Bali, a tropical island in Indonesia archipelago, is so picturesque and immaculate it could almost be a painted backdrop. It has rice paddies tripping down hillsides like giant steps, volcanoes soaring up through the clouds, dense tropical jungle, long sandy beaches, warm blue water, crashing surf and a friendly people who don’t just have a culture but actually live it. In Bali spirits come out to play in the moonlight, every night is a festival and even a funeral is an opportunity to have a good time.

Bali, the perfect holiday destination for all ages offers something for everyone. This tropical paradise has a unique blend of modern tourist facilities combined with wonderful shopping and a rich past and heritage. The Balinese people are proud of having preserve their unique Hindu culture against the advanced of Islam, the dominant religion throughout Indonesia. This is still reflected in day to day life and can be found on the western side of the island whilst conversely the eastern side is a wonderful haven for families, with beautiful white sand beaches and gentle seas.

Bali is a shopper’s paradise particularly for casual and tailored clothing, locally made jewellery, handicraft, antiques and artifacts. Leather ware is one of the unexpected local bargains with everything from handbags through to tailor made leather jackets and coats, all at unbelievable prices.  In fact, prices are so inexpensive, you are sure to need more room in your suitcase! Try bargaining at the street markets of Kuta, Sanur, or Nusa Dua or fixed price shopping at a Denpasar department store. Bali has it all.

For those that want to stay wet, Bali has world class scuba diving, snorkeling and wonderful day trip out to Nusa Penida for beach sports and coral viewing.

When the sun sets, the choices are still hard to make – a quiet romantic moon light dinner or watch the spectacular Balinese Fire Dance or Kecak Monkey Dance. For those that want to party, Bali has it all with bars, discos and night clubs.

As a truly international destination attracting visitors from all over the world, restaurants in Bali are extremely cosmopolitan yet inexpensive. Experience not only local delicacies like Nasi Goreng and Sate Campur but also Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Italian /European and even Mexican cuisine. We must not forget Bali’s wonderful seafood – local lobster at such prices that you will want to keep coming back for more.

For those more culturally inclined, Bali can offer the peace and tranquility of Ubud high in the hills, the spectacular mother temple at Besakih, the ancient capital of Bali, Singaraja and the floating palace at Ujung near the pretty beach area of Candi Dasa.The scenery is nothing less than spectacular. Jungle, picturesque hillside rice terraces and the awesome magnificence of Kintamani Volcano.

The more active, wanting a break from the idyllic beaches, can experience wonderful golf course in the mountains at Bedugul and beach side at Nusa Dua,the thrill of white water rafting or kayaking down the beautiful Ayung River, mountain cycling amid scenery you will never forget and organized rice paddy and jungle treks to see the side of Bali most tourists never encounter.

Bali, a truly international destination, offers every standard of accommodation ranging from charming yet modest bungalow style hotels in lush tropical gardens for the budget minded through to arguably amongst the most exclusive and sophisticated hotels in the world!

History
There is no trace of the Stone Age in Bali although it’s certain that the island was already populated before the Bronze Age commenced there about 300 BC. Nor is much known of Bali during the period when Indian traders brought Hinduism to the Indonesian Archipelago. The earliest records found in Bali, stone inscriptions, date from around the 9th century AD and by that time Bali had already developed many similarities to the island you find today. Rice was grown with the help of a complex irrigation system probably very like that employed now. The Balinese had also already begun to develop to the present day.

Hindu
Hindu Java begin to spread its influence into Bali during the reign of King Airlangga from 1019 to 1042. At this time the courtly Javanese language known as Kawi come into use amongst the royalty of Bali, and the rock-cut memorials seen at Gunung Kawi near Tampaksiring are a clear architectural link between Bali and 11th century Java. After Airlangga’s death Bali retained it’s semi – independent state until Kertanegara become king of Singasari dynasty in Java two century later. Artists, dancers, musicians and actors fled to Bali and the island experienced and explosion of cultural activities.  The final great exodus to Bali took place in 1478.

European
Marco Polo, the great explorer, was the first recorded European visitor to Indonesia back in 1292 but the first Europeans to set foot on Bali were Dutch seamen in 1597. Setting a tradition that has prevailed right down to the present day, they fall in love with the island and when Cornelius Houtman, the ship’s captain, prepare to set sail, half oh his crew refused to come with him.

Dutch
In 1710 the capital of Gelgel kingdom was shifted to nearby Klungkung but local discontent was growing, lesser rules were breaking away from Gelgel rule and the Dutch began to move in using the old policy of devide and conquer.

