Bali: Island of the Gods
Bali is one of the most famous islands in the world. It offers everything from luxurious spas to the simple beach life. You can spend the morning on the beach and the afternoon near the top of a cloud-covered and chilly volcano. Choose world-class golf or world-class arts. You can find it all on the island of Bali.
Bali is a temple to the soul. It’s the gateway to Indonesia for millions of tourists. The Balinese people value spirituality, the arts and overall harmony. The Hindu religion, its beautiful forms of worship, and the simple elegance of the Balinese people represent one of the most beautiful cultures in the world. The exotic arts, ancient temples, and thousands of smiles will delight any visitor to this island paradise.
The locals refer to Bali as the Island of the Gods. The Balinese value spirituality, artisanship, and overall harmony. The Hindu religion, its beautiful forms of worship, and the simple elegance of the Balinese people represent one of the most beautiful cultures in the world. The exotic arts, ancient temples, and thousands of smiles will delight any visitor.
Bali is one of the most famous islands in the world. It offers everything from luxurious spas to the simple beach life. You can spend the morning on the beach and the afternoon near the top of a cloud-covered and chilly volcano. Choose world class golf or world-class arts. Bali has something for everyone.
Most of the Balinese people are involved in agriculture. Rice is the dominant crop, but they also produce hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables. A significant number of Balinese are fishermen, even though they believe the ocean is full of demons.
The most popular beach towns for tourists include Kuta, Sanur, Jimbaran, Seminyak, and Nusa Dua. In the highlands, Ubud is the most popular destination and a spot where world-class artists and spas abound. Several quieter destinations are available on Bali’s east and north coasts, including the seaside villages of Lovina, Candi Dasa, and Singaraja.
The Balinese are avid kite enthusiasts. Several small kites are usually visible across the island at almost any given moment. On festive occasions, groups of adults will fly large kites that are the size of buses.
Bali’s Arts and Culture
Bali’s arts, crafts, and culture have allured and charmed visitors for nearly a century. The Balinese believe that their arts bring them closer to the gods. Ironically, however, there is not a Balinese word for art. Local arts include dance, sculpture, painting, leatherwork, metalwork, and music, especially gamelan music, a local percussion orchestra that includes instruments that resemble xylophones, gongs, and chimes. Gamelan orchestras are found on the Indonesian islands of Java, Madura, Bali, and Lombok in a variety of ensemble sizes and formations. The term refers more to the set of instruments than the players of those instruments. A gamelan as a set of instruments is a distinct entity, built and tuned to stay together—instruments from different gamelan are not interchangeable. Balinese gamelan is highly developed, fast-paced, and varied in style, as opposed to the more deliberate and more predictable gamelan music from Java.
Most boys and girls learn various dance performances at young ages. Balinese dance is animated, dramatic, and highly developed. Many people considered it as one of the world’s finest artistic traditions. It employs graceful and sophisticated body language to portray traditional stories and legends. Balinese dance includes many forms such as legong, baris, topeng, barong, kecak, trance, and others.
In Balinese culture, the children are given predetermined names. The first child, regardless of sex, is always called Wayan (the nick-name is Putu). The second child is always named Made (nick-name is Kadek). The third child is always named Nyoman (nick-name is Komang). The fourth child is always named Kutut. If the family has more than four children (which is discouraged), they start the name sequence over again and name the fifth child Wayan again.
These names apply to boys and girls alike. The distinction is that boys start the name with the letter “i”(which sounds like EEE). Girls always start their names off with the letters “ni” (which sounds like NEEE). Under this system, it’s possible to have three or four immediate family members with the same name. For example, assume that the Balinese husband was the firstborn child in his family, his wife is the firstborn in her family, and they have their first child. Under situations such as this one, all three people have the core name Wayan. If they have a fifth child, he or she also is Wayan.
Bali’s Religion and Beliefs
Approximately three million people live on Bali and about 90 percent of the people follow the Hindu religion. Balinese Hinduism was formed from a combination of existing local beliefs and Hindu influences from across Southeast Asia and South Asia. The Balinese, like all people of Hindu faith, believe their religion is one of holy water. Water symbolizes fullness. Water is the building block of life and all living beings are at the mercy of God for water.
