Bali

Introducing Bali

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Bali really is as alluring as everyone says. This island, slightly bigger than Delaware, has it all: beaches, volcanoes, terraced rice fields, forests, renowned resorts, surfing, golf, and world-class dive sites. But what sets Bali apart from other nearby tropical destinations is Balinese tradition, and villagers dedicated to celebrating it. The hundreds of temples, dances, rituals, and crafts linked to their ancient Hindu faith aren't a show for tourists, but a living, breathing culture in which visitors are warmly received by the Balinese, who cherish their own identities.

The mere mention of Bali evokes thoughts of a paradise. It's more than a place; it's a mood, an aspiration, a tropical state of mind.

Island of the Gods

The rich and diverse culture of Bali plays out at all levels of life, from the exquisite flower-petal offerings placed everywhere, to the processions of joyfully garbed locals, shutting down major roads as they march to one of the myriad temple ceremonies, to the other-worldly traditional music and dance performed island-wide.

One Island, Many Destinations

On Bali you can lose yourself in the chaos of Kuta or the sybaritic pleasures of Seminyak and Kerobokan, surf wild beaches in the south or just hangout on Nusa Lembongan. You can go family friendly in Sanur or savour a lavish getaway on the Bukit Peninsula. Ubud is the heart of Bali, a place where the spirit and culture of the island are most accessible. It shares the island's most beautiful rice fields and ancient monuments with east and west Bali. The middle of Bali is dominated by the dramatic volcanoes of the central mountains and hillside temples such as Pura Luhur Batukau (one of the island's estimated 10,000 temples). North and west Bali are thinly populated but have the kind of diving and surfing that make any journey worthwhile.

Bali's Essence

Yes, Bali has beaches, surfing, diving, and resorts great and small, but it's the essence of Bali – and the Balinese – that makes it so much more than just a fun-in-the-sun retreat. It is possible to take the cliché of the smiling Balinese too far but, in reality, the inhabitants of this small island are indeed a generous, genuinely warm people. There's also a fun, sly sense of humour behind the smiles. Upon seeing a bald tourist, many locals exclaim 'bung ujan', which means today's rain is cancelled – it's their way of saying that the hairless head is like a clear sky.

Culture

The culture of Bali is one of slow pace, the people are very tolerant and welcoming to visitors, however, they are also very modest and polite people so dress modestly and behave modestly. Public displays of affection are frowned upon in Indonesia, Balinese are more tolerant than the mainland of Indoneisa but partners kissing and public nudety is not acceptable and 60% of tourists to Bali are from the mainland.

Balinese culture is not to complain and not to get angry in public, you may find they giggle if they are uncomfortable if you confront them.

Lapped the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Bali is but one of 17,500 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, yet even among its colorful neighbors—and even after decades of tourism development—it stands alone in its lushness and incomparable beauty. It is part of the Coral Triangle, which has the highest diversity of marine species, making the coral reefs that surround the island a spectacular sight. Despite the island’s small size, its population holds most of Indonesia’s Hindu minority. It’s known for surfing, ancient temples and palaces, but also has active volcanoes and wild jungles. It has white sand beaches in the south, and striking black sand in the north and west. The island’s mysticism and its spiritual and eclectic culture are sure to get you hooked when you travel to Bali. 

Ubud & around

Ubud is Bali’s cultural hub, a seductive town set amid terraced rice paddies and known for its talented classical dancers and musicians, and for its prolific painters and craftspeople. Tradition is particularly important here and temple festivals happen almost daily. However, although it’s fashionable to characterize Ubud as the real Bali, especially in contrast with Kuta, it’s a major tourist destination and bears little resemblance to a typical Balinese town.

Arty, high-minded Ubud has the best art museums and commercial galleries on the island and is also a recognized centre for spiritual tourism, with many opportunities to try out indigenous and imported healing therapies. Organic cafés, riverside bungalows and craft shops crowd its central marketplace, while the surrounding countryside is ideal for walks and cycle rides, and there’s easy access to the northern volcanoes.

There is major (mostly tasteful) development along the central Jalan Monkey Forest, and Ubud’s peripheries now encompass the neighbouring hamlets of Campuhan, Sanggingan, Penestanan, Nyuhkuning, Peliatan, Pengosekan and Padang Tegal.

Top things to see & do in Bali

Visit a Hindu temple – The island of Bali is covered in temples. There are at least three to every city and they are considered to be the best-known attractions. The most prominent temples are the nine directional temples and The Mother Temple.

Dip in to some hot springs – There are several on the island. It is incredibly energizing to sit in these natural pools while you take in the lush, beautiful landscape all around you. In the northeastern mountains, there are some on the shores of Lake Batur. Another good spot is Air Banjar, which is located on the northern coast of the island near Lovina.

Adventure sports – There are tons of adventurous activities to do. You can go bungee jumping, paragliding, hiking, mountain cycling, horseback riding, jungle trekking, and even treetop zip-lining.

Scuba diving and snorkeling – While snorkeling is always an option here, Bali is most popular for its phenomenal dive spots. The reefs here are beautiful and there is an amazing variety of fish to see. The wreck of a US cargo ship, Liberty, is a highly recommended spot.

Visit the spa Bali is the perfect place to re-energize, by pampering yourself and releasing bottled up stress and tension. There are a number of Balinese spa treatments, which involve the use of various herbs and spices, and Balinese massage is one of the most relaxing in the world.

Party in Kuta – Kuta is kind of like the Tijuana of Bali. The streets are narrow here and there are hundreds of stalls, selling faux-brand ripoffs and novelty souvenirs. There are plenty of hotels and you are sure to get some great sun time in, but the frantic energy here is only inviting for so long. Personally, I hate Kuta and think there are a lot of better places on the island.

Go dolphin watching – This is one of the cliché tourist activities here, but it is still fun. There are various companies that offer sunrise boat trips—and you are likely to hear about them at every hotel you stay in. It’s about a two hour trip and it’s best to get a ticket the day before.

Learn about Balinese Culture in Ubud – Ubud is the second most popular tourist area and was made super famous by the book, Eat, Pray, Love. However, this is still the best place to observe Balinese on Bali and is still considered the island’s cultural capital. There are a number of beautiful temples, numerous historical sites, dancing shows, a monkey temple, and some of the best food on the island. People tend to stay here awhile Here’s an example of Balinese dancing.

Take a trip to Nusa Lembongan – Located right off the coast of Bali, this little island is a good alternative to the craziness that is Bali. The beaches aren’t great here but the surfing is really good and some of the best breaks in Bali. The diving is also really good here and it’s cheaper than the mainland.

Watch the monkeys – In Ubud you can also visit the Ubud Monkey Forest, a nature reserve and sacred area with temples. It’s very touristy, and a lot of people break the rules and feed the monkeys, which teaches them bad habits. Still, it’s exciting to watch all of the long-tailed macaques running around and playing with each other.

Watch a Buffalo Race – Chances are, after a few days in Bali, you will have seen the water buffalo working in the various fields. In Negara, locals riding chariots race buffaloes every second Sunday from July to October. Negara a bit out of the way and the races take place at 7am, so you probably should arrange accommodation for the night before.

Read more about Bali travel guide at here.

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