This lush area just to the east of Singaraja produces the best rice in Bali. Given the importance of rice in Balinese culture, some of the most highly decorated temples are dedicated to the irrigation and rice goddess, Dewi Sri. Bring a picnic. Sarongs and sashes can be borrowed at the gates for a small donation for temple upkeep.
Pura Maduwe Karang -- In Kubutambahan, this is one of the largest temples in north Bali and is dedicated to protect the unfortunate crops that grow on land without irrigation. The reliefs show scenes from the Ramayana epic and daily Balinese life, together with the most photographed temple carving in Bali -- a foreigner on a bicycle wearing shorts from the Dutch era, largely attributed as portraying the first foreign artist, W. O. J. Nieuwenkamp, who travelled around the area on his bicycle in 1904. The back wheel is in the form of a lotus flower.
Pura Beji -- A few kilometers before Singaraja, look for the sign on the right for Pura Beji temple in Sangsit, again dedicated to Dewi Sri. Dating back to the 15th century, this unusual sandstone temple has intricate and unusual carvings reminiscent of South America. The temple sponsors have left carved portraits on the back of the main portal. Rest under venerable frangipani trees before taking a short walk through the rice fields to the Pura Dalem, temple of the dead.
Pura Dalem -- This temple is dedicated to Siwa and the souls of the dead with erotic carvings reflecting a Balinese heaven and hell. The carvings of this famous temple just outside the village also show how their peaceful village life was abruptly changed forever by the Dutch colonialists bringing guns and terror and, later, cars and planes -- heaven being the representation of the island before the colonists arrived.
Back on the main road from the temple, look for the turn south towards Jagaraga, the site of the last tragic battle fought by 16,000 Balinese soldiers led by Gusti Jelantik against 3,000 well-armed Dutch troops in 1849. Nowadays, though, there is nothing to see.
Continue along the road into the mountains to visit the foundries of the few remaining traditional gamelan and gong makers in the village of Sawan. Ask the locals how to get to the nearby traditional villages of Sudaji, to see the marketplace with huge ancient trees, and Suwug, to sit at the warung in the main square built into the roots of a huge banyan tree.
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