The Indonesian Daily Kompas reports that while many tourists continue to visit the Island's main tourist areas of Kuta, Legian, and even Denpasar – those in seek of peace and quiet should consider heading for Bali's eastern shores which offers restful holidays, tourism objects rich in spiritual undertones and a wide range of sea tourism options.
The many charms of East Bali are often overshadowed by the higher visibility enjoyed by Bali's South, the artist's colony of Ubud and the volcanic crater at Kintamani. However, the recent construction of a new east coast highway in Bali has reduced driving time from the South Island to East Bali from 3 hours to just 1.5 hours and, as a result, opened this area to increased levels of tourist visits.
Those traveling along Bali's new I.B, Mantra highway that has shrunken the distance between the tourism areas of South Bali to the East Coast, can now rediscover Bali's sacred Mother Temple of Besakih and pleasure palaces built by East Bali royalty in the Island's recent past.
Those visiting the charming village of Candi Dasa, a tourist enclave near the port of Padang Bai, will find 300 star-classified hotel rooms and 400 non-starred rooms along a beach offering uninterrupted views across the straits toward Lombok island and Nusa Penida. Nearby small islands and secluded sand beaches have made this island "a natural" destination for divers and water-sports enthusiasts. Those enjoying the full range of accommodation and dining options available at Candi Dasa, are also well-positioned for full day forays to the excellent diving available to the north at Ahmed and Tulamben.
The regent of Karangasem, I Wayan Geredek, told Kompas that his regency suffers from a lack of exposure in Bali's program of promotion. Supporting Geredek's complaints of promotional neglect are figures from the Provincial tourism authority showing average occupancy of Karangasem hotels stands at around 50%, far below the averages of 90% being achieved in other parts of the island.
In an effort to attract more tourists, the government of Karangasem has spent Rp. 3 billion (US$326,000) over the past three years improving the area's infrastructure, including street lighting in Candi Dasa and public parking facilities at local tourism sites.
Coming Soon: A Cruise Ship Port
Tourism hopes in Karangasem are pinned to plans to establish an international standard cruise ship terminal, targeted for completion in the first half of 2009. The terminal will be located at the Port of Amuk at Manggis, some 5 kilometers from Candi Dasa and not far from the current port of Padang Bai.
Geredek hopes that the new port will improve the local tourism economy and make his area a gateway to Lombok and East Nusa Tenggara.
The construction of the new cruise port located some 60 kilometers from Bali's capital of Denpasar, will consume Rp. 70 billion (US$7.6 million) of the State (National) budget, Rp. 15 billion (US$1.6 million) of the Provincial budget, and Rp. 3.5 billion (US$380,400) of Karangasem's budget. Add that all together for a total budget of US$9.5 million to complete the development of terminal complex on an 1.5 hectare site that will include two 150 meter piers. When placed into operation these piers will allow large cruise ships to dock in Bali, a vast improvement over the past when ocean going vessels were compelled to anchor far offshore and ferry their passengers between ship and the main port.
Geredek is optimistic that the new port will eventually serve 200 cruise ships each year, with each ship carrying 1,000 tourists.
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