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Places of Interest - Denpasar


Overview

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.

Denpasar 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.

A 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.

Unless 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.

Denpasar's 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.

Bali Museum

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.

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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 establishments.
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 mala