The sweeping horizons of the west unfold most dramatically. Geographical ups and downs and twists and turn impart a slightly different character to each of the three western districts: Mengwi, Tabanan and Jembaran. Together they make up almost half of Bali, and are noted for their beautiful garden temples, gamelan orchestras, dancers, bull races and traditional weavers.
Don’t swallow the west in one trip. Instead, base yourself in the south and plan mini excursions to points of special interest. Visit the monkey forest of Sangeh, the moated Pura Taman Ayun temple, or the island temple Tanah Lot. Longer day trips can made to the mountain sanctuary at Batukaru or the Bull races at Negara.
The neighbouring villages of Sempidi, Lukluk and Kapal to the west of Denpasar are noted for their decorative temple reliefs depicting domestic as well as mysthic scene, mischievously executed in exuberant colours.
The most important temple in this area dating from the 12th century, is Para Sada in Kapal. It has 64 stone seats resembling megalithic ancestral shrines – these are believed to commemorate loyal warriors who fell in battle.
Mengwi: Past Kapal, a turnoff towards the mountains leds to Mengwi, which until 1981 was the capital of the powerful Gelgel kingdom. In 1634, the Raja of Mengwi, I Gusti Agung Anom, built the magnificent garden temple, Pura Taman Ayun. The temple’s spacious compound is surrounded by a moat and is adjacent to a lotus lake, with a pagoda like community hall or wantilan in its expansive forecourt. Amoing the pelinggih, rows of wooden shrines that serve as seats for visiting deities during temple feasts, stands a brick paibon or royal ancestral altar, which faces east. In the surrounding pavilions, priests recite their vedic incantations, village elder hold council, offterings are prepared and the temple’s gamelan orchestra is stored.
Northeast of Mengawi, at sangeh, is Bali’s famed monkey forest. According to Balinese versions of the Ramayana epic, this is where part of Hanuman’s monkey army landed when the monkey king lifted the sacred mountain, Mahameru, and broke it apart in order to crush Rawana. Tall nutmeg trees are unique to this region and are considered sacred.
A moss covered temple lies hidden deep in the jungle. In its courtyard is the 17th century Pura Bukit Sari, containing a large statue of the mystichal garuda bird. The mischievous monkey tribe normally appears whenever there are visitors, in order to divest them of any and all edibles. Hold on tight to your belongings.
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