A friendly and remarkably artistic people, living amid breathtaking panoramas, have created dynamic society with unique arts and ceremonies and ceremonies, making Bali an island almost unreal in today's hectic and changing world. Terrace rice fields dominate the landscape, with rivers and small irrigation streams dissecting a luscious green landscape, filling the air with enchanting sounds of running water.
Bali divided by a string of impressive and authoritative volcanoes running almost through the center of the island. Mountains and particularly volcanoes are believed to be the home of the gods. Shrouded in mystery and magic, they stretch skyward in majestic splendor. Bali's main volcano is the still active and sometimes explosive. Gunung Agung, which is considered, sacred among local people as it is believed to be the center of the universe. Not just a view visitors leave with the same believe.
The ancient kingdoms of the "Rajas" and princes of Bali were dismantled by colonial governments in the early part of this century, but many of the royal descendants still own traditional palaces and are very much respected as patrons of the arts. Art and culture are strongly bonded to Bali's unique form of Hinduism called "Hindu Darma". Classical dance dramas for example, are based on the old Hindu epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabarata, but contain an element of local folklore, peculiars to the island. The very soul of Bali is rooted in religion and is expressed in art forms that have been passionately preserved over the centuries. It seems that almost every person is an artist, spending free time applying skills and images which have been passed down from generation to generation and grasped from a very young age. Whether expressed through beautiful and intricate paintings and dances, extraordinary carvings, superb weaving or even in decorations made for myriad shrines which can be found in public area, on roads, in paddy field or in homes, the island is alive with art.
The Balinese have been more exposed to international tourists and generally speak more English than people in other parts of the Indonesian archipelago. They have managed to preserve their culture despite overwhelming foreign influences brought to the region by an ever increasing number of tourist.
Bali's international airport, Ngurah Rai, is in the south of the island and is served by numerous international airlines and charters. In order to keep up with the growing number of visitors and the need for their comfort, more hotel have been built, ranging from small bungalows types for budget travelers to the luxurious
Nusa Dua tourist resort area, near the air port, on the southern tip of the island. Water sports have naturally gained in popularity and Bali offers superb surfing, windsurfing, sailing, scuba diving and white water rafting.
PLACE OF INTEREST
The capital city of Bali, Denpasar has many community temples called "Pura". One is the Museum called Pura Jagatnatha which is dedicated to the Supreme God. Sang Hyang Widi Wasa.
The statue of a turtle and two dragons (prevalent in all temples) signify the foundation of the world.The Museum offers a fine variety of prehistoric and modern art, whereas its architectural design resembles that of a palace. The government supervised "Sanggraha Kriya Hasta" has a wide variety of handicraft and works of art. The "Werdi Budaya" presents a yearly art festival between June and July, with performances, exhibitions, art contest and so on.
The Werdhi Budaya Art Centre was started in 1973 and finished in 1976: the largest and most complete in a series of cultural centres built throughout the archipelago by the Indonesian Government over the last decade.
Designed by Bali's foremost architect, Ida Bagus Tugur, (also architect for Indonesia,s new National Art Gallery) the vast complex is, apart from its very real cultural function, a showplace for Balinese Temple and Palace Architecture at its most opulent. The open stage Arda Candra with its towering candi gate and the almost rococo main Art Museum, sprawling park, Balinese pavilions and follies have, become a regular architectural attraction. Built on one of the few remaining coconut groves in central Denpasar, the centre has quickly become a busy forum for the performing and fine arts. With three Art Galleries and a host of stages, the Centre is only rivaled by Jakarta's Taman Ismail Marzuki as a venue for diverse and rapidly changing cultural programs. Since 1975 the Centre has been home to the islands Dance Academy (ASTI) a tertiary level Conservatorium, Dance and Drama School for traditional Balinese Performing arts. With the islands Art Scholl situated next door, the center’s seminar halls and exhibition space are devoted to the encouragement and education of local art students.
The most important institution in Bali, temples reflect the important role religion plays in the life of the Balinese. A temple is a place for communicating with the divine spirits through offerings and prayers. On holy days, when the deities and ancestral spirits descend from heaven to visit earth, the temples, become centers of activity.
Temple festivals are guide by purification by the sprinkling of holy water. Whole communities take part in these festivals, bringing baskets of food and flowers for offerings. While pura means temple, a purl is the residence of the local prince, which may function as a cultural centre.
Music, dances, food, flowers, and fruits sacrificed began as part of temple rituals to please the gods and to placate evil spirit. Following the caste system of Hindu and some of its other rites and beliefs like reincarnation, one of the greatest ceremonies are cremations, meant to liberate the souls ready for rebirth. Burial is only temporary to give the family time to prepare or waiting more to have a common cremation with the community.
