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  Bangli Regency

Mountainous Bangli, bali's only landlocked regency, compensates for its coastal deficit with some of the most spectacular scenery on the island. Shaped like a ragged keyhole, Bangli has endured a history of internecine warfare and occupation, and was one of the first kingdoms to fall to the Dutch Empire. Yet its people have survived these turbulent times and remote climes with a fiery temperament and ready humour. The administrative centre of the regency is Bangli town in the south, where cool, fresh air complements the manicured roadsides of this pretty hamlet. Apart from Bali's main psychiatric hospital, Bangli town is also home to the island's second largest temple, the beautiful 11th-century Pura Kehen.

From here the regency's main road climbs gently upwards through bamboo forests and dry upland terraces until, at 1,500 metres above sea level, the great maw of the Batur Caldera opens in front of you. Eleven kilometers in diameter and 183 metres deep, this enormous basin was carved out 30.000 years ago when Bali's larges volcano blew itself to pieces. Dominating its center is Mt.Batur, a brooding, black ened cone that has erupted four times this century. Another quarter of the basin is filled by a beautiful crescent shaped lake, also named Batur.

Six small villages out an existence within the walls of the caldera, peopled by a simple mountain folk known as Bali Aga ("original Balinese"). The most extraordinary of these settlements is Trunyan, a jumbled collection of cinder-block houses pressed against the eastern shore of the lake. Adhering to pre-Hindu practices, the residents of Trunyan choose not to cremate their dead but to lay them out in a nearby ravine, exposed to the embalming perfume of a sacred tree. Across the lake, the village of Toya Bungkah, with its plethora of losmen, 'mountain guides and volcanic hotsprings, is the favoured tourist spot and a good base camp for hiking Mt. Batur.

Back along the crater's rim are two important temples. Pura Ulun Danu Batur, a large and ornate sanctuary dedicated to the Goddess of the Lake, was originally located on the shores of Batur. In the 1920s it was moved to its current location near the market town of Kintamani after narrowly escaping destruction by lava flows. Further up at Penulisan, just before the road begins its long descent to the north shore, a steep flight of stairs leads to Pura Tegeh Koripan - at 1,745 metres the highest temple on Bali.

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