Bali is one of over 13,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and is located just over 2 kilometres from the eastern tip of the island of Java and west of the island of Lombok. The island home of approximately 4 million people is approximately 144 kilometres from east to west and 80 kilometres north to south.
The islands varied landscape of hills and mountains, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides provide a picturesque backdrop to the colourful and deeply spiritual culture of this 'Island of The Gods'.the word paradise is used a lot in Bali, and not without reason. The combination of friendly, hospitable people, a magnificently visual culture infused with spirituality and (not least) spectacular beaches with great surfing and diving have made Bali Indonesia's unparalleled number one tourist attraction. Eighty percent of international visitors to Indonesia visit Bali and Bali alone.
The popularity is not without its flip sides — once paradisaical Kuta has degenerated into a congested warren of concrete, touts and scammers live on overcharging tourists, and the island's visibility has even drawn the unwanted attention of terrorists in 2002 and 2005 — but Bali has managed to retain its magic. Bali is a wonderful destination with something for everyone, and though heavily travelled, it is still easy to find some peace and quiet if you like.Balinese dance and music are also justly famous. As on Java, the gamelan orchestra and wayang kulit shadow puppet theater predominate. Dances include:
- barong or "lion dance" — a ritual dance depicting the fight between good and evil, with performers wearing fearsome lion-like masks
- kecak or "monkey dance" — Actually invented in the 1930s by early German resident Walter Spies for a movie but a spectacle nonetheless, with up to 250 dancers in concentric circles chanting "kecak kecak", while a performer in the center acts out a spiritual dance
There are an estimated 20,000 temples (pura) on the island, each of which holds festivals (odalan) at least twice a year and there are many other auspicious days throughout the year, meaning that there are always festivities going on.
There are some large festivals celebrated islandwide, but their dates are determined by two local calendars. The 210-day wuku or Pawukon calendar is completely out of sync with the Western calendar, meaning that it rotates wildly throughout the year.The lunar saka (caka)
calendar roughly follows the Western year.
- Funerals, called pitra yadnya, are another occasion of pomp and ceremony, when the deceased (often several at a time) are ritually cremated in extravagantly colorful rituals.
- Galungan (next held on 20th August 2008). A 10-day festival celebrating the death of the tyrant Mayadenawa. Gods and ancestors visit earth and are greeted with gift-laden bamboo poles called penjor lining the streets. The last day of the festival is known as Kuningan.
- Nyepi, or Hindu New Year, usually March/April (next held on March 26, 2009). This is the one festival worth avoiding: on Nyepi, also known as the Day of Absolute Silence, absolutely everything on the island is shut down and tourists are confined to their hotels (find somewhere with a pool). However if you are in Bali in the weeks preceding Nyepi you will see amazing colourful giants (Ogoh Ogoh) being created by every banjar throughout the island. On Nyepi Eve the Ogoh Ogoh are paraded through the streets, an amazing sight, not to be missed especially in Denpasar.
Nyepi is a very special day to the Balinese as this is the day that they have to fool all evil spirits that no-one is actually on Bali - hence the need for silence. If this can be achieved, then it is believed that the evil spirits will go looking elsewhere for their prey and leave Bali island alone for another year. Balinese people are very religious and life is full of ritual - Nyepi is one of the most important days in their calendar. Police and security are on hand to make sure that everyone abides by this rule.
Nyepi also serves to remind the Balinese of the need for tolerance and understanding in their everyday life. In fact, Hinduism on Bali is unique because it is woven into and around the original Balinese animistic religion. The two now have become one for the Balinese - a true sign of tolerance and acceptance!
All national public holidays covered in Indonesia also apply, although Ramadan is naturally a
much smaller event here than in the country's Muslim regions.
Most visitors will arrive at Denpasar's Ngurah Rai international airport: Tel.: (62)(361) 751011. You can fly to Bali from major cities in Indonesia (Jakarta, Surabaya, Makassar etc) or from major cities in Asia and Australia.
Many travelers try to search for 'Bali' using travel websites and so for. It should be noted that Ngurah Rai's airport code is DPS. The airport is actually located between Kuta & Jimbaran and roughly 30 mins away from Denpasar.
n the low-cost carrier set:
- Jetstar Asia operate from Singapore
- AirAsia operate direct flights to Denpasar from Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu
- Malaysia Airlines operate daily direct flights from Kuala Lumpur
- Mandala Airlines operates from Hong Kong and Taipei
Note that if you are flying internationally into Ngurah Rai, most nationalities are now required to purchase an Entry Visa (US$25 or EUR20 or Rp 250,000 in cash for 30 days); see the main Indonesia article for details. Few other currencies are accepted so it's a good idea to play safe
and have the required dollars on hand. Flying internationally out of Bali you are subject to the airport tax (150,000 Rupiah effective from 1st November 2007) which you would need to pay for in Rupiah so save some bills for the trip out. The domestic departure tax is Rp. 30,000.
