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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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