Amlapura is east Bali's major transport terminal and so, well connected to all parts of Bali. It was known as Karangasem until 1963, when the mighty Agung volcano unfortunately, erupted with spectacular force and even more spectacular damage. So, Karangasem underwent a name change and was "reborn" as Amlapura to rid itself of any "unlucky" association, which might provoke a much-feared recurrence. The old Puri Agung Karangasem Palace was once the seat of the past King of Karangasem. The visitors can walk around the old palace. The ruins of the Taman Ujung water Palace are conveniently located 3km south of Amlapura. When visiting Amlapura, it is best to stay at Tirta Gangga, not because of any spectacular eruptions, but for the sake of comfort and luxury.
The main attraction of Amlapura is its traditional palaces or puri. There is a western, a northern, a southern and an eastern puri as well as several others, all still occupied by members of the royal family. Of these, only the Puri Kangin (the eastern palace) on the main road to the market is easily visited. This is worth a look, as it gives a vivid impression of how local royals used to live. The palace buildings themselves are in fact an eccentric blend of Chinese and European details set in what is essentially a traditional Balinese compound with several pavilions and room surrounded by pools and connected by walk ways. The main hall is called the "Bale London" and the furniture curiously bears the crest of the British royal family. One can even rent rooms here the perfect accommodation for the aspiring aristocrat.
Taman Tirta Gangga
Taman Tirta Gangga, a royal water palace, forms the heart of a small village surrounded by rice terraces seven kilometres north of Amlapura. The palace was built to preserve the sanctity of a natural spring considered holy by the Balinese and to provide a place of contemplation, relaxation and fun for visitors. The calming gardens are a great opportunity to take a breather from busy sightseeing — you might even go for a dip. The palace is a complex of pools, fountains, water plants and sculptures and covers an area of about 1.2 hectares over three levels. Upon entering the narrow gateway, the extensive tropical gardens, with several koi-filled ponds, unfolding before you.
An eleven-tiered fountain rising from the centre sits behind a maze of statues of characters from the Hindu epic tale the Mahabharata. To your left, two large pools are divided by an island of small fountains and statues of demons. Sculptures of Barong and Rangda — who in Balinese mythology represent tension between good (Barong) and evil (Rangda) — guard the end of the central path. Towards the back of the garden, two large spring-water-fed swimming pools sit at different levels. In front of the higher level pool, under a huge banyan tree, is the holy spring. Additionally, several areas around the garden are designed for meditation and quiet contemplation.
Taman Sukasada Ujung
Taman Sukasada Ujung, a grand water palace perched on a hill five kilometres south of Amlapura, is often dismissed as a second cousin to more popular Taman Tirta Gangga. Although not as elaborate as its more famous cousin — though they were both built by the same Raja — we think this palace overlooking the ocean has a bit of an edge on the serenity stakes. It’s much larger, has fewer tourists and the tranquil gardens make for a pleasant visit.
Taman Sukasada, often referred to as Taman Ujung or Ujung Water Palace, was built by the last Raja of Karangasem (H.H. Sri Paduka Ratu Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem). It dates from 1921 and was officially opened in 1937. Combining Balinese, European and Chinese architectural traditions, the water palace was conceived as a recreational area for the royal family and for entertaining important guests visiting the Karangasem kingdom. In Balinese cosmology, Taman Sukasada sits on an important site, with Gunung Lempuyan to the northeast, Gunung Agung to the west, and the sea to the east. The palace was destroyed first by the eruption of Gunung Agung in 1963, and then nature had a second go with an earthquake in 1975. A conservation project was completed in 2004.
Puri Agung Karangasem
Puri Agung Karangasem, once the royal palace of the kingdom of Karangasem, offers a glimpse into the splendour of the days when the Rajas ruled Bali. Located in the centre of Amlapura, it’s a fascinating stop for anyone interested in architecture or history. The palace was built at the end of the 19th century and is still home to descendants of the royal family. The orderly compound comprises several grand buildings and numerous separate courtyards blending Balinese, European and Chinese architectural styles. A teared pagoda-style entrance gate, symbolic of the three worlds of heaven, earth and hell, lead towards the rising sun in the east.
The first compound contains guest rooms and a courtyard for traditional performances. Another teared gate leads to a garden, before you enter the inner courtyard which houses Maskerdam, the Raja’s residence. Maskerdam is a corruption of ‘Amsterdam’, a nod to the last Raja’s submission to Dutch rule. Inside the former living quarters you’ll see several furnished rooms, including the royal bedroom and a sitting room, in all their faded glory. Even more fascinating is the large number of photographs hanging on the walls depicting the Raja’s interactions with the Dutch colonial overlords at the turn of the century. No one has lived in Maskerdam since the last Raja’s death in 1966.
