|Once part of Badung Regency, in 1992 the Denpasar area split off and became
Bali's ninth kabupaten. In addition to the island's capital, Denpasar Regency
encompasses Sanur, Benoa Port, and Serangan Island, leaving Badung more
pencil-shaped than ever. Denpasar is the largest and busiest city on the
island. An old trading center, its name means "east of the market."
It's the headquarters for the government, the media, the island's principal
banks, airline offices, and hospitals. Bali's two universities, Udayana
and Warmadewa, are also based here. The city's local name is Badung, its
old name, and you'll hear "Badung" sung out by bemo drivers all
over Bali. Though it's been the capital of Bali since 1958, it's no longer
the administrative center of Badung Regency. In 1992, Greater Denpasar
and Sanur split off from Badung and formed their own administrative entity—Denpasar.
A hot, dusty, cacophonous, former Brahman-class city, Denpasar has grown
fifteen-fold over the past 10 years and is now home to 367,000 people.
Its citizenry consists of Badung's landed gentry, the priest class, and
the new Balinese techno and bureaucratic elites, as well as Indonesians
drawn from other islands to this economic magnet. Denpasar is one of Indonesia's
most fully integrated and tolerant cities, with separate kampung of Bugis,
Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Madurese, and Javanese. Without doubt it's the
richest, most important city in eastern Indonesia. Unless you've got business
here, the city has few charms, other than those quiet back alleyways where
people are quite friendly. The most important government offices are located
in a tree-shaded administrative complex of handsome reddish brick and gray
stone. Industry is low-tech and non-polluting. Denpasar is actually best
at night, when it's not so hot and the individual kampung resume their
normal rhythms. It seems the whole population is either directly or indirectly
involved in the tourist industry, and you can easily engage people in conversation.
Denpasar's main one-way east-to-west shopping street, Jl. Gajah Mada, is
crammed with chauffeured cars, noisome putt-putting bemo, roaring motorcycles,
and smelly, spewing buses. The city's limited attractions include a spacious
alun-alun, tourist information offices, the island's main bus stations
and best-stocked markets, some good Chinese restaurants, a spirited night
market, dance and drama academies, a major art center, first-class museum,
and five big cinemas heralding the coming of the next kung fu epic
- Bali Museum
The largest collection of Baliana in the world is located on the east
side of Taman Puputan on Jl. Mayor Wishnu just south of the tourist
office. The Bali Museum was established in 1910 by the conquering
Dutch, who sought to collect and preserve artifacts they felt were
disappearing overseas or succumbing to the elements. In 1917, an
eruption of Gunung Batur and subsequent earthquakes destroyed hundreds
of Denpasar's buildings, including the museum. Rebuilt in 1925, it was
used as a storehouse for artifacts and temporary exhibits until 1932,
when it was established as an ethnographic museum. The German painter
Walter Spies helped assemble many of its original treasures from
private collections and donations.
The grand, well-kept complex consists of a series of attractive,
grassy courtyards containing all the archetypes of Balinese
architecture—bale agung, candi bentar, kulkul. The main structure,
with its many pillars, is built in the manner of Puri Kanginan in the
eastern regency of Karangasem. Standing next to it is a reproduction
of Singaraja Palace on the north coast. With rich ornamentation both inside
and out, the museum's architecture combines the two principal edifices
of Bali, the temple (pura) and the palace (puri).
The museum's four buildings contain a splendid collection of Balinese
art—Neolithic stone implements, a hoard of Buddhist clay seals
excavated near Pejeng, Balinese folk crafts, carved and painted
woodwork, cricket-fighting cages, dance costumes, textiles, masks,
weaving looms and fabrics, agricultural tools, musical instruments,
furniture, scale models of ceremonial events, ethnographic exhibits.
The first pavilion is a two-story building containing high-quality,
early traditional, Kamasan-style paintings; classical Balinese
calendars; modern Batuan and Ubud-style paintings; and work of the
Academic and Young Artists (or Naive) schools. Another pavilion
displays carved media—wood, stone, clay, and bone—including sculpted
windows, doors, pillars, ceiling beams, friezes, old guardian figures,
demons, and specimens of Bali's extraordinarily earthy and vigorous
folk art. The building, dedicated to prehistoric artifacts, displays
Bronze Age implements, including the famous Gilimanuk bronze
spearhead, the largest ever discovered in Southeast Asia. Also see
ritual objects, priestly accoutrements, and a veranda lined with old
stone statues. One building is devoted entirely to masks, weapons, and
costumes of the performing arts, including rare barong pig masks and
primitive dance masks from remote villages. There's also an incredible
display of topeng.
A good part of the displays are annotated with English explanations,
and clear maps in the central building show all the important
prehistoric and historical sites of Bali. The museum also has a
library and a shop selling postcards and books in English. However,
there's no ground plan of the museum nor is a guide available to show
visitors around. Open Tues.-Thurs. 0800-1700, Friday 0800-1530, closed
Monday. Admission Rp500. Wear long pants.
- City’s Local Dinning
Jl. Teuku Umar, which eventually joins Jl. Imam Bonjol, the road to
Kuta, is a location of well-established warung, rumah makan, and
restaurants serving Indonesian specialties at very reasonable prices.
The city's densest concentration of Indonesian-style eating
Kumbasari Shopping Complex, just off Jl. Gajah Mada by the river. Open
1800-2400. Dozens of stalls under plastic covers serve Chinese noodle
soups, fried rice, sate, excellent martabak, babi guling, nasi campur,
pangsit mie, chocolate donuts, and hot.Other pasar malam include the
Kereneng bus station (the Asoka Night Market), serving excellent babi
guling (only Rp4500) and other native dishes; opposite Tegal station
(where you catch minivans to Kuta); and on Jl. Diponegoro near the
Kertha Wijaya Shopping Center. All are good, cheap, entertaining night
eateries that are so inexpensive only a glutton could possibly spend
more than Rp6000.
