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Introduction to Bali
Since 1960's, Bali has been so popular as one of the most interesting tourist destination in the world and probably more popular than the country where it belongs to, Indonesia.
Many names have been given by those who came to this island with great satisfaction and pride like "Paradise Island", "The last Paradise on Earth", "The island of Gods", The morning of the world", or whatever they call it, in fact Bali island is one of more than 13.000 islands in Indonesia with its special beauty of landscape and seascape, its unique tradition and culture, art and craft, as well as its friendly and simple people.
Though more than a million tourists come to this island every year, the way of life of Balinese people remains the same. They are open to any different culture and welcome any people from every corner of the world, but one thing for sure is that they are strictly filled with their belief and tradition which unable the outside influences change their basic way of life. They like you to come and see them, and when you leave, they want you to come back and become their friends or even part of their family.
The unique and rich culture and traditions of Bali are actually a mixture of many influences mainly from India, China, Java, colonialism and tourism combined with the early animistic and dynamistic belief.
Stone axes were discovered in the North part of Bali indicating the renaissance from the old stone age, homo erectus who lives in a part of Indonesia around 350.000 and 8000.000 years ago that is considered to be the early ancestors of the modern man. Then came the homo Sapiens around 40.000 years ago who lived in caves and left their rock painting in some eastern islands of archipelago around 3000 BC, the Neolithic era was started marked by remains of some better stone tools found in west part of Bali.
Then the Bronze Age began to spread South from China around 7th or 8th century BC. There are many remains discovered from this era. In Java and Bali like carved stone sarcophagi, stone seats and altars, and a huge bronze kettledrum known as "moon of pejeng", the greatest South East Asia's artifacts. They were here for 3,5 years and of course they also had some influences towards Balinese life.
Before the arrival of Moslems to Indonesia around 14th century, most, if not all, of people in the archipelago were Hindu and Buddhist follower. The 1st influence came from Java to Bali was in the 6th to 8th century brought by the Indian traders and king's people. The island was conquered by the king of Sanjaya in 732, then in the 10th to 12th century Bali was under the influence of Warmadewa Dynasty. Things started to change and developed especially in agriculture, tradition and belief as well as art and craft. The relationship between Java and Bali was getting so strong when the marriage of Balinese prince Udayana from Warmadewa Dynasty with the East Javanese princes Mahendradatta took place in 989 AD. From them was born a great king, Airlangga, but in Java, in his uncle kingdom Dharma Wangsa, around 1001. But then, this kingdom was attacked by Sriwijaya Dynasty and Dharma Wangsa was killed and Airlangga ascended to the throne becoming one of the most glorious monarchies in Java's history.
Started from 1710, the Dutch began to think of controlling the island. Though not easy, but one by one all kingdoms in Bali was finally defeated by the Dutch who used the old strategy, divide and conquer. Finally, the last kingdom of Klungkung was conquered and the whole Bali became part of the Dutch East Indies. Here was where the changes in many things took place and the Dutch influences were spread all over Indonesia becoming some traditions that the present people are still practising.
Geography and Geology
Bali lies 8 Degrees South of Equator between Hindia and Indonesian Ocean, has 3 main volcanoes, mount Batur (1717 m), mount Agung (3142 m) and mount Batukaru (2000 m). Mount Batur has erupted twice in 1917 and 1927, mount Agung biggest eruption in 1963 while mount Batukaru never erupt yet.
The eruption of the two mountains has made this island so fertile that agriculture as the Balinese main living is very successful besides, there are plenty of building materials provided by the remain of lava and ashes.
The springs come from the 4 Mountain Lakes, Batur Lake, Beratan Lake, Bulian Lake and Tamblingan. Big rivers flow down from uphill to rice field through terraces which really beautify the island besides providing natural attraction like river rafting, kayaking, waterfall watching and bungee jumping.
This small island covers an area of 5620 km2, about 140 km from West to East and 80 km from the South to North. The South part of the island consists of lime stone with beautiful soft white sand along the beach. While in the East, West and North are mostly volcanic layers with black soft sand beach. The island is split by a range of mountains from West to East just in the middle forming a different concept of spiritual direction of the people in the South and the North.
Bali has a tropical climate with the average temperature of about 30 degrees C (80 degrees F) all year. As a tropical country, Bali has only 2 seasons, dry season started from April to October and wet season from October to April. It is always nice and cool in the hillside while though hot around the coastal area but there are still nice breeze all the time. The dry season is always sunny with great view of sunset and sunrise, while the wet season is not too wet because there is still much sun to enjoy during the day time.
Bali nowadays has around 3,2 million people with the density of about 700 people per km square, 89 percent of the people earn a living by being farmers but there are also many fisherman. Besides agriculture, tourism in Bali is considered to be the main industry and no doubt that most business activities are based on tourism.
When the Moslem or the Islamic teaching came to Indonesia around 14th century, almost all Hindu and Buddhist kingdom in Indonesia were influenced and changed to Muslim. But many of those, especially the priest went to Bali and strengthened the Hindu religion that till now, Bali becomes the center of Hinduism in which about 95% of Balinese are Hindu follower. The rest, of course we have Moslem, Buddhist and Christian.
The Hindu in Bali is not exactly the same as that in India as the country of Hindu origin because when Hindu came to Bali, the local people have had their own animistic and dynamistic belief. The Hinduism adapted to the local belief but principally the same. So, the religion of Hindu in Bali is a combination of the original Hindu teaching and the animism and dynamism which form a unique spiritual life.
Flora and Fauna
As a tropical country, Bali has so many kinds of plants and trees growing wild in the rain forest like teak wood trees, banyan trees, bamboo, palm and many others.
In farming, people grow coffee, copra, cacao, and many kind of tropical trees like papaya, banana, mangoes, durian, pineapple, snake skin fruits, etc. Spices like clove, vanilla, saffron, pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander, anis, cinnamon, etc, can also grow in this rich island.
Peoples garden around the house compound consist of many kind of beautiful and colorful flower such as hibiscus, oleander, lotus, water lily, aster, orchid, bougainvillea, poinsettia, champak, alamanda, frangipani, flamboyant, Poinciana, and many others. The flowers are not only grown for beautify the garden but the most important thing is that the Balinese people need many flowers everyday to make offering for the God or ancient.
kind of flowers grow wild in the rain forest or along the roads. People
also farm some kinds of flower for sale in the market like hydrangeas,
merry gold, rose, orchid, etc. Wet rice farming only covers about
20% of the island area.
Wild life and domestic animals have special support to make Bali more interesting. In every Balinese house, if not all, people can always see at least more than 2 kinds of pets like dog, cat, chicken (chock fighter) pigs, birds, cattle, etc. Most people have their pet for fun accept cattle, pig and chicken.
In the wild, Bali has many kinds of animals (lizards, snakes, monkey, deer, wild pigs, squirrels, iguana, and many others including tiger according to the story but no body ever see it. About more than 300 bird species can be found in Bali including the most rare bird, Bali starling. Bali also has many kinds of butterfly, firefly, dragonfly, cicada, etc.
life is really a heaven for those who like diving and snorkeling because
the sea around Bali is very rich in coral, seaweed, fish, turtle,
dolphin, and many others. That is why Bali is also a very interesting
destination for diving and snorkeling.
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