The White Raja of Bali


I asked the locals where it was, I even asked taxi drivers and hawkers in the streets but to no success.

My search for Gang Tuan Langga, the small laneway leading to the grave site of Mads Lange, seemed elusive. Until one day I asked a Bhuddist monk. He told me it was at the rear of the night market.

For such an important person in the history of Bali to be forgotten about so quickly over the generations was in my opinion just disgraceful. After receiving a blessing from the monk, I hailed a taxi and directed the driver to where I thought the lane might be located. There was no street sign, just a smaller sign Pasar Malam - night market.

The narrow laneway weaved down towards the river. All I could see was a garbage truck depot. I paid the taxi driver and walked around to investigate. I first saw the Chinese-marked headstones perched in the soft soil, and upon further investigation, there it was, the small monument to Mads Lange.

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Mads Lange was a Danish merchant and adventurer who in 1839 established a large and eventually prosperous trading post to the south of the fishing village of Kuta on the Bukit Peninsula. He traded in all manner of goods and at one point had the produce monopoly on the island of Bali and was primary in inter-Asian trade. He was without a doubt indispensable as a mediator between the Dutch and the rulers of the numerous Bali kingdoms.

In 1846-49, the Dutch made several invasions on the island of Bali from Java, and such was the impact, Mads Lange's world was soon to be destroyed. It was in 1850 when rival traders who set up business in Kuta with support from the Dutch that marked the end for Lange. He was bankrupt and decided to return to Denmark but mysteriously died. Reports say he was poisoned. He was buried in a single-stone marked grave and this became his resting place until the Danish government along with successful businessmen erected the monument in his honour.

I opened the gate to the small yard which housed the monument. An ageing Balinese woman laid offerings at the base of the monument, smiled and walked away.

As I looked around where I stood, it was a reflective and yet lonely place for such an adventurer. He might have died bankrupt but he rested in the rich soil of the Bali he loved so much.

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