Often referred to as 'old Bali', East Bali is a beautiful area brimming with some of Indonesia's finest temples, sweeping bays, volcanoes, palaces, rice paddies and ruins; not to mention the special villages where crafts lost to the rest of the island are still practised. The last Raja of Karangasem built his water palaces here, known as Tirtagangga, which have now become an atmospheric public bathing area. A grand floating ruin named Ujung manages to convey the extravagant sweep of kingly ambition to this day.
Royalty aside, East Bali is packed with villages whose way of life has changed little over the centuries. None is more rooted in the past, however, than the closed religious community of Tenganan. While most of Bali embraced and reinterpreted Hinduism over the centuries, Tenganan has tenaciously held on to its beliefs in its own divine origin. In this tiny society clothing has always been central to ritual. Today, families still painstakingly fashion geringsing or double ikat cloth, a fabric and weave which can only found elsewhere in Gujarat, India.
The country’s highest volcano Gunung Agung stands proud in Manggis. This landmark is revered by the Balinese as a home of the Gods, as well as a replica of Mount Meru, the central axis of the universe. One legend holds that the mountain is a fragment of Meru brought to Bali by the first Hindus. On the western slope of Gunung Agung lies the Besakih Temple, the island's 'Mother Temple', which is renowned as the largest and most important temple on the island.
East Bali is also home to some of Bali's best snorkelling and dive sites in Amed and Padangbai that burst with tropical fish and coral, including the celebrated site of Tulamben where the wreck of the Liberty, a US Army Transport ship torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942, lies just off shore. Manggis and Sanur have some great little beaches and secluded bays that look out towards the neighbouring island Lombok. The views here provide perfect panoramas at daybreak or dusk as the sun floods the iridescent sea with its bright colours.
As it is a quieter spot that the much-loved and arguably over-hyped parts of Indonesia, Manggis is a good choice for both families and couples alike. This region is an ideal base from which to discover the cultural diversity and rich history of Bali, where religion is an intrinsic part of everyday life. Witness the emphasis on faith by attending lively festivals or simply watching locals make their colourful daily offerings of flower garlands to the Gods.
East Bali offers a wide range of luxury accommodation too, so is sure to be a comfortable as well as memorable stay. Amankila completely steals the show for us, for this sleek property is complete with Aman’s signature outstanding service and breathtaking unspoilt views. Its impressive three-tier infinity pool is a huge plus as not only is it the prime spot for a cooling dip, but it also looks out on to the expansive seascape at a 180-degree angle – making for a phenomenal view.
Features in the following itineraries
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Leslie Siben, India
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Anonymous, India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka