This travelogue encompasses two locations in the center of Bali -- the city of Gianyar and a nearby marketplace and archaelogical site called Goa Gajah. The former is worth a visit as an alternative shopping experience, the latter because it is a tremendous historic site. Both locations attract fair numbers of tourists, but it's plenty enough off the beaten track that you won't be up in elbows in them.
Gianyar is about half-way between the Balinese art capital of Ubud and the southeastern city of Klungkung. It is surrounded by a number of small villages stretched out along the main east-west roads, each of which specializes in a particular trade. One village sold mostly silver goods, the next village sold wood, the next sold textiles, etc. The shops in Gianyar sold mostly wood products, but its marketplaces had just about everything, and at bargain basement prices (especially compared to the more touristic areas such as Kuta).
Gianyar's woodworking shops had to be seen to be believed. The quality, complexity, and sheer size of many of the wood sculptures was amazing, especially considering that these were all hand-made. The most common themes were animals and religious figures or scenes, especially engraved murals of Hindu lore. The largest of the sculptures could fill an entire room by itself. One store we visited was a three-floor warehouse, completely filled with these objets d'art, and many of them tagged for shipment all over the world. It is a shame that pictures were not permitted at the shop, because I would certainly have included pictures here.
Gianyar's city center was fabulous. The sculptures in the first two photos were at traffic circles and merely represent the outdoor artwork found in the city. Gianyar also had several large private family temples built from orange brick. It was a fantastic place to drive around.
Goa Gajah, about a 40-minute drive away, was a marketplace perched above an ancient temple. The marketplace was the common variety one would encounter in the lesser-traveled sections of Bali, a congested array of textile and food stores. The goods were of lesser quality, but at absolute bargain-basement prices -- and that didn't include the bartering.
The real reason for going there, however, was the Pura Samuan Tiga, shown in the third and fourth photos. The third photo shows the meeting hall in the center, the bath house (now unused) partially obscured at the left, and a cemetary to the right. Off the photo to the left was the temple itself, a cave with an ornate carved entrance flanked by figurines, shown in the fourth photo. The cave was T-shaped, with a dimly lit altar at each end of the T.
The Pura grounds had a second level, the site of another temple deeper in the river basin. An archaeological site now, only a fraction of that temple remained, but enough of it to demonstrate that the temple was once rather massive.
Gianyar and Goa Gajah combined are worth a full day, depending on the amount of shopping you wish to do. You'll easily spend an hour plus at one of the major woodworking studios -- especially because the caretakers are eager to show off their best work, all of it! Also, as with anything else in Bali, it is best to enjoy these locations at a leisurely pace.
Trip taken 18 and 21 January 2002 -- Page last updated 28 October 2006