Singaraja – Buleleng – North Bali
With a little over 125,000 inhabitants Singaraja is the second largest town of Bali. Singaraja is an old harbor town and the main city of Buleleng, the most northern district of Bali. Singaraja has been and still is an important educational and cultural center. Today there are two universities in Singaraja.
Singaraja is composed of two Indonesian words, ‘Singa’ (lion) and ‘Raja’ (king); Singaraja therefore translates as ‘lion king’. It was a nickname for Raja Pandji Sakti who ruled Buleleng during the early 17th century. The local people however always refer to Singaraja with the traditional name of the town, being ‘Buleleng’, the same name as the district.
The history of North Bali traces back a few thousand years, to times when the area was already occasionally visited by sailors and merchants originating from among others the Persian Gulf, India and China.
The earliest settlements of North Bali date from around 400 BC, as shown by excavations in the Singaraja area at the villages of Julah and Sembiran. These first settlers lived from hunting, fishing and, in the wet season, the cultivation of rice.
Around the beginning of the Christian aera, Buddhist merchants from India and China started to establish trade posts along the coast of North Bali. Even nowadays a concentration of Chinese Buddhist traders and shop keepers can be found in the harbor district of Singaraja, living peacefully together with Muslim and Hindu neighbors, which is a unique situation compared to other areas of wonderful Bali’s population. Here, close to the ocean, you will also find a Chinese temple (a klenteng) with a lotus pond, colorful shrines and some beautiful golden Buddha statues.
The actual city of Singaraja was founded on March 30, 1604 by Raja Anak Agung Pandji Sakti with the building of the Royal Palace, the Puri Agung Buleleng.
Since the Dutch started to control Bali in 1848, Singaraja with its perfect harbor for their ships became the administrative center of Bali. However in 1958, thirteen years after the proclamation of Independence of Indonesia, the Indonesians moved the administrative center to Denpasar.
Singaraja as we know it today still has some well preserved remnants of the times that the Rajas ruled and of the Dutch colonial period. The Royal Palace of Singaraja still exists and the descendants of the last Raja of Buleleng, Anak Agung Pandji Tisna, still live there. The Royal Palace has opened its doors for visitors interested in the history of the Palace, your chance to meet and talk with the descendants of the Raja’s of Buleleng. Of more recent times are a few dozen of interesting statues, which can be found at various locations in the town.
The architecture of Singaraja still reminds of the time that the Dutch ruled. In the old center of the town you can still see some of the old colonial buildings. Especially in the harbor district, with a number of old warehouses, it is easy to travel back in your mind to times that the harbor was still busy and the warehouses still full with tobacco, spices and vanilla. Close to the Royal Palace you will find an ikat factory and a museum with a library where you will find lots of old Balinese lontar (a lontar is a palm leaf manuscript) and other written material, providing a wealth of information on the history of Singaraja.
Nowadays there are also a number of modern shops where one can buy clothes, electrical hardware, furniture, stationery, etc. In the center of the town there is a lively night and morning market where you will find a lot of bargains. Singaraja has some hospitals and 7d/24hr pharmacies, and there are several ATM’s and a number of banks where you can change money. Furthermore there are two modern shopping malls (Hardy’s), a branch of Carrefour, several restaurants and dozens of phone shops selling handphones (new and second hand) and prepaid phone cards.
At the North-West side of the town you will find Pantai Penimbangan (referred to by the locals as PP), a simple but cozy seaside boulevard bordered by rice fields and a number of restaurants, and lots of small warungs. Especially during weekend evenings the warungs are crowded by local youth. PP is a popular place to hang out while enjoying roasted corn with sambal sauce and a glass of sweet avocado juice.