Introduction to Bali
Bali, island, southern Indonesia, one of the Lesser Sunda Islands, in the Indian Ocean. It is situated between the island of Java to the west, from which it is separated by Bali Strait, and the island of Lombok to the east from which it is separated by Lombok Strait. Bali is 145 km (90 mi) long and 80 km (50 mi) wide. The principal cities are the northern port of Singaraja and Denpasar, the capital, near the southern coast. Mountain ranges cross the island from east to west. The highest point on the island is Mount Agung (3,142 m/10,308 ft), a volcano that erupted in March 1963. In the south the land descends to form an alluvial plain, watered by shallow rivers, dry in the dry season and overflowing whenever there are periods of heavy rains.
Economically and culturally, Bali is one of the most important islands of Indonesia. Rice is grown on irrigated, terraced hillsides; other crops include sugarcane, coffee, copra, tobacco, fruits, and vegetables. Cattle and hogs are also raised. The Balinese are skilled artisans, particularly in wood carving, and in fashioning objects of tortoiseshell and of gold, silver, and other metals. The women of Bali are noted for their traditional dancing (see Dance; Indonesian Dance) and for their skills in weaving cloth of gold and silver threads, as well as for embroidering silk and cotton clothing. The principal religion on the island of Bali is a variation of Hinduism that incorporates Polynesian religious rites.
Bali was first visited by the Dutch in 1597, but Dutch rule was not firmly established until 1908. In 1946, after the Japanese occupation of the island during World War II, Bali was included in the newly formed state of East Indonesia, becoming part of the United States of Indonesia in 1948. In 1950 Bali became part of the unified republic of Indonesia.
Area, 5,623 sq km (2,171 sq mi); population (2010 estimate) 3,891,428.
Weather and Climate
Just 8° south of the equator, Bali has a tropical climate, which is hot all year.
The average temperature hovers around 28°C (mid-80s°F) year-round, but the humidity can make the heat feel very oppressive. Direct sun feels hot, especially in the middle of the day. There are dry and wet seasons - dry from April to October and Wet from October to March - but it can rain at any time of year and even during the wet season rain is likely to pass quickly. In general, the best months are April to September, when humidity is lower and the rain is light and infrequent. Overall, the climate is gently tropical, but there are marked variations across the island: around the coast, sea breezes temper the heat, and as you move inland you also move up, so the altitude works to keep things cool. In fact, sometimes it can get very chilly up in the highlands, and a warm sweater or light jacket would be a good idea to bring with you in mountain villages like Kintamani and Candi Kuning - Bedugul, The northern slopes of Gunung Batur always seem to be wet and misty, while a few kilometres away, the east coast is nearly always dry and sunny. Air-conditioning is not always necessary in Bali. A cool breeze always seems to spring up in the evening, and the open bamboo windows, so common in Balinese architecture, make the most of the lightest breeze.
The dry season is between April and October with the coolest months of May, June and July having an average temperature of 28°C. Rainy season is between November and March, with sudden downpours interrupted by periods of sunshine. Tourist High Season is July and August for Europeans and Americans, and December and January for Australians.
Restaurant & Nightlife
Wherever you are in Bali, there are plenty of restaurants offering good quality, reasonably priced food. Great Indonesian cuisine. In the Kuta area you can find the usual restaurant types you would expect in any popular tourist place, such as Italian, Seafood, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Asian, local Indonesian, as well as western fast food restaurants. The Seminyak area (between Legian and Kerobokan) has become an area with an abundance of good restaurants and bistros. Well-known restaurants and eateries include La Lucciola (on the beach), Ultimo and Mykonos (in Oberoi street), Passargard and Me'nu in Dhyana Pura street.
Bali's main areas that attract visitors also all have their night spots. The tastes are different, so for some people the nightlife has something to do with the "Happy hour" offered at many bars and restaurants, others just wake up at this time of day to get ready for the night according to the motto the later the better. A preferred area is the Kuta Legian Seminyak strip, busy at all times of day and also open 'til late" or even 24 hours.
Serious party-goers will prefer to walk through Jalan Dyana Pura in Seminyak, The street for night bars in Bali. There is a new bar opened nearly every month there, but the most famous are still the Q-Bar (very gay, big, and good house/techno music), the Santa-Fé (rock and reggae, with live bands, open 24h), the Café Del Mar (cozy and Mediterranean, with live DJs playing progressive and trance) or the trendy Kudos Bar (trendy, really). Most bars and Paddy's in Legian, will close around 2 o'clock in the morning, which is roughly when the night begins to start. Most people will rush to Club 66, on Jalan Double Six - Seminyak, for techno and trance music till dawn, unless there is a trance party elsewhere on the beach or at Deja Vu, also on Jalan Double Six beach.
The use (or just ownership) of narcotic drugs is illegal in Indonesia and punishable by death. Drugs offered on the street are of questionable content and often mixed with toxic substances. Many street vendors also cooperate with the police. You risk being arrested, pay heavy fines and jailed for a long time!
The local religion is Agama Hindu-Dharma, and centres on five ritualistic pillars of gods and ancestors, demons, the stages of human growth, the dead, and the consecration of priests. Essential to these rituals are offerings of food, flowers, and palm-leaf figures. The offerings are consecrated by priests with holy water, incense and sacred mantra incantations. The belief is of one god, but in many forms including the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Wisnu and Siwa, but also deified kings, saints, ancestors and elemental spirits.