Independence
On 17 August 1945, just after the end of WW II, the Indonesian leader Sukarno proclaimed the nation’s independence but it took four years to convince the Dutch that they were not going to get their colony back.

Geography
Bali is a small fertile island midway along the string of islands which make up the Indonesian archipelago, stretching from Sumatra in the north-west to Irian Jaya, on the border of Papua New Guinea, in the south-east. Bali is volcanically active and extravagantly fertile.  Bali has an area of 5620 sq km, measures approximately 140 km by 80 km and is just 8 degrees south ofthe equator. Gunung Agung known as the ‘mother mountain’ is over 300 meters.

South and north of the central mountains are Bali’s fertile agricultural lands.  The southern region is a wide, gently sloping area where most of Bali’s abundant rice crop is grown. The south-central area is the true rice basket of the island.  The northern coastal strip is narrower, rising more rapidly into the foothills of the central range, but the main export crops – coffee, copra and rice – are grown here. Cattle are also rise in this area.

Bali has climate evenly tropical all year. The average temperature hover around 30 degrees Celsius year-round. There are dry and wet season – dry from April to September and wet from October to March – but it can rain at anytime of the year and even during the wet season rain is likely to pass quickly. In general May to August are the best months in Bali. At that time of the year the climate is likely to be cooler and the rain lightest.

Around the coast, sea breeze temper the heat and as you move inland you also move up so the altitude works to keep things cool. It can get very cool up in the highlands and a warm sweater can be a good idea in mountain villages like Kintamani or Bedugul.

Flora and Fauna
Bali has an interesting collection of animal and plan life. The rice terraces are the most common sight everyday in Bali, particularly in the heavy populated and extravagantly fertile south. Balinese gardens are delight. The soil and climate in Bali can support a huge range of plants, and the Balinese love of beauty, and the abundance of cheap labour, mean that every space can be landscaped.  The style is generally informal., with curved paths, a rich variety of plants and usually a water feature.  You can find almost every type of flower in Bali, though some varieties, such as hydrangeas, are restricted to the cooler mountain areas. Orchids are a special attraction, and orchid fanciers should see the collection at the botanical gardens near Bedugul.

There are various animals you might come across around the island of Bali.  Chicken are kept both for food purpose and as pets.  Balinese cattle are nearly as delicate as Balinese pigs are gross. Bali certainly used to have tigers and although there are periodic rumors of sightseeing in the remote north-west of island, nobody has proof of seeing one for long time.

Economy
Bali’s economy is basically agrarian. The vast majority of the Balinese are still simple peasants working in the field. Coffee, copra and cattle are major agricultural exports, most or the rice goes to feed Bali’s own teeming population.  Although the Balinese are an island people, their unusual tendency to focus on the mountains rather than the sea is reflected in the importance of fishing. While there are many fishing villages and are part of the Balinese diet, fishing as an activity is not on the scale you might expect, given how much ocean there is around the island. Tourism play a considerable role in the Balinese economy, not only in providing accommodation, meals and services to many visitors but also in providing a market for all those arts and crafts!

Population
With 3 million people, Bali is a very densely populated island. The population is almost all Indonesian, with the usual small Chinese contingent in the big towns, a sprinkling of Indian merchants, plus a number of more or less permanent visitors amongst the Westerners in Bali.

Population control is a priority of the Indonesian government, and the family planning slogan (two is enough) is a recurring theme in the roadside posters and statuary.  It seems to have been quite successful, as many young families are limiting themselves to two children, or sometimes maybe three, but certainly not the seven or nine children common two or three generations ago.

Culture and Customs
Each stage of Balinese life is mark by a series of ceremonies and rituals known as Manusa Yadnya. They contribute to the rich, varied and active life the average Balinese leads.

Birth
The first ceremony of Balinese life takes place even before birth. Another ceremony takes place soon after the birth, during which the afterbirth is buried with appropriate offerings. The first major ceremony takes place halfway through the baby’s first Balinese year of 210 days.

Names
Basically the Balinese only have four first names. The first child is Wayan or Putu, the second child is Made or Kadek, the third is Nyoman or Komang and the fouth is Ketut.  The fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth will be another Wayan, Made, Nyoman, Ketut and Wayan Again.

Childhood
The Balinese certainly love children and they have plenty of them to prove it. Coping with a large family is made much easier by the policy of putting younger children in the care of older one. After the ceremonies of babyhood come ceremonies marking the stages of childhood and puberty, including y he important tooth – filling ceremony.

