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Bali’s Dragon Bridge of The Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud

One of my favorite places to visit in Bali and one of my wife’s least favorite places is Mandala Wisata Wenara Wana. More commonly known as The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud. She has a slightly irrational fear of the mischievous simians but for most travelers and locals, a visit to The Sacred Monkey Forest is a fun one. Mind your shiny valuables and don't try to hide food in your pockets, but if you are aware of the potential pitfalls, the forest has much to offer.

best bali tour monkeyA mother monkey enjoys a tasty yam as her infant clutches her breast as another monkey flies by crossing The Dragon Bridge in Bali's Sacred Monkey Forest
Much has been written about the three troupes of playful long tailed macaques that call the forest home. Depending on whom you ask, there are somewhere between 200 and 600 of our primate cousins living amongst the 115 different speicies of trees in the dense forest. Instead here I would like to focus on one of my favorite places within the Monkey Forest.

There are many remarkable aspects of the Monkey Forest. There are three major temples, the oldest dating back to the 14th century, neatly one hundred fantastical sculptures, impressive huge trees and plants (complete with Tree Spirits), and there are even not one, but two monkey cemeteries. But my favorite is something different.
Bali tours monkey forestA huge Banyon Tree attempts to engulf The Dragon Bridge that crosses the gorge in Bali's Monkey Forest Sactuary
The elaborately carved Dragon Bridge crosses a narrow gorge in the middle of the forest. Its hard to date the bridge acurately. I have been told its more than 700 years old, but many stories and legends surround the mystical bridge. The bridge itself cuts directly through the truck of an enormous Banyon Tree and leads to The Holy Bathing Temple. 

Repairs have been made as when I visited a few years ago one of the dragon’s snouts had been broken off (most likely by a disrespectful tourist rather than a monkey). It has since been repaired and looks none the worse for wear. I suppose it helps that in a tropical setting like Ubud, moss will cover shaded stone in just a matter of months making it look like it has been there since the Majapahit Empire.
Bali travel sacred forestThe view from The Holy Bathing Temple across the Dragon Bridge and through the Banyon Tree in Ubud's Monkey Forest
I won't reveal the secrets of the forest and the current day stone carvers here, but I will say their talent is immense and the traditions remain strong. Come visit us for a special insider’s tour of The Sacred Monkey Forest and we will show you even more that most travelers miss. Pardon me, I said “we”, but I'm sure my wife will not join us for this part of the tour.



Balifornian welcomes a new member to the team

It is with great pride and the giddy excitement of an eight-year-old girl playing with her Malibu Barbie Dream House for the first time, that we announce the newest member of the Balifornian team.

David “Dino” Maiolo has agreed to come on board and help us out with our projects in Bali and Sumbawa. He is currently in our California office with us and will be joining us when we return to Indonesia in September. He asks that you not rob his house while he is gone.

Welcome Dino! (Dino is the one on top)

Though he has spent the majority of his life in San Diego, California, Dino is no stranger to travel. Having spent two high school summer vacations in southern Africa, Dino became so fascinated by other cultures and societies that he decided to join the United States Army as a means to see more of the world. His adventures have taken him to many regions in south, central and north Africa as well as the middle east. While stationed in Germany for two years, Dino was able to visit virtually every western European country at the time as well as East Berlin during the Cold War years.

After returning home to attend San Diego State University, Dino used his love for surfing as a means to see more of the world. This time his travels would lead to many tropical destinations such as Costa Rica, Fiji, Australia, Panama and Mexico, where he lived for two years. By far his favorite surfing destination, however, is Bali. He is enamored by the Balinese people, culture and natural environment; not to mention its world class surf.

Dino loves his life as an internet marketing consultant, helping companies promote themselves with better online visibility. He uses a combination of search engine optimization, social media, pay-per-click advertising and intense data analysis to facilitate better online conversions for his clients. Since he works from his computer, online consulting allows Dino the opportunity to continue traveling while helping his clients. His immediate plans are to return to Bali while continuing to assist his clients.

