Singaraja travel and tourist guide

Sinaraja boasts interesting monuments

Sinaraja boasts interesting monuments

Singaraja is Bali’s second city with a total population of 150,000 and situated on the north coast. Despite its size, it has a pleasant small town atmosphere and feels much less hectic and congested than the capital Denpasar. It was the island’s administrative centre during Dutch rule and there are still some attractive colonial buildings dating back over a century.

The city stretches inland from the harbour for several miles but orientation is quite simple as there are just a handful of main roads in and out of the city. It is known as the main seat of learning in Bali with two major universities and a sizeable student population. It is also Bali’s most ethnically diverse cities with large communities of Muslims and Chinese.  

The waterfront and old port of Buleleng is the most attractive area and features many colourful shop houses and an imposing Chinese temple. Just a block further south is the frenetic Pasar Ayung daily market sells everything but the kitchen sink in a mazy warren of tightly packed stalls. It is an atmospheric and slightly chaotic place that is definitely worth browsing.

Singaraja’s most famous attraction is also one of the most unique in Bali.Gedong Kirtya is a museum of ancient lontar manuscripts and the only one of its kind in the world. Throughout the city and surrounding villages there are several impressive Hindu temples displaying intricate stone carvings that range from the surreal to the whimsical.

Singaraja is also noted for its heritage of textile weaving and has a handful of factory workshops that are open to visitors to view and bargain for exquisite cotton and silk items. The city centre has several dramatic statues and monuments in remembrance of its struggle against the Dutch; the finest example being the elaborate Yudha Mandalatama Independence Monument on the waterfront.

Witness fascinating fighting displays in Singaraja

Witness fascinating fighting displays in Singaraja

The popular beach resort of Lovina is just a short drive from the city and as a result, most tourists tend to base themselves there. Singaraja hotels do not really cater to the whims of foreign tourists, however there is a commendable range of places to eat. In addition to the ubiquitous fast food outlets, there are many restaurants and cafes serving cheap Indonesian rice and noodle dishes and fiery hot ‘Padang’ cuisine.

There is also a surprising number of continental style bakeries and cake shops, but the most atmospheric dining experience is to be had at the night market on Jalan Durian. Here you will find dozens of ramshackle food stalls serving piping hot soups, fried fish, saté and savoury snacks.

Heading out of town to the east will be rewarded with some picturesque scenes of gorgeous countryside and pretty coastal villages. There are fresh water springs, waterfalls and sprawling coffee and pepper plantations. A definite must visit is the peaceful resort of Air Sanih which is a 20 minute drive away.

Air Sanih is Bali’s least visited region where roads are often as deserted as its lovely beaches. Singaraja has a fairly relaxed way of life and its people are friendly and well accustomed to visiting tourists. It certainly makes for a pleasant alternative to bustling beach life for a day.

Gedong Kirtya

The only library dedicated to lontar manuscripts in the world, this attractive venue is an intriguing place for anyone faintly interested in ancient Hindu culture and history. It houses exhibits detailing pre-colonial Balinese life, maps and official royal documents. There are also several manuscripts from India and Myanmar. Many have English language descriptions and staff are enthusiastic and helpful. (Jalan Veteran; Open: 07:30-15:30 (Monday-Thursday),  07:00-12:30 (Friday), weekends and public holidays closed)

Pura Jagatnatha

Situated just south of the city centre is one of North Bali’s most appealing Hindu temples and certainly its largest. It is full of fanciful stone carvings depicting satirical and often comical images detailing life under Dutch colonial rule. It is a popular attraction for visiting tourists and Hindu worshippers alike.     

Eating and staying in Singaraja

In truth, there is much more accommodation choice in nearby Lovina which caters specifically to the needs of foreign visitors.

There are a few places to stay in the city, all generally in the budget range with simple fan cooled bungalows in small compounds. More on Lovina hotels.

Wijaya Hotel: excellent value terraced rooms in a central location. All rooms are clean and well maintained although decor is a little dated. Located just a short walk to the bus terminal. Prices start from US$7. (Jalan Sudirman no. 74, Singaraja, tel: +62 362 21 915)

Sakabindu Hotel: basic bamboo furnished en suite rooms set in a large garden compound and set back from a busy road. There is a restaurant and internet café on site. There is a choice of fan or air con doubles with rates starting at US$6. (Jalan Jend A Yani no.104, Banyuasri, tel: +62 362 21 791, email: rolly_bagoes@hotmail.com)

Getting to Singaraja

Singaraja is very well connected for Bali standards and there are direct buses from the east coast, Ubud, Denpasar and the port of Gilimanuk which is the gateway to East Java. Services are very frequent to the resort of Lovina and mini buses connect the city’s three terminals until late at night. There are also horse drawn carts, known locally as ‘dokar’ which are a pleasant alternative to overcrowded bemos.

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