Agoes Moeliadi_29

Photo courtesy Agoes Moeliadi

Marriage
Every Balinese expects to marry and raise a family, and marriage takes places at a comparatively young age. Marriage are not, in general, arranged as they are in many other Asian communities although strict rules apply to marriages between the castes. There are two basic forms of marriage in Bali – mepadik and ngorod. The respectable form, in which the family of the man visit the family of the woman and politely propose that the marriage take place, is mepadik. The Balinese, however, like their fun and often prefer marriage by elopement (ngorod) as the most exciting option.  Of course, the Balinese are also a practical people so nobody is too surprised when the young man spirits away his bride-to-be, even if she loudly protests about being kidnapped.  The couple go into hiding and somehow the girl’s parents, no matter how assiduously they search, never manage yo find her. Eventually the couple re-emerge, announce that it is too late to stop them now, the marriage is officially recognized and everybody has had a lot of fun and games.  Marriage by elopement has another advantage apart from being exciting and mildly heroic-it’s cheaper.

The Household
Many modern Balinese houses, but there are still a great number of traditional Balinese homes. The street of Ubud; nearly every house will follow the same traditional walled design.

Men and Women
There are certain tasks clearly to be handled by women, and others reserved for men. Social life in Bali is relatively free and easy.  In Balinese leisure activities the roles are also sex differentiated.  Both men and women dance but only men play the gamelan. Today you do see some women painters, sculptors, and woodcarvers.

Community Life
Balinese have amazingly active and organized village life. You simply cannot be a faceless nonetity in Bali. You can’t help but get to know your neighbors as your life is so entwined and interrelated with theirs.

Death & Cremation
There are ceremonies for every stage of Balinese life but often the last ceremony-cremation is the biggest. A Balinese cremation can be amazing, spectacular, colorful, noisy and exiting event. In fact it often takes so long to organize a cremation that years have passed since the death. During that time the body is temporarily buried. Of course an auspicious day must be chosen for the cremation and since a big cremation can be very expensive business many less wealthy people may take the opportunity of joining in a larger cremation and sending their own dead on their way at the same time. Brahman, however, must be cremated immediately. Apart from being yet another occasion for Balinese noise and confusion it’s a fine opportunity to observe the incredible energy by the Balinese put into creating real works of art which are totally ephemeral. A lot more than a body gets burnt at the cremation. The body is carried from the burial ground (or from the deceased’s home if it’s and ‘immediate’ cremation) to the cremation ground in a high, multi – tiered tower made of bamboo, paper, string, tinsel, silk, cloth, mirrors, flowers and anything else bright and colorful you can think of. The toweros carried on the shoulders of a group of men, the size of the group depending on the importance of the deceased and hence the size of the tower. The funeral of a former rajah of high priest may require hundreds of men to tote the tower.

Along the way the cremation ground certain precautions must be taken to ensure that the deceased’s spirit does not find its way back home. Loose spirits around the house can be a real nuisance. To ensure this doesn’t happen requires getting the spirits confused as to their whereabouts, which you do by shaking the tower, running it around the circle, spinning it around, throwing water at it, generally making the trip to the cremation ground anything but a stately funeral crawl. Meanwhile, there’s likely to be a priest halfway up to tower, hanging on grimly as it sways back and forth, and doing his best to soak bystanders with a holy water.A gamelan sprints along behind, providing a suitably exciting musical accompaniment. Camera-toting tourists get all but run down and once again the Balinese prove that ceremonies and religion are there to be enjoyed. At the cremation ground the body is transferred to a funeral sarcophagus – this should being the shape of a bull for a Brahmana, a winged lion for a Satria and a sort of elephant-fish for a Sudra. These days, however, almost anybody from the higher castes will use a bull. Finally up it all goes in flames-funeral tower, sarcophagus, body, the lot.  The eldest son does his duty by poking through the ashes to ensures that there are bits of body left unburnt. And where does your soul go after your cremation? Why, to a heaven which is just like Bali!

Religion
Balinese are nominally Hindu but Balinese Hinduism is a world away from that of India. At one time Hinduism was predominant religion in Indonesia(witness the many great Hindu monuments in Java) but it died out with the spread of Islam through the archipelago. The final great Hindu Kingdom, that of the Majapahits, virtually evacuated to Bali, taking not only their religion and it’s rituals but also their art, literature, music and culture.

Religion on Bali has two overwhelming features, it’s absolutely everywhere and it’s good fun! You can’t get away from religion on Bali: there are temples in every village, shrines in every field, offerings being made at every corner.

Places To Go

Bali is known for its abundant attractions including sparkling beach resorts, archaeological remains and scenic beauty. Many ways available to take visitors to those well known places to enjoy the beauty of Bali from the mountains to the coastline.

