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Singaraja

From the highest point on the mountain pass, 1,220 meters above sea level, a spectacular descent brings you to the northern coast at Singaraja, capital of Buleleng regency. Buleleng is a strip of land that stretches along the whole northern coast of Bali-open to the sheltered waters of the Java Sea, and bordering on most of the other regencies. Archaic types of social organization and antiquities are found in many villages that are mentioned in inscriptions dating from the 10th century onward. The inscriptions also tell of pirate raids.

Throughout it's history Buleleng has been more open than the rest of Bali to the influence of the maritime world of the Indonesian Archipelago and beyond. A province before and after Majapahit conquest it rose to prominence at the end of the 16th century under Raja Panji Sakti, who added the conquest of the eastern tip of Java to his other successes. In 1604 he built a new palace called singaraja on fields where men grew the grain known as buleleng. Buleleng, gradually came to refer to the whole northern coast. The official day of Singaraja's foundation is 30 March 1604, and each year a festival is held to commemorate it.

Throughout it's history Buleleng has been more open than the rest of Bali to the influence of the maritime world of the Indonesian Archipelago and beyond. A province before and after Majapahit conquest it rose to prominence at the end of the 16th century under Raja Panji Sakti, who added the conquest of the eastern tip of Java to his other successes. In 1604 he built a new palace called singaraja on fields where men grew the grain known as buleleng. Buleleng, gradually came to refer to the whole northern coast. The official day of Singaraja's foundation is 30 March 1604, and each year a festival is held to commemorate it.

In 1814 a British military expedition stayed several months in Singaraja when Raffles was governor-general. The British went, but the Dutch came, at first with demands and later bearing arms, accusing the rajas of raiding wrecked ships. The first attempts of the Dutch ended in defeat or stalemate.

In 1849 a reinforced expedition captured the Buleleng stronghold of Jagaraga, after a fierce weeklong battle. In 1882 the Dutch imposed direct colonial rule upon Buleleng and Jembrana. Singaraja became their capital and chief port and remained the seat of the colonial Indonesian government for the old Nusa Tenggara province (the Lesser Sunda Islands) until 1953.

Longer exposed to European influence than other parts of Bali, Singaraja has often been in the forefront of changes in the arts, fashion (wearing the kebaya began here), and political and social movements.

As an important shipping center, Singaraja has a cosmopolitan flavor about it. The population of 15,000 comprises many ethnic and religious groups. It is not unusual to see an Islamic procession pass before a Chinese temple flanked by office buildings of European design. Residential sections of the town are named after such immigrant groups as the Bugis of Sulawesi, the Javanese and the Chinese. After the bustle of Denpasar, Singaraja seems subdued, no longer a leader amongst Balinese towns. A legacy from Dutch times, however, is its continuing importance as an educational center.

The city also houses a historical library, the gedong Kirtya, which is the storehouse of Balinese manuscripts, totaling some 3,000. Lontar books-leaves of the lontar palm cut in strips and preserved between two pieces of precious wood contain literature, mythology, historical chronicles and religious treatises, some works relatively new, others almost a millenium old. Miniature pictures, incised on the leaves with an iron stylus, are masterpieces in the art of illustration. Prasastis, metal plates inscribed with royal edicts of the early Pejeng-Bedulu dynasty, are among the earliest written documents found in Bali.

Buleleng is the island's chief coffee growing area. Freighters anchored off the harbor load this cargo for export to Europe and the Orient. The climate here is drier than in the south. Rather than rice, the fields yield Indian corn, oranges and crops of dry agriculture. The following temples of North Bali are located near Singaraja. If there is time, a pleasant drive further east between stately colonnades of trees leads to Yeh Sanih, a shimmering pool of bluegreen, flowing from underground springs. The clear waters have been enclosed to make a most refreshing place to swim. All along the northern shore are sea temples.

 

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