The Balinese New Year is known as Nyepi Day (day of silence). On this day, the Balinese believe that they have to fool evil spirits that no-one is actually on Bali - hence the need for silence. If this can be achieved, then it is believed that the evil spirits will go looking elsewhere for their prey and leave Bali island alone for another year. Balinese people are very religious and life is full of ritual - Nyepi is one of the most important days in their calendar. Police and security are on hand to make sure that everyone abides by the rules. Note that on Nyepi day, the airport is closed, cars and even people are not allowed on the streets, and at night, lights and sound must be kept to a minimum. The rules apply to tourists also, although some activity is allowed in hotels. The date changes each year, as the Balinese follow a traditional lunar new year. The date for 2013 will be March 12th.
Short history and historical figures
The kingdom of Majapahit was a Javanese maritime empire that dominated the lesser kingdoms of Indonesia and Malaya from about 1300 to the early 16th century. It was founded by Vijaya (reigned 1293-1309), son-in-law of King Kertanagara (ruled 1268-1292) of Singosari. Guided by Gajah Mada (1290?-1364), chief minister from 1331 to 1364, the kingdom adopted an aggressive policy that in little more than two decades is said to have gained it control over practically all modern Indonesia and much of Malaya. The kingdom's power, based on its command of the sea routes and hence the commerce in the region, declined after Gajah Mada's death, and by 1520 it had virtually disintegrated.
Gajah Mada (1290?-1364), Indonesian soldier and statesman who expanded the kingdom of Majapahit from the island of Java across much of Indonesia. His rule is commonly seen as a golden age of Indonesian history. Gajah Mada first became prominent as a royal bodyguard who helped suppress a rebellion against King Jayanagara in 1319. Jayanagara named Gajah Mada patih (minister) for his loyalty, but Gajah Mada later turned on Jayanagara when the king took Gajah Mada's wife for his own. When the ailing king later underwent surgery, Gajah Mada ordered the surgeon to kill Jayanagara, and, once the surgeon had, Gajah Mada had him executed.
During the reigns of Queen Tribhuvanottungadevi (ruled 1328-1350) and King Hayam Wuruk (ruled 1350-1389) Gajah Mada served as mapatih (chief minister) and ambitiously extended the power of Majapahit over Java, Bali, Lombok, Borneo, Sulawesi (Celebes) and the Moluccas. He overcame Palembang, the successor state of the Sri Vijaya empire in Sumatra. He also codified laws and customs and created an administrative system that stayed essentially the same until the 19th century. Gajah Mada used Majapahit's navy to enforce his power over outlying islands and to guarantee Majapahit a virtual monopoly over the islands' spice trade. As a unifier of the archipelago, Gajah Mada is an important symbol for modern Indonesia. Universitas Gajah Mada (founded in 1949) in Yogyakarta, one of the country's main universities, is named for him.
Hayam Wuruk (1334-1389), ruler of the Majapahit Kingdom, the last Hindu empire of Java, at the height of its power. In 1350 Hayam, whose name means “young cook” in Javanese, ascended the throne at age 16. He ruled Majapahit, which covered much of present-day Indonesia and Malaysia, with the help of chief minister Gadjah Mada. Before Hayam's rule, Majapahit enjoyed a golden age, which continued under Hayam. With its power at sea, Majapahit dominated trade from New Guinea to the Philippine Islands, though Hayam preferred to govern and trade within the Malay Archipelago and leave the outlying territories alone. A strong leader, Hayam held the empire together for nearly 40 years, but after he died, a son-in-law and an illegitimate son appear to have battled for the throne. The two warring factions split the kingdom, thus allowing North Borneo, Indragiri on Sumatra, and Malacca in Malaysia to gain independence from the Javanese empire.
Art in Bali
Balinese art is art of Hindu-Javanese origin that grew from the work of artisans of the Majapahit Kingdom, with their expansion to Bali in the late 13th century. Since then, Ubud and its neighboring villages have been the center of Balinese art. Ubud and Batuan are known for their paintings, Mas for their woodcarvings, Celuk for gold and silver smiths, and Batubulan for their stone carvings.
In the 1920s, with the arrival of many western artists, Bali became an artist enclave (as Tahiti was for Paul Gauguin) for avant-garde artists such as Walter Spies (German), Rudolf Bonnet (Dutch), Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur (Belgian), Arie Smit (Dutch) and Donald Friend (Australian) in more recent years. Bali has also attracted world famous anthropologists, from Stutterheim (Dutch) to Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead (American).
Despite the adoption of modern western painting traditions by many Balinese and Indonesian painters, the neo-traditional Balinese painting tradition is still thriving and continues by descedents/students of the artists of the pre-war modernist era (1928-1942). The schools of neo-traditional Balinese painting include: Ubud, Batuan, Sanur, Young Artist and Keliki schools of painting.
The rupiah (Rp) is the official currency of Indonesia. Issued and controlled by the Bank of Indonesia, the ISO 4217 currency code for the Indonesian rupiah is IDR. The symbol used on all banknotes and coins are Rp. The name derives from the Indian monetary unit rupee. Informally, Indonesians also use the word "perak" ('silver' in Indonesian) in referring to rupiah. The rupiah is subdivided into 100 sen, although inflation has rendered all coins and banknotes denominated in sen obsolete.
The first rupiah was introduced in 1945. During the Indonesian War of Independence (1945-1949), the rupiah circulated alongside the Netherlands Indies gulden (including issues of the Japanese government, the Javanese Bank (Java rupiah) and the Dutch Government (NICA gulden) and the Netherlands Indies roepiah, which had also been issued by the Japanese government. By the end of 1949, the Republic's rupiah had replaced the other currencies throughout Indonesia.
You Tube Bali videos