Eastern Bali is where untouched nature folds nicely with true Balinese culture, amid the friendly locals who welcome you cordially to their community.
Just when I thought most of the boxes were ticked for Bali and I should shift the spotlight elsewhere, an email arrived and urged me to think twice. The off-beaten track in the eastern part of Bali was the essence of the email, which attested me there is far more to Bali than Ubud, Barong dance, Tanah Lot, waterfalls, and white long-stretch beaches. Consequently, that was why I landed here again, at Denpasar International Airport with its new sleek modern look, equipped with more immigration counters, resulting in much shorter lines than before. Out of the building, the fresh air of Bali whispered to me that an excited pave of journey was waiting. The verdant rice terraces on the roadsides, together with cheerful local women in sarongs lodging big trays full of fruits on their heads, and the sacred temples dotted one after another affirmed that I was officially in Bali. Soon after, the shuttle brought me to Wyndham Tamansari Jivva Resort Bali, my home away from home all through this excursion trip.
The resort is located on Lepang Beach of Klungkung and that was the very point my heartbeat went nuts. A black sand beach it was! Completely black and powdery, not even rocky, which you could notice promptly, even you were looking down from the third floor. The juxtaposition of the black delicate sand that stretches as far as your sight could reach and the lapping white, foamy waves was dramatically amazing. I never encountered any better combination of black and white prior to this nature scene, which indeed captured my vision, my heart and my soul. I could easily spend hours and hours just to imbue this black beach while the sound of the waves resonate, but of course, the eastern side of Bali has numerous attractions lying ahead to explore.
KERTA GOSA KLUNGKUNG PALACE & MUSEUM SEMARAJAYA
Located in the heart of the Klungkung regency is the Kerta Gosa Klungkung Palace and the museum. Visitors would be asked to properly dress, reflected in the number of sarongs on sale at the entrance. Klungkung Kingdom was in prosperity and was regarded as the most prominent kingdoms of Bali from the late 17th century to 1908 when it was defeated and Bali was dominated by the Dutch. The palace itself, however, was destroyed soon after, while Kerta Gosa, the court of justice, and the main gate that bears the date Saka 1622 (AD 1700) as well as a floating pavilion, the Bale Kembang, still presently shine to reckon the affluence of the past era. Kerta Gosa means “the place where the king meets with his ministries to discuss questions of justice”, and was an addition phase in the early 18th century towards the north-eastern corner of the compound. Its debut was for the court of law in 1945. Once you are there, take a look also at the paintings around the ceiling as it is epic and portrays traditional Balinese style. The painting bears the story of Bhima Swarga, which is a Hindu story derived from the Mahabharata. It was repainted in the 1920s and again in the 1960s.
I was told that the technique used for these neat paintings is called “wayang” or shadow figure, and reflects a lot on Bali’s Hindu- Javanese heritage in traditional iconography and content. What I found fascinating also were the stone statues standing around the Kerta Gosa. Thus, I spent the first round imbuing the paintings on the ceiling and the second saying hi to all the stone sculptures on the floor. Displayed there at the center is a crafted wooden table with four chairs, a replica set of the ones used in the olden days. The original set is kept in an exhibition at the museum nearby. Notably located in the middle of the complex is the Bale Kembang or the floating pavilion. It has survived from the Puputan war in 1908 and its existence today is the result from the expansion done in 1942, I was told. This floating pavilion was used as a place where the king received VIP guests in the bygone era. It features equally exquisite paintings on the ceiling which could be divided into three levels: the first level represents the astrological calendar, which forecast good and bad days to the community to consider conduct certain activities, while the second level portrays Balinese social life, and the third level is an excerpt from the story of Sutasoma. Just when I thought I was done here, I was escorted to the building further in that has a blend of Dutch style and Balinese architecture. The signage on the gable of the building said Museum Semarajava and it houses ancient objects since the pre-history era, including photographs, craft artifacts, and the original wooden table set that was used by the king and the jury at the Kerta Gosa. The information and document provided here is a nice wrap-up on Klungkung historical background.
