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 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.
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.
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.
You can read more posts about Bali on this blog: