Crossing a wide, solidified lava flow which year by year is slowly being brought back to cultivation, you enter Amiapura, the main town of Karangasem regency. The former kingdom was founded during the weakening of the Gelgel dynasty late in the 17th century, and became in the late 18th and early 19th centuries the most powerful state in Bali. Puri Agung Karangasem long served as the residence of these kings, who extended their domain across the eastern straits to the island of Lombok.

The puri's austere, three-tiered gate, penetrating the thick walls of red brick, is a notable introduction to Karangasem architecture.

During the Dutch conflict at the turn of the century, the raja of Karangasem co-operated with the European army and was allowed to retain his title and autocratic powers. Puri Kanginan, the palace where the last raja was born, is a 20th century eclectic creation of designs from Europe, China and Bali. The main building with a large veranda is called "Bale London" because the furniture bears the central motif of the Royal Crest of England. The wooden paneling appears to be Chinese work, while Ramayana reliefs, on the adjacent toothfiling pavilion, retain a Balinese flavor. The photograph over the entrance to Bale London portrays the late king, Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut, as a young man studying with his religious teacher.

It was his pleasure to make fantastic moats and pools. Five kilometers south, on the beach at Ujung, he helped design a moated water palace, opened in 1921. In about 1947, he built Tirta Gangga (6 kilometers north on the road to Culik) as a rest place, where he laid out a series of pools decorated with unusual statuary. It suffered damage during the 1963 eruption and at the hands of political agitators during that period as well as from an earthquake in 1979. The coast road continues through spectacular scenery.


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