During the Dutch colonial period a concerted effort was made to preserve, then promote certain Balinese cultural ways in order to create an attractive image for the purposes of tourism. As far as the Dutch were concerned, Catholic and Protestant missionaries didn't belong in such an image. Initially all missionaries were banned from pushing their ideas on the island but by the early 1930s, some inroads were made and a very small Christian community began to emerge.
Not surprisingly, this "new" community created tensions with both the local Hindu population and the Dutch secularists and in 1939 the colonialists decided to shift the missionaries to two very remote locations in the mountains of far West Bali. At the time there was nothing at either location and both were built from scratch — a particularly impressive achievement.
The exiles formed two communities some five kilometres apart — Blimbingsari for the Protestants and Palasari for the Catholics — over time the former developed into a missionary training centre and also home to the largest church on the island.
From the moment you enter the grand stone arch of Blimbingsari, you notice manicured grass verges, concrete flower pots every 50m and every driveway to every house concreted — everything looks so orderly and the people obviously take pride in their town. Looking further into the properties lining the road you notice beautifully maintained buildings with lush tropical gardens, crosses above the front doors and quite often a car parked in the driveway. This town is clearly more prosperous than those surrounding and it feels strangely suburban and comfortable. The centre point of Blimbingsari is the stunning Protestant church which could easily be mistaken for a Balinese Hindu temple if not for the sign out the front and a few crosses on the roof.
Palasari is further to the east of Blimbingsari along a maze of winding roads and you'll know you have taken a wrong turn when you end up at the nearby large reservoir. From here, turn back and take the first left and you'll enter Palasari village. It has a less impressive feel than Blimbingsari, but the main reason to visit is for the Catholic church which would put many a Western church to shame in terms of aesthetic appeal.
Built between 1955 and 1958 from white bricks, the church features grey Balinese accents and stone carvings and a massive steeple. Inside it is even more impressive with large wooden beams and picturesque natural lighting.
While there is no formal accommodation in either village if you really want to stay in either you should be able to arrange some kind of homestay deal. Otherwise you'll need to visit here on a daytrip from Permuteran, Gilimanuk or Medewi. If at all possible, try to visit both on a Sunday morning to take in the Church service.
The turnoff to both villages is around 25km southeast of Gilimanuk on the main coastal road. There is no regular bemo transport up and it is too far to walk, so you'll either need to have your fingers crossed for an ojek to run you up from the intersection or to have your own transport.
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Text and/or map last updated on 17th June, 2011.
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