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Bali

18 Feb, 2009

Bali

Bali is a small island that is part of the Indonesian archipelago and is considered as one of the many provinces in the country. The Indonesian provincial capital, Denpasar, can be found south of Bali. The old capital, however, was Singajara, which is veered to the north. The island has an abundant population despite its seemingly small size. A portion of its population is made up of majority of Indonesia’s Hindu community. Because of this, the island has its ties close to Hinduism, and its culture is mostly focused on the arts, dance, painting, sculpture, leather and metal works, as well as music. These are what are in store for tourists who head over to Bali.

Geography

The small Indonesian island is nestled at the westernmost part of the Lesser Sunda Islands. This is just between the eastern Lombok and the western Java, which is around 3.2 km away. The island is estimated to be about 8 degrees to the south of the equator. All in all, in the island’s widest point, the island is measured to be about 153 kilometers or 95 miles wide and 112 kilometers or 69 miles long. Its highest point peaks at 10,308 feet high at the peak of Mount Agung. This is, in fact, an active volcano with the last eruption recorded back in 1963. The island is also home to Mount Batur, another active volcano. Bali currently has a total land area of 5,632 km2. The southern part of Bali is filled with plains and shallow rivers, the longest of which is the Sungai Ayung.

History

Bali these days is primarily a Hindu island, but this was not the case in history. Bali was formerly the home of Austronesian peoples back in 2000 BCE. These peoples were said to have come from Taiwan who made their way to the island through Southeast Asia, which is why Balinese are said to be of close relation to people in the Oceania region.

In the 1st century AD, however, Hindu influences started working its way through the island’s culture. In the 15th century, intellectuals and artists made their way to Bali from Java, which enriched the island’s affinity with the arts. Thus, as time went on, Bali collected a mixture of cultural influences from the two sides and has now become a conjunction of Chinese and Indian culture. Its name, Bali, was taken from Balidwipa, a word discovered from inscriptions found in the island.

Tourism

The tourism in Bali is a lively trade all over the island, though the southern part of the island near Kuta beach resort enjoys the largest number of tourists. The island has an international airport located at Jimbaran, which is located on the isthmus that connects the main island to the southern region.

One important city in Bali is Kuta, which is actually the name of a beach resort. The beach resort has a lively, urban energy that lures in tourists from all over the world for a fun time at the beach and energetic beach nightlife. The beaches in Bali are also very popular all over the world, especially among scuba divers and snorkelers. Avid divers will gush at the beautiful coral reefs that surround the island. Visitors in Bali will also notice that in the southern part of the island, the sand is white, while in the northern part, the sand is black. To see a unique beach, tourists should visit Padangbai, which has mixed black and white sand. Another must-do experience in Bali is to ride the sampan boats that navigate through the Ho River. Tourists can also sit back and relax on yacht and cruise rides and other sports activities such as surfing and kite boarding.

One great way to relax, however, after spending a lively day at Kuta, is to head on over to Ubud. Ubud, located north of the capital, is currently said to be the cultural center of the island. This is where you can sightsee and immerse yourself in the unique culture of Bali with interspersing elements from the Chinese and the Indian. To embrace the culture of the island, you can visit museums and other exhibits, and watch traditional Balinese drama and the Wayang Kulit. Bali shopping will introduce you to the local life in the island.

To make every visit worthwhile, tourists should also try to catch a glimpse of the Bali Starling as well as other rare bird species while in the island. The Bali Starling is currently considered as nearly endangered, with only six remaining as of last record. It is only one of the 280 species of birds that ca be found in the island. To check out these bird species and other wild life, the Bali Barat National Park should be part of the itinerary. The national park is a haven full of wild animal species including Induan Muntjac, Mouse-deer, Leopard Cat, Black Giant Squirrel, leaf monkey, and the likes.

Tourists who are into festivals should also drop by the island in time for the Hindu New Year or the Nyepi. The day itself is not a good day for tourists as it is called the day of silence and the natives, as well as the tourists, are encouraged to stay indoors. However, the day may well be used as a rest day after the festivities in the eve of the New Year. The day before the Nyepi, tourists can enjoy the large and colorful parade of sculptures, mostly of the popular ogoh-ogoh monsters. The parade is a symbolic tradition in the island and will definitely be a wonderful experience.

At night, tourists should check out Bali’s local nightlife which involves popular bars, discotheques, and night clubs, most of which are found in Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Sanur, and Nusa Dua.

Due to the boost in tourism, Bali real estate has also been on the growing trend lately. The island is now home to some five-star real estate developments particularly on the Bukit peninsula, which is on the southern part of Bali. There you will find luxury villas that afford tourists a wonderful view of the ocean.

Culture

Bali is known all over the world for its very diverse culture and its immersion in the arts. Around the island, expect to be exposed to unique paintings, sculptures, handicrafts, art performances, and wood carvings. Balinese music is also focused mainly on percussion orchestra. A visit to Bali will not be complete without hearing gamelan, a developed percussion-based musical form in the island. Balinese dances, on the other hand, mostly involve epic stories traced from Hindu origins. Some of the famous Balinese dances that tourists should try are the Ramayana, pendet, baris, legong, barong, and the monkey dance, also called kecak. There is nothing like a full immersion of these cultural elements to make your experience truly a Balinese one.

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