Bali: Destination Denpasar

Although I don’t really think of myself as much of a rebel, when I decided to come home to Melbourne via Bali I knew I wanted to see more than just the south coast beaches or Ubud. So I started with the least stereotypical Bali destination I could think of, ie no beach, no yoga retreats or raw food eateries, no lush jungle or vibrant green rice fields. In other words, Denpasar.

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Apart from my vaguely rebellious streak, the main reason I wanted to visit Bali’s capital was the museum, which is kind of like a little oasis with motorcycles whizzing by.
BaliDenpasar4I was somewhat sleep deprived when I arrived so I didn’t fully absorb all the information at the museum but I think this amazing object that looks like a tribute to Elvis (or the Village People) made from fluorescent play doh is actually somehow used in religious parades.

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This painting looked a bit more traditional and I’m sure the coins attached to the surface have some significance…

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And these figures are representations of the Dewi Sri (goddess Sri or Cili) who, being the goddess of rice and prosperity, is pretty significant! Once I found out who she was I noticed depictions of her everywhere.

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I made a quick stop for lunch outside the museum – chicken satay and blocks of rice (basically boiled rice but compressed and cut into blocks so it’s easier to eat than the normal loose kind) served in a paper cone for about $1. So good!

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There are a LOT of textile shops along one of the main roads in Denpasar so of course that’s the route I chose to wander along…

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Until I came to the river, which has markets on either side (and a strangely avant garde art installation made of old TVs hanging from the bridge).

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The local food market was quite laid back and (as with most markets) extremely Instagrammable…

BaliDenpasarx4BaliDenpasarx3The tourist market over the river had a lot of handicrafts I was interested in but I was getting pressured to buy things and being followed around (a tactic that rarely works with me unless I desperately want the item in question) so I got out of there as fast as I could, promptly found a batik shop downstairs where the staff left me to my own devices and therefore bought about 10 different designs for about $30 (and I even mopped up my drool on the way out, haha…).

There was some cool street art off the main drag…

BaliDenpasar1BaliDenpasar3…and shops selling all kinds of goods (I think these ones are for Hindu ceremonies?). An old guy started chatting to me around about here – I’m usually a bit wary when people start asking “where are you from?” and making small talk as they inevitably seem to have something to sell, but it turned out that he studied English in Perth when he was young and teaches English now, so we had a good old chat about various accents and how difficult it can be to understand Australians! Having a proper conversation with someone who isn’t trying to sell you something and is just being friendly is very welcome when you’re travelling solo – he kind of made my day actually.
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As I hadn’t had much sleep, I didn’t want to attempt too much in the one afternoon that I was in Denpasar, so the museum, the hardcore batik shopping, some wandering and a quick trip to the night market for takeaway gado gado was really all I did (I’m not sure if there’s much more to do, apart from visit temples, to be honest!) but that was enough to give me a pretty good first impression of the city. I’ll have more on “Bali off the beaten track” soon, but for my next post, I have a bit of a DIY challenge planned. Stay tuned!

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