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The History, Spirituality and Natural Beauty of Karangasem


The Eastern part of Bali is an interesting area quite different from the western of the island and well worth visit. Bali’s main highway from Denpasar to the east is beauty scenic with its lush freen tropical vegetation. The road  passes along the south eastern coast through gianyar and klungkung, past the quaint seaport of Padang Bai and on through the tourist area of Candi Dasa before reaching the main town of Karangasem.

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Sitting in the shadow of Bali’s holy Mount Agung (this is where the gods dwell) and close to the Besakih temple complex, Besakih is the most sacred temple on the island and is known as the ‘Mother Temple’, this is an important area for the Balinese Hindus.
Karangasem itself is a historical town and was ruled by the Karangasem Royal Family; it is best known for its two water palaces.
The first Taman Sukasada Ujung is a garden palace built 5 klms from Amlapura in 1909 and was used by the Karangasem Royal family during their golden era. The palace itself sits in a large pond filled with huge Koi fish which is fed by a natural spring and surrounded by lush gardens. The park was used as a place of recreation during the Dutch colonial era and was redesigned both in its architecture and layout with a well-polished European style. The site has now been refurbished once again and is a popular place to visit with its royal tropical beauty.

The second is the royal water palace at Tirta Gangga which was built in 1948 by the King of Karangasem. Set in an area of picture-postcard rice paddy fields Tirta Gangga has a maze of pools and fountains surrounded by lush gardens and decorated with stone carvings and statues, the centrepiece of the complex is a tall eleven tiered fountain. Tirta Gangga was badly damaged by a volcanic eruption in 1963 but has been lovingly restored to its former glory.
If we carry on along the main road from Karangasem, we turn North passing through ricefield terraces and tropical forest as we climb over a couple of passes before heading on to Amed and the East coast of Bali. Halfway to Amed, a small road turns off southwards to Pasir Putih, a secluded bay with beautiful white sandy beaches.
Amed, a long stretch of coast running about 14 kilometres to the East from the village of Culik and passing through several

villages with small hotels and losmen, is well known for its world-class diving sites which attract both novice and experienced divers alike from around the world. The two most popular sites for diving at Amed are Jemeluk Bay and Tulamben. Tulamben is particularly popular with a wrecked ship to dive on within easy reach of the beach. The wrecked ship is the USS Liberty which was sunk by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine in 1942.
From Amed, the main road turns North West, and we are met with a spectacular sight, the slopes of Bali’s highest mountain, the sacred Mount Agung, sweeping dramatically down from the dizzying heights of the summit 3,000 metres above us right down to the edge of the blue sea of the Lombok Strait.
Through this strait is the world famous ‘Wallace Line’ and, 35 miles away on the other side (visible on a clear day), is the island of Lombok. The strait is very deep, and the waters are troubled with strong currents and whirlpools which have kept Bali and Lombok isolated from each other through aeons of time. It was the remarkable difference in the fauna and flora on the two sides of this strait that lead to Alfred Wallace’s discovery of natural selection and the key to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Eastern Bali is a place with a deeply spiritual and historical significance and, with its natural beauty, places of interest and unique identity, is well worth a look.