TAMAN NUSA CULTURAL PARK
Wouldn’t it be great if you could get to know the essence of Bali better in one afternoon? Taman Nusa Cultural Park is the concrete solution to this. Located around 30 minutes from Ubud and 45 minutes from Denpasar, this 15 hectares of land is a cultural park that aims to offer comprehensive information on the cultures of Indonesia’s various ethnic groups, presented in an innovative and interactive way. Stepping into the compound, vivid handmade umbrellas formed a cover towards the passage to the mini theater space, where a Balinese welcome dance was performed. A little further in, I was stopped by the lush rice paddies with a hilly background before continuing the journey to what awaited inside. The pre-historic era was presented in mock-up caves while the Bronze Age was equally well presented.
What captured me most in this section was the replica of the Borobudur Temple in the Kingdom Age. Afterwards, I was shown the Cultural Village, where numerous traditional houses are displayed, some of which are original and date back hundreds of years. Some welcome visitors to get inside and witness the genuine way of living through the exhibited household items, while some houses offer activities such as the angklung orchestra workshop, batik workshop, and the list goes on. The statue of Prime Minister Gadjah Mada, as well as the Trowulan Temple, marked the Early Indonesia section. And the statues of Proclamators Soekarno and Hatta standing in front of the Indonesian Declaration of Independence were the highlight of the Indonesian Independence compound. The Indonesia at present was presented by the miniature train diorama set against the backdrop of the cities and rural regions, while the Future of Indonesia is portrayed through cutting-edge architecture that personifies the glorious imminent era of the country.
A trip to Bali would not be complete without water activities and a sandy beach. This part of Bali features the famous Nusa Lembogan and I would not miss it for the world. The one-day trip kicked off at the Sanur Harbour where ferries dock in line to pick up explorers of the day. Each tour group would be identified by the ribbon around their wrist. Only a short enjoyable ride, and we arrived at the first snorkeling spot of Nusa Ceningan. My snorkeling gears and I were ready, and soon I united with the colorful fish in the sea. When on the boat, the hue of the sea was pretty dark that got me wonder what to see down there. But when I was actually in it, it was totally a different story. The water became clear and I could see, and smile at the fish so close and clear! The variation of the fish might not be as diverse as in The Maldives, but here, they were tame and literally swam to you. The next snorkeling spot was at Nusa Penida, with more varieties of fish in different sizes. However, the tide was quite strong when we were there and it was very hard to swim back to the boat. Good exercise though!
Mangrove Forest at Nusa Lembogan was next on the track, and this time we sat back and relaxed on the boat, while it slowly floated into the peaceful mangrove forest. Imbuing the lush forest was a nice break from the sea after all. International buffet lunch with some Balinese cuisine was prepared for us before we hopped on a minivan to experience the seaweed farming, also located on Nusa Lembogan. Regrettably, it was not really perfect timing, as we only witnessed the equipment, the place where it happened, and the harvested seaweed in bags. Back to the minivan, Panorama Point was in our schedule and it was a great spot to soak in the view from high above. Another short ride in the minivan and we hit the Dream Beach, which was called so by visitors, since the beach is so serene and accessible with powdery sand. Last but not least for this out-and-about one-day trip was the Devil Tears. When the name struck me at first, I could not imagine what it was and what it would be like. A couple of strolls from where the minivan parked, I could hear a tremendous sound of waves banging onto the shore. It was so dramatic that I automatically rushed my feet with anxiety to reach there at once. Devil Tears feature a compound of cliffs that was cluttered and forms a narrow end to the mighty sea. At high tide, the crashing waves were very striking with reversing splash back up high in the sky! Some of the crashes left behind a spectacular rainbow in the spray of sea mist. Enchanting, as well as dramatic. When we were there, a couple of turtles were seen swimming against the waves down the cliff and the local guide eagerly told us that to the locals, the turtle is believed to be a lucky animal. Hence, whoever sees it in nature would be lucky, too. And I told myself, I was lucky enough already to be here…