Heading Out to My Favourite Places

Where To Go | Written By, NOW! BALI |

Bali’s crisscrossed roads will lead the curious visitor to all kinds of unique places; rustic little villages, awe-inspiring natural landscapes, and rituals that you never even knew existed. While it may be tempting to stay on the beach every day during your stay, getting off the main road and exploring Bali’s deepest corners is what you should do to leave a memorable experience in your travel diary. Taman ujung water palace, Loosely translated to “park on the…

TEXT  by namhar hernanto

Bali’s crisscrossed roads will lead the curious visitor to all kinds of unique places; rustic little villages, awe-inspiring natural landscapes, and rituals that you never even knew existed. While it may be tempting to stay on the beach every day during your stay, getting off the main road and exploring Bali’s deepest corners is what you should do to leave a memorable experience in your travel diary. 

taman ujung water palace

Loosely translated to “park on the tip”, Taman Ujung is unique with beautiful fish ponds surrounding the area. The complex blends seamlessly with the historical legacy of Karangasem Empire in East Bali.

Taman Ujung is a water palace located in Tumbu village, Karangasem. This royal retreat was constructed by the late King of Karangasem, I Gusti Bagus Djelantik who reigned in Karangasem from 1909 until 1945. It was built to welcome and to serve important guests and Kings from neighboring countries, as well as for the pleasure of the King and his royal family. Standing at the main round pavilion of the water palace, you will view the best panoramic vistas of Lombok Strait, the silhouette of Mount Lempuyang and the surrounding area. 

Yet, behind the palace’s current beautiful setting, the land where Taman Ujung sits bears a rather ‘dark’ history. It is said that during the eleventh century, the ruling King of Karangasem slaughtered thousands of people living in the area due to his suspicion of black magic practices. The king heard that there was a mass local movement practicing black magic spells to diminish his royal authority and end his royal life. The king then sent out his soldiers to the villages surrounding Taman Ujung; men, women and even children in the villages were all detained and killed right on the land of the water palace. 

Nowadays, Taman Ujung is popular with the locals living in the surrounding area as a place to have a relaxing walk or jog. The main feature of this palace is the pool and its surrounding buildings. The architecture is a blend of several cultures: a western style was implemented for the gazebo, the arches are Middle Eastern, and the plentiful detailed carvings are Balinese. Despite the rumours saying that the place is haunted, more and more tourists (domestic and international) are coming to Taman Ujung. A visit to Taman Ujung could be combined with a visit to Tirta Gangga, another water palace which is also located in Karangasem. 

Taman Ujung is located approximately five kilometres from the city of Amlapura, capital of Karangasem regency, and can be easily accessed by car over a road affording some beautiful views.

gala gala underground house

Aside from being an ideal spot for those seeking laidback tranquility, Nusa Lembongan is renowned for its fantastic diving spots. But what most visitors to this tiny island aren’t aware of is that Lembongan houses a very unique underground house. 

Unlike his name, Made Byasa (Byasa/biasa means ordinary) is an extraordinary Balinese man who has created one of the most unique attractions on his home island of Nusa Lembongan. “Creating” is perhaps not the right word; what Made did was “dig” an underground house. Fifteen years of digging finally paid off: Byasa had an ideal meditating place and Lembongan has become a more interesting getaway with this attraction.

Using only simple tools such as a hammer and chisel (and most importantly his instinct), Byasa started digging his own yard in 1961. In 1976, the 500 square metre area of labyrinths was completed with a complex web of holes that consist of a meditation room, bedroom, bathroom, dining room, living room and kitchen. When exploring, there are some parts of this house where you have to bow, unless you feel like hitting your head on the rock ceiling. Gala Gala’s seven entrance/exit doors are pretty steep and can be slippery at times.

On the ground (the yard) of this unique place you can find art stalls selling a collection of local souvenirs such as shorts, sarongs and handicrafts. The son of Made Byasa, who manages the whole compound, is normally sitting near a small gazebo with a board explaining the history of Gala Gala. If he’s not busy, he will give you a tour of the underground house and tell you the whole story behind it.

Gala Gala is located down a small lane off the main road after the Nusa Ceningan suspension bridge (on the left side if you come from Jungutbatu/Mushroom directions). The small lane (wide enough for motorbike access) is the one with a small wooden signboard saying “Gala Gala Underground House”.

ubud

Ubud at a glance is not that much different from the other tourist spots in Bali. The area’s hub, which centres around the streets of Monkey Forest, Hanoman, and Pengosekan, is jammed by quite a number of busy tourist facilities. Yet strangely, you don’t get the same atmosphere of hustle and bustle that normally comes from large numbers of visitors. The pubs and bars mostly play soft music, and the temples and the palace entertain the visitors with what they come to Bali for: culture!

Ubud is a place where the astonishing Balinese culture in its numerous forms is still very apparent. The smooth sounds of jingling gamelan music can be heard coming from the palace’s courtyard every evening; otherwise, a dynamic tune that buzzes out from a mono radio cassette can be heard coming from another part of the village, guiding a group of young girls to the equally dynamic yet graceful poses and moves of a traditional dance being practiced. 

Imagine sitting in a comfortable cafe while enjoying your brunch and finding yourself surrounded by a procession of women and men dressed up in traditional Balinese costumes, singing and playing traditional gamelan. Almost every week of the Balinese calendar is dedicated to a celebration with music, dances, festivals, auspicious days so different that they barely compare to even the most unique western community gatherings. 

The wildlife and scenery is so unique to the eye of a visitor that at first almost everything amazes. Coconut trees, colourful butterflies, birds and lush, intense greenery are ever-present. You can wake up in the morning, walk around and observe a rice field culture that has been practiced for centuries. With beautiful scenery and friendly people, it’s very easy to feel comfortable, relax and unwind in Ubud. Think, read books, get inspired or rejuvenate in one of the many spas and surround yourself in a different, almost “out of the ordinary” world. This area is a treat for those seeking peace and tranquility.

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