Eating choices in the city of Amlapura cater mostly to the local crowd, with a mix of the usual fast-food joints and small warungs. For those wanting supplies for self catering, a huge Hardy’s supermarket is on Jalan Diponegoro. Amlapura market is the place to pick up the freshest veggies and a range of local fruit — try salak (snakeskin fruit), dragonfruit or mangosteens and durian in season. Some small stalls sell a variety of ready to eat snacks including satay, nasi pecal (vegetables with a spicy sauce) and sticky rice desserts. For a more authentic snack at Tirta Gangga, eat what the drivers are eating — dotted around the car park are several stalls selling bakso (meatball soup) and nasi campur packets. Cheap and tasty, but maybe too spicy for some palates.
- Aashaya Jasri: Jalan Pantai Jasri, Amlapura; T: (0363) 21045, (0812) 392 5205; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.aashayajasri.com; open daily 7:00-21:30.
- Bali Asli: Jalan Raya Gelumpang, Gelumpang; T: (0828) 9703 0098; email@example.com; www.baliasli.com.au; open daily 10:00-18:00.
- Bali Chocolate Factory: Jalan Raya Pantai Jasri Kauhan; T: (0822) 3665 5998; open daily 09:00-17:00.
- Good Karma: Taman Tirta Gangga carpark; T: (0813) 3871 1399; firstname.lastname@example.org; open daily 07:00-21:00.
- Hardy’s Supermarket: 14x Jalan Diponegoro, Amlapura; T: (0363) 22 363; open daily 8:00-22:00.
- Ikan pepes stalls: Near Taman Sukasada; open daily from 15:00.
- Makoto Ryoshi Tea House: Jalan Abadi; T: (0812) 368 2791.
- Tirta Ayu Hotel & Restaurant: Inside Taman Tirta Gangga; T: (0363) 22 503; email@example.com; www.hoteltirtagangga.com; open daily 07:00-21:00.
- Uforia Chocolate: Jalan Pura Mascima, Jasi Kelod; T: (0363) 21 687; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.uforiachocolate.com; open Mon-Sat: 08:00-17:30, Sun: 08:00-12:00, 14:00-17:00.
Buses for Batubulan (for Denpasar and south), Singaraja via Tulamben and Amed depart from the terminal between Jalan Nenas and Jalan Suropati.
Buses to Batubulan depart approximately every 10 minutes between 06:00-13:15 for 25,000 rupiah (2 hours). Look for these bus companies: Arjuna; Sri Krisna; Maraton; Mulia Jaya; Putra Luhur; and Nusa Indah.
Buses to Singaraja depart around every 15-30 minutes between 07:00-12:45 for 50,000 rupiah (3 hours). Look for these bus companies: Putra Jaya; Adi Jaya; Putra Luhur.
Perama shuttle buses leave from the carpark at Tirta Gangga to Amed and Tulamben at 10:15 for 75,000 rupiah (30 minutes/1 hour). Buses for southern destinations depart at 12:15.
Candi Dasa and Padang Bai: 75,000 rupiah (30 minutes/1 hour)
Ubud, Sanur, Kuta: 150,000 rupiah (2 hours/2 hours/3 hours). You must book one day before, and some routes may have minimum passenger numbers.
Bemos depart from the terminal on Jalan Kesatriaan opposite the Amlapura Market. Routes are well signposted for the final destination, but there is no information as to the towns they pass through, which may be your destination — you’ll need to check. Local fares are quoted, but most likely you’ll have to bargain, and the drivers will offer to charter you — for a much higher price, of course. Times are approximate and depend on how many stops they make, traffic and ceremonies they may encounter. As with everywhere in Bali, bemos are more frequent in the morning, and they don’t depart until they are full.
Orange bemos under the ‘Dalam Kota’ sign are for destinations around town, including the bus terminal for onward journeys to Batubulan (for Denpasar and south) and Singaraja via Tulamben and Amed.
Orange (and sometimes red) bemos go to Padang Bai, via Jasri and Candi Dasa.
Jasri — 5,000 rupiah (15 mins); Candi Dasa — 8,000 rupiah (30 mins); Padang Bai — 30,000 rupiah (1 hour).
Red bemos marked Culik go via Tirta Gangga and the turnoff to Amed. Red bemos (sometimes blue) maked Abang will drop you near Pura Lempuyang.
Tirta Gangga —10,000 (20 mins); Amed — 40,000 rupiah (2 hours); Pura Lempuyang — 10,000 rupiah (30 mins).
For Pura Besakih take a green bemo marked Bebandem (or just Bandam). At Bebandem change for Selat and Pura Besakih. Some green bemos are marked Selat - Besakih and go all the way to Pura Besakih, but they are less frequent.
Pura Besakih — 10,000 rupiah (1.5 hours).