Budakeling & Krotok

Budakeling & Krotok

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Budakeling, home to several Buddhist communities, is on the back road to Bebandem, a few kilometres southeast of Tirta Gangga. It’s a short drive, or a pleasant three-hour walk through rice fields, via Krotok, home of traditional blacksmiths and silversmiths.

Tanah Aron, an imposing monument to the post-WWII Dutch resistance, is gloriously situated on the southeastern slopes of Gunung Agung. The road is quite good, or you can walk up and back in about six hours from Tirta Gangga.

Teluk Penyu

Teluk Penyu

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A little bend in the coast has earned the moniker Teluk Penyu, or Turtle Bay. The shelled critters do indeed come here to nest and there have been some efforts made to protect them. About 5km south of Amlapura, the area has attracted a few expats and villas. It also has one of the most interesting places to stay in this part of Bali.

Turtle Bay Hideaway comprises a compound built from old wooden tribal houses brought over from Sulawesi. There are three units, all with ocean views, near a large tiled pool. Interiors combine exotic details and modern comforts – there are fridges and organic food is served. There are enough shady verandas, decks and loungers to keep you busy doing nothing for a week.

Gelgel

Gelgel

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Situated about 2.5km south of Semarapura on the way to the coast road and 500m south of Kamasan, Gelgel was once the seat of Bali’s most powerful dynasty. The town’s decline started in 1710, when the court moved to present-day Semarapura, and finished when the Dutch bombarded the place in 1908.

Today the wide streets and the surviving temples are only faintly evocative of past grandeur. Pura Dasar Bhuana has huge banyan trees shading grassy grounds where you may feel the urge for a quiet contemplative stroll. The vast courtyards are a clue to its former importance, and festivals here attract large numbers of people from all over Bali.

About 500m to the east, the Masjid Gelgel is Bali’s oldest mosque. Although modern-looking, it was established in the late 16th century for the benefit of Muslim missionaries from Java, who were unwilling to return home after failing to make any converts.

Rendang to Amlapura

Rendang to Amlapura

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A fascinating road goes around the southern slopes of Gunung Agung from Rendang almost to Amlapura. It runs through some superb countryside, descending more or less gradually as it goes east. Water flows everywhere and there are rice fields, orchards and carvers of stones for temples most of the way.

Cyclists enjoy the route and find going east to be a breezier ride.

You can get to the start of the road in Rendang from Bangli in the west on a very pretty road through rice terraces and thick jungle vegetation. Rendang itself is an attractive mountain village; the crossroads are dominated by a huge and historic banyan tree. After going east for about 3km, you’ll come into a beautiful small valley of rice terraces. At the bottom is Sungai Telagawaja, a popular river for white-water rafting.

The old-fashioned village of Muncan has quaint shingle roofs. It’s approximately 4km along the winding road. Note the statues at the west entrance to town showing two boys: one a scholar and one showing the naked stupidity of skipping class. Nearby are scores of open-air factories where the soft lava rock is carved into temple decorations.

The road then passes through some of the most attractive rice country in Bali before reaching Selat, where you turn north to get to Pura Pasar Agung, a starting point for climbing Gunung Agung. Puri Agung Inn has six clean and comfortable rooms; the inn has views of rice fields and stone carvers. You can arrange rice-field walks here or climbs up Gunung Agung with local guide Yande.

Just before Duda, the very scenic Sidemen road branches southwest via Sidemen to Semarapura. Further east, a side road (about 800m) leads to Putung. This area is superb for hiking: there’s an easy-to-follow track from Putung to Manggis, about 8km down the hill.

Continuing east, Sibetan is famous for growing salak, the delicious fruit with a curious ‘snakeskin’ covering, which you can buy from roadside stalls. This is one of the villages you can visit on tours and homestays organised by JED, the nonprofit group that promotes rural tourism.

Northeast of Sibetan, a poorly signposted road leads north to Jungutan, with its Tirta Telaga Tista – a decorative pool and garden complex built for the water-loving old rajah of Karangasem.

The scenic road finishes at Bebandem, which has a cattle market every three days, and plenty of other stuff for sale as well. Bebandem and several nearby villages are home to members of the traditional metal-worker caste, which includes silversmiths and blacksmiths.

Coast Road to Kusamba

Coast Road to Kusamba

Kusamba

Bali’s coast road running from just north of Sanur east to a junction past Kusamba has been a hit since it opened in 2006. In fact, at times it gets choked with traffic and slows to a crawl just like the old route, which meandered through towns far inland such as Gianyar and Semarapura.

