Tirta Gangga Royal Water Palace in Bali
Tirta Gangga Royal Water Palace is a former royal palace in eastern Bali, Indonesia, about 5 kilometres from Karangasem, near Abang. It is noted for its water palace, owned by Karangasem Royal. Designed and constructed by Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem, the last King of Karangasem, in 1948 and showcases a unique mix of Balinese and Chinese architecture.
Aside from their beauty and tranquillity, the gardens are also remarkable because not only was the king the architect of these gardens but he also provided hands-on help with the construction of the gardens. In fact many of the local villagers were shocked to see their king knee-deep in mud, working alongside lower class labourers digging out the ponds and pools. However designing and building the water gardens was a favourite hobby of the King.
Tirta Gangga Water Palace covers 1.2 hectares and features three separate complexes, each with their own collection of sculptures and ponds. The lowest level complex features a water tower and two large ponds while the mid-level complex features the swimming pools. The highest level complex is the main complex and features the country house of the former King.
Tirta Gangga literally means water from the Ganges and it is a site of some reverance for the Hindu Balinese. Strictly, the name refers to the water palace built here from the late 1940's to the 1950's by Gusti Gede Djelantik, heir to the former Kingdom of Karangasem. It is widely used, though, to refer to the general area which includes the water palace and some particularly stunning rural areas around.
Tirta Gangga is a popular side trip from the nearby coastal resort towns of Amed and Candidasa. It is in fact right beside the main road between these two locations. The Water Palace is the main draw card where the gardens, the huge koi fish and the spring fed swimming pools are worth the stop. There are also about a dozen eateries located around the entry to the Water Palace.
Tirta Gangga Royal Water Palace is located in the village of Ababi, an approximate 75km east of Denpasar. The complex is a cool retreat in the eastern highlands, perched on the south-eastern slope of the island’s highest mountain, Mount Agung. The Tirta Gangga complex was built around the same time as the Taman Soekasada Ujung, another site located near the coast and 8.5km south in the village of Tumbu. Tirta Gangga, like its sister royal bathing complex, consists of tropical gardens, wading pools, fish ponds, and fountains.
Entering the site, the first thing that comes into view is a pond where rows of guardian figures holding cudgels are neatly arranged. Also, polygonal stepping stones which enable visitors to ‘tour’ the pond are set out in order. This allows viewing the old and relatively large golden carp from up close in the clear and shallow ponds.
Behind the first pond is the central towering fountain, again featuring guardian statues at its base. This 10m high fountain has eleven tiers with a shape of a lotus at its tip. The spouting water splashes down the tiers to make a cooling effect and a soothing sight.
The springs are located at a higher ground to the right of the entrance of the site, under a large banyan tree. The water is considered holy by the locals and is used during religious ceremonies, as well as a source of potable water.
At the lower level of the water source are two clear pools. One of them serves as a public wading pool and visitors are welcome to swim here. The pools have a design that harks back to the olden days, consisting of sandstone and natural materials. Different floor depths enable all ages to enjoy the pools.
The grand 100sqm pond at the southern side of the complex is filled with large golden carp and other large fish, and swimming is prohibited. Two bridges connect the sides of the pond, which feature ornate mythical Balinese dragon statues at its sides.
Good to Know about Tirta Gangga Royal Water Palace
Tirta Gangga Royal Water Palace is a convenient stopover along Bali tour pacakage itineraries to Bali’s eastern region. Its main entrance and large parking area is easily spotted from the main Amlapura Road. The site is open to the public and a small entrance fee applies which goes towards maintenance.
It is a favourite retreat and some weekends may seem a bit crowded. Besides the many small warung stalls outside of the main site and around the parking area, Tirta Gangga also boasts accommodation facilities and a restaurant, as well as the Tirta Ayu Hotel & Restaurant – located just behind the main fountain.
Tirta Ayu features a menu that offers a combination of international dishes, through a variety of salad choices, vegetarian delights, mouth-watering desserts and pastries. It also offers a selection of wines, ice-cold beers and exotic cocktails. Guests here dine alfresco, with open views to the beautiful water gardens and fountains.
Tirta Gangga Royal Water Palace is open to the public with entry costing IDR 10,000 for domestic tourists and IDR 20,000 for foreigners.