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The first thing which strikes the visitor to Bukit Badung, the bulbous peninsula at Bali's southernmost tip, is that the landscape is totally different from the rest of the island. Most of Bali is volcanic - rich soils watered year round by run-off from mountain lakes and streams, which support a lush, tropical vegetation. In contrast, the Bukit is a non-volcanic limestone plateau which has its own unique ecology.
The so-called "hill" for that is what "Bukit" means has an ecosystem characterized by its lack of surface water. The soil lies on a base of cracked and porous limestone, and any rain, which does fall quickly, seeps through fissures to a very low water table. The area is thus ill suited to agriculture during the dry season, when the scrubby vegetation looks more Mediterranean than tropical. During the rainy season, however, the area's vegetation becomes quite lush and crops of soybeans, sorghum, cashew nuts, manioc, beans of various sorts and even corn, flourish.
The plateau which constitutes most of the peninsula rises abruptly to about 200 in above sea level, and is ringed on all sides by steep cliffs. It is connected to the rest of Bali by a narrow isthmus, upon which lies the village of Jimbaran. Many lovely beaches line the shores of the peninsula and the isthmus, although access is often difficult. The biggest and best-known beach is just beyond the airport, on the western side of the Jimbaran isthmus. More secluded and equally beautiful sands are found further to the south, at the foot of steep cliffs along the western and southern shores of the Bukit plateau.
The whole area has a host of natural attractions for those willing to invest the time to explore. Grand, gray-white cliffs overlook long, white rollers world famous among surfers. Graceful boats sway at anchor in tranquil Jimbaran bay. The quiet and empty bush areas of the elevated plateau are ideal for experienced hikers (though few good maps of the area are available). The region also boasts places of cultural significance, the most renowned being Uluwatu Temple Luhur Uluwatu).
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A glimpse of the past
The Bukit bears witness to a long history. There are limestone caves all over the area and evidence of prehistoric human occupation have been found in Gua Selonding. Before Uluwatu became a Hindu temple, it was the site of worship for more ancient cults The foundation of the temple itself is dated Balinese tradition to the 11th century.
The poverty of the soil and its geographical isolation have shaped the social landscape of Bukit Badung. There was never any wet rice farming and other crops and cattle-breeding did not suffice to feed the population. So those who could not subsist through farming cattle-raising and crafts, looked to the sea for salt, lime and fish. Others migrated to rice growing areas. Old men of Sukawati still talk of Bukit peddlars exchanging betel lime and salt for gleaning and accommodation right Bukit Badung is also known as a region where the overlords of Mengwi and Badung banished malcontents and defaulting debtors Nowadays the population is growing, the region having become a major focal point of Bali's relentless tourism boom.
Jimbaran as an administrative entity forms a part of Kuta, and encompasses the area just south of Bali's international airport. Most of Jimbaran's 12,000 inhabitants live in a cluster of traditional banjar neighborhoods at the narrowest part of the isthmus, but the Jimbaran area also includes the sparsely populated northwestern corner of the Bukit plateau.
Since the Nusa Dua highway leads visitors through the region along the eastern mudflats and mangrove swamps, the area went almost unnoticed by tourists until a few years ago. There were no hotels or even home stays, no tourist restaurants, no art shops, few artists, and hardly anyone who could speak English. All that is changing rapidly, perhaps more rapidly than some of the local residents would like. Jimbaran's fine beach has now led to the construction of a number of luxury hotels along its edge, and in a few years the area seems destined to become another major resort rivaling Sanur, Kuta and Nusa Dua.
Jimbaran village is unique in that it borders two separate coasts lying less than 2 km apart, each of which has a markedly different geography. To the west is the broad expanse of Jimbaran Bay and the Indian Ocean. To the east is a tidal mudflat enclosing the shallow and sheltered Benoa Harbor. The ecosystems of the two strands, and the occupations of villagers who five on them, differ dramatically.
Salt making and lime production are the principal livelihoods on the eastern side while fishing is the main industry of the west The salt is made by sloshing seawater onto the flats, to be dried by the sun. Villagers then rake up the salty dirt and evaporate the solution over wood fires in shallow metal pans. The abundance of coral fragments provide the raw materials for the lime industry. (NOTE: You will have to ask directions if you want to see salt and lime workings, these areas are only accessible via a rabbit's warren of unpaved tracks.)
Jimbaran's lovely western beach is protected from larger waves by a fragmented reef behind which lies shallow water, an ideal anchorage for large fishing boats. However idyllic it may appear during the dry season, the beach is often rather unpleasant from about November through March when high waves assault the shore, and the sand becomes littered with flotsam of every description.
Fishing is the principal activity all along the bay, not only in Jimbaran itself, but also in the villages of Kedonganan and Kelan to the north. Kedonganan's catch always surpasses that of Jimbaran. The Kedonganan fishermen who are mostly Javanese use large, motorized prahu made in Madura to catch enormous quantities of sardines with huge purse seines. They depart in the late afternoon and return just after dawn to sell their catch to wholesalers waiting by the shore with trucks full of ice.
An early morning visit to witness the arrival of the fishing fleet at Kedonganan is a heady experience. Head north from Jimbaran towards the airport and take the first paved road to your left (west) just beyond Jimbaran village's northern boundary. Bear in mind, however, that fishing comes almost to a halt during the rainy season.
