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Temples and
Playful Reliefs

East Buleleng is noted for its archaic villages and its unique temple architecture, especially those found around the coastal area from Singaraja to Kubutambahan and the region to the south. Time and again visitors have labeled this style of architecture "baroque" for so heavily adored with relief are the temples that it seems no piece of stone has been spared then chisel. Another feature of this style relates to the carving of the heads and hands both of temple statues and of characters in relief's: they protrude to such a degree that it seen-ns as if the figures lie in wait to pounce upon suspecting passers-by.

Singaraja to Air Sanih

Not far from Singaraja are some fine examples of charming old villages set amid lush vegetation - Simabun, Suwug and Sudaji, reached along a scenic road by turning right at the T-intersection prior to Sangsit.

Pura bejiThe best example of Buleleng baroque architecture is encountered at Pura Beji in the village of Sangsit, 8 km from singaraja. A small sign on the left hand side of the road announces the location of the temple. If you subscribe to the view that once you have seen one temple, you have seen them all, then cast this misapprehension aside, for Pura Beji is work of art.

Pura Beji is a subak temple, that is, a temple belonging to a rice irrigation association. The path leading to its great, arched entrance is flanked by two serpents. The front of the arch overflows with floral motives interspersed with demon heads. Its reverse is adorned with mask-like heads - some of which have been painted - garuda heads, and floral ornamentation. The main shrines have been carved just as elaborately. The beauty of this soft-pink sandstone temple is augmented by the large gnarled frangipani trees growing in its courtyard. Note the faded paintings on two pavilions, clearly the work of master craftsmen.

Further examples of old and interesting villages are found not far to the south of Sangsit at Jagaraga, Menyali and Sawan. To get there return to the main road and take the right-hand fork at the next T-intersection.

Jagaraga, the site of fierce fighting between the Dutch and Balinese in the 1840s, bears no obvious signs of this struggle. Visit Jagaraga's Pura Dalem on which the foreign presence in Buleleng has been captured with great humor. See, for example, the relief of a European riding in a car held up by a knife-wielding bandit. However, such caricatures are few; this temple is dominated by the terrifying widow-witch Rangda.

From Jagaraga drive through Menyali and follow, the road as it climbs to Sawan, home of a well-known gamelan and iron smith who can be watched at work. Head for the center of Sawan and ask for directions.

The three km past the Jagaraga turn-off is the old village of Kubutambahan, best known for its Pura Meduwe Karang temple, which perches high up on the left side of the road. This temple is dedicated to the Lord of Dry Fields; those who cultivate dry fields worship here. The style of this temple, though more, restrained than Pura Beji, is impressive.

Three tiers of stone statues which are said to number thirty-four figures from the Ramayana are stationed outside the temple. Floral motives predominate within the temple walls. Famous among the relief's is an old one of a Dutch man riding a bicycle, its back wheel a lotus flower. It is located on the northern wall of the inner shrine.

Seventeen km from Singaraja is the well known beach resort of Air Sanih. Its main attraction is not its beach but rather a swimming pool located near the beach. Its icy water originates from a spring and is said to flow at a rate of 800 liters per second. Not as popular with visitors as Lovina, Air Sanih with its accommodation and restaurants is, nevertheless, a good place to recuperate if you are traveling in the area.

Air Sanih to Tejakula

Situated on the coast 7 km east of Air Sanih is the important temple of Pura Ponjok Batu. Built atop a hill it affords a fine view of the ocean and some splendid frangipani trees. Cross the road to the small fenced-in shrine that encloses a number of stones. It is said that the 16th century priest Nirartha, drawn to the site by its immense beauty, sat on one of these stones as he composed poetry.

For a change from Hindu Bali visit the "Bali Aga" village of Sembiran, 6 km east of Pura Ponjok Batu. A steep, narrow winding road brings you into Sembiran. The layout of the village differs from that of predominantly Hindu villages. However, Hindu influence is nowadays visible in the form of temples. The village appears poor with its many mud brick dwellings roofed with zinc sheets. There are excellent views back to the coast.

Tejakula, 3 km past the Sembiran turnoff, is the last important port of call in east Buleleng. Visit Banjar Pande, the ward of silversmiths, and watch them at work as they produce Balinese religious items and jewelry. Also be sure to see the famous horse bath. To get there, turn south at the T-intersection. This large, elaborate structure with its graceful arches has been turned into a public bathing area.

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