Efforts to widen the two lanes to four are ongoing and are emblematic both of Bali’s traffic woes and the at-times sclerotic schedule of needed improvements. The road has sparked the construction of scores of warung and trucker cafes along its length. And it has opened up numerous formerly inaccessible beaches. Tourism development hasn’t yet caught up, but as you drive the road you’ll see plenty of new residential villas aimed at foreigners and even more land for sale (signs promising ‘beachfront freeholds’ are as common as tyre-repair shops).

The coast road (formally the Prof Dr Ida Bagus Mantra Bypass – named for a popular 1980s Balinese governor who did much to promote culture) has brought Padangbai, Candidasa and points east one to two hours closer by road to south Bali. Much of the region is now an easy day trip, depending on traffic.

Sidemen

Sidemen

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Winding through one of Bali’s most beautiful river valleys, the Sidemen road offers marvellous paddy-field scenery, a delightful rural character and extraordinary views of Gunung Agung (when the clouds permit). The region is getting more popular every year as a verdant escape, where a walk in any direction is a communion with nature.

German artist Walter Spies lived in Iseh for some time from 1932 in order to escape the perpetual party of his own making in Ubud. Later the Swiss painter Theo Meier, nearly as famous as Spies for his influence on Balinese art, lived in the same house.

The village of Sidemen has a spectacular location and is a centre for culture and arts, particularly endek cloth and songket. Pelangi Weaving has a couple of dozen employees busily creating downstairs, while upstairs you can relax with the Sidemen views from comfy chairs outside the showroom.

There are many walks through the rice fields and streams in the multihued green valley. One involves a spectacular 2½-hour climb up to Pura Bukit Tageh, a small temple with big views. No matter where you stay, you’ll be able to arrange guides for in-depth trekking (about 50,000Rp per hour), or just set out on your own exploration.

Tenganan

Tenganan

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Step back several centuries with a visit to Tenganan, home of the Bali Aga people – the descendants of the original Balinese who inhabited Bali before the Majapahit arrival in the 11th century.

The Bali Aga are reputed to be exceptionally conservative and resistant to change. Well, that’s only partially true: TVs and other modern conveniences are hidden away in the traditional houses. But it is fair to say that the village has a much more traditional feel than most other villages in Bali. Cars and motorcycles are forbidden from entering. It should also be noted that this a real village, not a creation for tourists.

The most striking feature of Tenganan is its postcard-like beauty, with the hills providing a photogenic backdrop. The village is surrounded by a wall, and consists basically of two rows of identical houses stretching up the gentle slope of a hill. As you enter the village (10,000Rp donation), you’ll likely be greeted by a guide who will take you on a tour – and generally lead you back to his family compound to look at textiles and lontar (specially prepared palm leaves) strips. Unlike Besakih, however, there’s no pressure to buy anything, so you won’t need your own armed guards.

A peculiar, old-fashioned version of the gamelan known as the gamelan selunding is still played here, and girls dance an equally ancient dance known as the Rejang. There are other Bali Aga villages nearby, including Tenganan Dauh Tenkad, 1.5km west off the Tenganan road, with a charming old-fashioned ambience and several weaving workshops.

Tihingan

Tihingan

Tihingan

Several workshops in Tihingan are dedicated to producing gamelan instruments. Small foundries make the resonating bronze bars and bowl-shaped gongs, which are then carefully filed and polished until they produce the correct tone. Some pieces are on sale, but most of the instruments are produced for musical groups all over Bali.

Workshops with signs out front are good for visits. Look for the welcoming Tari Gamelan amid many along the main strip. The often hot work is usually done very early in the morning when it’s cool, but at other times you’ll still likely see something going on.

From Semarapura, head west along Jl Diponegoro and look for the signs.

Kamasan

Kamasan

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This quiet, traditional village is the place where the classical Kamasan painting style originated, and several artists still practise this art. You can see their workshops and small showrooms along the main street. Suar Gallery is a good starting place; its owner, Gede Wedasmura, is a well-known painter.

The local painting style is often a family affair. Paintings depict traditional stories or Balinese calendars, and although they are sold in souvenir shops all over Bali, the quality is better here. Look for smooth and distinct line-work, evenly applied colours and balance in the overall composition. The village is also home to families of bokor (artisans who produce the silver bowls used in traditional ceremonies).

To reach Kamasan, go about 2km south of Semarapura and look for the turn-off to the east.

Mendira & Sengkidu

Mendira & Sengkidu

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Coming from the west, there are hotels and guesthouses well off the main road at Mendira and Sengkidu, before you reach Candidasa. Although the beach has all but vanished and unsightly sea walls have been constructed, this area is a good choice for a quiet getaway if you have your own transport. Think views, breezes and a good book.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/mendira-sengkidu