In contrast to those in Kedonganan, almost all fishermen in Jimbaran are local Balinese who use jukung (small outrigger boats) and fish with gill nets or large round cast nets. 'Me gill nets are set out in the bay in the late afternoon, and the catch is collected early the next morning. During the fishing season there is lots of interesting activity just after sunrise, well worth waking early for. To get to the hub of the activity, follow the unpaved road that leads to the beach from Jimbaran's main crossroads, past Pura Ulun Siwi.
Jimbaran's market is located on the northeast corner of the main crossroads in the village, just across the street from Pura Ulun Siwi. It is the principal trading center for most of the Bukit, as well as for the villages that lie to the north, between Jimbaran and Kuta. There are no crafts sold specifically for tourists, but there is a considerable variety of local products, including baskets and mats produced by the weavers of villages such as Ungasan and Pecatu. There is no special market day. Activity is greatest early in the morning and almost ceases by noon.
Jimbaran has the usual three village temples, the Pura Dalem (called Pura Kahyangan locally), Pura Puseh and Pura Desa. The latter two are combined into one enclosure in Jimbaran, as occurs in many villages. These tend to be overlooked in favor of the more spectacular and better-known Pura Ulun Siwi (alternatively Pura Ulun Swi). But each is interesting in its own right.
Pura Kahyangan lies just to the west of the cemetery, north of the access road to Hotel Puri Bali. The Pura Puseh/Desa is about 50 in northeast of the market. It is interesting to note that the odalan or anniversary ceremonies of these three temples, and of Pura Ulun Siwi, all occur within four days of each other, commencing on the third day after Galungan (which is the biggest holy day in the traditional Balinese calendar). Jimbaran becomes a beehive of ritual activity at this time of year.
One of the most important ceremonies in Jimbaran is the exorcist Barong procession The Barong is a mythical beast who acts as protector of the village and its people, represented by a mask and costume which is paraded through the area at periodic intervals. Jimbaran's inhabitants spare expense to support the Barong, making offering to , to praying, and performing the ritual. Appearances of the Barong in the main street of Jimbaran between Pura Ulun Siwi and the market are always accompanied by the evil witch Rangda and her two cohorts, and by a retinue of about a dozen other dancers. Trance plays an important part in a Barong performance, and the actions of the trance dancers who try to stab Rangda are bizarre and unforgettable.
Pura Ulun Siwi
Pura Ulun Siwi (or Ulun Swi) is Jimbaran's best-known "sight" - for the Balinesee as well as for tourists. This large temple lies at the northwestern corner of the principal crossroads, across the street from the market. It is unusual for several reasons. Firstly it faces east, rather than south. During prayers, the worshippers face west, rather than to the north, to Gunung Agung, as is the usual practice. This is attributed to the fact that the temple, once a primitive shrine, became a Hindu13, alinese temple fairly early, in the 11th century. At this time the Javanese holy man who founded the temple, Mpu Kuturan, still followed the custom of his native Java in orientating his temples toward holy Mt. Semeru, in East Java. It was only much later that Gunung Agung became the focus of Balinese Hinduism.
The temple has only two courtyards, instead of the usual three. The spacious interior courtyard measures 66 x 30 meters and is dominated by an enormous eleven-tiered meru tower that is more massive than artistic. The temple has been periodically renovated, but remains simple and rustic, lacking the ornate paras stone carvings that characterize the temples of Gianyar.
The principal gate, a kori agung with wings, is very similar in construction to that of Pura Uluwatu on the Bukit, except that it is made of brick instead of coral stone. There is a close connection between these two temples, and it is said that one should pray at Pura Ulun Siwi before proceeding to Pura Uuwatu.
Ulun Siwi is unusual in yet another way. It is the principal temple in Bali dedicated to the welfare of both wet and dry rice fields, and the spirits, which live in the temple, are thought to control the mice and insects such as grasshoppers that periodically infest the fields. Farmers and farming groups regularly come to Pura Uluwatu to get water, which they then take back home and sprinkle on their fields either to protect them from these pests or to rid them of those already present.
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South to Uluwatu
South of Jimbaran, the road climbs steeply up several switchbacks onto Bukit Badung Plateau, offering dramatic panoramas back up the beach to the rice lands and the volcanoes on a clear day.
All around the southern and western edges of the plateau, limestone cliffs tower above a pounding surf 70 meters (250 feet) below. This is where Bali's best surfing is found - particularly famous are the waves at Suluban, Labuhan Sait and Bingin.
The Bukit's most famous landmark is Pura Luhur Uluwatu, an exquisite monument situated on a headland at the westernmost tip of the peninsula. The carvings, which decorate the temple, are very well preserved in comparison to many of Bali's temples, due to the extremely hard, dark gray coral stone used in its construction.
Uluwatu was reputedly built by the architect-priest Mpu Kuturan around the 11th century as one of the six major sad kahyangan territorial temples of the island. The reformer priest, Pedanda Wawu Rauh, rebuilt it in its present state in the 16th century. He is said to have attained his moksa (release from earthly desires) here. The temple is home to a small colony of monkeys who have caused some damage to the temple over the years, but still retain their status as sitting tenants.
The temple's structure follows the tripartite pattern of godly, human and demonic courtyards. The outermost entrance is a candi bentar split gate shaped as a set of curved Garuda wings, an unusual feature as they are usually left smooth. Inside the temple, a second gate is capped by a monstruous Kala head guardian figure. At the foot of the gate, right and left, are two Ganesha "elephant god" statues.
temple underwent renovations in the late 19th century, in 1949, and
more recently in the 1980s, and some parts are actually as new as they
look. Despite the temple's mixture of old and new it is a breathtakingly
beautiful spot, especially when the sun begins to set.
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