Sadly, this island, the most popular stop in Indonesia, was the scene of several horrific bombings in October 2002. It's especially sad to see terrorism reach Bali because the island's friendly people, Hindu culture, rhythmic dances, volcanoes, sculptured rice paddies, beautiful jungle and mountain scenery and spectacular beachescombined with a wide array of accommodationsmake it one of the most fascinating places in the world. It's a magical placedespite the ever-expanding, crowded and commercialized tourist spots on the southern coast.
The best way to see the "real" Bali is to head inland, past rice terraces and across the lush countryside. The island isn't that big, so just about any of the resorts can be used as a base to explore the island's sights. The adventurous should rent a car, but others should hire a car and driver (it doesn't cost that much more). Traffic is heavy on the island's main roads, which are narrow. Many budget travelers like to rent motorcycles, but accidents are common and medical services poor. You're better off renting bicycles and sticking to the back roads, which are quiet once you get north of Denpasar, and provide you with a glimpse of the real Bali.
Once you're away from the crowds of tourists, you'll have the best chance of encountering one of the island's many festivals, colorful weddings or ceremonial cremations. Much of Bali's charm is serendipitous, and many of its interesting sites and villages are somewhat off the beaten path, so a flexible, spontaneous attitude is necessary if you want to get the most out of your visit.
Religion governs every aspect of Balinese life, and each village has at least three temples where rituals and festivals take place (there are some 20,000 temples in Bali). Music, dance and drama are part of those rituals, and each village has its own troupe of dancers who perform for the spiritual well-being of the village. One of the most memorable dance performances you can witness is a topeng (mask) dance, during which a performer uses masks to transform himself into a variety of charactersfrom a delicate, graceful girl to an angry, frightful monster. It's magical.
Tourist offices and hotels can often provide information about temple festivals or ceremonies during a particular day or week. Other good sources of information are Bali & Beyond, Bali Plus and Hello Bali, the best tourist magazines on the island; the Bali Post, which has a daily calendar of activities; and the Jakarta Post's "Bali Rebound."
It's also possible to watch dance performances in a hotel after a sumptuous dinner buffet. It's pricey, but well worth the splurge. And for the true aficionado, there are music and dance schools in the village of Peliatan, near Ubud. Many Westerners and Japanese live in Peliatan long-term to study Balinese music and dance, but the Yayasan Polos Seni (Foundation for Pure Art) also offers short-term music and dance lessons at reasonable prices. You'll also learn how to wear sarongs the Balinese way.
Bali is famous for its handicrafts, tooits own as well as those it draws from all over Indonesia (what is passed off as Balinese is not always made on the island). Most of the Balinese handicraft production is focused in the Ubud area and the larger Gianyar region in the south. Each village specializes in a different craftCeluk in gold and silver, Batuan in miniature paintings and Pengosekan in larger, more boldly colored paintings of traditional village life. You'll find beautiful Balinese temple umbrellas near Taman Ayun in Megwi, fascinating and sometimes surreal wood carvings in Tegalalang, masks and other wooden decorative items in Mas, stone carvings in Batubulan and quilted bedspreads near Kedewatan.
Most of these villages are on the way to Ubud from Denpasar. But be aware that many of the roadside tourist shops are overpricedif you get off the main road and head for the smaller workshops and compounds, you'll pay less and get a chance to meet the artisans. If you want to see a wide range of crafts in a very different atmosphere, plunge into the Pasar Seni (Art Market) in Sukawati, where you can bargain away and get some of the best deals on the island. It's a traditional market, with small stalls and very narrow aislesnot for the claustrophobic.
In addition to its cultural attractions, the island offers good diving and snorkeling (visibility in excess of 100 ft/35 m) at Tulamben (a wrecked World War II cargo ship lies just offshore), the port of Padangbai (variety of fish and a 130-ft/40-m wall) and the remote Menjangan Island (some of the best diving in Bali). It's also one of the top surfing spots in the world. Kuta offers some big waves and a beautiful beach, but ask around Kuta for a guide to the more private beaches, where you won't be bothered by the touts. A number of white-water rafting and cycling tours follow the central rivers: Ask in Kuta tour agencies or the Ubud tourist office on the main road for info. Some ecotourist sites are also being developed in the south. Bali lies 600 mi/965 km east of Jakarta
Message Edited by LL_Editor on 11-10-2006 10:14 AM
The Balinese are such warm and wonderful people...it is so said that terrorism has scared this island. They really need visitors to return.
There are several wonderful Bali hotels regularlly offered on LuxuryLink. It would be quite easy to have a wonderful Bali trip at a great price by combining 2 or 3 LL pacakges. Definitely plan to spend time in the highlands of UBUD at a property such as the VICEROY....gorgeous river valley views, just like those at FourSeasons Sayan, but for a fraction of the price.