Although not really a tourist destination, traces of former colonial glory are apparent in the port city of Singaraja. Add in some interesting temples and museums, and Singaraja makes a worthy day trip, particularly if also combined with a visit to one or more of the local waterfalls.
Singaraja was once Bali’s capital and the Dutch administrative centre for all the islands east to Timor. Once important politically and economically in the development of Bali and Indonesia as a nation, today it plays second fiddle to Denpasar.
Puri Agung Singaraja (Puri Gede Buleleng, 12 Jalan Mayor Metra), is the royal palace of the former kingdom of Buleleng (Singaraja). Here you can wander the halls and open pavilions of the family home. Note the royal seal carved above doorways — the winged lion of Singaraja — “singa” means lion and “raja” king. Anak Agung Pandji Tisna, the last holder of the title of Raja, was a well known writer and his typewriter, among other family artefacts, is on display. Known as the founder of the Lovina tourist area, he built the first hotel and coined the name “Lovina” — a contraction of “Love Indonesia”. Within the compound, two ornate silver thrones occupy one pavilion. Historical photographs of the former royals, newspaper clippings and other bric-a-brac make it an interesting stop for history buffs or anyone keen on architecture. You may even meet a member of the royal family. It's open daily 09:00-17:00.
In the front of Puri Agung Singaraja on Jalan Veteran, Museum Buleleng houses some interesting stone sarcophagi, and its annex next door, Gedong Kirtya, is a lontar library with a huge collection of historical lontar (palm leaf) manuscripts. It's open Monday-Thursday 08:00-16:00 and Fridays 09:00-12:30.
Roemah Soenda Ketjil (Rumah Sunda Kecil) on Jalan Ngurah Rai was the official residence of Bali’s first appointed governor. Built in 1912, this high-ceilinged colonial-style house now houses a cafe, Sari Mina, and makes an interesting stop for a coffee or nasi goreng.
Pura Agung Jagatnatha on Jalan Pramuka is Singaraja’s largest and most important temple. It features a magnificent Padmasana shrine towering above the inner courtyard and is often busy with worshippers. To enter, a sarong and sash are required.
If you’ve not visited a market in Bali, Pasar Anyar on Jalan Diponegoro is Singaraja’s busy main market and it's worth a quick walk around. Housed in a large double-storey building, it’s where locals go to buy everything from temple decorations to daily cooking needs.
Masjid Nur, one of the city’s oldest mosques, is distinguished by its Indian-style architecture. Sandwiched within busy streets on Jalan Erlangga in the old port area, it’s difficult to see other than just by driving past.
Old Singaraja Harbour is dominated by the towering Yudha Mandalatama Monument, flag waving and standing proud over the oceanfront as a symbol of nationalistic pride at having defeated the Dutch colonial powers. It’s ugly, but impressive in sheer size.
Otherwise occupying the dilapidated but charming seafront is a small sea temple, Pura Segara, with its unusual pebble facade, plus a handful of colonial buildings in a state of disrepair and a couple of over-the-water seafood restaurants.
Just south of the harbourfront sits a colourful Chinese temple, Ling Gwan Kiong, dedicated to serving the three faiths of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. This well-maintained and interesting historical place of worship has served the Chinese community in Bali for well over 100 years. A couple of elderly temple guardians are on hand to act as guides for a small donation. Their English is good, and the commentary informative.
Six kilometres east of Singaraja in the village of Sangsit, Pura Beji, with its carnival of colourful (but faded) unusual carvings is well worth a detour out of town. We found a couple of pith-helmeted and safari-suited musicians hidden amid the nagas and flower decorations. The small but impressive, subak (irrigation) temple is dedicated to the rice goddess, Dewi Sri. Sarongs and sash are required, and can be hired at the entrance. Entry is 10,000 rupiah. Pura Beji is 200 metres north of the main road at Sangsit.
Continue east from Singaraja to visit Yeh Sanih, a spring-fed natural swimming pool, and Pura Ponjok Batu. Magnificent Sekumpul Waterfall or popular Git Git Waterfall are worthwhile additions to a day trip around the region.
If you are passing through Singaraja in the early evening, Banyuasri Terminal, west of the town centre on Jalan Jendral Achmed Yani, turns into a bustling night market, with all sorts of delicious food stalls grilling and frying up a storm. It's great for a quick meal after a long day of sightseeing.
By Sally Arnold
Last updated on 21st September, 2016.