The carts and buffaloes were, until quite recently, still used for transportation. The Makepung consists of a race between two carts pulled by water buffaloes. The colorfully decorated animals race on a 2 km course. These days, championship events are organized under the sponsorship of the local government, which uses the race to help promote tourism.

In Perancak, a race can be arranged to order. If you like, you can be your own jockey! There is a small temple of white stones to commemorate the landing of Sang Hyang Nirartha. A crocodile  farm commemorates the now extinct  Perancak crocodiles, tigers, jalak putih, the phoenix bird of paradise, and many more.

At high tide on nearby Perancak river, small traditional jukung and sampan boats can be seen quietly sailing up the river towards Loloan, which is a unique Bali village, being wholly Moslem, inhabited by Bugis seafarers who settled at the end of the 17th century.

Besides the Makepung race, there is a cow race called Magembeng. The name   originates  from the gembeng bell the cows carry around their necks. As they walk, the bell makes a sound producing a special kind of music. The Magembeng competition is not so much about speed as about the elegance and beauty of the cows.

West Bali National Park

West Bali National Park is situated in two regencies : Jembrana and Buleleng. The entrance on the Jembrana side of the park is at Melaya on the Denpasar- Gilimanuk road. Visit this place if you're looking for pristine tropical nature. The park is the last natural habitat of the endangered  jalak putih-fewer than fifty are believed to be left in the wild, where they are threatened by poaching. The park is also home to banteng and the deer-like Menjangan. The National Park  contains a broad range of natural environments, from mangrove  coastal forest to savana and rainforests.

To enter the National Park one must first go to the park office in Cekik. Experienced guides in the office offer trekking , diving and snorkeling (see Buleleng article). But diving and snorkeling on the Jembrana side of the National Park are not recommended for beginners.

Gilimanuk Bay

The beauty of Gilimanuk's beaches is rarely mentioned. It has a wide range of them: coral beaches, white and black sand beaches, and mangrove forest. The beauty of the underwater coral awaits anyone willing to dive in and go for a snorke. There are two small islands in the bay, which are barely more than sandbars-Pulau Kalong  (Bat Island) and Pulau Burung (Bird Island).

There is also a museum containing pre-Hindu archeology. The villages around Gilimanuk contain a mixture of Balinese, Javanese, Madurese and Bugis architecture  unique to Bali. No less beautiful are the various boats belonging to these ethnic groups.

Further south, at Candikusuma, there are two temples dedicated to the  legendary figure of Dang Hyang Nirartha - Indra Kusuma temple and taman Sumur Bulus. Locals tell how in 1897 two Dutch officers  were attracted to the place when they saw a light coming from the earth. It turned out to be a kris (a supernatural dagger). Candikusuma beach is known for its beautiful black sand and the gentle hills permeating the beach.

Inland from Melaya are the parallel Christian communities of Palasari (Catholic) and Blimbingsari (Protestant), built at the beginning of the century in a settlement area for Balinese who had converted to Christianity. The villages are surrounded by hills and paddy fields. Their uniqueness, however, lies in the cultural cocktail present in the churches , which mix both Gothic and Balinese architectural styles.

Delodbrawah Beach is a black sand beach, which used to be a swamp (brawah), believed to be a favourite crocodile hound. Believe it or not, the sand from this beach is said to cure  rheumatism. To the north of the beach is Mendoyo, Negara. There is one of the best racing grounds here for the Makepung - it can even be used in the rainy season.

Rambutsiwi Temple is on a cliff top overlooking a breathtaking panorama of paddy fields on one side and the black sandy beach on the other. Stairs allow people to get safely down onto the beach. Two caves overlook the sea with a view of the fishermen's  boats and seabirds hovering above. This spot is a favourite hangout for painters. The temple itself was built by Dang Hyang Nirartha. According to the legend, he made a gift of his hair to the temple. Hence the name Rambut Siwi, Which literally means 'Hair Worship'!

Medewi beach is a small resort in the southeast of Jembrana  (about midway between Gilimanuk and Denpasar), just off the main road at Airsatang. Waves from 3 to 7 metres in height make for perfect surfing. Small black stones are scattered  over the black sandy beach, providing an unusual  scene at sunset.

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