The Balinese consider everything to be holy and maintain that physical and spiritual lives are indivisible. Balinese describe their attitude toward life as one with “happiness in duty.” Faith and fun are one. Festivals, ceremonies, dances, and trances are an integral part of Balinese life.
The local people make offerings to the gods every day. Typically, women prepare and deliver the offerings on behalf of their family. Most offerings are simple and include rice, flowers, and incense on a banana leaf. For special ceremonies, the offerings are much more elaborate.
The Balinese believe that when a child is born, it must not touch the ground during its first 105 days. During that time, they believe the baby is still living between heaven and earth and is not yet human. After three months, the family holds a ceremony to welcome the child to the material world and to give the child its name. From this point forward, the child can touch the earth.
Like all followers of the Hindu religion, the Balinese believe in reincarnation. Therefore, the lifelong goal of every Balinese person is to have a beautiful cremation ceremony. They believe the spirit is not released until the body is destroyed and the ashes are thrown to the sea. When a Balinese person dies, a surviving son must arrange for a cremation ceremony. Therefore, it’s important for every Balinese family to have at least one son.
Wealthier families have private cremation ceremonies fairly soon after a relative’s death. Families that don’t have the financial resources immediately available for the cremation may temporarily bury the body for up to 25 years, while they save enough money for the cremation ceremony. They also may join with other families recently who have lost a loved one. By joining together, they can conduct a mass cremation ceremony to make it more affordable.
The Balinese can’t cry when a relative passes away. If a tear falls to the earth, it grounds the spirit of the deceased, which prevents the spirit from leaving this world.
Balinese weddings happen in one of three ways. First, the parents can arrange a wedding between their children, without concern for the children’s preference. Secondly, the couple can ask their parents to agree and negotiate a relationship. Finally, if the children anticipate resistance from the parents, they can elope and negotiate with the parents later. On Bali and Lombok, the locals refer to eloping as “kidnapping.”
Like all followers of the Hindu religion, the Balinese follow the caste system. There are four classes of people and the priests are at the top of the system. Weddings between castes are allowed, but sometimes frowned upon. The bride always assumes the caste of the husband (up or down) and can’t return to her family’s caste if the marriage fails.
The Balinese also believe that their canine teeth attract evil spirits and bad human qualities, such as greed and jealousy. They historically believed that these teeth must be filed and flattened in order to be reincarnated. In the past, when children became adults, the village priest filed their canine teeth down to a uniform length. Although the Balinese have stopped this practice for humane reasons, they still conduct a symbolic filing on young adults that is brief and less intrusive.
The Balinese wear yellow or white clothing when entering a temple for a ceremony. Musicians, however, are exempt from this dress code and they usually wear very bright clothing.
Bali is part of the Lesser Sunda Islands. It’s just two miles east of Java. Mountains sprawl from the central to the eastern side of the island. The highest point on the island is Mount Agung, which is a massive, active volcano. It reaches 10,308 feet high and its Bali’s easternmost peak. It last erupted in 1963. About 30,000 years ago, Bali’s Mount Batur experienced a catastrophic eruption—one of the largest known volcanic events in history. What remains of Mount Batur is still active today.
Bali Barat National Park dominates the entire western side of the island. The park is home to many rare and beautiful birds.
Bali’s terraced rice fields are world famous and must be seen to fully understand the local harmony between art, religion, and agriculture. They are extremely efficient and productive. They also are one of the most beautiful forms of agriculture on earth. On Bali, growing rice is considered an art.
The beaches of Bali are world famous for surfing and sunbathing, while colorful offshore reefs are excellent for scuba diving and snorkeling. White sands dominate the beaches on the south side of the island, while the beaches on the north side of the island tend to have black, volcanic sand. The beach town of Padangbai in the northeast features both colors.
Transportation On Bali
Bali built its international airport in 1969, which opened the floodgates to tourism. Other than Jakarta, Bali has the busiest airport in Indonesia. Hundreds of direct flights connect it with the rest of the world every day. It’s also a popular airport for flying to other islands within Indonesia.
