Category Archives: Bali Explorer

Singaraja: Lion City of the North

The capital and northernmost seaport of Buleleng District has been a marketplace for the Java sea trade economy since at least the 10th Century. In her Guide to Bali (1974), writer Rae Hogan described Singaraja as a city of 15,000 people with streets crowded with people, buffalo-drawn carts, bicycles and horse-drawndokar. Because of the surrounding coffee plantations, the air was filled with the smell of coffee. The colonial architecture, tree-lined avenues, quiet residential perimeters, a wide market street and densely packed merchant’s quarter south of the harbor are all still there, the traffic flowing past rows of Chinese shops is still manageable, ... [ Read More ]

The Holy Monkey Forest of Sangeh

Luckily there were no tour buses in the parking lot, so this seemed an auspicious day to absorb some of the quiet and serenity of Sangeh’s magnificent forest. A combination of botanical garden and zoological park, the Monkey Forest of Sangeh – the first and biggest in Bali – is located in the village of Sangeh in Badung Regency about 20 km north of Denpasar in the central plains of the island. Sangeh has maintained its viability and popularity over the years and not become overrun by virtue of its location well along the road connecting Bedugul to Singaraja. Only ... [ Read More ]

Bloo Lagoon: Green Hilltop Bastion

The ride through the heartland of Bali was long and hot but soon forgotten when we flung upon the door to a spacious balconied suite overlooking the enormous bay of Labuan Amuk. It was early evening and since my last visit to Padangbai in 2010, the lights of villas had crept ever higher up the hillsides on all sides of the small scruffy port. Earlier that afternoon we found out at the entrance of the Mengwi bus terminal that there were no buses to Padangbai. Empty at mid-morning on a Friday, this big terminal was to become the main land-based ... [ Read More ]

Serangan: Turtle Island

Though only 15 minutes from the airport, Serangan Island has its own unique, rustic charm. Not yet super touristy, traditional fishing boats are moored near the mangrove trees and a multitude of trails (without signage) lead across a forbidding wasteland to the beaches on the island’s east coast where the main activity is strolling along the shore. In the afternoons, Indonesian families flock to the area to relax, fly drones, dig for crabs and clams and drive remote control cars on the sand. Foreign tourists and school groups visit the island on day trips to the turtle conservation center combined ... [ Read More ]

Payangan: Rishi Markandya Country

Few areas of Bali blend such ultra sophistication and chic modernity with the tradition and charm of rural life as well as archeological sites that seem encapsulated in a distant time. Studded amidst the hilly 500-m-high Payangan subdistrict’s narrow country roads, lychee orchards, paddy fields and archaic villages are sumptuous villas, world-class luxury hotel properties and exclusive wellness retreats. Located in northwestern Gianyar regency of central Bali only a 30 minutes drive from downtown Ubud, Payangan is also a spiritual journey into Bali’s mythological past. The whole region around Ubud has always been an important spiritual center. The confluence of ... [ Read More ]

Pasar Satria: Bali’s Bird Market

Today we get a close-up view of wildlife crime at Bali’s main bird market, the Satria Bird Market off Jl. Veteran where 40 or so shops sell birds and other creatures as well as accessories to local collectors. Pasar Burung Satria gets its name from nearby Puri Satria (Puri Agung Denpasar) to the south.   Open-air animal markets like this are a part of a vast network in Indonesia’s booming pet trade, abounding with hundreds of illegally trapped wild birds and other creatures who will end their short lives as house pets. Pouching for the pet trade is one of ... [ Read More ]

Besakih: Bali’s Soaring Mother Temple

Bali’s oldest, largest and most impressive and austere temple complex is 61 km (2.5 hours) NE of Denpasar and one-third the way up the slopes of G. Agung with unsurpassed views. Actually consisting of three temple compounds that stretch for over a kilometer, Besakih is the “Mother Temple” of Bali and the most important of the island’s sad-kahyangan religious sites with more than 85,000 foreign visitors annually. It’s Bali’s supreme holy place, a symbol of religious unity and the only temple on the island that serves all Balinese. Legend has it that King Kesari who is mentioned on the inscription on the ... [ Read More ]

Garden Shangri Las: Bali’s Agrotourism & Biodiversity Parks

On an island where every patch of land is protected and coveted, Bali’s nurseries, botanical gardens, seed prorogation facilities and plant conservation sites play a decisive role in raising public awareness and preserving the island’s genetic varieties of local, rare and endemic plants. Though the wildly fragmented insular nation of Indonesia is a land of mega biodiversity, the attrition rate of these irreplaceable plant species is progressing at whirlwind speed due to habitat loss, pressures of human population and climate change.   We are not talking about endangered woodland rarities dug from the wild by pith-helmeted horticulture professors but tried-and-true ... [ Read More ]

Mayong: Escaping to Bali’s Hinterlands

  The contrast between teeming south Bali and the green, languid rural way of life in the environs of Mayong village couldn’t be more striking. We traversed a land of papaya groves, towering palm trees, boulder-strewn rivers and seldom-trodden trails snaking through jungle and along irrigation canals. The small wood framed thatch roofed hamlets we walked through, full of chirps and buzzes, smelled deeply of the earthy countryside. We passed farmers carrying grass for livestock, rice farmers with conical shaped hats, yards of chickens and barking dogs guarding forest shacks with zinc roofs under nangka trees bearing heavy spiky swollen fruit. This ... [ Read More ]

Puri Agung Karangasem: Glimpse Inside a Royal Residence

Royalty, unlike celebrity, has a magic all its own that endures through time long after the founding dynasty has expired. Once the richest kingdom in Bali, Puri Agung Karangasem traces its origins back to a 16th C. Balinese prime minister known as Batan Jeruk. During the waning days of the Gelgel dynasty in the late 16th C., this rajadom rose to the pinnacle of its power. The seat of the prosperous kingdom centered on its puri in the small city of Amlapura at the foot of the holy Mount Agung on the coast of east Bali. To the visitor, this trading community ... [ Read More ]