Must-Visit Cultural Destinations in Gianyar
Experiencing other cultures while traveling is a rewarding activity. Bali’s rich cultural heritage is one of many reasons people come to the island in the first place. If you’re coming for a cultural tour, here are some of the destinations you should visit.
Seafood and coconut water at Pantai Lebih
Pantai Lebih is a great pick for food because it’s only 10 minutes away from Mara River Safari Lodge, and in no time, you get to taste a wide variety of seafood from one (or more) of the dozens of seafood restaurants near the beach. With a family-friendly ambiance and welcoming patrons, you can enjoy a traditional rice set menu with savory fish and chicken, fresh vegetables and amazing sambal (a mash-up of chili, herbs, and oil) – this is what the Balinese eat! Afterward, indulge in healthy and refreshing coconut water straight from the coconut. Don’t be surprised if everything you bought turned out to be very cheap – that is the normal price!
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
The name pretty much describes this place. It’s a natural reserve, but it’s open to the public as a green city park to escape the concrete jungle. At the same time, it’s a sacred religious site. This means visitors should visit with discretion – wear respectful clothing that covers the shoulders and does not reveal too much. The sanctuary hosts a few important temples and you may be requested to wear a sarong that you can rent for a small fee. Rituals are held here, from mass prayers to cremation.
You will likely meet a few of the 350 native, long-tailed macaques that look deceptively cute and innocent. However, be wary that they can become miniature muggers. Do not tempt them by holding bags of anything (they think it’s food). Store valuables, like your wallet, phone, and camera, in your backpack. When taking pictures, pay close attention to your devices. You may interact with the monkeys with the help of local shamans (called pawang).
Mepantigan martial arts
You can learn all about the unique Balinese martial art at Mepantigan Bali, the hub for the so-called Balinese mud wrestling. The locals call it ‘mepantigan’ which means ‘to throw’. You’ll practice this art in a sawah, or muddy wet rice field. The martial art is not for self-defense – think of Aikido. It‘s more an exercise in which you use disciplined force and aggression, with respect of your opponent in mind, to tackle him or her into the shin-deep black mud. It’s fun for a family of all ages. The martial arts demonstration will always be accompanied by rhythmic music and prayer. Find this experience in Batubulan, a mere 35 minutes’ drive from Mara River Safari.
MORE FOOD at a traditional night market!
If you’re not satisfied with seaside seafood, then head out at night and visit the famous Pasar Senggol at Gianyar city, just 20 minutes away from Mara River Safari Lodge. With US$5, you can literally feed an entire family, and with a wide variety of food to choose from, it’s a culinary paradise where you eat like the locals. Try babi guling, a rice set with vegetables, sambal, and an assortment of pork slices that’s been prepared in numerous ways: pork bone soup, roasted marinated pork, fried pork skin and pork satay. It’s a little bit of everything on one plate. For vegetarians, try tipat cantok – peanut sauce poured over mixed vegetables and sticky rice, garnished with grated coconut.
Out of a few dozen cultural hubs, these are the highlights of the Gianyar region. Of course, they are accessible by car in less than an hour’s drive from Mara River Safari Lodge. If you want to maximize your time, and not spend too much time on the road, these are the places to visit first.