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Bali

Bali is a western island and province of Indonesia located between Java and Lombok. Bali has earned both of the nicknames “the island of peace” and “Asia’s playground.” There is no shortage of spectacular art and nightlife on the island. Shopping, luxurious relaxation and fine dining will all be features of your stay in Bali. Food and drinks incorporate the freshest local cuisine and amazing flavors from local markets, often prepared by chefs and served in world-class restaurants. Discover outstanding views on the beach at dusk then go clubbing in Kuta.

Map of Villas in Bali

Introducing

Exceptional Environment

Bali is an island and the smallest province of Indonesia, located in the west of the archipelago between Java and Lombok. Its capital is Denpasar, and Singaraja in the north is the second and oldest colonial city with about 100,000 inhabitants. Mount Agung is the central mountain and an active volcano, at 3,031 meters in elevation. The island is surrounded by coral reefs, which makes for beautiful beaches with white sand in the south and black sand in the north.

A Rich, Original Culture

Despite three centuries of Dutch domination, Bali has been mostly influenced by Austronesian and Indian cultures. Its caste system is based on the Indian Hindu model, with four castes – Shudras, peasants (constituting 93% of the population), Wesias, the caste of merchants and administrative officials, Kshatriyas, the kingly and warrior caste and the Brahmins, holy men and priests. The island became independent in 1949 but the 1960s became the true start of a peaceful period, marked by the rise of tourism.

Outstanding Wildlife

Nature and tourist sights are astonishing in Bali. There are around 280 bird species and more than 900 reef species. Despite its small size, Bali has well preserved nature, although many plants have been introduced by humans. The humid climate and rainfalls are favorable for a rich flora. The main trees found are Banyan trees, Jackfruit, coconuts, bamboo species and acacia trees.

Best Island in the World

Bali is the largest tourist destination that has managed to preserve its traditional culture and arts. A vibrant nightlife can be found in Seminyak and Kuta, the main tourist spots on the island. Real estate has also been developing throughout Bali. In 2010, Bali received the Best Island award by Travel and Leisure, which stressed the friendliness of local people, excellent international and local restaurants, attractive surroundings and nice tourist sights.

History and Culture

The First Inhabitants and Rise of Buddhism

From around 3000 to 600 BC, Austronesian peoples migrated from South China through the Philippines and Sulawesi, then established cultures and villages on the island. They kept expanding eastward and occupied Melanesian and Polynesian islands until around 1000 BC. Between the 8th and 3rd century BC, the island of Bali acquired the “Dong Son” metallurgical techniques which spread from northern Vietnam.

The ancient historical period extended from 800 to 1343, defined by the appearance of the first written records in Bali, in the form of clay pallets with Buddhist inscriptions found in small clay stupa figurines and dating from around the 8th century. This period is associated with the arrival and expansion of Buddhism and Hinduism in the island of Bali. Inter-marriages between Java and Bali royalty occurred so that royal families gathered and ruled both of them.

The Majapahit Empire

1343 was the beginning of the Majapahit Golden Age, when Gajah Mada, Prime Minister of the Javanese king, defeated the Balinese king in Bedulu. The rule of the Majapahit marks the strong influence of Javanese culture on Bali. The few Balinese who did not adopt this culture are known today as “Bali Aga” (“Original Balinese”) and still live in a few isolated villages.

The Majapahit empire fell with the rise of Islam in the Indonesian archipelago. Bali became independent at the end of the 15th century, with much of the Javanese aristocracy finding refuge, bringing a strong influx of Hindu arts, literature and religion.

The Resistance to European Colonization

In 1597, the Dutch explorer Cornelis de Houtman arrived in Bali with 89 men and christened the island “Young Holland”. A second Dutch expedition appeared in 1601. Although the Dutch West India Company was very active in the Maluku Islands, Java and Sumatra, it took little interest in Bali.

The Dutch West Indies Company left the Bali trade to private traders who mainly dealt with opium and slave trade. Balinese slaves were appreciated for their manual skills and courage, the females for their beauty and artistic sense. Attempts were made for alliances between the Dutch and the Balinese in their conflicts with the Mataram Sultanate of Java but most of them failed, splitting the island into nine kingdoms that fought a succession of wars. This situation lasted until the 19th century.

For a brief period, in 1806-1815, the Netherlands became a province of France, and Bali was thus in contact with a Franco-Dutch administration. Then, the British occupied the East Indies but failed to make an alliance with the Balinese kings. The abolition of slavery triggered the indignation of the Rajas of Buleleng and Karangasem who fought British Sepoys in 1814.

Domination of the Dutch

The British returned the East Indies to the Netherlands in 1816, after what the Dutch tried to reassert and reinforce their control over their colonial possessions. A series of three military expeditions between 1846 to 1849 occurred and led to the Dutch victory in the north. Next, they established a colonial administration.

From 1855 onward, reforms were made, including the introduction of vaccination, the banning of self-sacrifice, and the eradication of slavery. In 1894, they defeated the local ruler of Lombok, adding both it and Karangasem to their possessions. In 1906 and 1908, Dutch assaults on the Sanur and Klungkung region led to the elimination of the royal house of Badung and the end of the Majapahit dynasty. Afterwards the Dutch governors exercised administrative control over the island, though local control over religion and culture was generally left intact. However, the West was shocked by the the sanguinary conquest of the southern part of the island, affecting the image of the Netherlands as a responsible colonial power. The Dutch progressively became students and protectors of Balinese culture and tried to preserve it. In 1914, Bali was open to tourism.

During WW2 Imperial Japan occupied Bali. Following its Pacific surrender in 1945, the Dutch returned to Bali to reinstate their pre-war administration. Balinese Colonel Gusti Ngurah Rai’s local army was was wiped out on 20 November 1946 at the Battle of Marga, breaking the last thread of local military resistance.

