Kintamani and Bangli Regency
The region of Bangli, up in the higher elevations of central-eastern Bali, embraces some of the island's most spectacular scenery. This is a relatively remote region, with a population of only 188,000 - second lowest of Bali's eight regencies after tiny Klungkung.
The overwhelming majority still derive a livelihood from agriculture, growing rice, corn, sweet potatoes, cassava and cabbages on non-irrigated fields, as well as coffee, tobacco, vanilla, citrus, passion fruit and cloves, much of it for export. Tourism is not well developed here, with the notable exception of Kintamani and other towns up on the crater of Mt Batur, which on account of its breathtaking views has become one of the island's major tourist stops.
The main route through Bangli begins just east of Gianyar, passing through Bangli Town on its way up over Mt Batur via Kintamani, ending on the north coast at Kubutambahan. On the way up, terraced rice fields at first dominate the landscape.
Once past Bangli Town, however, the scenery changes dramatically and temperatures begin to drop. First the road winds through lush groves of giant bamboo which cast an eerie, greenish light. Residents of Baugh regard these as mystically charged. They are also reputed to have been the site of bloody skirmishes between rival princes during pre-colonial times, and more recently provided shelter to Balinese guerillas during the battle for Indonesian independence.
Further north, one arrives at a number of upland villages set amidst black, volcanic SON. The residents of the south refer to these villagers as "mountain people," and although they were once under the sway of the Bangli court, they were less influenced by the Hinduized culture of the south. As a result, they still maintain some archaic religious practices and forms of village organization, like the "Bali Aga" villages further to the north and east.
Approaching the Batur area, swirling mists are likely to obscure the view and increase the chill. For a few moments, while traversing this dramatic landscape of muted colors and indistinct horizons, it is possible to feel that one has crossed over to a different place and time - leaving behind the lush, green picture postcard Bali.
Suddenly, the road crests the hill through a narrow pass, and the famous peak and crater lake of Batur appear. This huge caldera was created when the volcano blew its stack many eons ago, leaving behind a gaping hole that now contains a smaller volcano and a spectacular crater lake.
Amongst the Balinese, Bangli is renowned for its black magic, or "knowledge of the left" as the Balinese put it. This is difficult to verify, as practitioners keep their black arts a secret. More in evidence are the large number of successful trance healers, called balian, who follow the "knowledge of the right." Bangli's healers have an island-wide reputation, and one will often see clients arriving from other areas of Bali, bearing offerings dressed in their ceremonial finery.
Bangli was also once a court center. The name comes from "bang giri" which means "red forest" or "mountain." It is said that the king of Klungkung told one of his three sons, Dewa Gede Den Bancingah, to go toward the northwest until he reached a red jarak forest. There he founded a new kingdom, between the Melangit River and Mt Batur on the site of present-day Bangli Town.
Later, Bangli was defeated by Karangasem and annexed for a time. Until the Dutch came, it was often involved in internecine wars with two neighboring kingdoms, vassals of Klungkung. After 1849, Bangli surrendered to the Dutch and its ruler became a regent.
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