Bali is one of the most popular tourist destination in the world.
A huge number of honeymooners and holidaymakers come to this island. Famous for its dance and music, many carvings, paintings, leather as well as metalworking are quite popular here.
The rapid growth of development in tourism has had a big impact and influences to Bali tradition and lifestyle. Interestingly, Balinese culture is still as what it was, growing along with the of globalization.
Truly beautiful tropical island inhabited by a remarkably artistic people who have created a dynamic society with unique arts and ceremonies. It is the Balinese civilization what makes the island different from other destination.
Geographic & Climate
Geographically, Bali lies between the islands of Java and Lombok. Bali is small, stretching approximately 140 km from east to west 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. Lying just 8 south of the equator, Bali boasts a tropical climate with just two seasons (wet and dry) a year and an average annual temperature of around 23C to 33C.
High humidity can be expected during the Wet Season between the months of October - April. The Dry Season between the months of May - September have also the lowest humidity.
The Wet Season brings daily rain and quiet overcast days with the most rain recorded between December - February. Occasionally rainfall can also be expected during the dry season but usually at night or very early morning. June - August there is usually a very refreshing cool breeze all day long. The central mountain area is typically cooler than the lower coastal areas mainly especially at night.
People & Religion
With 3,409,845 million people (Statistic 2008), 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.
Balinese people have been Hindus for eight hundred years, since the remnants of the Majapahit empire were forced from Java by the spread of Islam. They follow a branch of Hinduism that owes a lot to that of India, but is quite different. The most obvious discrepancy is that the Balinese eat cows, but there are numerous others.
Unlike any other island in largely Muslim Indonesia, Bali is a pocket of Hindu religion and culture. Every aspect of Balinese life is suffused with religion, but the most visible signs are the tiny offerings (canang sari) found in every Balinese house, work place, restaurant, souvenir stall and airport check-in desk. These leaf trays are made daily and can contain an enormous range of offering items: flowers, glutinous rice, cookies, salt, and even cigarettes and coffee! They are set out with burning incense sticks and sprinkled with holy water no less than three times a day, before every meal. Don't worry if you step on one, as they are placed on the ground for this very purpose and will be swept away anyway. (Any ants enjoying the feast may not appreciate your foot quite as much though!)
Balinese Hinduism diverged from the mainstream well over 500 years ago and is quite radically different from what you would see in India. The primary deity is Sanghyang Widi Wasa (Acintya), the "all-in-one god" for which other gods like Vishnu (Wisnu) and Shiva (Civa) are merely manifestations, and instead of being shown directly, he is depicted by an empty throne wrapped in the distinctive poleng black-and-white chessboard pattern and protected by a ceremonial tedung umbrella.
An empty throne of Sanghyang Widi Wasa, with poleng cloth and tedung umbrella, Ubud The Balinese are master sculptors, and temples and courtyards are replete with statues of gods and goddesses like Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice and fertility, as well as guardians and protecting demons like toothy Rakasa, armed with a club. These days, though, entire villages like Batubulan have twigged onto the tourist potential and churn out everything imaginable from Buddhas to couples entwined in acrobatic poses for the export market.
Balinese dance and music are also justly famous and a major attraction for visitors to the island. As on neighbouring Java, the gamelan orchestra and wayang kulit shadow puppet theatre predominate. Dances are extremely visual and dramatic, and the most famous include:
- Barong or "lion dance" — a ritual dance depicting the fight between good and evil, with performers wearing fearsome lion-like masks. This dance is often staged specifically for tourists as it is one of the most visually spectacular and the storyline is relatively easy to follow. Barong dance performances are not hard to find.
- Calonarang — a spectacular dance which is a tale of combating dark magic and exorcising the evil spirits aligned with the witch-queen Rangda. The story has many variations and rarely are two calonarang plays the same. If you can find an authentic Calonarang performance, then you are in for a truly magical experience.
- Kecak or "monkey dance" — actually invented in the 1930s by resident German artist 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 centre acts out a spiritual dance. An especially popular Kecak dance performance is staged daily at Uluwatu Temple.
- Legong Keraton — perhaps the most famous and feted of all Balinese dances. Performed by young girls, this is a dance of divine nymphs hailing from 12th century Java. Try to find an authentic Legong Keraton with a full-length performance. The short dance performances often found in tourist restaurants and hotels are usually extracts from the Legong Keraton.