Monday, June 24, 2013

Tirta Gangga rice terraces and water palace

Visited June 2013

Scene from the main highway just north of the Tirta Gangga water palace - click to expand image

Many say the real Bali is found in the rice growing areas. I'm a great fan of the scenery, quietness and rural culture of these areas. People told me the Tirta Gangga area is pretty good and having stayed at both Sideman further south and Belimbing in the western rice fields I put it down for a few days this latest Bali visit.

The area is in north east Bali. The nearest big town is Amlapura, the nearest tourist destinations are Candidasa and Amed.

You are looking at 80km/2hrs15mins give or take from the airport - less 15-20mins if starting in Kuta.

This is a bigger attraction than the rice terraces - even on a rainy day we were amazed by the number of big coaches pulling in to unload visitors, mostly domestic - a lot looked to be from Java, plus the place seems to be a big attraction for Balinese school groups. There was a reasonable number of westerners although they tended to arrive with car and driver.

This is the first glimpse we got from the rainforest track as we walked down from our accommodation at Geria Semalung high on a ridge 15 minutes from the complex.

Further down most of the complex is in view. Apart from the numerous pools there are some lovely gardens and lots of stone statues etc. The place was built as a residence for a former Rajah of Karangesem, the province that takes up much of the north east of Bali.

Outside the gates a busy service area has lots of small stores selling fruit and touristy stuff plus quite a few restaurants, budget and better. Those westerners mid-shot are heading for the hotel inside the complex - google Tirtagangga Water Palace Villas. But it aint cheap (at least by Bali standards).

Unfortunately we lingered a bit long in the restaurant from which the previous shot was taken and by the time we entered the complex it had started to rain. This is the view immediately on entrance. Cost for westerners 10000rp - $us1 at the time.

The first pool from camera is the complex's swimming pool - entry was another 10k rp. A few brave souls were swimming but on account of the rain I gave it a miss. Apparently this pool is popular for local school kids to do their learn to swim activity.

Speaking of school kids, this group found good shelter from the rain.

We didn't exactly get off to a good start here - arriving to find our booking agent had cut ties - maybe not all that unusual except that Agoda had not given us any prior indication. This was complicated by the fact that Geria Semalung's manager was absent and the two guys there didn't have authority to access the internet or phone. So we had to hike down to one of the Tirta Gangga outside restaurants which had wifi.
That fixed (and I gotta say Agoda refunded our money immediately although overall they have gone down a step or five in my estimation), Geria Semalung turned out to be a very agreeable location.

This place has only 5 bungalows lining the top of a ridge about 300m along a quiet lane from a secondary road paralleling the main highway which was some distance down slope. Nice garden setting as can be seen but no pool as both Agoda and Trip Adviser had shown. Bungalows were flashpacker standard except there was no aircon, no fan (this high we didn't need them although the rainy weather for most of our stay didn't exactly heat the joint up during the day) and no net or insect screens (mozzies didn't seem a problem although we always buy a can of KILL 'EM first day in Kuta). The inclusive breakfast was simple but pleasing. We ate lunches down at the water palace complex. For dinners GS staff encourage guests to nominate something from the extensive menu early in the day - they then go out and buy the ingredients, thereby ensuring a pretty fresh meal. Lady Tezza had a chicken curry very similar to a Malaysian/ Thai massaman which she declared the best meal all trip - and this trip featured some pretty good meals.On short notice they can do simple stuff for meals like fried rice/noodles with chicken etc.
Staff were friendly and service excellent. Price was 330k ($33 at the time), slightly higher than Agoda's web price. I've stayed at a fair few places this standard in Bali - I reckon I could negotiate 250k walk-in. But with our transport gone we were in no position to negotiate, and at the end of our stay I have to say I thought the place was fair value and an excellent base for anyone wanting a night or two in the area.

Comfy bed in a spacious room.

Pretty nice vegetation-filtered outlook from the bungalow area of the heavily rainforested adjacent slope nearby to the right and the lower rural plains as they sloped down to the sea just north of the regional capital Amalpura. If you click-expand image you may just be able to see part of the water palace through a gap in the trees central image. However unlike both places we stayed at Sideman and Belimbing, Geria Semalung has no rice terrace views unless you have binoculars to focus on that area just past the water palace.

Route in image is a pleasant 15 minute amble

Step one is to turn left onto the main road from Geria Semalung's access lane, walk 500m to these homestay signs and turn left down their access lane. Furthest building in shot is a small store with cheap beer and water - not that Geria Semalung's are expensive.

Batur Indah is about 500m down the lane - continue directly past and you soon reach........ 

....a steeper rainforested track. These steps towards the end represent the most challenging section but in the reverse direction only to the seriously unfit. Near the bottom you get your first overview of the greater water palace area. From there it is just a matter of following the path around the outside wall to the entrance.

The rice growing areas easily reached on foot seemed to be down in the water palace area. But I thought them less impressive than at Sideman and Belimbing. The major difference seemed to be a shortage of "verticality" in the landscape - fewer really steep slopes meant that those spectacualrly cascading terraces were a bit short in hand. Now if you have access to some sort of wheeled transport no doubt you could find some of the latter not too distant - but the constant rain which set in scotched my plan of grabbing a moped or bicycle and exploring further. Fact is I didn't need to do this at Sideman and Belimbing - there were plenty of steep terraced hillsides withing easy walk of the accommodation - some even AT the accommodation.

Paddy areas close to Tirta Gangga. A nice circuit from Geria Semalung is to walk down to the water palace via the track at left (15 minutes) and then return by the highway and secondary road (30 minutes).
There seemed to be no shortage of other accommodation in the area - a number along the secondary road, at least 3 down the western track to Tirta Gangga and we saw around half a dozen on the left as we walked back up the highway north of the water palace.

To the east of the main highway 

The opening shot top of page was also in this area

Immediately north of the water palace

Immediately south of the water palace
This is from the track which runs along the water palace's southern wall. That is paddy rice closest camera - maybe not as picturesque as just before/after planting when the fields are flooded.

A car and driver from Kuta or the airport should be around 400k in 2013- about 3.5 hours. We came the short distance from Amed for 100k - a little over 30m, and departed to Sanur for 270k - about 2.5 hours.

Budget Perama travellers' shuttle buses run from all around Bali to nearby Candidasa on regular services and will extend to Amed going past Tirta Gangga with a minimum of two paying passengers.

An even less expensive option would be a public bus from Denpasser bus station to nearby Amlapura and then a public bemo or bus heading north.

Public buses run from the Java ferry on the north west tip of Bali across the north coast to/thru Amlapura. You may have to change buses in Singaraja.

Lady T retracing shortcut track alongside water palace wall. Reversed baseball isn't a return to adolescence, but protection of a newly exposed neck (the long hair had recently gone) from the sun. A few minutes earlier we had quit the water palace on account of the rain. But that's the tropics. BTW - early June is supposed to well and truly be dry season. But that's the tropics.

Whoa! Sunshine didn't last long. This is the scene from our bungalow's patio 20 minutes later - if you click expand you may be able to see the falling rain.

If you see mistakes or have extra info, please post below. BUT if you have questions, please ask them on the FORUM page which can be accessed from the INDEX. I don't get to check these individual pages often but I try to visit the FORUM page most days.


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Asia Bali Tour said...

Tirta Gangga located in East Bali and famous for Water Palace, the history mention if the Tirta Gangga Parks was built by Karangasem King and the purpose of building is for recreation place for King and family. Thanks for post and nice picture
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