Today, visitors to Bali fly in and out of Denpasar or arrive by ferry from the islands of Java to the west or Lombok to the east. From that point on most will be content to confine themselves to the southern region of the island immersed in the chaos of Kuta and culture of Ubud.
Others will venture further south to the Uluwatu outpost and take in some of the islands famous surfing beaches. It is down here where Bali shines as a mecca for surfers and the lifestyle to which it is coupled.
To the very north is Bali’s second largest city and its previously long-standing capital. The city of Singaraja established its port in 1849 and from that moment all trade from the outlying Spice Islands flowed through it.
It became Bali’s gateway for its earliest visitors.
They entered through the north and ventured south over the high mountain passes past the three great lakes of central Bali. Comparatively few modern day adventurers consider Singaraja a Bali must-see. If they do find themselves in the north they will make a bee-line to Lovina for a chance encounter with the local dolphin population.
Exploring the old harbor area of Singaraja is not everyone’s cup of tea but for those interested in the Dutch colonial experience, it played an important role. You can still see the architecture of the period in some of the business and residential buildings as well as portions of the cities infra-structure.
Arched bridges of white concrete and steel slice across free-flowing canals, tree-lined boulevards navigate their way through Singaraja’s modern-day bustle, and the red roof tiles and green shutters…further reminders of yester-year.
Only a few miles to the west of Singaraja is Air Panas Banjar.
After a day of exploration a short afternoon trip to enjoy this very local experience is well worth it. The hot springs of three natural pools are the perfect place to relax amid the deep green foliage of Bali’s tropical jungle.
It’s one of those places that makes a stay in Bali even more memorable. It is a place where the local population gather and relax; it is a family hangout for those who call Bali home.
Lovina Beach is the Kuta of the north although on so much less of a scale it is barely even comparable. Lovina still has remnants of village life and not every shop caters specifically to the tourist.
The beach is black sand and a reef just offshore provides the opportunity for snorkeling and scuba diving. As I mentioned earlier though it is the dolphins that are the main attraction.
On any given morning the shoreline is littered with boats ready and willing, for a price, to take the hopeful out to sea in search of our aquatic soul mates. It’s rush hour at 7am on the North Bali Sea.
Of course I went.