advertisement

Negara is a quiet district capital that comes to life during the famous bull races (Makpung) in early August. A few banks, ATMs, a post office, hospital, police station, petrol station, and Hardy's supermarket make this a good place to stop for supplies.

Until recently, buffalo were simply a means of transportation but now they pull decorated mini-carriages in races in and around Perancak. The buffalo race developed in the 1930s. The jockeys dress in traditional clothing with vests, scarves, and kris (swords). Carts are decorated in full regalia and the bulls pull them around the 2km (1 1/4-mile) course. Teams are divided by the river, Ljo Gading, that divides the two townships; team names are Timur (East) and Barat (West). In the Magembeng, affiliated cow race, cows can run 100m (328 ft.) in 9 seconds. However, the winners are not necessarily the fastest, as style and elegance count too.

Watch bull race practice every Sunday morning on the black sand beach Delod Berawan, which used to be home to hunted crocodiles. (Curiously enough, it is said that this sand cures rheumatism.) Mendoyo, to the north, hosts some of the best races on Bali. Get race dates from the Bali Tourism Board in Denpasar: tel. 361/223602. Like all things in Bali, take the start times with a grain of sand.

While in Negara, visit with the local palm sugar farmer in his small farm in Palasari to observe how this buttery brown sweet is harvested and processed. He also grows and processes cacao fruit that is dried, ground, and shipped to chocolate manufacturers. Book this tour through the Taman Wana. Simply tip the staff from Taman Wana who will help you find the farm. Give a donation to the farmer -- he will be pleasantly surprised.