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Karangasem to be jewel in spiritual tourism crown

Karangasem in East Bali is preparing a draft bylaw to enhance spiritual tourism across the regency.

I Gusti Suyadnya, head of promotion section at Karangasem Tourism office, told Bali Daily recently that the administration had focused on developing spiritual tourism such as Tirta Yatra, spiritual journey to sacred places, yoga and meditation.

“The majority of tourists come to Karangasem to enjoy its serenity, as it is far from the hustle-bustle of Kuta and other destinations in South Bali,” Suyadnya explained.

Stretching over an area of 839.54 square kilometers in Eastern Bali, Karangasem, with its capital Amlapura, is home to the island’s sacred — and active — volcano Mount Agung, which last erupted in 1963. On the slopes of Mt. Agung, lies Pura Besakih Temple, one of the top destinations in the world for Hindus.

The regency was also the center of Bali Kingdom, which built extraordinary cultural heritage sites such as Ujung Sukasada Park, Tirtagangga Water Palace and Puri Agung Karangasem.

Last November, the central government nominated Karangasem and Denpasar to be the country’s cultural heritage sites.

Suyadnya explained that the draft would formulate the concept of spiritual tourism and designate a number of spiritual destinations.

“At present, we — together with academics from the Indonesian Hindu Institute in Denpasar and tourism practitioners — are still preparing the draft,” he said, adding that it would be several months before it would be finished.

“[We are seeing] more and more tourists taking part in yoga and meditation sessions at the Ashram [Hindu boarding place] owned by the late religious leader Ibu Gedong Oka here in Candidasa,” he said.

For the first stage, Karangasem plans to develop three villages — Sidemen, Budakeling and Besakih  — as spiritual destinations.

Bagus Sudibya, a noted tourism practitioner, explained that the Bali tourism industry welcomed the idea of developing spiritual tourism.

“Bali has diverse tourist attractions. Each regency has its unique potential. We should not follow a tourism pattern like the one found in Kuta,” Sudibya said.

Kuta and South Bali region were designated as entertainment centers — with plentiful tourist activities and a noisy nightlife — while Ubud in Gianyar was intended to be a cultural spot.

“We want Karangasem to continue to be a spiritual tourist destination. We have Pura Besakih and old indigenous villages of the Bali Aga communities, which are all very unique,” he added.

Karangasem has opulent natural wonders including pristine beaches suitable for water sports such as scuba diving and snorkeling.

Suyadnya added that the planned bylaw would prevent any investor from building tourist accommodation or facilities deemed to not fit in with the spiritual concept.

Source : Bali Daily

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