ATM machines are available at Airport Departure Lobby which accept Cirrus and Plus cards for withdrawals.
Some hotels organize free transfers from the airport but there are plenty of other taxis also available. Approximate price for getting from Ngurah Rai to Legian is Rp. 40,000. If coming from the airport ignore touts offering rides. After years of abuse the airport and legitimate taxi
companies dictated that fixed prices be offered. There is a dedicated booth at the airport for arranging rides to town (and any other location on the island). This is on the right just through the arrival doors for international.
Since the second bombing, security at the airport has increased considerably and be prepared for rigorous scrutiny of luggage, including carry-on items.
There are direct bus services to Bali from all major cities on Java as well as Lombok, which use the ferries to cross over. These are cheap and easy, but slow.
A number of speedboats and catamarans operate from Benoa Harbor near Kuta (~2 hours) and Padangbai (80 min) to the Gili Islands of Lombok. These are expensive (~US$60 one way) but convenient, see the Gili Islands article for details.
Bali's best-known attractions are its countless Hindu temples. Even the smallest villages usually have at least three, but the nine directional temples (kayangan jagat) are the largest and most important. Uluwatu, at the southern tip of Bali, is easily accessed and hence the most popular, with Tanah Lot a close second. However, for the Balinese themselves, the "mother temple" of Besakih on the slopes of Mount Agung is the most important of all.
- Garuda Wisnu Kencana. Nusa Dua, Kabupaten Badung, 40 km south of Denpasar. Created by I Nyoman Nuarta. This is statue of the god Wisnu (Vishnu) riding the mythical Garuda bird.
- Bali Bomb, Jl. Legian, Kuta. This monument commemorates the 202 victims of the first Bali Bomb attack in October 2002, including 161 tourists from 21 countries. The site of the former Sari Club, obliterated in one of the blasts, lies adjacent to the monument. It has not been redeveloped.
Hot springs — There are several hot springs to be discovered in Bali. One of them, along the northern coast of the island, near Lovina, is Air Panjar where stone mouth carvings allow hot water to pass between pools which are set among a lush garden.
Spa — Bali is paradise for spa lovers and all sorts of treatments are widely available, but the Balinese lulur body scrub with herbs and spices — traditionally performed before a wedding ceremony — is particularly popular. Balinese massage is usually done with oil and involves long, Swedish-style strokes. In steep contrast to exorbitant Western massage fees, Balinese massage is an incredible value, and visitors should definitely avail themselves this luxury. In local salons, a one-hour full body massage will cost between Rp. 40 - 60,000, and the two-hour mandi lulur, which incorporates a body scrub and hydrating yoghurt body mask in addition to the massage, will cost about Rp. 100,000. The curiously named creambath is a relaxing scalp and shoulder massage, usually lasting 45 minutes, in which a thick conditioning cream is worked through the hair and into the scalp. A creambath typically costs about Rp. 40,000. Note that these same services in an upscale hotel will cost many times more.
Weddings — Balinese wedding getting popular in recent years. The exotic tradition, ceremonies, music and costumes has a special attraction among western people. Many couples who are already legally married to each other choose Bali as the perfect place to renew their vows. Full wedding services are widely available in Bali such as: ceremony arrangements, photography, videography, flowers, musicians, dancers, caterers etc. There are about ten wedding chapels available in Bali today (largely in luxury hotels) and the number is growing. You can find many professional wedding organizer to handle your wedding in Bali through the internet. Destination weddings, featuring all types of religious and presentation arrangements, are becoming increasingly popular with private villas being one of the island's many offerings for venues.
Voluntary work An excellent way to get to know and understand more of the country is to do some voluntary work. There are some organizations that arrange work for international volunteers in Bali and other places in the region.
- Scuba Diving — There are many interesting scuba diving sites around Bali such as the wreck of USAT Liberty Glo at Tulamben. Pulau Menjangan is particularly popular.
- Surfing — Warm waters, crowds, cheap living and reliable sets keeps Bali near the top of world surfing destinations. The southern coast, namely Kuta and the around Nusa Dua are the primary draws. Beginners will find the gentler, sandy areas of Kuta to be ideal for learning. You'll find surf instructors lounging around the beach; a one hour lesson including board rental from a beach teacher will cost you around $10 USD or less. The teaching done by these local beach teachers is very questionable. From a real surf shop, the price may be $45 USD/hr.