A fascinating mix of religion, royal culture, architectural splendour and Bali luxury travel lies within easy reach of Amankila in the area often referred to as ‘old Bali’.
In old Bali, you will find the royal palaces of Klungkung and Karangasem. This is also where the last Raja of Karangasem built his water palaces: Tirtagangga, now a public bathing area; and Ujung, which conveys the extravagant sweep of the Raja’s kingly ambition. To reach Ujung, you must first journey to Amlapura, the capital of Bali’s Karangasem Regency. From here, the palace is only a few minutes along a country road that winds between picturesque rice terraces. From the roadside, one’s first glimpse is of a grand Romanesque hall, decorated with ornate archways. Their distinctive shape, more baroque than Balinese, finds fresh resonance today in the doorways and alcoves of Amankila. The land then drops in steep, terraced fashion to a sun-washed valley claimed by two royal bathing pools and just beyond, the brilliant blue sea.
East Bali is full of villages showcasing a way of life little changed over the centuries. None is more rooted in the past however, than the religious community of Tenganan. While most of Bali embraced and reinterpreted Hinduism over the centuries, Tenganan still believes in its own divine origin. In this tiny society, clothing has always been central to religious ritual and today, families still painstakingly fashion geringsing or double ikat cloth. It is only in Tenganan and Gujarat, India, that this rare textile is still produced, the warp and weft threads dyed before the fabric is woven.
Two of the island’s most important temples – Luhur Lempuyang and Besakih, the island’s mother temple – are also located in East Bali. Luhur Lempuyang is one of Bali’s sad kahyangan (six temples of the heavens), the six most venerated temples on an island rife with places of prayer and offering. Besakih is located high on the southwestern flanks of Mount Agung, Bali’s sacred mountain which rises majestically behind Amankila. The mountain itself can be climbed in a morning, the route dotted with shrines, temples and stone steps strewn with the handmade coconut-leaf wrappings used for fruit and flower offerings.