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Who needs a Water Palace anyway? (The King of Bali)

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

Travel Bali Water Palace
Don’t the words just sound fantastic, heavenly even: Water Palace. Imagine yourself calming down in a palace surrounded by mirroring water. Where the smooth and relaxing sound of falling water drops competes with the sound of birds and monkeys in distant trees. The wind finding it’s natural way through leaves of palm trees, blowing her refreshing breath to please a King.

Bali used to have its own Kings (or Rajas). For centuries Balinese people lived their own life, willingly disconnected from the rest of Indonesia. A fertile soil (result from the many volcanic eruptions) delivered all the food they needed and even more. That overstock was being sold and attracted lots of international traders from India, the Netherlands and other countries.

Bali and its nine regencies

Bali turned into a world apart and was even split into nine regencies in the 15th centry. People were strongly influenced by Hindu religion (through the Indian traders), in contrast to the Islamic culture on the other islands in the Indonesian archipelago. The Balinese monarchs guided this world apart from their nine regencies across the island. In 1950 all the regencies on Bali were incorporated in the Indonesian unitary state. There is no active Balinese King or Raja anymore, but we can still see their inheritance around the island. One of them are water palaces and especially the ones in the Karangasem regency (east of Bali).

We can but assume the King of Karangasem needed a quiet place for him to relax and rest from all the stressfull work. Thinking about how to defend against too much external influences, he needed a place that could calm him down, but at the same time respect his royal status. From idea to creation: a water palace.

When you visit Bali, do take some time to visit water palaces. There are three important ones in the East of Bali. The first one, Taman Ujung, was built in 1909 by the King of Karangasem. His son built another one in 1946: Tirta Gangga. And yes, although two is party and three is a crowd, a third one emerged from the ideas of the same Raja: the water palace of Jangutan.

During our 2010 Bali trip we visited two out of the three water palaces. They are very different from each other and this overview is to let you dream away….imagine you were the King of Bali.

Tirta Gangga

Tirta Gangga is both the name of a village as well as the water palace itself. Tirta Gangga literally means water from the Ganges and it is a site of some reference for the Hindu Balinese. The superb water palace was built here in 1946 by the last King of Karangasem, Anak Agung Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem.

The Tirta Gangga water palace is a maze of pools and fountains surrounded by a garden. The complex was sadly destroyed almost entirely by the eruption of nearby volcano Mount Agung in 1963 (Bali people know the destructive effects of these volcanoes, but they also accept the fact that this is the reason their island is so fertile).
The palace has been carefully re-built and restored and has a certain air of royalty (or at least royalty at that time in history). The center piece of the palace is an eleven tiered fountain and there are many beautiful carvings and statues adorning the gardens.

You can spend the night within the Tirta Gangga water palace hotel where you can dine and have breakfast with a great view on the water palace itself.

Travel Bali Water Palace

Travel Bali Water Palace

Travel Bali Water Palace

Ujung

The Taman Ujung water palace was built in 1919 as a relaxation and recreation palace by the then King of Karangasem, I Gusti Bagus Jelantik. He was the father of the King who built Tirta Gangga. It was largely destroyed by the eruption of Mount Agungin 1963 (yes indeed, the same one destroying Tirta Gangga), damaged again by an earthquake in 1979 and has been very recently restored completely. You can have a look at the King’s private rooms with old style traditional bed and furniture and old family photos hanging on the wall.

More than Tirta Gangga, it’s an elegant complex. You can wander around the garden and even climb up steep stairs to admire the view from above. From there you can see the ocean and small fisher villages on the coast.

Travel Bali Water Palace

Travel Bali Water Palace

Royalty and the love of the common people

You know what fascinates me about Royal palaces? We visit them because we are interested to see how royal people live. What does that learn us? It only shows the distance between us and a royal family. But we all dream of being a King or Queen……right before we return to earth and live in the love of the common people again.

Travel Bali Water Palace

Travel Bali Water Palace

Travel Bali Water Palace

You can read more posts about Bali on this blog:

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22 comments

» Getting to Know Traveling Families: Emiel » This Is My Happiness October 24, 2011 - 22:20

[…] story that reflects what I like about him and then let his words and photos do the talking. In a post about Balinese water palaces, he included photographs of local people who lived nearby. One […]

Reply
Granola Talk: October 12, 2011 October 12, 2011 - 14:08

[…] Ever wonder Who needs a Water Palace anyway? (Act of Traveling) […]

Reply
Emily Cannell October 8, 2011 - 08:20

What wonderful pics….

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Monique, bringing travel home October 4, 2011 - 20:31

it looks like your children might be old enough to escape falling into the water surrounding the palaces and navigated those stepping stones nicely! once again, beautiful pics about a part of the world I have yet to see in person. you certainly have piqued my interest.

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Emiel van den Boomen October 4, 2011 - 23:20

Monique, falling into the water was not an option for them….the fish were too big!

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Bama October 1, 2011 - 18:35

Oh, Bali…I’m going to the island this December. It’s nice to know that you also visited some of the island’s less touristy places, Emiel.

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Emiel van den Boomen October 4, 2011 - 23:19

thanks Bama, hope you have a great time in December!

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Tracey September 30, 2011 - 15:33

Great photos! Has made me rethink our decision to skip Bali!

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Emiel van den Boomen September 30, 2011 - 16:38

Wow Tracey, how strong an influence pictures can have!

2011/9/30 Disqus

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Febriola Gaby Suroto September 30, 2011 - 10:38

Hi Emiel! Love the blog post and all the pictures you’ve taken. Come back to Bali! Cheers!

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Emiel van den Boomen September 30, 2011 - 14:32

Well Gaby, that is what I call a great idea! 🙂 Thank you.

2011/9/30 Disqus

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Emiel van den Boomen September 30, 2011 - 08:48

This is how the Ujung Water Palace looked like right after the earthquake in 1979. Amazing and I am glad they have been able to restore it in such detail.

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Amy September 29, 2011 - 19:17

So beautiful! I love how everything in Bali is so ornate, such care and attention to detail in their craftsmanship.

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Emiel van den Boomen September 30, 2011 - 08:45

It is Amy. Don’t be scared to look at the image enclosed to this comment. This is how Ujung Water Palace looked like right after the earthquake in 1979. I am so glad they have been able to restore it in such detail.

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Vibeke September 29, 2011 - 07:39

Such beautiful, serene places! Perfect way to start another working day among the common people;-)

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Emiel van den Boomen September 29, 2011 - 13:51

Vibeke, we are all part of the common people but luckily all special in some kind of way 🙂

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alex September 29, 2011 - 02:29

Beautiful pictures! I really enjoyed the water palace on my trip last year too. So worth making the trip out of the main tourist loop 🙂

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Emiel van den Boomen September 29, 2011 - 13:53

Thanks Alex. Great that you have been to the palace yourself. Indeed the east part of Bali is not crowded with tourists. What are your upcoming travel plans?

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Michi September 28, 2011 - 22:56

Gorgeous post!! The pictures made my heart ache – I want to visit Bali so very badly! Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos, I’ll have to refer back to this post when I finally make it out to Bali – my most desired destination. 😉

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Emiel van den Boomen September 29, 2011 - 13:56

Gracias Michelle. Sorry to make your heart ache that much 🙂 You will make it to Bali for sure, you have a strong desire to travel I know…

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Clark Vandeventer September 28, 2011 - 22:30

They look amazing.  Although I wonder how we’d keep our kids out of the water when they’re crossing on those little platforms!

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Emiel van den Boomen September 28, 2011 - 22:55

Maybe the big fish will scare them??

Reply

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