Welcome Dino! We are both lucky and thrilled that we were able to fool you into joining us!

With love,

Michael and Maryam


Our Family and Bali’s Royal Family of Karangasem

This is a companion blog post to Bali’s Royal Water Palace~ Taman Ujung Soekasada and focuses more on The Royal Family of Karangasem. To learn more about one of the most beautiful Royal Palaces in Bali and see photos of Maryam returning to her family's Kingly compound, just click here.

Bali’s Royal Family of Karangasem

Bali Travel Tour PalaceThe Raja of Karangasem and his 12 children and three nannies in front of The Balai Gili, Maskerdam in 1922

My wife Maryam, or Putu as we call her, is from the lineage and we are endeavoring to learn more about her family. I have heard many stories; some good, some not so good, and some downright otherworldly. I will try not to speculate and simply discuss some of what we have learned. The photographs below feature Maryam's relatives and I point them out where possible.
Indonesia travel Bali tourI Gusti Bagus Djilantik, the ruler of Karangasem. Lux Fotostudio (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)
This is by no means a comprehensive scope of the family’s history and is likely incorrect at times. We are still sifting through piles of documents, photographs, historical records and such and have found and heard many conflicting accounts.


We are asked all the time about Maryam’s Royal connections and we want to be able to tell a more thorough and historically accurate version.


The Kingdom of Karangasem started as a feudal subordinate of the Supreme King of Bali and went on to reign over the largest Kingdom in all of Bali and rule the neighboring island of Lombok as well.


The family’s reign dates back to the 1890’s. I Gusti Gedé Putu served as the Regent of Karangasem from 1849-1890. His third son, I Gusti Gedé Bagus Jelantik, was born in 1887 and became the Raja of the State of Karangasem. With the death of his father and uncle he was installed as The Regent of Karangasem. A position of this magnitude constitutes a royal name. Thus he was crowned with the reign name of Anak Agung Bagus Jelantik I, in December of 1908. This could be loosely translated into Young Great Good Jelantik. Seemingly dozens of Jelantiks would follow.


Royal lineages such as this become quite convoluted as polygamy was the norm and the bloodlines are crossed at times. Kings of the time would have many wives to provide a viable male heir to ensure the continuation of the dynasty. Reportedly, some Kings had as many as 800 wives. Having just one has kept me quite busy. I am not sure how they did it as they also had dozens, if not hundreds, of concubines.


Bali rituals spirituality tourThe men of The Royal Family from Karangasem with attendants (possibly slaves)
The palaces were lively places and served as venues to accept visiting leaders and kings. On the grounds were menageries of all types of wild animals and birds including the now extinct Balinese Tiger. I am unsure of how the following arrived into the compound, or how they lived once they were there, but scholars report many “types of humanity” were represented such as “albino dwarfs and foreigners”.


Balinese culture tour photoThe King and three of his Queens
It was important for the King to be seen as harnessing the power of all of humanity, the beasts as well as the spiritual world. The King needed to look after the well-being of his family and subjects as well as lead them in sacred rituals. 


Bali photographs old tourAnak Agung Gede Djelantik and his younger brothers. He is Maryam's Great Great Great Grandfather.
The photo above is from 1925 and includes Maryam's Great Great Great Grandfather.  Pictured are three of the King's sons. On the left is Anak Agung Ketut Djelantik, in the middle is Anak Agung Gede Djelantik, and Anak Agung Made Djelantik in on the right. Anak Agung Gede Djelantik grew up to become the King and fathered Maryam's Great Great Grandmother who raised Maryam until she was 7 years old.


Bali history tourAnak Agung Made Djelantik Brayawangsa, The Spiritual Leader and the last King of Lombok in 1920
The King of Karagasem was tolerant of other religions and there is a mosque just outside the palace walls of Tama Unjung. When the Kingdom spread to the Muslim island of Lombok there was even more Islamic influence within the Empire.


