If you are looking for a place that is defined by superlatives, the island of Bali might be IT. Exotic, exciting, with extraordinary beauty and fine beaches, year after year Bali is voted by the readers of all major travel magazines the most enchanting travel and holiday destination in the whole world.
One of over fourteen thousand islands of the Indonesian archipelago, the island of Bali is part of the Republic of Indonesia and is located 8 to 9 degrees south of the equator between Java in the West and Lombok and the rest of the Lesser Sunda Islands (Sumbawa, Flores, Sumba and Timor) in the East.
Bali has an area of only 5,632 square kilometers (2,175 square miles) and measures just 55 miles (90 kilometers) along the north-south axis and less than about 90 miles (140 kilometers) from East to West. Because of this it’s no problem to explore the island on day tours. You can go wherever you want on the island and return to your hotel or villa in the evening.
Home to over 10,000 temples and shrines, you’ll have to do your homework in advance to choose which ones you simply must visit. One that you shouldn’t miss is Goa Gajah or Elephant Cave (allegedly derived from the name Lwa Gajah – originally meaning elephant waters). This is one of the most historical sites in Bali and was developed in the 11th century, on the western edge of Bedulu Village only six kilometres out of central Ubud. The entire site of Goa Gajah was partially destroyed by natural disaster and lay undetected for centuries before being rediscovered by a team of Dutch archaeologists in 1923.
Goa Gajah is a place to meditate and worship the spiritual essence of the site, Lord Ganesha – the Hindu God of knowledge and wisdom who is characterised as an entity by his elephant head and four arms. Surrounding the site, you can find two traditional bathing pools, some artefacts and statues, and the cave itself, which is decorated with stone relief work showing a demonic face with an open fanged mouth that reveals the entrance. [Source: http://www.bali-indonesia.com]
Theater and dance is an integral part of Balinese culture, and you will have many opportunities to enjoy it. Balinese dances are famous all over the world and the Balinese themselves take them very seriously. As indo.com puts it: “The very essence of the Balinese culture is dance and drama, which is performed during temple festivals and in ceremonies. The dances performed in hotels is a small fraction of what Balinese dance has to offer.”
Among its many other attractions, the island is famous for its beautiful landscape. A chain of six volcanoes, between 1,350 meters and 3,014 meters high, stretches from west to east. There are lush tropical forests, pristine crater lakes, fast flowing rivers and deep ravines, picturesque rice terraces, and fertile vegetable and fruit gardens. The beaches in the South consist of white sand, beaches in other parts of the island are covered with gray or black volcanic sand.
You can expect pleasant day temperatures between 20 to 33 degrees Celsius or 68 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. From December to March, the West monsoon can bring heavy showers and high humidity, but usually days are sunny and the rains start during the night and pass quickly. From June to September the humidity is low, and it can be quite cool in the evenings. During this time of the year, you’ll have hardly any rain in the coastal areas.
Even when it rains in most parts of Bali you can often enjoy sunny days on the “Bukit”, the hill south of famous Jimbaran Beach. On the other hand, in Ubud and the mountains you must expect cloudy skies and showers throughout the year (this is why the international weather reports for “Denpasar” or “Bali” mention showers and rain storms during all times of the year). In higher regions such as in Bedugul or Kintamani you’ll also need either a sweater or jacket after the sun sets.
Nusa Dua (meaning Two Islands) and nearby Tanjung Benoa are in a world of their own, where the idea of tourism insulated from the Balinese environment has been implemented. Some of the most famous hotels in Asia are to be found here, among them the Bali Hilton, the Grand Hyatt Bali, and the St. Regis Bali. The neo Balinese architecture here (giant split gates, huge statues and halls) complements the beautiful natural surroundings to provide all the ingredients of a tropical paradise.
Nusa Dua differs from the rest of the Bukit Peninsula. In place of cliffs, sandy soil descends to a long white beach stretching from Nusa Dua proper all the way to Tanjung Benoa harbour, five kilometres to the north. The beach at Nusa Dua is sheltered by coral reef, creating an ideal family beach, while Tanjung Benoa specializes in water sports.
The Bukit peninsula is connected to the rest of Bali by a narrow neck of land. Here, the Jimbaran Bay area has one of the safest and most tranquil white beaches on the whole island. Jimbaran is renowned for the Barong (trance) dance. It also has Pura Ulun Siwi, a beautiful temple made of brick.
An excellent place to stay on Nusa Dua is the Interval International-affiliated Select resort, Peninsula Beach Resort. Located on the Tanjung Benoa/Nusa Dua Peninsula with its own white-sand beach and blue sea, near a coral reef, this members-only resort offers accommodations in spacious studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments, all with air conditioning. Among the facilities are a large swimming pool with spa, three restaurants, including a sports bar, and satellite television in all rooms.
Set in lush tropical gardens, this resort is perfect for a peaceful and relaxing holiday, yet only a short ride from the bustling town of Kuta. (Kuta is where the best Bazaars and shops are located.)
There is also a wading pool for small children, a games room, body massage by the pool area under a tree with the wind blowing from the sea. A championship golf course is at Nusa Dua, which is 2 minutes away.
Bali is beautiful, and the Peninsula Beach Resort is peaceful and luxurious. If you’re looking for a wonderful and exotic vacation somewhat off the beaten track, you should give it a try.
Some Web sites with more information about Bali and Indonesia:
- http://www.bali.com/ –A comprehensive guide to Bali
- http://www.baliguide.com/index.html –A Bali guide maintained by foreign residents
- http://www.baliforyou.com/bali/ — Another excellent guide
- http://www.indonesia-tourism.com/ –All about Indonesia
- http://indo.com — Bali and Indonesia on the Net
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