Bali Travel Guide

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Bali Travel Guide

Bali Local History

Evidence of settlement goes back to the Neolithic period of around 3000 B.C., but the culture flourished under Chinese and Indian influences, including the introduction of Buddhism and Hinduism beginning in 800 B.C. Bali was ruled periodically by the Javanese and, with the rise of Islam on the mainland, the last Javanese Majapahit king fled the Jakarta for Bali in 1515.

When a Dutch contingent came to set up formal relations and establish trade, in 1601, the first real Western presence was established. Balinese slaves were shipped to Dutch and French merchants. In the era of Napoleon, Holland's East Indian holdings passed first to the French and then to the British, who returned them to the Dutch in the peace agreement following Napoleon's Waterloo defeat in 1815. For several decades, the Dutch rule was strong, but Balinese dissented and resisted the Dutch edict ending the practice of suttee, the ritual practice of widows immolating themselves on their husbands' funeral pyres.

The most dramatic and tragic event in Balinese history came in 1906 when, in response to the looting of a wrecked Chinese trading vessel, Dutch troops landed at Sanur to take the island. Balinese troops lost any hope and, marched directly into open fire in a mass suicide. A similar scene was repeated in 1908. Dutch control of Bali was complete by 1909. Over the next couple of decades, a steady stream of European settlers and visitors came, doctors and teachers at first, followed by the first tourists, artists, and cultural explorers. By the 1930s, Bali's reputation as a magical paradise was spreading rapidly.

World War II saw an exodus of foreigners with the arrival of Japanese troops. For Indonesians, it was a time of both strain under the brief Japanese occupation and revelation in light of the withdrawal of Dutch control. Shortly after the end of the war in 1945, Nationalist Party founder Sukarno, announced a declaration of Indonesian independence and was named president. The Dutch withdrew under international pressure in 1949. Hindu Bali was suspect under the rule of Muslim Jakarta, and the island was hit very hard by economic collapse. In 1965, Suharto seized control in response to a staged communist coup, and conflicts continued for several years. As many as 100,000 Balinese were killed. Under Suharto, the military gained a far-reaching influence over national affairs. For the next 3 decades, until the major economic crisis of 1997, Indonesia enjoyed a period of prosperity in spite of Suharto's embezzling autocracy. During this time, and with government attention, Bali rose to prominence as a top tour destination in the region.

The bombings in October 2002 brought the world's problems to paradise, and Balinese are doing what they can to repair the damage literally and spiritually, stepping up security at sea and airports and encouraging tourists to return.

Bali Attractions

Top Attractions

Goa Gajah Bedulu's Elephant Cave - This is one of the southern region's most famous tourist sights. In addition to the caves hand-tunneled through the face of the mountain, the complex above the Petanu River includes temples, statues, pavilions and three bathing pools. The exterior of the cave is an elaborately carved demonic head. The cave is pitch dark, so take a flashlight. To the left is a niche with a statue of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god and son of Shiva. In the centre, to the right of a crumbled statue, are three linga (upright carved stones symbolizing male fertility), each alongside three smaller yoni, or female forms.

Trunyan Village - Near Gunung Batur volcano and not to be missed if you like gorey stuff. This is a major tourist attraction because of the ancient practices its people still observe. Instead of cremating or burying the deceased, the people of Trunyan leave the dead out in the open air to decay. Fascination with this practice has brought many visitors to Trunyan's cemetery, in the nearby village of Kuban, which is accessible only by boat.

Taman Burung Bali Bird Park - Gianyar is home to more than a thousand of birds from throughout Indonesia and all over the world. Set in a spectacular gardens filled with lush tropical plants and water features. The park is also has a good restaurant for guests to interact with nature by having breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea with birds. Located in Batubulan.

Gitgit Waterfall - The most impressive waterfall on the island. Located not far to the town of Singaraja, on the north coast of Bali. Within walking distance through the jungle, you will find that this place is worth to be visited.

