A Tourist Perspective
Known as the “Island of the Gods” Bali has rich culture that is unique for its vibrant arts, dance and music, and has made it one of the most diverse islands in the world. Music and costumes are part of any main event during temple festivities.
Balinese families of all generations are seen celebrating birth, death and rebirth. Hinduism as the main religion is the major influence behind its development. Bali is also home to some of Asia’s best resorts, beaches, restaurants and bars. This combined with the calm warm nature of the Balinese people makes for the experience of a lifetime.
Seminyak and Kerobokan are home to chic bars, fine dining and cool beach clubs, and this has made them some of the most popular destinations in Bali. But if you like partying with backpackers and surfers then opt for the sprawl of bars, clubs and eateries of Kuta or just chill out at Bali’s main waterpark, Waterbom. Either way, there is a fun for all tastes and budgets.
For those couples seeking peace and tranquility then the luxury resorts of Nusa Dua would more than satisfy OR you can go to a family friendly place in Sanur, experiencing great resorts, beaches and local cuisine at reasonable prices.
Ubud is the arts and crafts center of Bali is set in the lush forests high in the hills. It’s home to the island's most beautiful rice fields and ancient monuments including Tegalalang Rice Terrace or Mount Kawi temple.
For the more active there is white water rafting, cycling, scuba diving and snorkeling, windsurfing, sailing or island hopping. Bali is also famous for its health spas for beauty treatments, rejuvenation and relaxing massages.
Lovers of local cuisine are spoilt for choice with many local restaurants offering a multitude of Indonesian food such as Nasi Kuning, Nasi Goreng, Gado Gado, Bebek Goreng, Soto Ayam and Rendang.
The Island of Bali is an integral part of the Coral Triangle, this is an area of high, marine species, biodiversity. Nearly 500 reef building coral species can be found in this area alone. In contrast to this, that is almost 7 times as many as the entire Caribbean.
In recent years, Bali has hosted the 2011 ASEAN Summit, Miss World 2013 (the first time in Indonesia) and 2013 APEC.
Bali is also home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, namely the Subak Irrigation System.
Bali consists of 10 unified kingdoms, composed of 10 Royal Balinese houses. Each of these houses rules a determined geographic area. This confederation system replaces the original Balinese Kingdom. The Indonesian government does not recognise these Royal houses, however, they were operational since prior to the Dutch colonization.
Some Balinese History
Bali was first inhabited in about 2000 BC by people from Austronesian who apparently migrated from Southeast Asia and Oceania through Maritime Southeast Asia. Linguistically and culturally, Balinese people are closely connected to the Philippine people, people of the Indonesian archipelago, Malaysia, and also Oceania.
We know this because stone tools dating from this period were found in the island's west, near the village of Cekik.
There is no mention of a King until 914 when Sri Kesarivarma is noted as the first mention in ancient manuscripts. Even as early as this an independent Bali is apparent with a specific dialect A place where the Sivaism and Buddhism religions were practiced alongside each other.
European contacts with Bali are believed to have started in circa 1512, Francisco Serrão and Antonio Abreu first saw Bali’s northern shores when a Portuguese led expedition to the area. This was the first of bi-annual fleets and expeditions to the Moluccas. Throughout the sixteenth century they frequently sailed off the coasts of the Sunda Islands. In the year of 1512, Bali featured amongst Francisco Rodrigues’ charts. Then in 1585, a ship grounded on the Bukit Peninsula and as a result left a few Portuguese ashore.
Dutch East Indies Company
The Dutch adventurer and explorer by the name of Cornelis de Houtman arrived in Bali in 1597. Five years later, in 1602, the Dutch East Indies Company was established.
During the second half of the 19th century the government of the Dutch increased their control of the archipelago of Indonesia. In the 1840s political and economic control over Bali by the Dutch commenced. Up on the island's north coast, the Dutch used local rivalry and encouraged struggles between competing Balinese realms. In the late 1890s, these were exploited by the Dutch thus allowing them to increase control and power in the area.
Large naval and ground assaults were mounted by the Dutch in the region of Sanur in 1906. They were met by many hundreds of Royal family members and their followers. To avoid the humiliation of surrender many of these committed ritual suicide. The Dutch demanded they surrender but around 200 Balinese killed themselves rather than surrender. A similar mass ritual suicide took place when the Dutch assaulted Klungkung. Thereafter the Governors of the Dutch had administered control over the island.
However the Balinese continued to control religion and culture.
In the 1930s Western tourists began to visit the island. Bali had a sensual image mainly supported by the film “Virgins of Bali” in 1934. The film, mostly consisting of topless Balinese women bathing almost turned Bali into a popular place for tourists, single handedly.
During the Second World War Bali was occupied by the Japanese.
This came about not as a result of their wish to occupy the area but more because the airfields of Borneo could not be used because of widespread and heavy rain.
The ruthlessness of the Japanese forces made them even more resented than the colonial Dutch.
Gaining Dutch Independence
The Dutch brought Bali into the then 13 member Districts of the newly proclaimed State of East Indonesia in 1946.
This in contrast and rival to the Indonesian Republic which was lead by Hatta and Sukarno.
When the Dutch recognized Indonesian independence on December 29 1949, Bali was included. Bali’s first Governor was appointed in 1958 and Bali became a province.
In 1963 Mount Agung erupted and killed thousands of people, creating economic havoc and displacing many more.
In 1965 – 66 there Suharto was able to oust Sukamo from Presidency and he created a New Order Government. Through this he re-instated relations with Western Governments. As a result the old “Bali Paradise” was reborn and tourism increased dramatically.
The Balinese people enjoyed a marked increase in their standards of living.
Unfortunately in 2002 an Islamist bomb in Kuta killed over 200 people, mostly foreigners, and again another in 2005.
This brought about a decrease in tourism and brought hardship back to many.
Today Bali is once again enjoying peace and good levels of tourism.
Bali is separated from Java by the Bali Straits and it is approximately eight degrees south of the equator. The Island is about 2 miles (3,2km) east of java and is approximately 94 miles (152km) wide and 70 miles (110Km) from North to South.
The centre and East of the island is mountainous with Mount Agung, the highest peak (3,031m) on Bali is Mount Agung an active volcano. There are also several other peaks over 2,000 metres.
The volcanic nature of Bali is responsible for the highly fertile soil and a very successful farming industry. In particular to the South in the descending slopes where rice fields abound producing a bumper rice crop.
Bali’s coffee crop along with vegetables and livestock are farmed mainly in the North.
The longest river on the island of Bali is the 75km long Ayung river.
Coral reefs surround Bali and in the South the white sandy beaches are the centres of the tourism.
There are 3 other small islands to the South East and to the East is the Island of Lombok separated by the Lombok Strait.
Climate and Weather
As it is situated just 8 degrees below the equator the weather in Bali is annually fairly stable. It has high humidity at 85% on average and year long the daily average temperature is approximately 30 degrees Centigrade. However when not the monsoon season humidity levels are significantly lower, mainly May to September. The chances of rainfall at these times is also significantly lower.