Bali old accommodationsKing Gusti Bagus Djelantik and his wife at The Karangasem Royal Palace in 1919Bali old photos tourAnak Agung Ketut Djelantik and his assistant in 1865Bali best tour tipsI Gusti Ketut Djelantik with his daughter, The Princess Gusti Ajoe Putu.The photograph above was taken in 1865 by Kinsbergen. It depicts Ketut Djelantik. On his arm is his daughter, The Princess Gusti Ajoe Putu. You can see the King's foot rests firmly on the girl holding the umbrella. This is to signify he is above her and in cotrol of her. In Indonesian culture the feet are considered unclean and one should never point with the foot, step over someone or touch someone with thier foot. Here the King makes a clear statement that this is my daughter, The Princess, elevated on a stool and even with The King and below us are our slaves. This photo was taken in Batavia, which is now called Jakarta, the capitol of Indonesia on Bali's neighboring island of Java.


Bali holiday tour villaAnak Agung Made Djelantik and Anak Agung Ketut Djelantik with The Last King of Lombok (center)I am uncertain who is who in this photo but I believe the two figures seated on the ground are Anak Agung Made Djelantik on the left and Anak Agung Ketut Djelantik on the right. The man in the middle is The Last King of Lombok who is pictured, in his somewhat younger days, four photos above with the impressive beard. Unlike the photo directly above, his feet are not placed on those below him as these are family members and respect is shown. Ketut Djelantik, on the bottom right, looks very much like Maryam's brothers.


Bali retreat center villaI Gusti Bagus Djilantik with his son Anak Agung Gede DjelantikBali yoga kingdom photoI Gusti Bagus Djelantik with his father I Gusti Gede DjelantikPictured above is once again I Gusti Bagus Djelantik. He is with his father I Gusti Gede Djelantik and they are reading sacred manuscripts called Lontar.  They are made of dried palm leaves and pass down knowledge relating to health and healing, astrology, astronomy, homeopathy, religious rules and teaching, sacred rituals, holy formulas, magic, ethics, and the actual and mythical history of the family and of The Indonesian People. They are generally writen in the old Javanese language called Kawi along with ancient Sanskrit written in Devanagri.


Bali health wellness yogaI Gusti Bagus Djelantik, The King of Karangasem
We hesitate to put this information on line as we are uncertain of the lineage and who is who, but we want to share what we have learned. If you have any knowledge of this and care to share it with us, please contact us here.
To learn more about this and our journeys in Indonesia as we build our villa retreat, please sign up for our free newsletter and be eligible for our soft opening friend and family discounts. Click here now!
References and thanks to - and Adrian Vickers. Some photos courtesy of KITLV-Leiden, some Creative Commons. 



Bali’s Royal Water Palace ~ Taman Ujung Soekasada. 

This is a companion blog post to Our Family and Bali’s Royal Family of Karangasem and focuses more on The Water Palace of Karangasem. To learn more about one of the Maryam's lineage and Bali's Royal Family of Karangasem just click here.
My wife is a princess. She is sweet, smart and beautiful. A lot of men say those things about their wives but in this case she is a real actual Princess. In her early years, she was raised by her Great-Grandmother, who was the daughter of the King. 

Bali’s Royal Water Palace~ Taman Ujung Soekasada in Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia 

Bali tour villa travel I Gusti Bagus Djelantik, The King of Karangasem's Water Palace
In our efforts to learn more about Maryam’s lineage, we have been visiting her family’s palaces. Our continued quest took us to The Karangasem Regency in East Bali, the seat of the kingdom. Here we visited Tumbu Village, home to Taman Ujung Soekasada, The Royal Water Palace of Karangasem.  
From the Old Bali archives. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 UnportedAbove is the Palace as it was in 1925.

