The cultural heart of the cultural heart
Published/Last edited or updated: 20th February, 2017
At the heart of Ubud, Puri Saren Agung, more popularly known as Ubud Palace, may not dominate the streetscape, but it certainly has a commanding presence within the community of Ubud.
Sitting in a prime position at the intersection of Jalan Monkey Forest and Jalan Raya Ubud, opposite Ubud Market and slightly southeast of Pura Saraswati. The palace is the royal residence of the descendants of Ubud’s last official Raja, Tjokorda Gede Agung Sukawati (1910–1978).
The Royal houses of the Ubud region were first brought into being in the 17th century when a rebellion in Bali’s then capital, Gelgel emerged with nine kingdoms, establishing the house of Sukawati, south of Ubud. After expansion into present-day Ubud’s outlaying areas with a series of battles and incursions (alleged to have deployed magical powers) by the late 1800s Ubud as a sovereignty was well established and had began to prosper, even then famed as an enclave of the arts.
An earthquake in 1917 significantly damaged the palace. A temporary residence was erected on the current site of Ubud Market, and the new palace built employing the skills of local artisans, resulting in Puri Saren Agung being much as we see it today. By the time Tjokorda Gede Agung Sukawati was a young man in the late 1920s, Bali was seeing its first wave of foreign tourists. He learnt English and Dutch and with an entrepreneurial spirit opened a hotel within the palace, officially beginning Ubud’s first “homestay”. He and his family members, notably his brother Tjokorda Gede Raka Sukawati became prominent patrons of the arts which in turn boosted tourism in this once tiny hamlet.
Today visitors are free to wander the front courtyards of the palace compound and view the well-preserved buildings and lovely garden. The family continues their support for the arts and in the evenings the palace becomes the stage for traditional dance performances. Much of the compound is the private residence of the royal family, and the hotel has been closed for renovation for some time. A guard we spoke to in February 2017 suggested there are plans to reopen a section of Puri Saren Agung for paying guests sometime in the future.
A visit to Puri Saren Agung will take no more than half-an-hour unless you are seeing a performance, but it’s worth a quick stop to view the magnificent craftsmanship of the ornate doorways and gates and soak up a bit of royal ambience. Ubud Palace is free to enter during the day. Performances cost 100,000 rupiah and begin at each evening at 19:30.
To the north of the palace along Jalan Suweta, see more exquisitely detailed ornamentation on Pura Merajang Agung, the royal family temple. Puri Sosrobahu, another royal residence is across the road and if you ask the guard, you can take a peek at the impressive inner gateway. It’s also possible to occasionally catch local children at dance practice in the wantilan (large open hall) on the corner opposite the palace. A couple of doors down from the wantilan, Ibu Oka’s famous babi guling warung dishes up roast sucking pig daily.
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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