Monkey Forest - This forest comprises entirely of towering pala trees. The monkeys living here, are considered sacred, in an association from the Ramayana epic, where prince Rama allied himself with the monkey hero Hanoman to attack the area of Alengka. When visiting this forest, your valuable things (jewelry, cameras, etc.) should be left behind or stored in your bag as the monkeys here are attracted to the glossy object. Located in the heart of the primary forest in Southern Bali called Sangeh.

Maroc Inn Absolutely! The Maroc Inn is #1.Please be careful not to confuse it with a hotel of a similar name.
submitted by PHIL SMITH, 01/10/09

Maroc Inn Padang Bai's Marco Inn and Polo bar must be the best value in Bali. Everything you normally expect from an Australian pub, great steaks cooked on the barby and beer that comes off the ice. And talk about cheap!
submitted by Mal Kenyon, 07/09/08

Lotus cafe Ubud :gr8 ambience situated by the lke and you can see the barong dance as well Mosiac:very up market-outstanding food! Ku De Ta:Have drinks on the loungers literally by the waves
submitted by Prachi, 23/11/07

Virgina Beach Its pretty and a great place to relax.
submitted by A Travel Library User, 17/05/06

Bali Shopping

The sheer quantity of arts and crafts available for purchase in Bali is overwhelming. There is something for all budgets, from tourist trinkets to fine art and antiques. It is a shopper's paradise of fabrics, clothing, wood and stone carvings, paintings, and doodads of varying quality. You get what you pay for generally, but with a bit of haggling, can get a lot more for what you pay. Masks used in traditional performance, many of the bug-eyed demoness Rangda, make fine souvenirs (but beware: tradition has it that even tourist copies can be inhabited).

Ancient stylized paintings of deities and the delicately carved "lontar" palm frond books are both still produced on the island. Expatriates have had as much influence on modern Balinese art as the ancients. With a little searching, you can find some real masterpieces here. Bali is well known for casual and tailored clothing, locally made jewellery, handicrafts, antiques and artifacts. Leather ware is one of the unexpected local bargains with everything from handbags to tailor made leather jackets. Prices are so low, that you are sure to need more room in your suitcase. Try bargaining at the street markets of Kuta, Sanur of Nusa Dua or fixed price shopping at a Denpasar department store..

The Kumbasari Market - This market, near the river, gives an interesting overview of Indonesian markets with household wares and clothing on the third level, spices and goods on the second level, and a traditional market in the basement. Nearby is Jalan Hasanudin, a whole street of gold shops selling 18 to 22 carat gold jewellery. Jalan Sulawesi, also near, is where all manner of fabrics are available. The entire street has fabric stores on both sides with a few household ware shops in between..

Bedugul - This is known as a farming area and is a great place to buy the choicest fruits, vegetables and flowers..

Denpasar, Kuta-Legian, Sanur and Nusa DuaMany - There are numerous western-style department stores and shopping centers in these areas that offer a range of clothing, shoes, leather goods, sports gear and toys. The service is generally good, and the low value of the rupiah ensures excellent prices. Balinese arts and crafts are the most popular purchases, but you can also get value-for-money goods such as clothing, music, musical instruments and watches..

Southern Bali - Here you will find the ultimate in open-air market where traditional Asian-style shopping still thrives. High-quality crafts, low prices, and professional shipping services make it one of the best places in Indonesia to shop.

Bali Activities

Bull Racing - The bull races ("Mekepung") are thrilling contests between teams of two young bulls harnessed to a chariot, which is ridden by a jockey who holds onto the bull's tails as they career down a 2km race course. The bulls are treated with great care and are fed elaborate diets containing all sorts of wonderful potions and secret ingredients. These races are held from July to October and is something the kids will really enjoy. A must do for the whole family. .

