Friday, 16 October 2015

© Bali ~ Island of Enchantment

          June of 2015 gave opportunity to visit the island of Bali in the Province of Indonesia. A visit to nearby Singapore made the chance to visit this well known destination irresistible. A short flight from the mainland to touch down in the capitol city of Denpasar; this tropical island has a population just under 4 million people, near half a million making up the city. The island is host to Indonesia's minority Hindu population claiming an 85% part with Muslims holding about 13.5% and Christians & Buddhists the remaining 3%.

Arrival in Bali shows an immediate impression of the islands passion for the arts, sculpture, painting and all forms of creative media from leather, fabrics and music. In a short distance from leaving the airport one is gifted with amazing sculptures and temples.  (*NB: if you see a photo you admire, by all means click on to see an enlarged version to be dragged on to your desktop to keep!)

Bali is believed to have been inhabited around 2000BC by an Austronesian people who migrated from Southeast Asia closely related to the Indonesian archipelago where stone tools were discovered giving rise to the dating of the first population. Balinese culture has been strongly influenced by Indian and Chinese cultures more so by the Hindu practices around the 1st century AD. Before 1000AD the Balinese developed their complex irrigation system allowing them to grow rice in wet cultivation.

The first European contact with Bali was in 1512 with a Portuguese exploration mapping the island in the charts of Francisco Rodrigues. In 1597 a Dutch explorer Cornelis de Houtman arrived in Bali and the Dutch East India Company was formed in 1602. Dutch political and economic control began in the 1840s on the island's north shore. Fifty years later confrontations began in the islands southern region between the Dutch and Balinese kingdoms in an effort by the Dutch to have full control. In 1906 the Dutch mounted a massive naval assault met by thousands of followers of the royal families. Rather than face surrender 200 Balinese marched to their deaths and Dutch governors took administrative control over the island.

Imperial Japan occupied Bali during the 2nd World War and were even more resented than the Dutch occupiers. Japan's surrender in 1945 saw the island return to Dutch control. Balinese resistance fighters using captured Japanese armaments made another suicide attack against the Dutch to be almost entirely wiped out breaking the last thread of local resistance. In December 1949 the Netherlands recognised the islands Independence. The tourism industry is mainly concentrated in the south where we stayed in the lush surroundings of Candi Beach.

The hotel grounds were always immaculate with hundreds of coconut palms making the setting every promise of a tropical paradise, complete with spacious swimming pool and dining along the ocean frontage.

Driving the commercial districts one experiences miles of creative shops and artistic centres where Balinese wares can be studied as they are produced before your eyes! Meticulous art forms are quite exceptional and create a vast choice of island souvenirs cut in stone or wood. Many of the displays so large used for adorning properties or export abroad. Our driver Made Astawa proved a delight as our guide during our stay on Bali. His local knowledge and expertise is highly recommended for anyone visiting Bali.

He showed us some of the most interested locations with vast temples and interesting people honing their skills.

The most popular mode of transport in Bali is the motor scooter. Thousands are seen on the roads daily with some interesting loads well balanced for transport.

Everywhere we traveled the local Balinese were cordial and always smiling. Their service in restaurants exemplary with meticulous presentation of food.

Balinese Hinduism is an amalgam where gods and demigods are worshipped together with Buddhist heroes, spirits of ancestors, indigenous agricultural deities and of sacred places. Their religion embraces theology, philosophy, mythology, as well as ancestral worship and magic. There seems always daily a religious procession or symbol being carried somewhere in the streets of Bali.

The local markets found along most of the streets carried every ware one could imagine.

Bali in world famous for its sophisticated art forms and quality of local craftsmen & women. We found home spun fabrics and wood carvings as high as some ceilings.

Their artistic abilities so diverse and precise it was fascinating to just stand and watch their creations unfold in front of us, both in fabric, wood and their paintings.

Crops grown in Bali vary from fruits and vegetables to Arabica Coffee. Fishing provides an industry within itself and the oceans around Bali offer the sport diver many locations to dive amongst the coral reefs that surround the island. Bali boasted 2.8 million foreign tourists and 5 million domestic visitors in 2012. A well known art form that can be enjoyed is the paintings available in several galleries around the island. Balinese art is extremely diverse and very intricate.

The intricacy of Balinese creativity is also very prevalent in their stone carvings. Temples and private houses are adorned with stone work along all their walls and Made showed us the temple layouts of inner courtyards adorned in stone.

Bali is an island of colour. Rich forest vegetation and tropical gardens display beautiful flowers and gardens.

No trip to Bali is complete without visiting the monkey forest in Ubud. Here the animals roam the streets freely with their young and always ready for a portrait to be taken!

In the 9th century a water management and irrigation system for the paddy-fields in Bali was developed called Subak. For the Balinese irrigation is not simply providing water for the plant's roots but water is used to construct a complex artificial ecosystem. 

Our trusty guide asked we make our way down the terraces on one side of the hillside to a tearoom balanced on the edge of the terrain overlooking the magnificent fields and palm groves.

I noticed an elderly Balinese lady carrying her wares upon her head and pushed aside by her local peers as if she were in the way. We began talking with her and found the attention from us as visitors an honour compared to the apparent scorn of the locals?

It would take several trip to this lovely island to experience all of what it offers. One needs to see Mount Agung, the highest point of Bali at 10,308ft. After more than a 100 years of slumber the volcano came back to life on February 18th, 1963 with the main eruption on March 17th. Lava flows reached 15km from the crater at speeds of 60km/hr taking over 1000 lives.

The volcano is peaceful again and Bali welcomes visitors from all over the world. The sun is setting on the last evening in this tropical paradise, home beckons. There has to be more time to explore, especially for me the inner forests of Bali where wildlife photography I hear is amazing.
If visiting the island feel free to contact Made Astawa as your personal guide through an email at:

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