Bali, The Island of God

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With the reputation of being one of the most beautiful and diverse tourist spots in Asia, Bali annually attracts almost 1,000,000 visitors from around the world.

Geographically, Bali is situated between the islands of Java and Lombok. Bali is small, stretching approximately 140 km from east to west, and 80 km from north to south. The tallest of a string of volcanic mountains that run from the east to the west is Gunung Agung, which last erupted in 1963. Loacted just 8o south of the Equator, Bali boasts a tropical climate with just two seasons (wet and dry) a year with an average temperature of around 28oC. The wide and gently sloping southern regions play host to Bali’s famed rice terraces, which are among some of the most spectacular in the world. In the hilly, northern coastal regions, the main produce is coffee, copra, spices, vegetables, cattle and rice.

 

The Balinese have strong spiritual roots and despite the large influx of tourists over the years, their culture is still very much alive. The main religion is Agama Hindu Dharma, which, although originally from India, comprises of a unique blend of Hindu, Buddhist, Javanese and ancient indigenous beliefs; It is very different from the Hinduism practiced in India today.

Naturally creative, the Balinese have traditionally used their talents for religious purposes and most of the beautiful work to be seen here has been inspired by stories from the Ramayana and other Hindu epics.


The majority of Bali’s 3,000,000 people live, for the most part, in tight village communities with large extended families. The largest towns are Denpasar (the capital) and Singaraja in the north. The main tourist area stretches from Kuta to Seminyak. Kuta became a major attraction during the tourist boom of the 70’s because of its famed white-sand beaches, the surf, and stunning sunsets.


Today, the Kuta to Seminyak stretch is a major tourist destination, with hundreds of hotels, bars, restaurants and shops. Those in search of a little peace and quiet tend to head for the more sedate resorts of Sanur and Candi Dasa on the east coast, or Lovina in the north. Nusa Dua, on the southern-most peninsula of the island, houses many five-star hotels. The central village of Ubud, in the hilly region of Gianyar, has also blossomed as a tourist attraction and is now considered to be the artistic and cultural centre of Bali.


Artistically, Bali is a melting pot of cultures and traditions. The Balinese have a natural capacity for absorbing different cultural elements and blend them with their own, to produce dynamic new hybrids. Over the years, Bali has been the recipient of numerous influences; Chinese, Buddhist, Indian, Hindu, Javanese, and most recently, Western. For centuries, artists and craftsmen in Bali worked under the patronage of the priests and ruling classes, decorating palaces and temples. The artists themselves never signed their work and usually lived close together in artists’ ‘villages’.

Generally the artists did not have much room for personal expression, as their designs followed strict aesthetic and religious guidelines. With the arrival of European artists at the start of this century, this soon began to change, and local artists started developing their own individual styles.


TEMPLES – COASTAL

Tanah Lot – Southwest Bali, Tabanan regency. Built on a large rock, cut off from the mainland at high tide, this is one of Bali’s most spectacular sunset sights.
Uluwatu – South Bali on Bukit Badung. This cliff-top temple, dedicated to the spirits of the sea, has spectacular views and is popular for viewing sunsets. During the Galungan festival, people from all over the island travel here to worship.
Pura Jayaprana – Northwest Bali. Superb views of Menjangan Island and the surrounding coral reefs can be seen from this temple.
Pura Rambut Siwi Southwest Bali, (10km from Medewi). Another cliff top temple with views of Java and on a clear day, Mt. Bromo. Steps down the cliff from the temple lead to a black sand beach where one can swim.

TEMPLES – INLAND

Pura Besakih – Besakih, Karangasem regency Northeast Bali. Bali’s most important temple with great views of Mt. Agung. The temple complex houses over 80 shrines to the various gods and spirits.
Pura Luhur Batukau – Tabanan, South Bali. Dedicated to the god of Mt. Batukau, this temple is a small haven for flower and bird lovers.
Pura Yeh Gangga – near Mengwi, Tabanan.
Pura Ulun Danu Batur – near Batur village. The second most important temple after Besakih, housing more than 90 shrines. Worth visiting at any time of year, especially during the Odalan festival, usually in March depending on the full moon, which is dedicated to the goddess of the crater lake, who is said to control the irrigation systems for the entire island.
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan – near Bedugul. This temple has several shrines, which are located on both the lake’s shore and on various small islets.