There are not any railway lines on Bali. There are major coastal roads as well as roads that cross the island mainly in a north-south manner. Cars and motorcycles are the dominant form of transportation throughout the island. Other than the costal roads, most other roads zig zag across the ridges of the mountains. Many roads in Indonesia, and Bali in particular, are poorly marked, so watch closely for directional signs and don’t hesitate to ask the locals for help.
Many of the Balinese are descendants of families who migrated through mainland Asia to the Indonesian archipelago around 2500 BC. The Hindu influence arrived with traders from India around 100 BC.
It is believed that the name Bali came from the name Balidwipa, which has been found on various historic inscriptions. The Hindu Majapahit Empire (1293–1520 AD) on Eastern Java founded a Balinese colony in 1343. Then the Majapahit Empire collapsed around 1500, due to Muslim assaults on the island of Java. The violence pushed Java’s Hindu population to Bali where they flourished.
Europeans discovered the island when Dutch explorer Cornelis de Houtman arrived in 1597. The Dutch established a trading post soon after, and the legendary Dutch East India Company began trading in the early 17th Century. Dutch control of the island was firmly established after a series of colonial wars with the the Balinese (1846–1849). These wars were fierce, with the entire royal court of the Raja (king), women, and children involved in battle. Armed with daggers and spears, the Balinese fought fiercely and even killed each other on the battlefield rather than be taken captive. The Dutch governors subsequently exercised lenient control, showing great respect for the local religion and culture.
Bali remained part of the Dutch colonial empire until World War II, when the Japanese military seized the island. After the war, Bali became part of the Republic of East Indonesia and then it became part of the United States of Indonesia in 1948.
Balinese and Indonesian are the most common languages on this island. Many locals are functional if not fluent in English, due to the island’s thriving international tourism industry. In the past, the Balinese language has been influenced by the caste system. As a result, there is a specified vocabulary used by priests and other high caste citizens. Slang is not acceptable in conversations involving a person from the high castes.
Bali’s Towns, Villages and Nearby Islands
Bedugul (BEH-doo-GOOHL): This mountain village overlooks Lake Bratan below, where a temple is dedicated to Dewi Danu, the goddess of water and irrigation. A sprawling botanical garden and fruit market await visitors. The cool climate at this elevation makes Bedugul a popular escape from Bali’s lowland heat.
Candi Dasa (CHAHN-dee DAH-sah): This quiet village is a relaxing place to escape the crowds further south. It’s located on the southeast coast of Bali, and it’s a good place to base your adventures in east Bali, but it doesn’t have a beach area for swimming and sunbathing. It’s about a a ninety-minute drive northeast of Denpasar. You can hike, snorkel or ride a catamaran. You also can enjoy the view of Lombok across the channel.
Celuk (CHEH-look): Up to 2,500 silver and gold smiths live and work in Celuk. The village has many stores and studios where visitors can observe the artisans at work and buy items directly from them. The village is noted for its delicate, detailed work that the artisans produce with just the simplest of hand tools.
Denpasar (DEHN-pah-SAHR): This is the capital of Bali and the business center. It is full of shops, including the largest market on Bali—Pasar Badung. It’s also one of the busiest and noisiest places on the island. The Bali Provincial State Museum is located in Denpasar. It is representative of Balinese arts, culture, and history. The Cultural Arts Center, Taman Werdhi Budaya, is a Balinese arts and crafts academy that includes beautiful exhibits.
Gianyar (GEE-ahn-YAHR): This is the capital of the Gianyar District. Most travelers just pass through this town, but it has some historic architecture that is worth a visit. Puri Gianyar is a rebuilt version of the royal palace for the Gianyar family. It was destroyed by a domestic war in the 18th Century. After rebuilding the palace, it was destroyed again by an earthquake in 1917.
Jati Luwih (JAH-tee LOO-wee): You can view a 360-degree panorama of the from just above this village. It looks over rice fields at an elevation where the air is cool and fresh. The houses in this traditional village are built with thatched roofs and the farmers are often busy at work in their rice padis.
Jimbaran Bay (JEEM-bahr-RAHN): This fishing village now boasts several nice beachside restaurants, where travelers can watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean, while enjoying a beverage and grilled fish. Dozens of restaurants now offer seaside dining with first-class service right on the beach. Nice hotels also are available in the area.
Kintamani (KEEN-tah-MAH-nee): This is one of the best places to view Bali’s Mount Batur. This wind-blown market town sits along the highway on the rim of this active volcano, at 5,500 feet above sea level. The view is usually best during the dry season, when the lake inside the volcano’s crater is visible. The temple of Ulun Danu looks out over the crater.
Kuta (KOO-tah): This is the most commercialized and crowded place among all of Bali’s beach towns. Surfers and sunbathers continue to crowd its long beach, which stretches for about a mile and a half between Kuta and Legian. International women sunbathe topless on the beach. It’s an area that caters to the young and the restless. It’s full of nightlife and it’s a popular surf spot for beginners and amateurs (Bali’s elite surfers go elsewhere on the island for much bigger waves).
The sunsets from Kuta Beach are spectacular. Every evening hundreds of people flock to the beach to watch the sun dissolve into the Indian Ocean.
Some of the local women sell massage and manicure services on the beaches. You will recognize them as the ones with all of their skin covered with long skirts, long-sleeved shirts, and scarves. They try to avoid sun exposure to keep their skin from turning darker in the constant exposure of the sun.
Other locals are busy selling arts and crafts to the tourists. The shopping in this area is nonstop and full of variety. Hundreds of shops line the major street through town, Jalan Legian, and even more are working in shops on the backstreets. Clothing, bags, arts, and crafts are sold everywhere, which makes the prices competitive for visitors.
Hotels and bungalows are easy to find, but they are more expensive near the beach. To save money and to get a better feel for local life, stay in Denpasar, which is a few miles from the prime beach locations, but a bustling Balinese city with few tourists.
Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak are technically three separate villages, but there is no visible separation between them. Legian and Seminyak are basically extensions of Kuta and Kuta Beach. The main street through this area is Jalan Legian, crowded with merchants and shoppers alike, but entertaining at the very least.
The Kuta/Legian area is full of hustlers who are selling everything imaginable. They rarely pose a threat, but they can be very aggressive salesmen. If you are approached to buy items that you don’t want, say no immediately and keep walking.
Legian (LEH-gee-AHN ): The above description of Kuta fits Legian, since they are neighbors along the beach and streets. Every visitor to bali should experience this area at least once.
Lovina (LOH-vee-NAH): Located on the north shore of Bali, it takes about three hours to reach this remote village by car from Denpasar. The waves are smaller on this side of the island, but the tranquil waters provide excellent snorkeling. Dolphins often are visible in this area and the locals will take you out in a boat to find them. Food and accommodations are less expensive on this side of the island due to smaller crowds.
Mas (MAHS): Mas means gold, but this is one of the top woodcarving villages on Bali. Several master craftsmen who made Balinese wood carving famous still live and practice in Mas.
Nusa Dua (NOO-sah DOO-ah): If you want the luxurious side of Bali, Nusa Dua is the most popular area. Most of the locals speak English in these resort hotels and restaurants. The accommodations are so nice in this area that visitors rarely leave to see the more realistic and historic side of Bali. This is a great place snorkel or to rent a jet ski. The waves are calmer on this side of the peninsula and the water is extremely clear. The Bali Golf and Country Club also is found in this area. It features a stunning course that weaves through the palm trees, flirts with the coast, and is bordered by world-class flower gardens.
Uluwatu, the famous cliff temple, is near this area. This part of the island also serves as a good starting point for outward excursions to nearby islands.
Nusa Lembongan (NOO-sah LEHM-bohn-GAHN): This small island is off the southern coast of Bali and just a quick boat ride away. Enjoy secluded beaches, with good surfing on the southern coast. Several good dive spots await on the southeastern side of the island. Both affordable or luxurious accommodations are available on this small island.
Sanur (SAH-noor): This area is on the southeast side of the island, about 20 minutes north of the Denpasar airport. This area is much quieter than Kuta Beach, but it still offers a taste of Balinese beach and village life. There are several nice hotels along the beach, not to mention several affordable seaside restaurants and some charming local merchants.
The beach area features a new brick walkway that stretches more than a mile along the coast. Merchants dot the sidewalk, but they are not as aggressive as the merchants in Kuta and Legian. This is a beautiful place to watch the sunrise over the Lombok Strait. Sunsets are not quite as ideal on this side of the island, but a sunset stroll along the beach is worth the trip.
Sanur also features the Grand Bali Beach Golf Course, which is one of the oldest and least expensive golf courses on Bali. It’s a good place to warm up before playing the local championship courses.
Singaraja (SEEN-gahr-RAH-jah): This is Bali’s second-largest city. It has few attractions for visitors, except for the main temple, Pura Jagat Natha. The temple is not open to the public, but it is interesting to view from the outside. Singaraja is just a few miles northeast of Lovina. Ironically, the name of this town translates into the words “Lion King,” even though lions have never existed in Indonesia.
Tegalalang (TEH-gahl-AH-lahng): This village is about a 30-minute drive northward from Ubud. The village is surrounded by spectacular views of terraced rice fields. The Tegalalang village is known as a center of excellent wood carving.
Ubud (OO-bood ): Ubud is about an hour northeast of Denpasar. The road to Ubud is a treat for arts and crafts lovers, with one artistic village after another along the road. Most of the villages consist of just one street with homes and businesses packed along each side. The craftsmen have their artistic wares displayed along the road to help prospective buyers shop as they drive through town. Ornate carvings, bamboo furniture, stone figurines, and other crafts abound in this area. Ubud is a haven for artisans and shoppers alike. It sits at a higher altitude, where it is much cooler than the beach communities below. Batik fabric, carvings, jewelry and paintings are in abundant supply. You can visit the Monkey Forest, the central market, spas, or a local mask carver, just to name a few options. Enjoy the local dance performances, such as the kecak (monkey dance), barong, legong, and others.
Bali’s Temples, Monuments, and Museums
Bali is the land of 10,000 temples. Most are simple, elegant, and beautiful. Throughout Indonesia, temples are referred to as pura or candi. Pura is Sanskrit for “space surrounded by a wall.” Therefore, the word pura usually refers to larger temples with inner ceremonial areas. Candi often refers to smaller temples and sometimes refers to the split gate that leads into the Balinese temples (these split gates that lead to the temples are called “candi bentar”).
On Bali, there are several different types of temples. Most families have a private temple. Most neighborhoods have a private temple. All villages have at least one temple for the entire community. The temples may or may not be open to the public. The larger temples, such as Besaki, are usually open to everyone.
Visitors must wear sashes and sarongs to visit most temples. Small donations are required to enter many of them. Some temples are more interesting than others. The following is a list of recommendations:
Gunung Kawi (GOON-oong KAH-wee): This is one of Bali’s oldest, largest, and most charming ancient monuments. It sits near river at the bottom of a small valley and consists of 10 large relief cuts chiseled in the rocky walls of the valley floor. Not much is known about this temple, but locals suspect that it was a tribute to 11th Century Balinese royalty. It requires a hike down steep, stone stairs to get there. The temple is near Ubud, just south of Tampaksiring.
Kuta Beach Memorial (KOO-tah): Kuta Beach is the area where terrorists bombed a nightclub in October 2002 and then bombed a restaurant in October 2005. The Balinese built an outdoor memorial across the street from the 2002 site, which lists the names of the victims. This memorial is located in Kuta, along Jalan Legian.
Museum Bali: The Dutch Colonial Government built this museum in 1910 with architecture that combines temple and palace style. The four buildings contain a splendid collection of Balinese art. It exhibits Neolithic stone tools, Balinese folk crafts, carved and painted wood work, dance costumes, textiles, masks, weaving looms and fabrics, and scale models of ceremonial events. This museum is located in Denpasar.
Puri Agung Karangasem (POOR-ree AH-goong KAHR-rang-AHS-ehm) : This temple symbolizes one of the eight most powerful kingdoms of Bali situated in the center of town and surrounded by a brick wall with a split gate. These monumental gates are called a candi bentar. Once inside the gates, the palace itself is divided into three or four courts, each of which have a Balinese architectural building with Dutch style and named after important cities in the Netherlands, such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, etc. In 1678, this kingdom conquered the island of Lombok and colonized the western rice-growing portion of the neighboring island. This temple is located in Karangasem, East Bali.
Pura Batukaru (POOR-rah BAH-too-KAHR-roo): This is a sacred mountain sanctuary and royal temple near the peak of Gunung Batukaru. It was built to honor the gods of the mountains and lakes. It dates back to the 11th century and still serves as the state temple for all Western Bali.. This temple is in West Bali, just north of the town of Wangayagede. It’s about 30 kilometers north of Tanah Lot.
Pura Besakih (POOR-rah BEHS-ahk-EE): Positioned at the base of Mount Agung, the highest peak of the island, this is the largest and most sacred temple on Bali. It was built in the 2nd Century by the Hindu priest Markandia and consists of three main complexes dedicated to the Hindu Trinity. Each complex features large meru (pagoda-style, roof-like structures) to honor the souls of Balinese kings and Balinese ancestors. This temple is in eastern Bali and is about six kilometers north of the village of Muncan and Rendang.
Pura Kebo Edan (POOR-rah KEH-bo EH-dahn): It is an old temple thought to date back to the 13th century featuring giant figures three to six meters high. As the figurines dance, snakes curl around his ankles and wrist. The statue was restored in 1952. This temple is just east of Ubud, on the western side of the road near Pejeng.
Pura Pulaki (POOR-rah POO-lah-KEE): A large dramatic temple, 25 meters from the sea commemorating the arrival of the Javanese priest Nirarta to Bali early in the 10th Century. It is said that the daughter of this priest was made invisible to avoid being abducted by the king and to this day the people who occupy the invisible village are known as wong samar (unseen persons) and are said to wander the countryside. This temple is inhabited by hundreds of monkeys. It is located on Bali’s northwest coast along the road from Gilimanuk to Lovina.
Pura Melanting (POOR-rah MEHL-ahn-TEENG): Dedicated to the god of prosperity, this temple has a huge and ornately carved candi bentar (split doorway) and it is set impressively against a mountain backdrop. It sits just one kilometer from the sea at the end of a tranqyuil country road. Few tourists visit this site. It’s located just a few hundred meters east of Pura Pulaki.
Pura Penatarn Sasih (POOR-rah PEHN-tahrn SAH-see): This was the dominant shrine of the 10th Century Pejeng Kingdom and is linked to the Bali Aga mountain sanctuary of Penulisan North Kintamani. This temple held many archaeological remains, including the Nekara, a bronze gong known as the “moon of Pejeng,” hanging in a high pavilion. This temple is just east of Ubud, on the eastern side of the road near Pejeng.
Pura Taman Ayun (POOR-rah TAH-mahn AH-yoon): This is one of the oldest major temples in Bali and dates back to the Mengwi Dynasty of the 16th Century. The name means “pretty garden.” The temple features many black thatched-roof pagodas to honor the volcano gods of Mt. Agung and Mt. Batur. The brick building in between is the Paibon to honor the ancestor of the king. The temple is framed by a large water-filled moat. This temple is about 15 kilometers northwest of Denpasar, near the village of Mengwi.
Pura Tirta Empul (POOR-rah TEEHR-tah EHM-pool): This temple dates back to 962 A.D. and supposedly has magical powers. According to the Balinese, the sacred pool of spring water is Tirta Amerta (the holy water of immortality). This water is drained to the bathing pool with many fountains outside the temple where the village people once took their daily bath. Former president Soekarno’s palace overlooks the springs. He designed the simple structure himself and had it built in 1954. The temple is near Ubud, just north of Tampaksiring.
Pura Ulun Danau Bratan (POOR-rah OO-loon DAHN-ow BRAH-tahn): This charming temple sits on the edge of Lake Bratan, high in central Bali. This is one of two lakes located in the caldera of this giant and extinct volcano. The Temple to the Lake Goddess sits on the edge of the lake and makes a dramatic and charming site. Clouds lingering inside the extinct volcano add to the mystical backdrop. This is one of the most photographed temples on the island. This temple is about two hours north of Denpasar and is near the village of Bedegul.
Tanah Lot Lot (TAH-nah LOHT): This is another one of the most dramatic and picturesque temples on Bali. It sits up on a large volcanic rock above the beach. At high tide, the temple is completely surrounded by water. The waves in this area are large and dramatic as they crash around this seaside temple. This is a one of the most stunning places on Bali to watch the sunset. The Balinese hold religious ceremonies here every night, which adds to the overall atmosphere. Tanah Lot is about an hour east of Denpasar, so plan accordingly when striving for a sunset visit. It’s slightly further from Ubud. The temple is about two miles south of Beraban.
Taman Tirta Gangga (TAH-mahn TEER-tah GAHN-gah): This beautiful area of east Bali offers picturesque views of terraced rice paddy fields surrounding a tranquil water palace. The King of Karangasem built the pools in 1948 to tap a freshwater spring. Today, it offers one of Bali’s most regal, scenic, and refreshing swims.
The water palace is in the village of Tirta Gangga, which hosts the ruins of another ancient water palace, Taman Ujung. There are several rewarding hikes available in the area. Food and lodging are available and affordable.
Uluwatu (OO-loo WAH-too): This ancient Hindu temple sits high on a cliff and overlooks the rugged surf about 300 meters below. Most sights around Bali are more picturesque when viewed at sunrise or sundown, and Uluwatu is no exception. The cliff faces the southwest, which is a spectacular place to watch the sunset over the ocean. Visitors can buy food for the monkeys that inhabit the temple. The monkeys often are aggressive when they see food, so be careful. This temple is located about a half hour southeast of Denpasar (near Nusa Dua).
Other Attractions On Bali
Alas Kedaton (AH-lahs KEHD-ah-TOHN): This is an interesting temple in the forest with dozens of sacred monkeys playing and searching for food. Thousands of bats sleep in the local forest during the day. This temple is on the way to Tanah Lot.
Bali Barat National Park (BAH-lee BAHR-raht): Occupying much of the western side of Bali, the Bali Barat National Park is one of Indonesia’s best bird watching environments. The park’s rarest bird is the gorgeous Bali starling, with its brilliant silver-white feathers and striking eye markings. A victim of rampant poaching since the turn of the century, the starling now fights for survival in the wild.
Despite the starling’s rarity, Bali Barat is rich with more than 160 other species. Yellow-vented Bulbuls are abundant, as well as white-bellied swiftlets, sacred Javan kingfishers, and drongos. On the north coast is a colony of silvered leaf monkeys and dolphin watching is also a highlight.
There are a number of guided treks through Bali Barat’s jungles. Because of the starling’s fragile existence, no trekking is permitted on the Prapat Peninsula and Menjangan Island. Animals such as deer are often seen crossing the road. It used to be home to the Balinese tiger, which is now extinct. The Park today encompasses 10 percent of Bali’s total land area.
Taman Burung (TAH-mahn BOO-roong): This is the Bali Bird Park, which features more than 1,000 birds and 250 species, including birds of paradise and the endangered Bali starlings. A reptile park is located next door, which features turtles and snakes from Indonesia and Africa. Located on the road from Denpasar to Ubud.
Balinese Dance and Music
Barong Dance: This performance is a delightful mixture between pantomime, drama, and dancing accompanied by a full setting of gamelan orchestra, about 30 men playing the instruments. It depicts a story of endless fights between good and evil spirits. The mythical animal of Barong represents a good and the witch Rangda represents the evil spirit.
