Bali is an island in Indonesia, east of Java and west of Lombok. Indonesia has a small minority of Hindus and most of them live in Bali – with the remainder following Islam. Bali has the most tourists in all of Indonesia and it is famous for its beautiful dancing, sculpture, paintings, leather and metal work and music.
Here are some top attractions to see while you’re there:
1. Kecak and Fire Dance at Uluwatu Temple
The temple is at the end of a cliff at Uluwatu, next to the Monkey Forest, so you can combine the two attractions for a good day out. Because of its’ situation, the temple is in the perfect position for amazing views.
Kecak first came to Western attention in the 1930’s. It is sometimes called the Ramayana Monkey Chant and is performed by a circle of more than 100 dancers, usually all men. Kecak derived from an exorcism dance which was supposed to induce a trance and you can see why because the repeated chanting of ‘cak’ is quite hypnotic. Kecak tells the story of a battle where Vanara joined forces with Prince Rama to fight Ravana – an evil King. The story and dance are explained in more detail in a leaflet which is available in several languages at Uluwatu. Shows start every day at 5 p.m. so if you would like to wait awhile, you will also get to see a stunning Balinese sunset to finish off your day.
2. Monkey Forest
If you are headed for Uluwatu, be sure to stop by at the Monkey Forest. It’s recommended that you enter the forest with a tour guide who will teach you how to behave with the monkeys so that they don’t become too unruly! The monkeys love peanuts which you can buy from a stall for around 30 cents. Be aware that the monkeys are likely to climb all over you and you need to stay calm and quiet to avoid alarming them. It’s also worth mentioning that the monkeys can scratch and bite in their excitement. For this reason, all monkeys are regularly injected against tetanus so although a bite would be uncomfortable it won’t give you health problems.
3. Tirta Empul
Bali is world famous for its’ beautiful, ornately carved temples and Tirta Empul (the Temple of the Holy Spring) is not only one of the most beautiful – its’ also one of the most sacred places in all of Bali. Tirta Empul means ‘water that comes from the earth naturally’ and the Temple has this name because of the spring which the temple is built around. The waters of the spring are believed to have healing powers and there are several areas for bathing which are filled with people during festivals or ceremonies.
Tirta Empul is over a thousand years old and is in Tampak Siring in Gianyar Regency. It is right next door to the President’s palace.
4. Cycling Bali
Riding a bicycle is very popular with the Balinese and it’s a great way to get out into the more remote areas. C.Bali offer cycling tours which can also be combine with a canoeing experience if you wish. You are picked up from your hotel and driven to Lake Batur, past rice fields and to Kantanami for a delicious breakfast. After canoeing, you have a large lunch which is then followed by a guided walk and cycling around the lake. You get a chance to see inside a Balinese school which is particularly fascinating for children to see. The tour is good value and a great family day out. You don’t need to be particularly fit as the pace is gently and the emphasis is on enjoyment rather than physical prowess. Tours can only be booked via C.Bali’s website here and you need to be quick as they are often booked up months in advance.
5. Bali Scuba Diving.
Scuba diving in Bali offers the ideal way to enjoy the crystal clear waters surrounding the island. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve never dived before or you are an old hand – there is something for everyone. You can choose to take a beginners, advanced or even instructor course. The beginners tour doesn’t get you a certification but you will dive. If you wish to become a certified scuba diver, Bali Scuba advise you to study the theory online before your vacation.
Bali Scuba transport you from your hotel to where you will dive and bring you back again. They deal with loading all equipment onto the boat and cleaning it. They provide lunch and drinks and can even book accommodation for you, if you wish to take a diving holiday. At Bali Scuba HQ, there is a café with free wifi. Diving is in small groups to ensure safety and all Dive Guides have a minimum PADI certification – most are more highly qualified.
6. Shopping in Bali
Bali is wonderful for shopping if you follow a few basic rules:
- Browse a lot and compare prices before deciding where to buy.
- Don’t buy something the first time you see it – you may see the same thing for less money somewhere else.
- If you want a real bargain, try leaving your shopping until almost closing time.
The final price that you pay can be negotiated down to as little as a third or a quarter of the initial asking price.
Here are just a few of the many places to indulge in a little retail therapy.
Kuta Art Market – close to the Kuta Beach on Jl. Bakung Sari. A large number of shops selling sarongs, clothes, shoes, jewelries, handicrafts, leather goods, and furniture. You can find some good pieces if you browse well and are prepared to bargain.