Bali's Bird Park - Bird Watching enthusiasts, both young and old, can catch sight of the world's rarest and most captivating feathered friends at this park. Hundreds of species live within this scenic and fascinating park, enthralling you with their brilliant colours and rarity. Indonesian parrots, cassowaries, black palm cockatoos, hornbills and an impressive collection of Birds of Paradise will delight you. Apart from these exciting creatures, the extraordinary komodo dragons also make their home here. Set in magnificent botanical gardens with a backdrop of ponds and waterfalls, the Bali Bird Park is the perfect environment to enjoy the glorious myriad of bird-life as well as nature..

Bungee Jumping - Popular on Bali as in many other countries around the world. Thrill to the feeling of momentary weightlessness as one first 'takes off' then freefalls to the end of the bungee cord. Jump from a high tower close to a cascade in Blangsinga-Gianyar. This activity is definitely not for the faint-hearted or the real littlies (though they will certainly get a thrill from watch Mum or Dad attempting the plunge). Tel: 0361/752658.

Bali Parks & Gardens

The Bali Barat National Park - Covering an area over 750 km2 on the western tip of Bali. The park's boundaries are open savannah, rainforest, mangrove swamps and the coral reefs of Menjangan Island that are home to the rare java deer. This is a good spot for diving and snorkeling. Visitors are welcome, but must be accompanied by an official guide and have a park permit which is obtainable at the National Park Headquarters in Cekik, 3 kms south of Gilimanuk.

West Bali National Park - This conservation area is located in two regencies of Jembrana and Buleleng. For those who looking for unspoiled tropical nature, this place is worth to be visited. This park is the last natural habitat of the endangered Jalak Putih (Bali Sterling), fewer than fifty birds are believed to be left in the wild. The park is also home of wild ox (banteng) and in Menjangan Island is home of Java Deer. This National Park contains a wide range of natural environments, from mangrove coastal forests to savannah and rainforests.

Botanical Gardens - The tranquil botanical gardens of Kebun Raya in Bedugul has the last remaining tropical forest on the island and is home to more than 700 species of trees and a unique collection of orchids and ferns.

The Nature Reserve of Mount Batukaru - Here you can discover Bali's glorious flora and fauna in an adventure that will lead you into the cool surroundings of a tropical rainforest. Jungle Trekking is a family affair and just the way to experience the hidden world of Bali's wildlife and native plants, as you pass by ancient strangler trees, ferns, wild orchids and hanging lianas (the home of many species of tropical birds and animals). Stop for a picnic lunch by a clear mountain stream before continuing your journey to the archaic temple of Batukaru.

Elephant Safari Park - Another must do for the whole family. Elephant riding tours are available at the safari park, where you will sit atop an elephant in a traditional teak wood chair, while swaying through the refreshing jungle of Desa Taro. This has to be one of the best ways all members of the family from the real littlies to the grandparents can experience the jungles of Bali.

Bali Beaches

Nusa Dua - Magnificent white sandy beaches with many 5 star hotels. This is a must see.

Sanur - Exciting white sandy beach known as one of the main tourist resorts with an international hotel. Here you can feast your tast buds after a lazy day in the sun, at some of the restaurants. Nightlife scenes offers Sanur dance performances and this is the perfect time to take some photographs. There is a rich variety of water sports to enjoy.

Kuta - The best known tourist resort in Indonesia, with marvelous white sandy beach and beautiful sunset. There is some good restaurants on the site and lots of water sport activities to enjoy. Nighttime caters for the music lovers with live music acts by local bands and regional dancing performances.

If you are a surfing enthusiast Bali is definitely the place for you as some of the best surfing beaches in the world can be found on the western side of the island. Conversely the eastern side is a wonderful haven for families, with beautiful white sand beaches and gentle seas with little more than a ripple breaking the calm surface of the water.