The following three temples are between Seribatu and Tampaksiring,
north of Ubud:

Pura Gunung Kawi – Set in a ravine in Tampaksiring, the temple ‘Candis’ are carved into the rock face. There are five Royal Tombs at the rear of the temple complex.
Pura Tirta Gunung Kawi – A water temple dedicated to the Rice Goddess. Near the temple grounds is a small spring-fed lake with sacred goldfish, which are said to be the guardians of the Spirit of the spring.
Pura Tirtha Empul – Considered the holiest spring in Bali, this temple is frequently visited by Balinese seeking mental cleansing and physical healing.
Brahma Vihara Ashrama Buddhist Monastery – near Lovina. (Combine with a visit to Banjar Tega Hot Springs). The largest Buddhist monastery in Bali, set in beautiful surroundings.

CAVES

Goa Gajah or Elephant Cave – near Teges, Gianyar regency. Dating from the 11th century, there are conflicting opinions as to whether this cave was originally a Buddhist or a Hindu hermitage. Although not very large, it boasts some interesting carvings.
Goa Lawah or Bat Cave – Klungkung regency. Famous for the thousands of fruit bats that live here, this can be an interesting, if pungent, experience.
Goa Karang Sari – on Nusa Penida Island, Southeast of Bali. This cave extends over 200 meters into the hillside and during the Galungan festival hosts a torchlight procession and various ceremonies.

PALACES

Puri Semara Pura – Klungkung. A palace dedicated to the god of love, this palace was home to the kings of Klungkung. Although only two pavilions and the entrance gate remain, the hall of justice, Bale Kerta Gosa, is worth seeing for its beautifully painted ceiling and carved pillars.
Puri Pemecutan – Denpasar.

WATER PALACES

Taman Ujung Water Palace – near Amlapura, East Bali.
Set in a beautifully landscaped park, the ruins of this palace are a tribute to the slightly eccentric designs of King Anak Agung Ngurah.
Puri Agung Kanginan – Karangasem, Amlapura. Built from a hotchpotch of different styles, including Chinese, European and Javanese, this place is fascinating architecturally; a monument to the Balinese ability to blend outside influences into their own culture.

Tirtha Gangga Royal Bathing Pools – near Amlapura, Karangasem regency. Great views of both Mt. Agung and the Lombok Strait. This palace was damaged during the 1963 eruption of Mt. Agung, but the pools still function and can be taken advantage of, for a small fee.

VILLAGES

Asak – near Amlapura, East Bali – Traditional costumes, stone carvings and woven crafts.
Bungaya – near Amlapura, East

 

Bali – As in Asak, this village specializes in traditional arts and crafts.
Krambitan – near Tabanan – Specializes in bamboo instruments and music.
Negara – West Bali – Famous for bull races.
Sawan – near Singaraja, North Central Bali

 

– A picturesque village where Gamelan instruments are made.
Tenganan – A Bali Aga village renowned as

 

a centre for weaving. The only place in Indonesia where ‘geringsing’ cloth is made. (See Arts & Artists chapter – extract on ‘Textiles’)
Trunyan – on the shores of Lake Batur, Nor

 

theast Bali – An original Bali Aga village set in a fantastic landscape

 

 

LAKES

 

 

Lake Batur – Mt. Batur, Bangli regency. The largest lake in Bali and home to the goddess Danu, this lake lies within the crater of Mt. Batur.
Lake Bratan – Mt. Catur near Bedugul. Location of the superb Ulun Danu Temple, this lake offers both superb scenery, and water

 

 

sports such as jet skiing for the more adventurous.
Lakes Buyan and Tamblingan – Mt. Lesong in Buleleng province. Less visited, these lakes offer great walks and the chance of a littl

 

e solitude for those wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of the tourist scene.

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~ by awlyatyarazz on February 5, 2008.

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