City Walk of Denpasar

Market, historical squares, city temples and a museum

Signature trips

The capital of Bali doesn’t get that much tourist traffic. After all, this is where the ordinary Balinese live. But this is perhaps a better reason to put Bali’s provincial capital on your list of places to visit.
Denpasar offers some surprising sights for the discerning traveler.

Start you walk on Puputan Square, Denpasar's undisputed central landmark. A giant four-faced, eight armed Hindu guardian of the cardinal points indicates the exact location of the city center. Puputan Square commemorates the events of 1906, when the rajah of Badung marched out of his palace, followed by hundreds of his subjects, and faced the invading Dutch head on. This is where a mass suicide took place, incited by a priest who, on a signal from the rajah, stabbed his king with the royal kris or traditional dagger. Hundreds of citizens killed themselves or were shot down by Dutch bullets, rather than succumbing to the Dutch. The final death toll reached almost 2.000 people and remains a terrible act of resistance against the then while colonial ruler. Overlooking the eastern edge of Puputan Square is the Bali Museum, prettily located in a series of traditional courtyards. The downstairs hall of the Main Building, which stands at the back of the entrance courtyard, mostly houses items from Bali's prehistory, including stone axes, bronze jewelry and a massive stone sarcophagus. The four black-and-white photographs of the 1906 puputan or ritual suicide are also well worth lingering over. Upstairs, you'll find a fine exhibition of traditional household utensils, many of which are still in common use today. The other buildings hold fine examples of the four major styles of Balinese textiles: the ubiquitous endek (or ikat), the rarer geringsing, or double-ikat, which comes from Tenganan, songket brocades, and gold screen printed prada. There are magnificent examples ancient Balinese calendars, theatrical masks, costumes and puppets.

Continue your walk towards Jl Hasanuddin, one of the main thoroughfares of the city. Chinese gold shops dominate the view and traders are mostly Chinese. Trade is brisk whole day long. Typically Balinese will keep part of their assets in gold bullion and simple 22 to 24 carat gold jewelry, which has the advantage it can easily be resold when the need arises or gold prices warrant a sale.

Turn around the corner and walk straight into Pasar Badung, the central produce market of Denpasar. Many visitors are attracted by an array of local spices, such as vanilla beans, saffron and cengkeh, the much sought after cloves. Of particular interest are the female vendors of canang, small flowery offerings, which the Balinese Hindu have to use in rituals that takes place several times a day. Families particularly in the south of Bali, don’t always have time to prepare these essential Hindu ceremonial ingredients at home and nowadays prefer to buy them on designated markets. Thus it is interesting to observe how the pressure of modern age creates a new economic activity which in itself helps preserving tradition.

Cross the Badung River into the adjacent market of Kumbasari.It is a sprawling traditional market stacked three floors up. One floor is dedicated cheap arts and crafts. Chances are you’ll even find a shop selling costumes for traditional Balinese dances, should you be looking for them. Loads of practical items such as placemats, figurines and textiles can be bought at bargain prices. Both these markets have become significant for Denpasar dwellers, as they are categorized as a complete market. When one closes down, the other opens, thus offering the whole range of goods almost 24hrs a day.

Continue your exploration with a stroll through Jalan Sulawesi. Both sides are lined with shops, owned by 3rd or even 4th generation Arab or Indian traders, selling mostly textile items. This is the favorite place of the Balinese to purchase cloth for everyday life and religious occasions, including sarongs and ceremonial paraphernalia. Goods are stacked in bales and all traditional and not-so traditional goods are always bountiful available. There is traditional (albeit rare) and machine-stamped batik, there are lacy fabrics used in kebaya or traditional women’s blouses and scarves made of all kind of materials. Everything is stacked in boxes, stacked to the ceiling inside and often spilling onto the sidewalks. The entire stretch stocks an endless array of beautiful textiles, rayon, cotton, silk organza, Chinese satins and synthetic Indian saris with decorative trimmings.