- Jagatnatha Temple
Just east of the big alun-alun on Jl. Mayor Wishnu, next to the
museum, is a Hindu temple, Jagatnatha Temple, built in 1953. In the
afternoon, people from the surrounding kampung come here to pray; the
temple's especially busy during the full moon. On a towered throne of
white coral sits a bright, gold statue of Ida Batara Sanghyang Widhi
in his typical pose. This is the supreme god of Balinese Hinduism. The
padmasana rests on the back of the sacred turtle, clasped by two naga
on plinths carved with scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The
central courtyard is surrounded by a moat containing gigantic carp.
- Maospahit Temple
is an important temple for its a unique and archaeologically,located
in a small alley in the middle of the city off Jl. Sutomo. Enter
through a door in the alley. This temple, one of the oldest on Bali,
has its origins in the great 14th- and 15th-century Javanese Majapahit
Empire when Hinduism was first introduced to Bali. The massive statues
of Batara Bayu and Garuda guard the split gateway. On the imposing
facade is a pantheon of carved demons and deities, including Yama and
Indra. Heavily damaged in the 1917 quake, the earliest, now-restored buildings
are in the back. Look for the terra-cotta statues.
- Melanting temple
in the midst of Pasar Badung, is a market temple where vendors make
offerings on their way to their stalls.
- Pemecutan Palace (Puri
Puri Pemecutan near Tegal bus station on the corner of Jl. Thamrin and
Jl. Hasannudin, built in 1907 to replace the original palace of the
raja destroyed by Dutch artillery. Pemecutan, which shares the complex
with Pemecutan Palace Hotel, houses old weapons and a renowned gamelan
mas which survived from the original puri. Don't miss the handsome,
four-tiered kulkul diagonally opposite the palace with its eight small
raksasa statues. Chinese porcelain plates decorate the topmost tier.
- Puputan Square
A great place for families to hang out in the evenings is the huge,
well-kept park in the middle of town, named for the bloody 1906
extermination of the island's ruling class by the Dutch. An
heroic-style monument facing Jl. Surapati commemorates this tragic
event. Note the woman with the kris in one hand and jewels in the
other. Eyewitnesses of the time reported that female members of the
court tauntingly flung their jewelry at the Dutch troops before being
mowed down by rifle fire.
On every side of Taman Puputan are the traditional symbols of the
power elite. North of the square is the Governor's Residence, built in
Javanese pendopo style. Facing the Bali Museum is the stolid, modern
military headquarters complex. Just south of the square in the middle
of the city's busiest intersection is a five-meter-high, four-faced,
eight-armed statue—Mukha, representing Batara Guru, "God of the
Four Directions," who is even-handedly blessing all the cardinal
Sanur area is the oldest tourism village in this area, where the first
five star rated hotel was built. Its know for its luxurious and quiet
area for tourists. It beautiful beaches and sun rise view make Sanur
becomes one of the popular tourist destination in this world. Even you
can see the memorable Le Mayur museum in its beach side.
- STSI and SMKI
More advanced students attend Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia (formerly
ASTI), the Institute of Arts and Dance on Jl. Nusa Indah near the Art
Center in Abiankapas, tel. (0361) 272361. Classes are 0700-1300 daily
except Sunday. STSI director Made Bandem is responsible for a virtual
renaissance in the Balinese arts. Tourism revenue is recycled into
larger and grander ceremonies for the gods that, inevitably, include
Balinese theater, music, song, and dance, and thus contribute to the development
and preservation of Balinese art.
SMKI is the Conservatory of Instrumental Arts and Dance (tel.
0361-975180, fax 975162), for high school students in Batubulan.
Opened in 1960; all Balinese dances are studied here. Visitors are
welcome in the mornings to watch teachers train their pupils.
- The Art Center
Also called Taman Werdi Budaya, the Art Center is on Jl. Nusa Indah in
Abiankapas, a suburb of Denpasar in the direction of Sanur, only a
15-minute walk east of Kereneng station. Set in a restful garden with
lotus ponds amid richly carved baroque Balinese buildings, the Taman
Werdi Budaya houses exhibits of modern painting, masks, and
woodcarving. Both Balinese and Indonesian artists are featured. You'll
find a car park, museum, and small, fixed-price handicraft shops.
Visitors can view dance and music rehearsals in two open-air
amphitheaters with modern lighting. Dances are also regularly staged
for the public, including works incorporating modern Balinese
choreography. In the kecak performance, staged each night 1830-1930
(Rp5000), traditional flickering oil lamps are still used. Eerie and
The Art Center also hosts a summer art festival each year from
mid-June to mid-July, with competitions for costumes, dance, drama,
sendratari performances, music, woodcarving, metalworking, and food.
Every year is different, with each of Bali's regencies sending its
best teams. Also see art events, crafts exhibits, and an extravagant
production of the Ramayana Ballet. If it's the high season, be sure to
book your hotel in advance. These entertaining and exciting cultural
shows draw tens of thousands of visitors from around the world.
The Balinese Art Development Center Program, Jl. Bayusuta (in the Art Center), is open 0800-1700 daily except Monday. This tertiary-level institute offers work on the undergraduate through master's degree levels. Besides staging dances, plays, and pop concerts, it houses permanent exhibits offering handicrafts, paintings, carvings, and silver. Student discounts available.