Candi Dasa is a new but rapidly growing beach resort located on the black sand coast of Karangasem Regency. It is the perfect base for explorations of the area, as well as a quieter alternative to the southern tourist centers.
Following the main road from 10ungkung, you cross the border into Karangasem shortly after the village of Kusamba and the well known temple of Goa Lawah. The road continues eastward through coconut groves for several kilometers before reaching a turn-off. To the right is a road leading to Padangbai, a major harbor for ships to Lombok and points east, as well as for smaller boats to Nusa Penida. It is worth the 2 km detour to see the picturesque, semi-circular hills surrounding a sparkling blue bay.
The village itself has several small hotels and restaurants. A famous temple, Pura Silayukti, where the Buddhist sage Mpu Kuturan is said to have lived in the 11th century, is also located here. The temple's anniversary is on Wednesday-Tliwon of the week Pahang (consult a Balinese calendar)
Back on the main road, one arrives at the village of Manggis a few kilometers to the east. There is a lovely path from here leading up to nearby Putung in the hills overlooking the coast. The path runs through woods and gardens and reaches Putung after a distance of some 5 kilometers, where one has a splendid view across the sea to the nearby islands.
Another possible side trip is from Manggis east along a small road through the isolated villages of Ngis and Selumbung. The road finally rejoins the main road in Sengkidu shortly before Candi Dasa. It is also possible to continue from Ngis on to Tenganan.
Candi Dasa town
Continuing east another 7 km, past the villages of Ulakan and Sengkidu, the main road enters Candi Dasa just after the Tengenan turn-off. The name Candi Dasa was originally applied just to two small temples, one for Siwa and the other for Hariti, that overlook a beautiful palm-fringed lagoon by the beach. Hariti is mainly worshipped by childless parents who pray for children.
Toward the end of the 1970s the first bungalows appeared by the beach here. From 1982 onwards a building frenzy set in, and is still continuing so that new hotels, shops and restaurants seem to open almost weekly. As a result, Candidasa is now encroaching on the l3uitan area to the west - site of several luxurious bungalow-hotels, which specialize in snorkeling and diving trips.
Candidasa today is a bustling seaside resort with the full range of hotels, home stays, disco-bars, moneychangers, shops and restaurants. How long the development will continue is an open question, as the beach is eroding quickly and the once-spectacular view across the sacred lagoon to the beach is now blocked by two-story bungalows.
Dance and music performances for visitors are being developed, but these do not seem to be of high quality. The main attraction of the area is as a base from which to visit the neighboring village of Tenganan, some 5 kilometers away. Swimming is only more or less possible at high tide. Despite these disadvantages, Candidasa enjoys cool breezes and is a good resting point for trips to the east and north.
Bugbug and environs
Four kilometers to the northeast of Candidasa lays Bugbug, a sizeable rice-growing and fishing village that is the administrative center for the sub-district. Along the way, the road climbs the unexpectedly steep Gumang Hill. 'Mere is a beautiful panorama from the top of the sea, the Buhu River, rice fields and Bugbug, with the mountains of Lempuyang and Seraya in the distance. On a very clear day one can see Mt Rinjani on Lombok from here.
Bugbug and the surrounding villages are quite old-fashioned. Apart from the official village head, there is a council of elders responsible for all religious affairs. The elders are not elected, but enter the council on the basis of seniority. Another atypical feature of these villages is communal land tenure, and the presence of associations for unmarried boys and girls which have to fulfill duties in the context of village rituals.
Two rituals are especially important. The first takes place around the full moon of the first Balinese month (between mid-June and Mid-July). This ritual worship of the village gods is carried out in the central temple (Pura desa), and lasts for several days. Most spectacular are the dances by unmarried boys (abuang taruna) clad in costumes of White and gold-threaded cloth, with headdresses and keris, the traditional weapon.
After the dance there follows the so-called daratan in which older men in trance carrying keris approach the main shrine of the temple, to the accompaniment of special music. Three orchestras play simultaneously: the sacred selunding (iron met allophones), the gong desa with drums and cymbals, and a gambang ensemble which has bamboo xylophones and bronze met allophones.
During the same full moon period there are similar rituals in other nearby villages like Asak and Perasi. Perasi lies just northeast of Bugbug on the main road, and from its eastern end there is a nice walk through the hills to the beach. Swimming here is hazardous, since the beach is not protected by a reef.
A second major ritual occurs in Bugbug every two years on the full moon of the fourth month (around October). Four villages (Bugbug, Jasi, Bebandem and Ngis) participate in a ritual "war of the gods," which is in fact the enactment of an old legend.