Tampaksiring was long time ago a center for the Hindu religion on Bali, and has within it’s borders two of the most sacred temples and relics on the island; Tirta Empul and Gunung Kawi. The Tampaksiring area is part of the Gianyar district and located about 40 km north of Denpasar and 14 km northeast of Ubud, along a road leading all the way to the Batur mountain.

Bali, Gianyar, Gunung Kawi. Water for irrigation of rice fields on Bali. The watersystem is always managed by the farmer with the lowest fields, in that way all the farmers are guaranteed a regular waterflow. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)
Bali, Gianyar, Gunung Kawi. Water for irrigation of rice fields on Bali. The watersystem is always managed by the farmer with the lowest fields, in that way all the farmers are guaranteed a regular waterflow. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Gunung Kawi is two km south of the city center, while Tirta Empul is one km to the north. The direction to both sites are properly marked.

Bali, Gianyar, Gunung Kawi. An 11th century temple complex close to Tampaksiring. On the eastern part there is five temples or shrines. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)
Bali, Gianyar, Gunung Kawi. An 11th century temple complex close to Tampaksiring. On the eastern part there is five temples or shrines. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Just north of Tampaksiring the road turns right to Tirta Empul. Another road turns to the left toward Sukarno’s Istana Negara palace, which sits on top of a green hill overlooking Tirta Empul. The palace is divided in two main parts connected with a bridge. Wisma Merdeka was the building where the president stayed and Wisma Negara was the guesthouse for friends and guests of state, like Ronald Reagan and the Soviet president Krustsjov. In addition there is a house for the press, Wisma Yudistira, and one for the lifeguards, Wisma Bima.

Bali, Gianyar, Tirtha Empul. The palace built by Sukarno is overlooking the Tirtha Empul temple. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)
Bali, Gianyar, Tirtha Empul. The palace built by Sukarno is overlooking the Tirtha Empul temple. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

The one story buildings are said to have been designed by president Sukarno himself, who had engineering training from Bandung. Opinions about the estetique values of the buildings are split. Sukarno, who was half Balinese, used to stay in the palace during his frequent visits to the island. Some say that Sukarno built the palace close to the Balinese Fountain of Eternal Youth to indefinitely prolong his “President-for-Life” status. Indonesian presidents after Sukarno have used the palace as well, but Suharto always stayed in the guesthouse as it is said that the spirit of Sukarno still roams in the presidential quarters.

From the palace there is a great view over Tirta Empul. According to rumors Sukarno himself used a telescope to study the naked women who took a bath in the holy water. When he found somebody he liked he sent for them, and is supposedly father to several children on the island. The site is open for visitors, but you cannot enter the buildings.

Bali, Gianyar, Tirtha Empul. Pura Tirtha Empul temple close to Tampaksiring. A large pool close to the entrance of the temple. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)
Bali, Gianyar, Tirtha Empul. Pura Tirtha Empul temple close to Tampaksiring. A large pool close to the entrance of the temple. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

In Tampaksiring you can buy carved items made of ivory, coconut shells or bone, often with intricate carvings and therefore quite expensive. There is not much accommodation in Tampaksiring, so most people come here on a daytrip from Ubud or the southern parts of Bali.

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Bjørn Grøtting

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Photographer based in Norway. See a collection of my best photos in the portfolio. Licensing of images is done through Photoshelter or alamy.
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