Swimming fit for a King
Tirta Gangga, Bali, 2012-03-17 12:00 by Laerke
On one of our jaunts out east in Bali we headed to Tirta Gangga. Martin and I had been to the water palace in Tirta Gangga before, and we had loved that visit so much that we really wanted to show my family the place too.
Tirta Gangga literally means water from the Ganges and it is a site of some reverence for the Balinese. Strictly, the name refers to the water palace built here from the late 1940's to the 1950's by Gusti Gede Djelantik, heir to the former Kingdom of Karangasem. It is widely used, though, to refer to the general area which includes the water palace and some beautiful rural areas around with some stunning rice paddy terraces. Those postcard pictures of Bali rice terraces which you have all seen are often from photographs taken here (or at Jati Luwih which is a UNESCO site created to protect the rice fields there).


The primary draw in this area for visitors is the Tirta Gangga water palace, a lovely maze of pools and fountains surround by a lush garden and stone carvings and statues. The one hectare complex was destroyed almost entirely by the eruption of nearby Mount Agung in 1963. It has been lovingly re-built and restored and has an air of authentic royal magnificence. The centerpiece of the palace is an eleven tiered fountain, and there are many beautiful carvings and statues adorning the gardens. This is a great spot to unwind and it has a real atmosphere of old Bali. You can bathe in the pools for a small charge which is additional to the Rp 20,000 entrance fee.


The water palace is an interesting place to wander around taking the sculptures and looking at the giant fish in the ponds. The best part though is the pools where you can swim! It is not every day you get to swim in pools made for royalties! We splashed around and enjoyed the refreshing water for some time. At one point a local priest did a small ceremony for a Balinese family complete with chanting and incenses burning. Other locals were still swimming and kids were jumping in while the ceremony was going on, and I was thinking to myself how this was just another example of the relaxed relationship the Balinese have with their religion. It is refreshing to see that a religion that saturates every level of everyday life for them is still something that doesn’t put restrictions on people in the same way as I sometimes feel other religions can make life for their followers seem more serious and gloomy - instead of the light and happiness that we for example were experiencing in the royal pool that day – ceremony in full swing while kids were laughing and playing.

My mother and Asger enjoying the view over the rice fields just north of the water palace