Sanur Art Market – on Jl. Danau Tamblingan. More relaxed and not so crowded as Kuta. It sells similar goods to Kuta and has the bonus of a lot of good restaurants nearby.
Kumbasari Market – on Jl. Gajah Mada, Denpasar, near the Badung River. This market is traditional and has no air conditioning. You can find traditional Balinese kitchen items made from woven bamboo, spices, dried goods, Balinese printed batik, Balinese and Javanese hand-woven textiles and clothes.
Badung Market – Cross the Badung River from Kumbasari to Jl. Gajah Mada, Denpasar to find this traditional tented market which is open 24 hours a day. It is the largest and oldest market in Bali and sells fruit, meat, fish, vegetables, tropical and subtropical fruits, groceries, spices, clothes, textiles, beetle leaves which are used in Balinese Hindu prayers, fabrics and household supplies. This market isn’t the cleanest ever but it is highly competitive for prices.
Pasar Burung (Bird Market) – on Jl. Pramuka, Denpasar. This colorful and noisy market sells birds, monkeys, squirrels, small wild cats and other animals taken from the jungles of Indonesia.
Batubulan Market – on the border between Denpasar and Gianyar, is the home of stone sculptures. Traditionally, stone sculptures carved from soft volcanic rock (paras) were used to decorate temples and palaces but now they are sold for export as well. The craftsmen can make anything you wish, whether it’s traditional, modern, small or large.
7. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan – Bedugul Highlands
The Temple were built in 1633 by the King of Mengwi and comprise several shrines, dedicated to Dewi Danu who is the Goddess of the Waters. The main Temple is a traditional Hindu thatched ‘meru’ on a small island in Lake Bratan. This is one of the main lakes to supply Bali with water for its’ ricefields so it is essential to life on the island. To make sure that there will be plentiful water, farmers make pilgramages here to take part in ceremonies. On the dge of the lake is Pura Teratai Bang (which means black lotus). It’s a meru with seven thatches that is dedicated to the God Brahma. There are also three-roofed and eleven-roofed tamples, beautiful gardens, a Buddhist shrine and a Mosque.
8. Kintamani and Mount Batur
The mountainous area of Kintamani is breathtakingly beautiful and is one of the most popular places to visit in Bali. Mount Batur is a small but active Volcano with bubbling hot springs. It has erupted twenty four times since 1800. The last big eruption was in 1917 when thousands were killed and many temples destroyed. Other eruptions have forced people to re-locate and one of the main Bali temples, Pura Ulun Danu was moved too. It was originally inside the huge crater but is now on the top of the ridge overlooking it. Mount Batur is around 1,700 meters high and you can climb it in about two hours.
Next to the volcano is the wild and beautiful crescent-shaped Lake Batur, the largest lake in Bali.
9. Bas Coffee and Tea Plantation
The plantation is in the northern part of Bali and is where the famous Balinese coffee is grown and processed. You can try different types of coffee, tea and cocoa. You can also see the Luwak animal (rather like a weasel) that eats coffee beans which are processed after digestion to make some of the most expensive coffee in the world…yes, really!
Herbs and spices are also grown at the plantation and you can buy these in the gift shop, along with (of course) coffee, tea and also aromatherapy and spa items.
10. Goa Lawah
Pura Goa Lawah is Balinese for Bat Cave Temple and you have to visit it – just so that you say you’ve been to the Bat Cave! It’s not in Gotham City but in on the coast of South East Bali, on the main road from Klungkung to Amlapura. People make offerings there every day and there are often religious processions.
The temple was founded in 1007 by Empu Kuturan who came from Java. It’s one of nine ‘directional’ temples which are said to protect the island from evil. Inside the temple is a natural open cave which is home to thousands of black fruit bats. You can hear them squeaking and smell the peculiar aroma of their guano (droppings). They are protected by the Government but locals believe that a giant snake called Naga Basuki lives in the cave, eats bats and protects the balance of the earth.
Because it is a sacred place, you will need to wear a sash and sarong to enter the temple but both are cheaply available to rent. Drinks and snacks are on sale outside and if you cross the road, there is a picnic area on the beach with stunning views of nearby islands.
A magical place
It’s little wonder that Bali is so popular with travelers. It is beautiful, peaceful, hectic, quiet, noisy, colorful and has something for everyone. I personally know people who return year after year to experience the delights that Bali has to offer. Try and get there if you can and see for yourself why it’s such a loved destination.
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