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Bali (Denpasar) Indonesia

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Bali (Denpasar)

Introducing Bali (Denpasar)

Sprawling, hectic and ever-growing, Bali’s capital has been the focus of a lot of the island’s growth and wealth over the last five decades. It can seem a daunting and chaotic place but spend a little time on its tree-lined streets in the relatively affluent government and business district of Renon, and you’ll discover a more genteel side.

Denpasar might not be a tropical paradise, but it’s as much a part of ‘the real Bali’ as the rice paddies and cliff-top temples. After landing at Ngurah Rai (Denpasar) airport, many travellers seeking beautiful beaches, family activities, romance and adventure make their way to the touristy resorts of the south such as Kuta, Seminyak and Ubud. For an insight into the life and culture of a local, however, Denpasar is hard to beat.

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Puputan Square

Across from Pura Jagatnatha, this classic urban park commemorates the heroic but suicidal stand of the rajahs of Badung against the invading Dutch in 1906. A monument depicts a Balinese family in heroic pose, brandishing the weapons that were so ineffective against the Dutch guns. The woman also has jewels in her left hand, as the women of the Badung court reputedly flung their jewellery at the Dutch soldiers to taunt them. The park is popular with locals at lunchtime and with families near sunset.

Kuta Beach

The real sight here is of course the beach. That fabulous stretch of sand that starts in Kuta and runs north right past Seminyak can be the focus for a great day of exploring. Start where Jl Pantai Kuta meets the shore and head north. As your mood demands, frolic in and out of the surf while taking breaks on the sand.

Museum Negeri Propinsi Bali

Think of this as the British Museum or the Smithsonian of Balinese culture. It's all here although, unlike those world-class institutions, you have to work at sorting it out.This museum was originally established in 1910 by a Dutch resident who was concerned by the export of culturally significant artefacts from the island. Destroyed in a 1917 earthquake, it was rebuilt in the 1920s, but used mainly for storage until 1932. At that time, German artist Walter Spies and some Dutch officials revived the idea of collecting and preserving Balinese antiquities and cultural objects, and creating an ethnographic museum. Today the museum is well organised and most displays are labelled in English. You can climb one of the towers inside the grounds for a better view of the whole complex.The museum comprises several buildings and pavilions, including many examples of Balinese architecture. The main building, to the back as you enter, has a collection of prehistoric pieces downstairs, including stone sarcophagi and stone and bronze implements. Upstairs are examples of traditional artefacts, including items still in everyday use. Look for the intricate wood-and-cane carrying cases for transporting fighting cocks, and tiny carrying cases for fighting crickets.The northern pavilion, in the style of a Tabanan palace, houses dance costumes and masks, including a sinister Rangda(widow-witch), a healthy-looking Barong (mythical lion-dog creature) and a towering Barong Landung (tall Barong) figure. The central pavilion, with its spacious veranda, is like the palace pavilions of the Karangasem kingdom (based in Amlapura), where rajahs held audiences. The exhibits are related to Balinese religion, and include ceremonial objects, calendars and priests' clothing.The southern pavilion (Gedung Buleleng) has a varied collection of textiles, including endek (a Balinese method of weaving with pre-dyed threads), double ikat, songket (silver- and gold-threaded cloth, hand-woven using a floating weft technique) and prada (the application of gold leaf or gold or silver thread in traditional Balinese clothes).Museum staff often play music on a bamboo gamelan to magical effect; visit in the afternoon when it's uncrowded. Ignore 'guides' who offer little except a chance to part with US$5 or US$10.

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