One of Bali's most important sea temples, the temple sanctuary at Tanah Lot is built atop a huge rock which is surrounded by the sea.Built by one of the last priests to come to Bali from Java in the 16th century, its rituals include the paying of homage to the guardian spirits of the sea. Poisonous sea snakes found at the base of the rocky island are believed to guard the temple from evil spirits and intruder.The best time to see Tanah Lot is in the late afternoon when the temple is in silhouette.
Sanur beach has long been a popular recreation site for people from Denpasar and elsewhere. The palmlined beach curves from the Bali Beach Hotel toward the south, facing the Indian Ocean to wards the east. Sanur offers many good hotels, restaurants, shops and other tourist facilities. It is only a shot distance from Denpasar public transportation to and from the city are easily available until well into night. Offshore reefs protect the beach againts the waves and make it popular for windsurfing, boating and other watersports.
Once alonely village on the road from Denpasar toward the Bukit Peninsula, Kuta is now a thriving tourist resort, popular mainly among the young. It is a popular beach for surfing although currents make it less suitable for swimming. Coast guards, however, are on constant duty during the day. Kuta faces toward the west offering beautiful sunsets.
Accommodation ranges from international hotels to home stays. The village abounds with restaurants, shops, discotheques and other tourist facilities. It is easier to find regular performances of Balinese music and dance in Kuta, staged specially for tourists, than anywhere else in Bali. Some performances are staged nightly. The village is ideal for meeting and mixing with other people, locals as well as visitors from abroad.
The Nusa Dua tourist resort is part of the Bukit Peninsula in southern Bali. Some of the most beautiful and luxurious hotels are found here. The resort is known for its clean white beaches and clear waters. The surf is gentle along the northern side of the peninsula, bigger along the south. The most convenient form of transportation to and from Nusa Dua is by taxi.
Driving northeast from Denpasar, stone figures on the roadside mark the village of Batubulan. Divinities and demons are carved from sandstone for ornaments of houses and temples. Workshop can be visited to watch artists at work.
Northeast of Denpasar, the village of Celuk is noted for its silver and gold works of jewelry in many styles.
The centre of Balinese painting, Ubud's Museum "Purl Lukisan" has a permanent collection of modern works of Balinese art dating from the turn of the century. There are also several art galleries and homes of famous artists here, including that of Dutch born Hans Snel and American Antonio Blanco. The "Young artist" style now popular in Balinese painting was introduced by the Dutch painter Arie Smith. In the past, other foreign painters inspired Balinese artists to adopt western techniques but traditional Balinese paintings are still made and sold another museum called "Neka Museum" has a wide collection of paintings both by Indonesian as well as foreign artists who used to live in Bali. Ubud has several small hotels. Located on a higher altitude with a pleasant climate.
Peliatan is located between Ubud and Mast It has been known as the centre-of traditional music, and dances. The fine art of local woodcarvers started a new style of wood carving producing such things as fruits, flowers and trees in their real shapes and colorings.
Goa Gajah, dates back to the 11th century and is believed to have been built as a monastery. Carvings on the wall show a demon head over the entrance, flanked by two statues. The cave contains a statue of Ganesha. Escavations have uncovered a bathing place with six statues of nymphs holding water-spouts.
The temple of Pura Tirta Empul is built around the sacred spring at Tampak Siring. Over 1000 years old, the temple and its two bathing places have been used by the people for good health and prosperity because of the spring water's curative powers. Regular ceremonies are held for purification. Specialities of the area are bone and ivory carvings, and seashell ornament.
The villages of Kintamani and Penelokan give a view of the active Mount Batur and Lake. The caldera of Batur is impressive: 7 miles in diameter and 60 feet deep. From Penelokan, a road leads to Kedisan onthe shores of the lake where boats can be hired to cross over to Trunyan. This ancient village is inhabited by people who call themsleves "Bali Aga" or original Balinese who have maintained many of their old ways. The Puser Jagat temple has an unusual architecture and stands under a massive Banyan tree.
An old and famous centre of the arts, it is now known for its dancing, wood panel carving and paintings.
Pura Kehen is situated in Bangli, Bali's second largest temple. Three terraced courtyards are connected by steps, and their balustrades are decorated with carvings and statues. A large Banyan tree with a tower shades the lowest and second courtyard, while in the third courtyard several shrines for the gods and ancestors are found.
The former seat of the Javanese Hindu Kingdom in Bali from where Balinese royalty draws its blood line, Klungkung was the oldest kingdom on the island and its "Raja" the most exalted. The Kerta Gosa or Royal Court of Justice built in the 1 8th century, is specially known for its ceiling murals painted in the traditional wayang style pertraying punishment in hell and the rewards in heaven and other aspects of moralities. The floating pavillion, garden and lotus ponds in this walled- in complex, located on the main intersection of town are a reminder of the former glory of this kingdom.