Bali vacation royal tourPutu sits overlooking her family's Tama Ujung Water Palace
This was the residence of The Karangasem Royal Family. It was built by The King of Karangasem, I Gusti Bagus Djelantik who reigned in Karangasem from 1909 until 1945. The King lived here much of the year along with his wives and many children.


Taman Ujung Water Palace is perched on brilliant green hills, with sacred Mount Agung in the distance, and overlooking the ocean in the other direction.  The sprawling elegant complex is remarkably well maintained.
We are able to host weddings and very special events at The Water Palace. If you would like to discuss having your very special event at Taman Ujung, please contact us directly for details.


Many palaces we have visited in Indonesia can be disrespectfully strewn with litter. But, Tama Ujung is immaculate and the blooming flowers and various wildlife stand testament to the commitment to protect the memory, and continue the traditions, of the Royal Family.



Much of the palace was damaged in the eruption of Mount Agung Volcano in 1963. It was largely reconstructed via sponsorship of the World Bank along with Indonesia’s government.


Taman Ujung had also suffered some damage during World War II when the invading Japanese dismantled it’s iron bars for weaponry production. But today it can be visited in all its splendid glory just as it was for Maryam’s family many years ago.


Bali photography Karangasem tour


It is one of many palaces and one of three water palaces built by the last raja of Karangasem.  It consists of various styles of architecture complete with pools, moats, canals, bridges, and fountains. 


The complex is a combination of Balinese and European architecture. My favorite architectural element is the endless hallway/bridge that was built with such precision; it offers perfect symmetry and one point perspective.


There are two of them actually and they lead to a rest house called “Bale Gili” which sits in the middle of the largest of three ponds within the complex. 


Bali wellness tour palaceEntering Taman Ujung in Karangasem, Bali
While it is beautiful and offers a spectacular vista, most interesting for us was the access into the private rooms of the family. The original traditional beds and ornaments are still intact. On the walls hang many photographs of the family. We will be posting many of these amazing old photographs soon. To be notified and to join our free newsletter, just click here.


Bali wellness travel princessPutu stands on the infinity bridge in her family's Royal Palace in Karangasem, Bali
The majestic palace, along with hectares of manicured gardens, gazebos, and two huge ponds, also served as a place to welcome and to serve important visiting guests and Kings from countries worldwide. 


The Taman Ujung heritage site of the kingdom of Karangasem, offers views of Bali’s neighbor, Lombok and the of Lempuyang mountains. The Kingdom spread east to Lombok and ruled there as well. 


Bali wellness retreat villa


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Balifornian Photos of the Day ~ Sisters getting friendly in Ubud's Monkey Forest

I had a hard time titling today's photo of the day. "Sisters get intimate in The Monkey Forest" sounded cheap and risque. And I was not going to make any bad "monkeying around" puns. But, today's Bali photos show what a great time two recent tour participants had on our Bali Culture Tour. We took April from Los Angeles and her sister Alyson from New York City to visit our simian friends in one of my favorite places, Ubud's Sacred Monkey Forest.

Bali guided tour MonkeyBali Culture Tour to The Sacred Monkey ForestBali Tour Monkey tripUbud's Sacred Monkey Forest from Balifornian's Bali Culture TourHere is what April and Alyson had to say about their experience.

Thank you so much for organizing such an amazing trip. Everything was truly special and one I will never forget. You guys are not only an amazing tream, but are truly special people. I very much look forward to returning to Bali once your villas are built. Thank you again!- Alyson D. New York

Thank you both so much for a great great trip. You were both really thoughtful and accommodating and we learned so much from you about so many layers of Balinese culture and lifestyle. I will recommend your tour to everyone I know and I wish you both the most success and happiness.- April D. Los Angeles

We want to thank both of them for being such fun and wonderful tour participants and we had a blast with them.

To hear what other tour participants have to say about thier experience on Balifornian Tours check here.

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Happy Travels!

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