Singaraja still has some of the feel of an old colonial capital. The streets are wider and grander than elsewhere in Bali and some of the old houses set in large gardens recall days long gone. Singaraja just looks different from other towns and cities in Bali. This is also a noticeably multi ethnic city. The Arabic influence is especially apparent in the district near the old docks called Kampung Arab and the largest Chinese temple in Bali is here.
This is major academic centre with two univerisities, and the number of students residing swells the population to just over 100,000, making Singaraja Bali’s second largest city.
It takes 2 to 3 hours to drive to Singaraja from the south of Bali. There are three main routes: east via Kintamani, taking in the stunning active volcano and mountain vistas, west via Pupuan, through beautiful rice-paddies, spice and coffee plantations; and central, via Bedugul with its famous market and botanical gardens. Whichever route you take, the journey is sure to be scenic and interesting.
Annoyingly for a city of its relatively small size, Singaraja has three bus terminals. Local bemos ferry passengers between the three terminals, many of which seem to be blue.
Almost no visitors stay in Singaraja, it is more of a passing through town. Visitors therefore normally explore the city and surrounding areas in the car they arrived in.
- Gedong Kirtya, Jalan Veteren 20, Singaraja. M-F 8AM-4PM. A library and museum dedicated to the cataloging and preservation of old lontar (paper made from the rontal palm) scripts. Also houses some bronze inscription plates dating from the 10th century.
- Pura Agung Jagatnatha, Jl Pramuka (close to the the junction of Jl Pramuka and Jl Letkol Wisnu). This is the most important temple in the city and the largest in the whole of North Bali. Sadly non-Hindu visitors will not normally be allowed to enter. It is though still worth a visit to admire its magnificence from outside.
- Yudha Mandalatama Independence Monument, Jl Erlanga (right on the waterfront at the mouth of the Buleleng river). This rather splendid monument commemorates a local freedom fighter killed in the war against the Dutch. It is the dominant feature of the ramshackle but charming seafront of the city. Explore the surrounding area for a feeling of what Singaraja might have been like in its days as an important colonial port.
- Air Sanih (Yeh Sanih), Air Sanih Village (about 15 km east of Singaraja on the coast road). 8AM-6PM daily. A quaint, tiny coastal village with a notable cold spring bathing area set in nice gardens. The spring water here is said to originate from holy Lake Batur. A warning that the springs are very popular with local children, and can get noisy. Don’t let that put you off though.
- Gitgit Waterfalls, Gitgit village (10 km south Singaraja on the main road to Bedugul). 8AM-5:30PM daily. You are on the northern slopes of the central mountain range here, and there are three spread out waterfalls around the village of Gitgit. When driving south from Singaraja to Bedugul you cannot miss the signs and car parks. The best of the falls is the southernmost which drops about 50 metres. Some opportunities for bathing in the cool and fresh mountain waters.
- Meduwe Karang Temple (Pura Meduwe Karang), Kubutambahan village (about 10 km east of Singaraja on the coast road). A lovely looking temple, perhaps one of the most impressive in North Bali, and the location of the famous original carving of the Dutch cyclist which you see copied all over Bali. The temple is devoted to deities of agricultural matters. The unusual Pura Meduwe Karang, the “temple of the Owner of the Land,” is about 1 km beyond the Kintamani turnoff. This important district temple is dedicated to Ibu Pertiwi “Mother Earth,” worshipped to ensure successful fertilization of crops grown on dry, unirrigated land such as coconuts, coffee, and corn. One of northern Bali’s largest temples, its terraced entrance recalls some of Europe’s stately baroque gardens. Steps lead past 34 stone figures from the Ramayana to a big, peaceful, nearly empty courtyard. More steps lead to an inner section containing a huge stone pyramid like base flanked by two bale reserved for offerings. The temple’s carvings show ghouls, noblemen, home scenes, soft erotic scenes, and a riot of leaves and tendrils. One pedestal shows a horrifying rendition of Durga, another a large figure resembling Christ at the Last Supper. The center piece depicts a battle scene from the Ramayana. On the northern wall of the innermost shrine is a famous one-meter-high relief of a Dutch official riding a floral bicycle, a reproduction of a 1904 carving destroyed by an earthquake. The cyclist is W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, a famous Dutch landscape and portrait artist who rode his bike around Bali in the early 1900s, painting as he went. During restoration the bicycle was born anew with lotus-flower spokes; even Nieuwenkamp’s sarong and the bush in the background feature floral patterns. Between his feet and the wheels is a rat and small dog; Nieuwenkamp’s initials and moustache, however, are gone. To view this wonderment, ask for the key, then leave your donation in the shop opposite.
- Temple Beji (Pura Beji), Sangsit village (turn inland at Sangsit, 7 km east of Singaraja on the coast road and proceed about 600 metres to the temple). A splendid pink sandstone temple with especially dramatic stone carvings, which is one that is rarely visited temple by tourists. The temple is dedicated to the goddess of rice, Dewi Sri, who protects the irrigated rice fields. The temple was built in the 15th century during the Majapahit period and is considered to be one of the oldest temples in Bali. The temple was actually built on the site of a well. Pura Beji represents a perfect example of the northern rococo style of temple carving, with strange off-angle symmetry. The temple was built of easily carved soft pink sandstone and its walls are decorated with sculptures of demons, snakes and devils. The Candi Bentar is amazing and is composed of naga-snakes and imaginary beasts, devils, as well as leyak guardians. Inside the large inner courtyard you will see old kamboja trees. Of particular interest are the wooden statues and a throne of the sun-god. There you can also find some carvings of Dutch musicians^ which is quite unusual. Entrance fee is by way of a donation and temple sashes are for hire at the entrance.