Kapal

Kapal

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About 10km north of Denpasar, Kapal is the garden-feature and temple-doodad centre of Bali. If you need a green tiger or other decorative critter (we saw a pink beaver) rendered in colours not found in nature, then this is your place! (Although shipping might be a pain.) Kapal is on the main road to the west, so it might be worth getting out of the traffic just to walk with the animals.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/kapal

Sangeh

Sangeh

Sangeh

The 14-hectare monkey forest of Bukit Sari is strictly for monkey-lovers. There are masses of the creatures here and they will beg food from you and possibly steal something from your bag or head (glasses are a popular item to take). If these sorts of antics don’t appeal then you can give this stop a miss.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/sangeh

Pura Taman Ayun

Pura Taman Ayun

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The huge royal water temple of Pura Taman Ayun, surrounded by a wide, elegant moat, was the main temple of the Mengwi kingdom, which survived until 1891, when it was conquered by the neighbouring kingdoms of Tabanan and Badung. The large, spacious temple was built in 1634 and extensively renovated in 1937. It’s a spacious place to wander around and you can get away from speed-obsessed group-tour mobs (‘Back on the bus, pilgrims!’). The first courtyard is a large, open, grassy expanse and the inner courtyard has a multitude of meru (multi-tiered shrines). Lotus-blossoms fill the pools; the temple forms part of the subak system (village association for rice-growers) of sites recognised by Unesco in 2012.

Pura Taman Ayun is an easy stop on a drive to/from Bedugal and the Jatiluwih rice terraces. It is a stop-off on many organised tourist tours.

Marga

Marga

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Between the walls of traditional family compounds in the village of Marga, there are some beautifully shaded roads – but this town wasn’t always so peaceful. On 20 November 1946, a much larger and better-armed Dutch force, fighting to regain Bali as a colony after the departure of the Japanese, surrounded a force of 96 independence fighters. The outcome was similar to the puputan (warrior’s fight to the death) of 40 years earlier – Ngurah Rai, who led the resistance against the Dutch (and later had the airport named after him), was killed, along with every one of his men. There was, however, one important difference – this time the Dutch suffered heavy casualties as well, and this may have helped weaken their resolve to hang on to the rebellious colony.

The independence struggle is commemorated at the Margarana, northwest of Marga village. Tourists seldom visit, but every Balinese schoolchild comes here at least once, and a ceremony is held annually on 20 November. In a large compound stands a 17m-high pillar, and nearby is a museum with a few photos, homemade weapons and other artefacts from the conflict (Ngurah Rai’s quote-worthy last letter includes the line: ‘Freedom or death!’). Behind is a smaller compound with 1372 small stone memorials to those who gave their lives for the cause of independence – they’re headstone markers in a military cemetery, though bodies are not actually buried here. Each memorial has a symbol indicating the hero’s religion, mostly the Hindu swastika, but also Islamic crescent moons and even a few Christian crosses. Look for the memorials to 11 Japanese who stayed on after WWII and fought with the Balinese against the Dutch.

Cekik

Cekik

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At the Cekik junction one road continues west to Gilimanuk and another heads northeast towards north Bali. All buses and bemo to and from Gilimanuk pass through Cekik.

Archaeological excavations here during the 1960s yielded the oldest evidence of human life in Bali. Finds include burial mounds with funerary offerings, bronze jewellery, axes, adzes and earthenware vessels from around 1000 BC, give or take a few centuries. Look for some of this at the Museum Situs Purbakala Gilimanuk in Gilimanuk.

On the southern side of the junction, the pagoda-like structure with a spiral stairway around the outside is a war memorial. It commemorates the landing of independence forces in Bali to oppose the Dutch, who were trying to reassert control of Indonesia after WWII.

Cekik is home to the park headquarters of the Taman Nasional Bali Barat.

Gilimanuk

Gilimanuk

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Gilimanuk is the terminus for ferries that shuttle back and forth across the narrow strait to Java. Most travellers to or from Java can get an onward ferry or bus straight away, and won’t hang around. The museum is the only attraction – the town is really a place one passes through quickly. It does have the closest accommodation to Taman Nasional Bali Barat, however, if you want to start a trek early.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/gilimanuk

Taman Nasional Bali Barat

Taman Nasional Bali Barat

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Call it nature’s symphony. Most visitors to Bali’s only national park, Taman Nasional Bali Barat (West Bali National Park), are struck by the mellifluous sounds from myriad birds with a nice riff from the various rustling trees.

The park covers 19,000 hectares of the western tip of Bali. An additional 55,000 hectares is protected in the national park extension, as well as almost 7000 hectares of coral reef and coastal waters. Together this represents a significant commitment to conservation on an island as densely populated as Bali.

It’s a place where you can hike through forests, enjoy Bali’s best diving at Pulau Menjangan and explore coastal mangroves.

Although you may imagine dense jungle, most of the natural vegetation in the park is not tropical rainforest, which requires year-round rain, but rather coastal savannah, with deciduous trees that become bare in the dry season. The southern slopes receive more-regular rainfall, and so have more tropical vegetation, while the coastal lowlands have extensive mangroves.

There are more than 200 species of plants growing in the park. Local fauna includes black monkeys, leaf monkeys and macaques (seen in the afternoon along the main road near Sumber Kelompok); rusa, barking, sambar, Java and muncak (mouse deer); and some wild pigs, squirrels, buffalo, iguanas, pythons and green snakes. There were once tigers, but the last confirmed sighting was in 1937 – and that one was shot. The bird life is prolific, with many of Bali’s 300 species found here, including the possibly extinct Bali starling.

Just getting off the road a bit on one of the many trails transports you into the heart of nature. One discordant note: hikes in fuel prices have seen lots of vendors along the road selling firewood snatched from the forest.

Tabanan

Tabanan

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Tabanan, like most regional capitals in Bali, is a large, well-organised place. The verdant surrounding rice fields are emblematic of Bali’s rice-growing traditions and are part of its Unesco recognition.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/tabanan

Driving in the southern part of Tabanan district takes you though many charming villages and past a lot of vigorously growing rice. The fields are revered by many as the most productive in Bali.

Just south of Tabanan, Kediri has Pasar Hewan, one of Bali’s busiest cattle markets. About 10km south of Tabanan is Pejaten, a centre for the production of traditional pottery, including elaborate ornamental roof tiles. Porcelain clay objects, which are made purely for decorative use, can be seen in a few workshops in the village. Check out the small showroom of CV Keramik Pejaten, one of several local producers. The trademark pale-green pieces are lovely, and when you see the prices, you’ll at least buy a toad.

A little west of Tabanan, a road goes 8km south via Gubug to the secluded coast at Yeh Gangga, where there are some good accommodation choices, beach cafes and Island Horse, which offers horse rides along the long flat beach and surrounding countryside.

The next road west from Tabanan turns down to the coast via Kerambitan, a village noted for its dance troupe and musicians who perform across the south and in Ubud. Banyan trees shade beautiful old buildings, including two 17th-century palaces. Puri Anyar Kerambitan accepts guests and is an attraction in itself with a vast shambolic compound filled with antiques and populated by genial characters. The other palace, Puri Agung Kerambitan, is tidy and dull.

About 4km from southern Kerambitan is Tibubiyu. For a lovely drive through huge bamboo, fruit trees, rice paddies and more, take the scenic road northwest from Kerambitan to the main Tabanan−Gilimanuk road.