Everyone wants to travel at one point or another to cool off from life’s routine worries and hard work. But travelling is not only about visiting from one place to another, it is more about satisfying one’s inner yearnings for taste and class. Many people assume that travelling to the far east of Bali is time consuming, which is not entirely a wrong assumption. However, it is actually doable for a day trip.
Some destinations in the east coast are just magical! They are a combination of unspoiled surroundings, remote locations, intense vistas and snuggly warm people. For adventure lovers, this is probably it; an opportunity to engage with the natural wonders. In addition to that, the presence of Balinese historical sites along the area is such a delight for those who want to go deeper into an understanding of Balinese culture. Definitely worth the time and effort!
Starting early in the morning is a must. Driving 2.5 hours from Denpasar, you will reach Candidasa. You can make a quick stop here. Feel the tropical climate and smell the fresh morning air from the ocean, it creates an intoxicating perfume to mark the start of the day. The name Candidasa derives from the words cili dasa, meaning “ten children”. Here, a temple, Pura Candi Dasa is dedicated to Bali’s goddess of fertility and is where Balinese Hindus come to pray to be blessed with an abundance of children. But there’s more to the story than that, which is usually the case with almost everything in Bali.
There was a goddess named Hariti who was infertile but wanted offspring to continue her godly bloodline. She fell in love with a handsome god but failed to provide him an heir. One day, she heard some Balinese people praying for rain and when she looked down from her perch in heaven, she saw a Balinese couple who offered their prayers, standing atop a high hill and addressing their prayers to the clouds.
Sure, they wanted rain, but Hariti knew that they lacked much more. She knew that they were barren – unable to produce a child that they wanted so badly. The goddess took pity on them; their plight made her so sad that she began to cry and her tears fell as rain upon the couple. In the heat of the sudden passion of the moment, presumably caused by the magic raindrops, the couple made love right then and there.
No doubt by now you’ve guessed that their spontaneous union resulted in a pregnancy and the birth of their first offspring. And from that moment on, the goddess Hariti was fertile. So fertile that she immediately gave birth to ten children thereby making her god-husband very happy. From that time until now, this hilltop temple is the place where the Balinese come to pray for fertility and rain – not necessarily in that order.
Anyway, driving another 30 minutes further up, you will pass by Bugbug village. Since you are here, you may want to consider visiting Bukit Asah Bugbug. If you are looking for a silent and a peaceful scene, this semi-hidden spot offers green hills with the exotic expanse of blue sea. While hearing the roar of the ocean waves, embrace the blowing cool breeze to maximise the relaxation of your solitude. Morning visits don’t attract many visitors, which is a perfect time to retreat from the frenetic city.
Moving on from your solitary moment, the next stop is the neatly crafted garden of Tirtagangga Water Palace. Quite well known for its holy water and religious ceremonies, this location consists of three separate complexes each having its own set of ponds and attractive sculptures which simply add to the beauty of the overall water garden. As you enter the place, the first thing that comes into view is a long row of sculptures of guardian figures. You will also notice the neatly placed polygonal stepping stones to tour the area over the ponds and pools. Pools in the complex have designs from the olden days and created with natural materials like sandstone. There are a lot of stories behind the creation of this garden.
Another historical site nearby is Taman Ujung Water Palace. Located at Tumbu village, a short distance from Tirtagangga, Taman Ujung was basically the resting and entertainment place for the Kings of Karangasem and their guests. On similar lines like Tirtagangga, this place has a beautiful park with huge fish ponds surrounding the heritage buildings. From the highest level of this palace, you can have an enchanting view of the sea and hills with absolute greenery. It also displays the beauty of Mount Agung and nearby green terraced rice fields.
Loosely translated to “the garden on the far end”, Taman Ujung is unique with old omissions and beautiful fish ponds that surround its premises, while keeping the high value history of the empire of Karangasem in East Bali. The main object of this royal property is the pools with the surrounding buildings. The building 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.
Yet, as visually stunning and tranquil as it is at present, the reputation of the beautifully landscaped water garden was anything but. The villagers who lived in this area during the eleventh century when this royal compound was active, lived constantly in absolute dread of this property, which they considered to be haunted by the tortured souls of the countless people who died here. On one dark day in the eleventh century, the then King of Karangasem heard that there was an increasingly popular local movement utilising magic spells to diminish his royal authority and end his royal life. So, he decided to conduct a purge and ordered his soldiers to arrest all those suspected of practicing black magic.
The soldiers marched from village to village rounding up almost the entire village’s population, sparing nary a soul. When the troops had gathered all the people that their numbers could control, they about-faced and marched their detainees towards the waiting king. Having delivered their charges, the soldiers marched out again to round up more allegedly evil villagers. Thousands of villagers huddled together in the centre of this field waiting to be judged by their king. They didn’t stand a chance.
The horrible reputation and fear of this location continued for many years in the hearts of many Balinese, who have a natural tendency for superstition. For some Balinese people, even by day this place has a heavy pall over it; a sadness that is physically tangible and that can impact those sensitive to such an ‘aura’. For these people, to visit this beautiful property at night is absolutely unthinkable.
Despite the rumours saying that the place is haunted, more and more tourists (domestic and international) are coming to Taman Ujung. The main object of this royal property are the pools with the surrounding buildings. The young generation of the Balinese living in the surrounding area don’t seem to be affected by the massacre tale; they use Taman Ujung as a gathering place.
Moving on with the journey, and driving another 30 minutes to the north, slightly after lunchtime, you will arrive at Amed Beach. Almost 90 percent of the population in Amed relies on fishing, which explain the line of traditional fishing boats on beach. Apart from fishing, hospitable people can also be spotted selling salt, trinkets, and other items to support their families and the community. Unlike on the southern coast, the local people of Amed are genuinely warm and friendly to visitors. With the large number of tourists flocking to this part of the island each year, this village has transformed from a quiet fishing village and is currently on the verge of change. Amed village has now become a backpacker’s area near the coast with ease of access to Jemeluk Bay, which is the next stop.
Jemeluk Bay is only a short drive up from Amed Beach. Be prepared for a bumpy road! However, the view is breath-taking. One of the first beautiful glimpses of the Jemeluk Bay is from the sunset point. With such a scenic view of Amed’s coastline, it is understandable that Mount Agung, sitting high behind you, can get less attention. Several options for lodging have come up in this area along with new restaurants and shops popping up, making it a much sought-after tourism destination.
With easy access, Tulamben Beach is located 30 minutes drive from Amed village. Overlooking the Lombok strait, the sea water in this beach is calm and clear with gradations of a bluish green colour. Rich in marine life and complete with a thousand-year-old shipwreck and coral gardens, Tulamben is an all-year diving destination for diving enthusiasts. A perfect place for underwater photography. With the overall surge in tourism, the small village of Tulamben is developing.
Not far from the beach, Paibon Tulamben Temple is just around the corner. This temple signifies and highlights the Balinese Hindu culture and religion. Like many other temples on the island, Paibon Tulamben Temple signifies the honour shown to the Sea Gods. The temple complex has multiple temples in it and each one is visible from the next one forming a chain. This was built as early as the 16th century during the Majapahit era to offer spiritual protection to the people living in the area.
There you have it! A one-day trip to the eastern part of Bali doesn’t seem impossible to do. Of course, there are still tons of places and hidden spots needing to be discovered. However, the list mentioned above suits for either tourists who have limited visiting time and scheduled plans or local people who need to get away from the chaotic southern part over the weekend.