Nine kms from Klungkung is Goa Lawah or bat cave. The roof is covered with thousands of bats and its entrance is guarded by a temple believed to be founded by a sage nine centuries ago.
Known as the "mother Temple of Bali, the sanctuary of Besakih on the slopes of Mt. Agung is the biggest and holiest of all Balinese temples. Over a thousand years old, steps ascend through split gates to the main courtyard where the Trinity shrines are wrapped in cloth and decorated with flower offerings.
Around the three main temples dedicated to the Trinity: Shiva, Brahma and Wisnu, are 18 separate sanctuaries belonging to different regencies and caste groups.
To the Balinese, a visit to the temples sanctuaries is a special pilgrimage. Each has its own anniversary celebration or "Odalan". The sight of the temple against the background of the mountain is impressive and during festivals, coloured banners add a touch of gaiety.
This little island off Bali's west coast is known for its beautiful coral reefs found nearby and the wealthof tropical fish inhabiting the waters around it.The island itself including Terima Bay, are by themselves worth a visit because of the beautiful sceneries they offer.
The village of woodcarvers, many of Bali’s old masters still lives here. Art galleries exhibit some of their best works. Visitors can wonder through the Balinese style houses to view the carved wooden pillars and the artists at work or instructing apprentices who work in groups.
Ten hectares of nutmeg trees in the Sangeh forest abounds with monkeys. The forest is considered sacred, sono wood is allowed to be chopped here. Two temples stand in the middle of the forest and another at the edge. As they live in this sacred forest, the monkeys are also held sacred and are rather tame, but it is advisable not to play with them.
The mountain resort of Bedugul, 18 km north of Denpasar, is known for its excellent golf course. Located besides Lake Bratan, it is surrounded by forested hills. A beautiful sight is the "Ulun Danu" temple which sems to rise out of the lake. The area offers good walks. Boats are available for hire. Water skiing, and parasailing is done as well.The Bali Handara country club has bungalows for rent and a restaurant.
Protected for centuries from the outside world by its surrounding walls, the village of Tenganan has maintained its ancient pre hindu customs through a strong code of non-fraternization with outsiders. Here unique rituals offering dances, and gladiator-like battle between youths take place. Tenganan is famous for its "double ikat" woven material called gringseng, which is supposed to protect the wearer with magic powers.
A little further east on the coastal road is Yeh Saneh an idyllic spot few people know of. Only a few maters from the splash of the surf is a cool freshwater spring around which has been built a large pool and gardens for bathers and picnickers.
Near the northern tip of the island of Bali lies a stretch of villages by the Bali Sea. Lovina Beach is the name. Lovina is really a string of coastal villages to the west of Singaraja. Escape from the hustle and bustle of Kuta to Lovina Beach located in north Bali, about 100 kilometers from southern tourist hotspots. It is well known as an excellent site for sunset watching, snorkeling, and diving. Darkly beautiful, Lovina offers quiet and calm, and is popular Asian tourists and those avoiding the hustle and bustle of the southern beaches. A number of coves offer tranquil, protected waters and Lovina is one of them. Although the sand is grey, it is quiet and peaceful, and popular among those who shun the glitzier beach resorts of the south. It is a popular place for dolphin watching; dolphins play in the water off Lovina. Famous for its early morning dolphin-watching boat trips, Lovina also offers good snorkeling and diving, and trekking in the nearby mountains. Diving off Menjangan Island, part of the Bali Barat National Park, is generally regarded as the best in Bali. Boats are readily available to take divers over to the island, where there are no residents or hotels.
Nightlife activities are also abound, as well as chartered boats to go out into the sea. If we like what Kuta offers but do not like the crowd. With a wonderful variety of hotels, restaurants and bars located on or very near the calm beach, Lovina offers something for everyone. It is also a good base to take day trips to the nearby attractions of north and west Bali.
Located 85 km north-east of the airport, Candidasa is a relaxing beach area close to cultural treasures like Pura Besakih ("Bali's Mother Temple") While the beach is not one of Bali's best, the tranquility of Candidasa has attracted a number of exclusive hotels like the Amankila and the Chedi. Candidasa is most often compared to Kuta as Kuta was some 20 years ago. The comparison has some merit -Candidasa is a small village with few inhabitants on the beach with a several- mostly inexpensive hotels that cater to the more adventurous tourists looking for a more laid back atmosphere to explore the cultural heritage of Bali. Being some 85 km from the airport ensures some tranquility, however as more people discover that there is quite a bit to see and do in Candidasa the area is developing rapidly with many first class hotels now sprouting up.