Ubud's Royal Palace

Ubud has been a "royal town" for over a hundred years. Its princes, who bear the title "Tjokorda" or "Agung" still live in traditional palaces, called "Puris". Be aware, however, that every place called "puri" is not a royal palace. The word has been used quite liberally of late. Also be aware that there is not one palace in Ubud, but many, most of them clustered around the main cross-roads near the Bud market. There are several other "royal" towns in the Bud area, too, with their own palaces, most of which have close family ties to the Bud Tjokordas. A web of connections is maintained by incidental and arranged marriages among the respective offspring of princes in Sayan, Pejeng, Singapadu, Peliatan, and Payangan's puris.

If you're interested in seeing a palace and observing the way life is conducted inside, there are opportunities to do so, but remember that for the most part, they are private homes, not public throughways. Many of the Ubud royals have opened hotels and restaurants within the walls of their homes, so you can, in fact, sleep of eat in one of the Ubud palaces, enjoying accommodations from the most modest bungalow, to the modern luxury rooms. I some cases, you have a chance to meet the palace residents and join them for family and community ceremonies.

Puri Saren Agung is the central palace where the public dance performances are held. Located at the northeast corner of the central cross-roads, it's pretty hard to miss. It was the home of the last "king" of Ubud, and now his descendants live there. It is essentially the "father palace" of the other Ubud palaces, which are more or less its "spinoffs," built as the family extended. It was also Ubud's first hotel, opening its doors to paying visitors in the 1930s. Still operated as a small homestay style hotel. Parts of the gardens and some of the bales are quite grand and formal, with generous lashing of prada (gold leaf) applied to the carved woodwork.

Puri Saren Kangin is the eastern portion of Puri Saren (kangin means"east"), and is a private residence for several branches of the Ubud family. In front is Puri's Bar, which was a hip, relaxed hangout for Balinese and wandering bohemians in the early eighties.

Pura Saren Kauh Kauh means "west," and accordingly, this is the occidental portion of the palace. There are accommodations within this part of the palace, too,but they are accessed via the reception desk for Puri Saren Agung.

Puri Kantor is across Jalan Suweta from Puri Saren, with a forecourt which has become a parking lot for some of the family's vintage autos. There are a couple cafes, and Banyan Tree Bungalows attached to Puri Kantor. An espresso bar affiliated with the palace will be opening soon, just a few paces north of the main gate in Jalan Suweta. Kantor means "office," and according to the heads of the resident family, the name was given in jest, in reference to a "pagoda" which once towered in the middle of a big pond where Puri Kantor Sosrobahu now stands. As Ubud was a rather modest village at the time, this multi-storey edifice reminded locals of nothing so much as an office building.

Puri Kantor Sosrobahu is a sister of Puri Kantor, both of which were established during the last generation's heyday, when two wives of one prince were offered the chance to build their own digs. The "Sosrobahu" part refers to the storey of Arjuna carries the wight of the world on his shoulders. The head of this palace family invented a method of constructing highway overpasses, which was named "Sosrobahu" as an acknowledgement of its superior load-bearing capabilities. The name was transferred to the palace, since much of it was built from the profits earned through overpass construction. Puri Kantor Sos' now boasts an elegant, small hotel called Prada, plus a restaurant and wine bar (not quite ready to open at the time of writing). Have a look at the stuffed tiger in the quest lounge.

Puri Kawan is a private house behind Ary's Warung, which used to offer public accommodation. It is now the quiet residence of the proprietors of Ary's and its various offshoots. Kawan (sometimes spelled kauhan), means "western," reflecting the fact that this palace is west of the centre of town.

Puri Menara is a bit further west, and was until recently a centre for studying Balinese dance and culture, with a library. The books have recently been distributed to other libraries, notably ARMA. There is still a restaurant here, and bungalows. Rumour has it that there may be plans underfoot to redevelop the whole site, which sits smack dab in the commercial centre of town.

Puri Saraswati is across the street from Tino's drugstore in Jalan Raya. It is the home of a branch of the Ubud royal family, where they run a bungalow-style hotel with a swimming pool. In front they also operate Cafe Lotus, Lotus Studios (a high-end shop), and Mumbul's Restaurant. In back they have a huge lotus pond and a temple dedicated to Dewi Saraswati, the divine embodiment of learning, arts and literature. You can't miss the enormous, elaborate stone sign, with its brilliant-white, pseudo-classical statue of Saraswati herself standing proudly on top. Cok Wah, who operates the business is an avid bird fancier, a ham radio operator, and he collects various extraordinary vehicles.

Puri Anyar is a little way up Jalan Suweta on the east side of the street. Cafe Anyar sits in front, and a few expatriates who are acquainted with the family, including a notorious painter, live inside.

Puri Muwa is located on the east side of Monkey Forest Road about 120 metres south of the main cross-roads. This branch of the royal family has two separate bungalow businesses which are very inexpensive, three shops, a cafe, a pharmacy, and a medical practice on Wednesdays and Sundays.


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