Temple

  1. Tanah Lot.
    Tanah Lot is simply dedesigned, but dramatically located temple on the Tabanan coast. Built on a promontory only accessible at low tide, this temple is, like Uluwatu,  a sad kahyangan temple,  one of the most important in Bali. Take a scarf and dress accordingly. It is said that the temple is guarded by poisonous snakes. Sunset is the best time to visit when the golden and red sky frames the temple and the waves crash into rocks.
  2. Uluwatu Temple
    Uluwatu temple is precariously located at the point of sheer cliff on the island’s southern peninsula. It is one of the oldest and most important temple in Bali, one of the six original sad kahyangan (territorial) temple on the island. More recently Uluwatu has also become famous for its challenging surf break (experience surfers only), and spectacular views from warungs and restaurants perched on the cliff.
  3. Batukaru
  4. Taman Ayun
  5. Ulun Danu Beratan
  6. Besakih
  7. Gunung Kawi Temple
    Ancient memorial of the Balinese rules, carved on a solid rock with beautiful surroundings.
  8. Tirta Empul Holy Spring Water Temple
  9. Goa Gajah.
    Goa Gajah overlooking the Petani River, site of intriguing archaeological mystery. The man-made cave here date from the eight century and feature Buddhist inscriptions and carvings, eventhough Buddhist are known to never have lived in Bali. Above the entrance to the cave is a giant head, with floppy ears, though by many to be an elephant, of which there is no record in Bali.This is a special place, especially if you can avoid the crowds.
  10. Goa Lawah.
    Goa Lawah’s famous bat cave,  10 km east of Klungkung, is a Shivaite temple founded around on thousand years ago. The cave is believed to lead all the way to Gunung Agung, but there’s a couple of serious deterrents. Firstly, the cave is believed to be home to an enormous snake, Naga Basuki. And secondly, the ceiling and thousands of noisy, long-nose fruit bats.This is a very strange place, but definitely worth a visit. You
  11. Tirta Gangga.
    This is the site of a beautiful water palace, built by the last king of Karangasem, Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut, in 1947. Much of it was destroyed by 1963 eruption, but the famous bathing pool remain intact.  This is a place of great peace, and an excellent stopover when you are touring East Bali.  There’s a losmen in the palace grounds, and a restaurant too.
  12. Taman Ujung Sukasada
  13. Kerta Gosha
  14. Yeh Pulu Yeh Pulu
    is an ancient reliefs on a rock wall.

Lakes

Twin Lakes Buyan & Tamblingan
Batur Lakes
Beratan Lakes

Mountain / Volcano

Batur Volcano

Waterfall

Sekumpul
Gitgit
Munduk
Tegenungan
Aling Aling

Animal Park and Zoo

Monkey Forest Ubud
Bali Safari and Marine Park
Bali Bird Park
Bali Zoo
Elephant Safari Park
Alas Kedaton
Sangeh Monkey Forest

Villages

Tenganan Pegringsingan.
Located just west Candi Dasa is the village of Tenganan Pegrigsingan, and a visit here is a trip back in time. This is one of the homes of the Bali Aga (original Balinese), the first inhabitants of Bali. The Tengananese believe they have been chosen to honour the royal descendants with offerings, sacrifices and rituals, and by administering the surrounding lands. Only recently has this society opened itself up to outsiders, although strict rules still apply, especially concerning marriage to outsiders. Tenganan Pegringsingan features wonderful fabrics, one of which is the renowned gringsing double weave ikat cloth.

Mas Village
Some 20 kilometers north of Denpasar lies the woodcarving centre of Mas, a village of high caste Brahmin families. This village, which has a special place in Balinese history, is home to many excellent woodcarving shop. Remember to bargain.

Kuta
Since the 18th century, Kuta has served as the entry point for foreigner visiting southern Bali. In the1830s Kuta was a thriving slave market, attracting a wide variety of International ‘lowlife’ and many would say that nothing has changed.  Since its rediscovery by hippies and surfers in 1960s, Kuta and Legian have expanded so rapidly that the district is now one of the busiest tourist areas in the world. Hundreds of hotels, bars, restaurants and shops provide for all tastes and budgets.

Sanur
Bali’s first beach resort, Sanur is a place of remarkable contrasts. Sanur is a modern and prosperous community, and hosts to many high class hotels and restaurants. But it also famous for its sorcerers.  When the Dutch invaded Bali in 1906, it was Sanur that they landed.

Batubulan
Kusamba, Fisherman village with salting grounds.

Rice Terrace

Jatiluwih
Ceking Tegalalang

One Comment on “Bali Travel Guide

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: