Bali has many names; the island of the gods, Shangri-la, heaven island, etc. One thing is for sure though, Bali is a truly beautiful tropical island inhabited by a remarkably artistic people who have created a dynamic society with unique arts and ceremonies. The passage of life on this small island is culturally and spiritually linked to satisfying and appeasing the gods, spirits and demons.
Art, culture and day to day activities for most Balinese are strongly bonded to a unique form of Hinduism called Hindu Darma, now only practiced here. Classical dance dramas based on the old Hindu epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabrata which arrived from Java, are mixed with pre-Hindu animist belief and peculiar local folklore
The very soul of Bali is rooted in religion and is expressed in art forms and skills that have been passionately preserved over century and practiced until today.
Festivals are common place in Bali. Each village will hold some sort of colorful ceremony for each one of its own temples a couple of times a year. There are usually two or three temples in each village and there are thousands of villages. This usually averages out to one ceremony every six weeks just for the temples. Add to this the rituals and celebrations for each persons passage from birth, puberty, marriage, childbirth to death and the after world. Major celebrations are ?Galungan? and ?Nyepi? or the day of silence when the whole island close down in fear of evil spirits. The celebrations are to show the important religion to the people.
Bali is divided by a string of impressive and authoritative volcanoes running almost directly through the centre of the island. Mountains are believed to be the home of the gods. The coastal regions and sea, on the other hand, are believed to house evil spirits and demons.
Since 1920?s, Bali has been adapting itself to cope with an increasing number of tourists without losing one of its greatest attractions, its cultural identity. The Balinese are an amicable people who have been more exposed to international tourists.
PLACES OF INTEREST
The capital city of Bali, Denpasar has many community temples called ?Pura?. The Pura Jagatnatha is dedicated to the Supreme God, Sang Hyang Vidi Wasa. The Pura Jaganatha Museum offers a fine variety of prehistoric and modern art. The government supervised ?Sanggraha Kriya Hasta? has a wide variety of handicraft and works of art.
WERDHI BUDAYA ART CENTRE
The Werdhi Budaya Art Center was designed by Bali?s foremost architect, Ida Bagus Tugur, also the architect for Indonesia?s new National Art Gallery. The open stage Arda Candra with its towering candi gate, the rococo main Art Museum, and Balinese pavilions have become a major architectural attraction. The ?Werdi Budaya? presents a yearly art festival between June and July, with performances, exhibitions, and an art contest.
Sanur beach is a popular recreation site. The palm-lined beach curves from the Bali Beach Hotel toward the south, facing the Indian Ocean towards the east. Sanur offers many good hotels, restaurants, shops and other tourist facilities. It is only a short distance from Denpasar. Public transportation to and from the city are easily available into night. Offshore reefs protect the beach and make it popular for windsurfing, boating and other water sports.
Kuta is a thriving tourist resort, popular mainly, among the young. It is a popular beach for surfing. Life guards are on constant duty during the day. Kuta faces the West offering beautiful sunsets.
Accomodation ranges from international hotels to home-stays. The village abounds with restaurants, shops, discotheques and other tourist facilities. It is easier to find regular performances of Balinese music and dance in Kuta, staged specially for tourists, than anywhere else in Bali. Some performances are staged nightly. The village is ideal for meeting and mixing with locals as well as visitors from abroad.
The Nusa Dua tourist resort is part of the Bukit Peninsula in southern Bali. Some of the most beautiful and luxurious hotels are found here. The resort is known for its clean white beaches and clear waters.
The surf is mostly along the southern side of the peninsula.
Ubud is the center of Balinese painting, Ubud?s ?Museum Puri Lukisan? has a permanent collection of modern works of Balinese art dating from the turn of the century. There are also several art galleries and homes of famous artists here, including Han Snel and Antonio Blanco.
The temple of Pura Tirta Empul is built around the sacred spring at Tampak Siring. Over 1000 years old, the temple and its two bathing places have been valued by the people because of the spring water?s curative powers. Regular ceremonies are held for purification. The area are decorated with bone and ivory carvings.
The villages of Kintamani and Penelokan give a view of the active Mt. Batur and Lake Batur. This ancient village is inhabited by people who call themselves ?Bali Aga? or ?original Balinese?, and have maintained many of their old ways.
Pura Kehen is Bali?s second largest temple. Three terraced courtyards are connected by steps, and their balustrades are decorated with carvings and statues. A large Banyan tree with a tower shades the lowest and second courtyard, while in the third courtyard several shrines for the gods and ancestor are found.
The former seat of the Javanese Hindu Kingdom in Bali, from which Balinese royalty draws its blood line, Klungkung was the oldest kingdom on the island.
The Kerta Gosa or Royal Court of Justice, built in the 18th century, is known for its ceiling murals, painted in the traditional wayang style, portraying punishment in hell and the rewards in heaven. The floating pavilion, garden and lotus ponds in this walled-in complex are a reminder of the former glory of this kingdom.
Known as the ?Mother Temple of Bali?, the sanctuary of Besakih on the slopes of Mt. Agung is the biggest and holiest of all Balinese temples. Over a thousand years old, steps ascend through split gates to the main temples dedicated to the Trinity (Shiva, Brahma and Visnu), are 18 separate sanctuaries belonging to different regencies and caste groups. To the Balinese, a visit to the temple?s sanctuaries is a special pilgrimage. Each has its own anniversary celebration or ?Odalan?.
Ten hectares of nutmeg trees in the Sangeh forest abound with monkeys. The forest is considered sacred, so no wood is allowed to be chopped here. Two temples are in the middle of the forest and another is at the edge. As they live in this sacred forest, the monkeys are also held sacred and are rather tame, but it is advisable not to play with them.
One of Bali?s most important sea temples, the temple sanctuary at Tanah Lot, was built on top of a huge rock surrounded by the sea. Built by one of the last priests to come to Bali from Java in the 16th century. Poisonous sea snakes found at the base of the rocky island are believed to guard the temple from evil spirits and intruders. The best time to see Tanah Lot is in the late afternoon when the temple is in silhouette.
The mountain resort of Bedugul, 18th north of Denpasar, is known for its excellent golf course. Bedugul is located besides Lake Bratan, surrounded by forested hills. Bedugul is decorated with a beautiful sight of the ?Ulun Danu? temple which seems to rise out of the lake. Boats are available for water skiing and parasailing. The Bali Handara Country Club has bungalows for rent and a restaurant.
Protected for centuries from the outside world by its surrounding walls, the village of Tenganan has maintained its ancient pre_hindu customs through a strong code of non fraternization with outsiders. Here unique rituals, dances, and gladiator like battles between youths take place. Tenganan is famous for its ?double ikat? woven material called gringseng, which is supposed to protect the wearer with magic powers.