Denpasar Tourist Attractions


Denpasar (Badung), or rather its airport at Ngurah Rai, is usually the point of arrival for visitors to Bali. Since the completion of the four-lane Jalan Bypass, however, they are likely to see little of the city itself as they head right away for one of the tourist resorts.

Denpasar has been the island's chief town and administrative center, the seat of the governor of the province of Bali, since 1936, when it took over these functions from Singaraja in the north of the island. In that year, too, it took the name of Denpasar ("New Market"): previously it had been called Badung, like the district in which it lies. The local people still refer to their town as Badung.

Rajas of Badung

The palace of the Rajas of Badung (Puri Pemecutan), now a pleasant small hotel, lies in the angle between Jalan Thamrin and Jalan Hassannudin. Behind a red brick wall are a number of charming buildings set in a luxuriant tropical garden. The contrast could hardly be starker: outside the palace are clamorous traffic and swarms of people, while inside its cocks in wicker baskets crow in peaceful rivalry with one another.
The palace was almost completely burned down after the puputan on September 14th 1906, but a year later was rebuilt by the Dutch, though not on its original scale. Notable features are the richly decorated entrance gate and - the only relics of the original palace - a number of fine reliefs towards the rear of the palace precinct. In one building is a collection of lontar (palm-leaf) books which survived the fire, in another some old gamelan instruments.

Bali National Museum

Although the Bali National Museum, measured by the standards of other national museums, may fall short in the matter of systematic arrangement, it is well worth a visit. Most of the exhibits now have labels in English explaining their history, origin and significance. A guide to the museum in English is advertised at the ticket-office but is usually out of print.
The Museum, in Jalan Wisnu, near Puputan Square (whose name recalls the events of September 14th 1906), is housed in three adjoining buildings in traditional Balinese style or rebuilt on the model of the original palace. They lie in a special precinct within the palace complex, entered through a split gate (candi bentar). Another split gate on the street which runs past the precinct is always closed. Beside it is a bell-tower (kulkul).
The best place to start a tour of the museum is the rear building, where the exhibits include a glass case containing tableaux of a wedding (front) and a tooth-filing ceremony (rear); various wooden models, including a royal throne; carved symbols of Hindu divinities; batik work and embroidery. Also of interest are the finely carved shutters on the windows.
The central building, called the Gedong Karangasem after its architectural style, contains Neolithic material. On the veranda are a handsome throne and a number of stone figures. As originally built by the Dutch, the gedong was open on all four sides; the walls were added later.
The third building, in the style of the Tabanan palace, is richly decorated. On a platform in the center of the hall are a number of Barong figures. Note the intricately carved roof beams.
Between the buildings is the "shower room" of the princely family; partly sunk into the ground, it may be overlooked at first glance.

Pura Jagat Natha

Immediately to the right of the main exit from the National Museum is the Pura Jagat Natha (Temple of the Rulers of the Worlds), dedicated to Sangyang Widi, who to the Balinese Hindus is the incarnation of Vishnu, the supreme god, and thus the "god of gods". The symbols of divinities in the temple (Sangyang Widi represented as a gleaming gold figure seated on a seven-tiered throne of coralline limestone) are venerated not merely by particular groups of the population but by all Balinese Hindus.

Pura Maospahit

The Pura Maospahit is one of the most important temples in Denpasar and one of the oldest. There is reliable evidence that it dates from the 15th century.
As the name indicates, the temple was founded by the Majapahit dynasty (originally from Java), whose ancestral temple it still is. In the course of its history it has been frequently altered and embellished, and much of the original furnishings has been lost.
The main entrance to the temple, on Jalan Dr Sutomo, is opened only on days of festival; the normal entrance is on the left-hand side - though even this is not always open. To reach it, go along the narrow lane, Gang III, where with luck you may find an open door. There is another entrance leading directly into the main part of the temple, reached by continuing to the end of Gang III and turning right along the enclosure wall.
The temple is in two parts, separated from one another by a high wall. It is entered through a split gate (candi bentar), which is the most striking feature of the temple. On the five pillars of the gate are figures (from left to right) of the god Sangkara (a manifestation of Shiva), Indra (the sky god of ancient India), Yama (god of the dead), Bayu (god of the wind), Garuda (the bird which was Vishnu's mount), the Indian god Kubera (god of wealth) and the sea god Waruna.
To the right of the temple courtyard are a number of buildings which belong not to the Pura Maospahit but to a family temple. At the far end of the courtyard is the Gedong Maospahit, a shrine for the veneration of ancestors. To the left of this is a closed building dedicated to the worship of the ancestors of the Majapahit dynasty of eastern Java.
Particularly notable are three shrines for divinities (pelinggih) decorated with stags' antlers (a prerogative of the ancestors of the Majapahit dynasty).
Pura Maospahit - Floor plan map Pura Maospahit Map
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Werdi Budaya Art Centre

Werdi Budaya Art Centre (Jalan Bayusuta) is worth visiting both for the permanent exhibition of Balinese paintings in the main building and for the exhibition of work by both young and established artists for sale.
Behind the building is a luxuriant tropical garden with a number of small pools. There is also a large open-air theatre in which performances of Balinese dances are given during the annual Festival of Arts and occasionally at other times.
In a small building on the street leading to the Art Centre is a display of work by the German painter Walter Spies.

Academy of Indonesian Dance

Near the Art Centre (Jalan Ratza) is the Academy of Indonesian Dance (Akademi Seni Tari Indonesia, ASTI), in which young Balinese are taught the high art of the traditional dances, the shadow play (wayang kulit) and the playing of the instruments of the gamelan orchestra. In the morning visitors can watch the pupils rehearsing, and in the evening there are performances in which they can demonstrate their skills. (For information about times of performances apply to the Bali Tourist Office in Denpasar.)

Pasar Badung

In the angle between Jalan Gajah Mada (one of Denpasar's main traffic arteries) and Jalan Sulawesi is the town's largest market, the Pasar Badung, housed in a three-story building. Fresh vegetables and fruit are sold in the basement, handicrafts, textiles, clothing, etc., on the upper floors. The Pasar Badung has its own domestic temple. Round the corner are the fishmongers - half concealed because the Balinese Hindus believe that the sea is inhabited by demons and evil spirits, as no doubt are the creatures that live in it.

Ngurah Rai Airport

Denpasar's Ngurah Rai Airport, named after an Indonesian freedom fighter, is situated 12 km (7.5 mi.) south of Denpasar and 3 km (2mi.) south of Kuta.
The left-hand part of the air terminal building is the Domestic Airport for flights within Indonesia; the right-hand part is the International Airport. The central section is the arrivals area.
In the arrivals hall are a hotel reservation desk which will also arrange transport to the hotel), telephones and several exchange offices. (Before changing any large sums of money, check the exchange rates offered.)

St Joseph's Church

Some 550 m (600 yds) north-east of the National Museum can be found St Joseph's Church (R.C.), in which Christian beliefs are represented in characteristic Balinese style.

Padang Galak, Indonesia

Padang Galak is only a few kilometers east of Denpasar and is easily reached by bus, bemo or hired car.
Padang Galak attracts large numbers of local people and visitors to its annual Kite Festival, held on a weekend in July. The original object of this event was to give a boost to the Balinese craft of kite-making, but it has also developed into a major tourist attraction.

Kuta, Indonesia

Kuta, which has now become almost part of Denpasar and has joined up with Legian, once a separate little township, is now a typical tourist resort, vibrant with life until late at night and practically indistinguishable from any other busy resort. The inhabitants of these one-time fishing villages have long hung up their nets and now earn their living from tourism.
The center of activity in Kuta is Jalan Legian, which is lined with restaurants, bars and shops, as well as a number of rather more dubious establishments. Those who do their shopping here and pay the almost invariably steep prices have only themselves to blame. Food and drink are much cheaper elsewhere; but, evening after evening, the atmosphere of Kuta and Legian draws crowds of visitors, anxious to see and be seen.
The beach of Kuta is hardly a "tropical dream beach", being separated from the hotels and restaurants by a busy road. Legian's beach is rather quieter, and is the one favored by the trend-setters of the day.

Sanur - Le Mayeur House

Much quieter than Kuta and Legian is the resort of Sanur, south-east of Denpasar, even though this too has been enjoying something of a boom in recent years. Its development began in 1967 with the building of the first hotel of international standard, the Bali Beach Hotel. This high-rise concrete structure aroused local opposition and led to a ban on the erection of buildings higher than the tallest palm-tree in the area.
Sanur is regarded as a more select resort than Kuta or Legian, and the beach is lined by luxury hotels. Perhaps for this reason, the sand is also rather cleaner.
Near the Bali Beach Hotel is the Le Mayeur House, built by the Belgian painter of that name (d. 1958), which contains a collection of his work.
The island of Lembongan can be reached from Sanur by outboard or motor boat; the crossing takes about an hour.
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