Kuta had a long history before it turned into a center for night entertainment. Unfortunately, many parts of its history have now been forgotten.
“No travel agent or community pays special attention to developing the historical aspect of Kuta to make it a tourist attraction,” said Suparta Karang from the advisory board of Bali’s Hotel and Restaurant Association.
He mentioned five places that could be interesting in tracing Kuta’s history; Pasih Perahu Beach, Dharmayana Monastery, Mads Lange Memorial, Poppies Restaurant and the bombing memorial.
Suparta, one of the initiators of Kuta Karnival — an annual festival held to restore tourism in Kuta after the bombings — said that Kuta merely relied on its beaches to attract tourists. He suggested tourism stakeholders familiarize themselves with Kuta’s past and promote it to tourists.
An official history book from Kuta subdistrict states that Kuta was first mentioned in 1336, when Gajahmada and his troops from Majapahit landed on the south end of the beach. This area is now known as Tuban, the same as a small city on the East Java coast.
Local people started to refer to this area, located in Banjar Segara Kuta, as Pasih Perahu, which means boat beach. The area that used to be a harbor has disappeared due to coastal erosion.
Evidence that this location used to be a harbor is found at Pesanggrahan Temple. At the front of the temple, there is a miniature ship built in 2002.
A number of books on Kuta mention that during the Dutch colonial period the area was a trade center for the island.
A Danish trader named Mads Johansen Lange was harbormaster in Kuta. He is immortalized by a tomb and a narrow road that bears his name. The tomb, built in the Balinese style, is called Mads Lange Memorial, while the road’s name is Jl. Tuan Lange, both are located near Jl. Bypass Ngurah Rai.
A stone and concrete monument more than 2 meters tall is the centerpiece of the Mads Lange Memorial. On its front, a plaque bears the words “Sacred to the Memory of Mads Johansen Lange, Knight of the Nederland, Leeuw and Danish Gold Medal, born in the Island Langeland, Denmark, Sept. 18 1807. Departed this life at Bali May 13 1856 after a residence of 18 years on this Island.”
A prominent scholar on the history of Bali, Adrian Vickers, dedicated a single chapter in Bali Chronicles, a book he co-authored with Willard A. Hanna, to narrate the life and personality of Mads Lange.
In 19th century Bali, Mads Lange was an influential trader, the trusted advisor of the island’s kings and princes. He rose to be the trade agent for the King of Kesiman, the most influential and powerful among the traditional rulers of Badung, a kingdom that ruled, among other places, Kuta, where Lange established his house.
Lange passed away in 1856. It is said that he was poisoned. He was reportedly survived by several wives and a group of children.
Meanwhile, a testament to Kuta’s multicultural history is the Dharmayana Monastery. Built in 1876, the monastery is one of the oldest buildings in Kuta. Now 136 years old, the monastery has always been well visited and is an interesting photo subject whenever Balinese Hindu rituals take place.