Legong Dance: This enchanting dance is usually performed by young Balinese girls. It’s often called the virgin dance and is one of the most graceful of Balinese dances. There are various forms of the legong but the legong kraton is the one most often performed. It’s based on the story of a Balinese prince who was on the verge of death. He had a vision of young dancers that cured him, so he created the dance in honor of his miraculous vision. The girls are dressed in ornate costumes and they speak volumes with only rapid and rigid eye and hand motions.
Kecak Dance: This also is known as the Monkey Dance. The Kecak Dance is a nocturnal choir dance that is performed under the glow of flaming torches by dozens of bare-chested men sitting in a concentric circle. Two main actors go back and forth representing good and evil, while the other men chatter chak-chak, chak-chak, to mark dramatic moments in the performance.
Trance Dance: The Balinese believe this dance literally connects them to the spiritual world when they perform. The spirits will actually take over their body causing the person to attempt self-mutilation or self-destruction. However, the spirits protect the performers, which allows those under the trance to push sharp knives toward their bodies without harm. In fact, the points of the knives often bend under the pressure and never pierce the skin of the person under the trance.
Other Sites of Interest On Bali
Banjar Hot Spring (BAHN-jahr): Surrounded by jungle and luxurious gardens, this is the perfect setting for a relaxing day. There are three pools of varying temperatures. Lay back in one these warm pools, which are filled by water pouring out of dragon-shaped pipes from the hill and pools above. Near the monastery south of Lovina.
Gitgit Waterfall (GEET-geet): This is the site of one of Bali’s most dramatic waterfalls, which sit just 500 meters from the road and are surrounded by lush vegetation. A fine mist hangs in the air above the cold waters below, where visitors can take a refreshing swim. Gitgit is 10 kilometers south of Singaraja.
Goa Gajah (GO-ah GAH-jah): This mysterious cave complex has some of the oldest examples of ancient Balinese art. Epigraph reliefs found at this site date back to the 11th Century. This cave is found on the bank of the Petanu River.
Goa Lawah (GO-ah LAH-wah): This is one of the great national temples of Bali. Haunted by thousands of bats that live in the caves, it is also associated with religious rites surrounding death. The locals believe the cave has an enormous snake.
Gunung Kawi (GOO-noong KAH-wee): This is one of the most impressive ancient monuments on Bali. After descending 100 steps down a stairway along either side the Pakrisan River, stone statues are carved into the wall commemorating the king of Bali’s family, including the king’s concubines. In a cave behind the monuments, there is a tomb of King Anak Wungsu who reigned over Bali during the 11th Century. It’s near Ubud, just southeast of the town of Tampaksiring.
Munduk Waterfall (Moon-dook): At 800 meters above sea level, the town of Munduk offers a fresh climate and the natural beauty of coffee, cocoa, clove, vanilla, and tobacco fields. Trekking opportunities abound in this region near the mountains and lakes. Near Lake Bratan and Lake Buyan in the highlands.
Pasar Badung (PAH-sahr BAH-doong): This is the largest traditional market in the center of the Denpasar, which consists of three floors. A variety of different goods is sold throughout this bustling market.
Pemuteran Marine Park (PEHM-oo-TEHR-rahn): This is one of the most idyllic marine resorts on Bali. The tidy black sand beach leads to some of the island’s best snorkeling with great drop-offs just one kilometer off the beach. The area has inviting coastlines with a dramatic backdrop of mountains.
Rice Terraces: The locals call these rice paddies sawah (SAH-wah). These beautiful rice fields and terraces are located all around the island of Bali, and some are found on Java and Lombok. They represent one of the most efficient irrigation systems anywhere in the world. Some of the most dramatic views of sawah are found north of Ubud. These terraces are stunning when filled with irrigation water. They seem to transform into giant mirrors that reflect different colors throughout the day.
Werdi Budaya Art Center (WEHR-dee BOO-dye-AH): Set in a restful garden with lotus ponds amid richly carved baroque Balinese buildings, the Taman Werdi Budaya houses exhibits of modern painting, masks, and woodcarvings. The Art Center hosts an art festival each year from mid June-mid July. Each regent sends its best team of artists to compete. The Center is in Denpasar.
For more information, please visit www.BaliOrBust.com/religion. Terima kasih!