When one says that southern Bali has everything, he obviously has never set foot on the eastern part of the island. Though it might not have as many funky night clubs as Legian, East Bali offers much more interesting, unique experience than the crowded south; the landscape is breath-taking and the history is captivating.
Check out these must ‘go-to’ places and attractions of East Bali.
Tracing the Historical Roots of the Island of the Gods
Near the shoreline of Candi Dasa, Karangasem Regency, take a left turn to the west. The road will take you to one of the oldest villages in Bali named Tenganan Pegringsingan, whose people had been inhabiting the area even before the last wave of exiles from Majapahit migrated to Bali around the 15th century.
The village is by no means primitive. Yet they still consistently preserve traditions which have been passed from one generation to the next, such as the making of woven-fabric called gringsing which can last for a century and, of course, the renowned Mekare-Kare or Pandan War held annually around June.
Though it has long passed its heyday and becomes relatively sleepy region, the old Kingdom of Karangasem, whose territory occupies most of the present Karangasem Regency, still preserves its heritages, such as Karangasem Palace and two wonderful water castles, Tirta Gangga and Taman Ujung Sukasada.
In Tirta Gangga you can take a walk through lovely rice terraces surrounding the area, whereas in Taman Ujung Sukasada you can climb the stairs to the highest point of the castle complex to gaze at the shoreline of Bali wondering how serendipity brings you to such lovely a place.
The Karangasem Royal Family also erected a sacred house of worship, Pura Lempuyang Luhur, the temple in the sky which is now quite popular on Instagram!
From Tenganan, make sure to make your way to those alluring attractions.
The Underwater Wonderland of Amed and Tulamben
East Bali is also home for calm, wonderful beaches stretching from the coast of Padang Bai to Tulamben up in the north, two of which are inhabited by supercool corals and fish and thus become two of the world’s best scuba diving locations, Amed and Tulamben.
So when you feel that you have already fed up with a full-day of history lessons of the Kingdom of Karangasem, head back to the shoreline and spend several days—or a week—enjoying underwater wonderland.
Though generally offering pretty much the same thing, namely underwater world, these two places have different characters, and thus posses their own unique tourism attractions.
Amed is guarded by hills, from which you can spot the island’s higest peak, the magnificent Mount Agung. Look around and take a deep breath; you’ll realize that trees and fresh air are not scarce here in Amed.
You should try exploring Amed by bike with East Bali Bike, which will take you on an unforgettable, adrenaline-pumping bicycle trip through hills and traditional villages that spread along the coast of East Bali. Started at one of the unknown temples on the hills, the journey ends on the beach.
To recharge your energy before exploring the rest of East Bali, taking a bite of local, authentic cuisines at Taman Bebek Hita would be recommended.
And if you are a licensed scubadiver of course you are welcomed to visit one of many dive operators in Amed to take a peek on Amed’s underwater world. (One of the most favorite attractions here is the underwater mailbox, from which you can send waterproof postcards to your beloved ones.) No need to sail by boat to get to the dive spots, because they are just right around the corner!
Early in the morning, after chit-chatting for a while with local fisehermen, you can try fishing mackerels and mahi-mahis while seeing one of the most beautiful sunrise in the world.
Tulamben is a little bit different. The limelight of the dive resort goes to USS Liberty wreck, an old warship that sank after hit by a Japanese torpedo. At first the remnants of the ship was not located near the shore, yet tremors caused by the volcanic activities of Mount Agung in 1963 wiped the old vessel to a spot not too far away from the tideline.
Abandoned by human, it now becomes home to fish and corals. Every now and then there will be schools of fish solemnly spiralling on crystal-clear water. Dive a little bit deeper, you’ll meet the most famous beast of Tulamben, a rare sunfish which is called mola-mola by the locals.
Festival, Festival, and, wait for it… Festival
Bali is never short of festivals; there are hundreds of them. So landlubbers who do not like being wet on East Bali Beaches can stay on the ground enjoying festivals, namely Karangasem Festival, Taman Sukasada Ujung Festival, and the legendary eco-friendly Buitan Village Festival, all of which are aimed at showcasing both traditional and contemporary arts of their regions respectively.
Jegeg Bagus Karangasem is also noteworthy, in which the people of Karangasem choose a couple, among the selected fews of young male and female, to be their regency’s ambassadors.
But if you prefer traditional ceremonies than contemporary festivals, every once in a while in Karangasem—and the rest of Bali as well—you are going to come across a Balinese-Hindu traditional baby shower ceremony called magedong-gedongan conducted at the seventh month of pregnancy.
Do not expect that kind of baby shower which is usually performed in the Western civilization—this one takes more time and is more spiritual. Started early in the morning at a small stream, it is concluded around afternoon with a unique ritual which is believed to be able to predict the baby’s sex.
At the final ritual, the father will try to open a water container made of leaves filled with a baby eel and a little fish. If the eel comes out first, it will be boy. Otherwise, the baby will be a girl. Witnessing the ceremony would be once in a lifetime experience for you.
So little time so much to do, eh? Anyhow, are you ready to explore East Bali?