BALI, island of Gods and Demons Both magical and mythical, this land of volcanic lakes, spectacular rice terraces, stunning tropical beaches, ancient temples and palaces is and exotic melting pot of cultures and peoples. Renowned of its unsurpassed architecture, traditional theatre, dance and elaborate religious festivals, the colorful Balinese culture is a dynamic force that is constantly synthesizing the old and the new, the traditional and the innovative.
With a reputation as being one of the most beautiful and diverse tourist spots in Asia, Bali attracts almost 1,000,000 visitors a year, from all around the world. Geographically, Bali lies between the islands of Java and Lombok and is one of more than 17.000 islands that make up the Indonesian Archipelago. Bali is small, stretching approximately 140km from east to west and 80km from north to south. Running east to west and slightly off center, are a string of volcanic mountains, the tallest and most recently being active Mount Agung, which reaches 3.142m at its highest point and last erupted in 1963.
Lying just 8° south of the Equator, Bali boasts a tropical climate with just two seasons a year and an average annual temperature of around 28°C. The rich volcanic soil and healthy monsoon season make this island extremely fertile and a range of crops is grown here. The wide, gently sloping southern regions play host to Bali's famed terraced rice fields, among the most spectacular in the world. In the hilly, northern coastal regions, the main produce are coffee, copra, vegetables, spices, cattle and rice.
The Balinese people have strong spiritual roots and despite the large influx of tourists in recent years, their culture is still very much alive. The main religion is Agama Hindu Dharma, which arrived in Bali with the spread of Hinduism through Sumatra and Java during the 11th century. Although originally from India, the Balinese religion is a unique blend of Hindu, Buddhist, Javanese and ancient indigenous beliefs, with customs that are very different from the traditional form of Hinduism practiced in India today. With the arrival of Islam in neighboring Java during the 15th century, a large member of courtiers, artists, musicians and craftsmen fled to Bali, creating an artistic renaissance.
Naturally creative, the Balinese have traditionally used their talents for religious purposes and most beautiful work to be seen here has been inspired by stories from Ramayana and other Hindu epics. The incredibly colourful cremation pyres and the everyday offerings to the Gods, placed inside every shop and business, are made with precision and an eye of beauty. The majority of Bali's population of 3.000.000 live, for the most part, in tight village communities with large extended families. The largest town are; the regional capital Denpasar, population approximately 250.000, and Singaraja in the north.
The main tourist area is Kuta, situated near the airport. During the tourist boom of the 70's, this small village became a major attraction because of its famed white-sand beaches, the surf, and stunning sunsets. Today, Kuta is a major hustling and bustling resort town, with hundreds for hotels, bars, restaurants and shops.
Those in search of a little peace and quiet tend to head for the more sedate resorts of Sanur and Candi Dasa, on the east coast, Ubud in the center, or Lovina in the north. Another major resort on the southern-most peninsula of the island, Nusa Dua, caters for the more up-market crowd, and is home to almost all of the bigger 5-stars hotels, as well as one of Bali's golf courses. The central village of Ubud, in the hilly region of Gianyar, has also recently blossomed as a tourist attraction and is now considered to be the artistic and cultural center of Bali.