The Independence and Rise of Tourism

On December 29, 1949, the Netherlands recognized Indonesian independence and Bali was included in the United States of Indonesia. With social divisions across Indonesia in the 1950s and 1960s, Bali saw conflict between supporters of the traditional caste system and those rejecting these traditional values. An attempted coup in Jakarta by General Suharto led the army to become the dominant power as it instigated a violent anti-communist purge. At least 500,000 people were killed across Indonesia, with an estimated 80,000 in Bali, 5% of the island’s population. Suharto took over Sukarno as presidentand re-established relations with western countries.

After Suharto’s influence, tourism developed and helped to strengthen a sense of Balinese identity, giving the Balinese the means to support their island’s culture in Indonesian society. Bali achieved over 1,000,000 visitors in 2004 and more than 2 million in 2008.

Things to do

Bali Spirit Festival

Since 2008, in March, the Bali Spirit Festival has been a spiritual event that celebrates yoga, dance and music. As one of the world’s leading lifestyle festivals, the festival combines over 100 health and wellness workshops, concerts, healing arts, eco-marketplace vendors and much more. Come and enjoy five days of pure relaxation in Ubud.

Hari Raya Galungan

Held on May 21st, this is one of the most important events for the Balinese. It celebrates the good Dharma versus the evil Adharma. One key feature of this event is the fitting of ‘penjor’, a tall bamboo pole decorated with woven young coconut leaves, fruit, cakes and flowers, that is found on the right side of every house entrance. People must dress in their finest clothes and jewels for the occasion.

Bali Arts Festival

In June, the Bali Arts Festival is a full month of daily performances, handicraft exhibitions and other related cultural and commercial activities during which the whole of Bali comes to the city to present its offerings of dance, music and beauty. On display are trances from remote mountain slopes, forgotten or recently revived village dances, food and offering contests, classical palace dances, stars of Balinese stage, odd musical performances, “kreasi baru” (new creations) from the dance schools of Denpasar, as well as contemporary choreography and dance companies from other islands and from abroad. The Bali Arts Festival is the Denpasar cultural event of the year.

Temple Celebrations

In Bali, the whole month of September is dedicated to temple ceremonies. The dedication or inauguration day of a Temple is considered its birthday and celebration always takes place on the same day if the wuku or 210 day calendar is used. When new moon is used then the celebration always happens on a new moon or full moon. The celebration is always very colorful – the shrines are dressed with pieces of clothes and sometimes with brocade, sailings and decorations of carved wood. There are numerous traditional celebrations to enjoy in September!

Kuta Karnival

During one week in September, this festival features dancing, music, festivities, water sports contests and beach sport tournaments on the glorious Kuta beach. Come and enjoy an event featuring fun, entertainment, tasty food, beach activities and lots more on the beautiful, famous Kuta beach.

Places to see

Taman Kertha Gosa

In 1710, the Semara Pura palace was laid out as a large square, believed to be in the form of a mandala, with courtyards, gardens, pavilions and moats. Most of the original palace and grounds were destroyed by Dutch attacks in 1908 – the Pemedal Agung, the gateway on the south side of the square, is all that remains of the palace itself. In the northeastern corner of the complex, the Kertha Gosa was the supreme court of the Klungkung kingdom. This open-sided pavilion is a superb example of Klungkung architecture, with a ceiling covered with fine paintings in the Klungkung style. The paintings, done on asbestos sheeting, were installed in the 1940s, replacing cloth paintings that had deteriorated.

Museum Negeri Propinsi

This museum was established in 1910 by a Dutch resident who was concerned by the export of culturally significant artifacts from the island. Destroyed in a 1917 earthquake, it was rebuilt in the 1920s, but used mainly for storage until 1932. At that time, German artist Walter Spies and some Dutch officials revived the idea of collecting and preserving Balinese antiquities and cultural objects, and creating an ethnographic museum. Today, the museum comprises several buildings and pavilions, including many examples of Balinese architecture. The main building, to the back as you enter, has a collection of prehistoric pieces downstairs, including stone sarcophagi and stone and bronze implements. Upstairs are examples of traditional artifacts, including items still in everyday use.

Gunung Kawi

At the bottom of a lush green river valley is one of Bali’s oldest and largest ancient monuments. Gunung Kawi consists of 10 statues cut out of the rock. They stand in 8m-high sheltered niches cut into the sheer cliff face. The strenuous walk is broken up into sections. The views as you walk through ancient terraced rice fields are some of the finest in Bali. Legends say that the whole group of memorials was carved out of the rock face in one hard-working night by the mighty fingernails of Kebo Iwa.

Pura Luhur Ulu Watu Temple

This important temple dating back to the 11th century is perched precipitously on the southwestern tip of the peninsula, atop sheer cliffs that drop straight into the ceaseless surf. Inside, the walls of coral bricks are covered with intricate carvings of Bali’s mythological menagerie. Only Hindu worshippers can enter the small inner temple that is built onto the jutting tip of land. However, the views of the endless swells of the Indian Ocean from the cliffs are almost spiritual. At sunset, walk around the clifftop to the left (south) of the temple to lose some of the crowd. Ulu Watu is one of several important temples to the spirits of the sea along the south coast of Bali.

Bali Botanical Gardens

Established in 1959 as a branch of the national botanical gardens at Bogor, near Jakarta, these gardens are definitely a must-see.  They cover more than 154 hectares on the lower slopes of Gunung Pohen and boast an extensive collection of trees and flowers.

Within the park, you can cavort like an ape or a squirrel at the Bali Treetop Adventure Park . Winches, ropes, nets and the like let you explore the forest well above the ground.

100 Villas in Bali