Has swollen some tenfold, to a mini metropolis of 200.000 since replacing the northern port of Singaraja as the decade has been one of extraordinary change – some ten blocks of shops at the town’s centre get busier by the year, suburban sprawl is swallowing up once autonomous satellite villages and the capital’s formerly packed hotels now canter only to domestik visitors from neighbouring Java.
But Denpasar has its hidden attractions. If you are lucky enough to pass an innercity ceremony, stop for a moment and observe how the basically rural balinese cope with patterns of urban life. The pasar malam (night market), riverside in the carpark of the smart new multi level Kusumasari shopping complex, is the area’s best nocturnal treat. Feast on babi guling (roast stuckling pig), Javanese goat sate or Chinese noodles.
Denpasar’s main square was the scene of the horrific mass suicide of 1906, when almost the netire royal house of denpasar, dressed in white and armed with ceremonial daggers and lances, rushed headlong into blazing Dutch guns. Successive governments have erected monuments commemorating the event.
In the middle of a main intersection at the northwest corner of the square is a five metre (16 foot) statue of Bhatara Guru, teacher and lord protector of the realm. On the square proper towers a triple lifesize bronze executed in the Sukarno School of social realism – idealizing the role of ordinary men and women in the nation’s struggle for independence. To the east of square stands the town’s state temple. Pira Jagatnata, a figurine of Tintya, the almighty godhead, glinting from its sea high on the temple’s central shrine.
“The Bali Museum nextdoor houses a fine collection of archaelogical artifacts and examples of balinese craftsmanship.”
In the morning visit Bali’s foremoest conservatory of dance, music and puppet theatre, kokar/SMKI on Jalan Ratna, to see the island’s graceful and handsome teenage stars rehearsing in drainpipe jeans – de regueur for the 1980s. The tertiary level of the school, ASTI, is located inside the sprawling grounds of the performing arts centre, Werdi Budaya, located at Abian Kapas. A masterwork of baroque Balinese recreational architecture, the complex contains museums, open stages and recital halls.
Visitors are welcome to observe dance and music classes in progress. in 1979 the first island – wide Arts Festival was held here, encompassing a monster programme of gamelan competitions, art contests, theatre revivals, craft exhibitons, and a seven part production of the ever popular Ramayan Ballet. It has now become an annual affair, held between May and July, and tens of thousands of art lovers comefrom around the world to witness the glamour of Bali’s cultural heritage.
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