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Karangasem

The eastern district of Bali is Karangasem, which is dominated by the mighty Gunung Agung. The east has many places of interest and some great beaches. Bali's highest mountain is Gunung Agung (3142 meters), towering majestically over eastern and northern Karangasem. The most disastrous volcanic eruption took place on 17th March 1963 when Agung laterally blew its top. Streams of lava and hot volcanic mud poured down to the sea in the southeast of the island, covering roads and isolating the eastern end of the island. The whole island was covered in ash and crops were wiped out. It obliterated many villages and temples, and killed thousands of people. Most of those killed were either burned to death or suffocated by the searing clouds of hot gas rushing down the volcanic slopes. It wiped out the entire villages of Sorga and Lebih high on the slopes of Agung. Surprisingly, Besakih, just six kilometers from the crater, suffered little damage.

These days Mount Agung is quiet and the mother temple Pura Besakih perched 1000 metres up the slope attracts a steady stream of devotees and tourists. Pura Besakih is Bali's most important and probably best-kept temple, comprising about 30 separate temples in seven terraces going up the hill. Every district in Bali has its own shrine or temple at Besakih and just about every Balinese god is honored.

If you want to climb Mount Agung, you must request permission from the temple authorities, as no one should stand higher than the temple when a ceremony is being held. You can ascend the mountain from behind the temple or through the village of Sebudi village, near Selat. It's a tough 6-8 hour climb and you are recommended to leave in the early morning and hire a guide.

Padang Bai is the port for the ferry service to Lombok. It's a sleepy fishing village situated in a perfectly sheltered bay. The beach is picturesque and quaint with a long sweep of sand where colorful boats are drawn up on the beach.

From Padang Bai the road follows a beautiful stretch  inland and turns off at the mountain village of Tenganan. Tenganan is a Bali Aga village one of the few  Balinese communities to resist the Majapahit invasion  of 1343. It is a walled village consisting  of two rows of identical houses. This is the only place in Indonesia where double-weaving ikat, Geringsing, is produced. The village is also famous for its lontar sacred books, traditional Balinese palm-leaf books.

On the coastal road 13 kilometres from Tenganan is the once-quiet fishing village of Candi Dasa. You can expect to find  plenty of accommodation, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and some nightlife. There are fantastic views from the headland and on a clear day Agung mountain rises magnificently behind the range of coastal hills.

The main town and capital of the Karangasem district is Amplapura. Puri Agung Karangasem palace is an imposing reminder of the time Karangasem was a kingdom. It has a three-tiered gate and beautiful sculptured  panels on the outside.

Six kilometers from Amlapura you will find the Tirta Gangga water palace. This palace, built around 1947 by Amlapura's water  loving king, is a place of beauty and solitude . The palace contains  a network of pools and a swimming pool fed by some of the most beautiful rice terraces in Bali.

North of Tirta Gangga is Tulamben. SS Liberty, the American war ship sunk by the Japanese in 1942, lies just off the beach and  is accessible from the beach. It's a long way from anywhere on this barren coast, but worth a pause on your travels.

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