Bali Restaurants and Bars

Your visit to Bali is not complete unless you partake in a delightful gastronomical tour of the food and fruit of Bali. In fact, eating Balinese food and fruit should be enough of a reason to visit Bali. Rice (steamed, boiled or fried) is the staple of the Indonesian diet. Eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, as a snack, or as a backdrop to an exciting range of flavors: chili peppers, shallots, garlic, and ginger are frequently used. Fiery sambal sauces accompany every meal, as does nasi putih, steamed rice (the perfect complement to Indonesia's famed thick stews and rich curries). To sample several dishes at once, try nasi campur or nasi rames, both consisting of several small meat and vegetable portions around a scoop of rice.

Or go for a all-out rijsttafel (literally "rice table") buffet (a full spread of dishes popularized by the Dutch and still found at many restaurants). Nasi goreng, on many menus, is fried rice with shallots, chilies, soy sauce, ketchup, and other ingredients. You will not find liquor in any Muslim restaurant, but you will find it otherwise readily available throughout Bali, particularly the potent rice spirit arak and, of course, Bali Hai beer. There are many restaurants specializing in European, American and oriental cuisine. Keep to bottled drinks if doubtful of water served in restaurants. Pork is forbidden for the Muslim population and beef for the Balinese Hindus, but they are available at many restaurants and markets.

Bali Restaurants

Amanusa - The Terrace restaurant's candle lighted tables provide a romantic dinner setting above the peninsula's twinkling lights. Indonesian and Thai food are the highlights. Main courses over Rp 200000. Jl. Nusa Dua Selatan. Tel: 0361/772333.

Balangan - This simple, thatch-roof pavilion looks over the ocean from atop the forested Jimbaran hills, and specialize in Italian food. It is intimate and refreshing, with just six alfresco tables and soft classical music in the background. Nibble on French oysters, penne with grilled vegetable-basil pesto and crispy goat-cheese croutons, linguini with chorizo sausages, or homemade pumpkin ravioli. Try the roasted mango with caramel sauce. Reservations essential. Main course: Rp 50000 to Rp 150000. Br. Cengiling 88, Jimbaran. Tel: 0361/410711.

Bali Bakery Patisserie & Cafe - This bakery is full of baskets with rolls and baguettes and glass cases with exquisite cakes; the café has little round tables and cozy booths. The extensive menu has sandwiches and wraps, gourmet salads, and simple appetizers. Indonesian items and full dinners are available. Price range: Rp 50000 to Rp 150000. Jl Raya Kuta 65. Tel: 0361/755149.

Ary's Warung - This Ubud classic combines a cozy front terrace with a larger adjacent bar and a second-floor dining pavilion. The menu is limited but trendy, and the restaurant is international and romantic, especially by evening candlelight. Prices: Rp 50000 to Rp 150000. Jl. Raya, Ubud, Bali. Tel: 0361/975053.

Bali children's activities

Bull Racing - The bull races ("Mekepung") are thrilling contests between teams of two young bulls harnessed to a chariot, which is ridden by a jockey who holds onto the bull's tails as they career down a 2km race course. The bulls are treated with great care and are fed elaborate diets containing all sorts of wonderful potions and secret ingredients. These races are held from July to October and is something the kids will really enjoy. A must do for the whole family. .

Bali's Bird Park - Bird Watching enthusiasts, both young and old, can catch sight of the world's rarest and most captivating feathered friends at this park. Hundreds of species live within this scenic and fascinating park, enthralling you with their brilliant colours and rarity. Indonesian parrots, cassowaries, black palm cockatoos, hornbills and an impressive collection of Birds of Paradise will delight you. Apart from these exciting creatures, the extraordinary komodo dragons also make their home here. Set in magnificent botanical gardens with a backdrop of ponds and waterfalls, the Bali Bird Park is the perfect environment to enjoy the glorious myriad of bird-life as well as nature..

Bungee Jumping - Popular on Bali as in many other countries around the world. Thrill to the feeling of momentary weightlessness as one first 'takes off' then freefalls to the end of the bungee cord. Jump from a high tower close to a cascade in Blangsinga-Gianyar. This activity is definitely not for the faint-hearted or the real littlies (though they will certainly get a thrill from watch Mum or Dad attempting the plunge). Tel: 0361/752658.

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