About Bali, Island of Thousand Temple
About Bali is one of the most famous islands in the world. It creates images and dreams of beautiful clear waters, stunning lagoons, endless surf, gushing rivers, palm trees, orchids, monkeys, butterflies and birds of every size shape and color. People think of small villages, vast rice terraces, waterfalls, volcanoes, complex thrilling temples and ceremonies. Why? Because it’s true!
The Balinese people are descendants of the Asian tribes that inhabit the southern part of China and migrated along the Malay Peninsula. Agriculture, trade, education and religion flourished between the Chinese, Malay, and Indian communities since before the time of the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages of Europe. The influence of the local Balinese faith, Buddhism and Hinduism combined to form the unique Hindu religion practiced today. There are Muslims and Christians in Bali as well. Bali seems to absorb all forms of religion and culture to produce something truly Balinese. You will see many statues of Buddha, Shiva and Jesus. You find Temples, Mosques and Churches all over Bali.
Bali was ruled by rajahs and priests, Buddhist, then Hindu, until the 16th century when it was made a Dutch colony. Bali was a Dutch colony until be annexed by the Japanese in 1942, reclaimed by the Dutch in 1946, and became an independent Republic in1950.
Located 8 degrees below the equator in the Indonesian archipelago, it is a volcanic island surrounded by the Indian Ocean. It is considered the southern most area of the Asia. It is one of the original Spice Islands and has cinnamon and clove trees, star anise, pepper, chili plants, and many blooming large hardwood trees. The jungles and bamboo forests are lush all year. It features many reefs with protected lagoons. It has an abundance of seafood caught in the lagoons and from fishing vessels which go to sea in the early morning dawn every day.
Bali does not fall into one class, style, or category. Bali has a majority Hindu population in the most populous of all Muslim countries, has century old temples, shrines and customs yet is considered on of the top surfing destinations in the world! There are beautiful Hindu ceremonies, festivals and processions all over Bali throughout the year and discos, world class dining and night clubs that are swinging until the wee hours of the morning. It is a paradise of natural wonders and jet skis and parasailing. There is hiking, bicycling, river rafting and 4 –wheeling, or lying by a natural pool with no one around. There are white sand beaches and black sand beaches. Many guests stay in a stunning beach villa one week and a bungalow in the middle of rice paddy, on the side of a volcano the next. Bali is busy and calm, crowded and quiet, noisy and serene, traditional and modern. There are very few places in the world with so many diverse environments. To see a rice farmer plowing his field with an ox and in the next minute see a vendor in a small market on a cel phone is a good example of Bali.
Most hotels and villas are designed either in traditional style or in a more style with a traditional influence. The roof lines, the open air showers and the colorful gardens and landscapes are everywhere. You will find hand carved statues and shrines in every home, restaurant, shop, hotel and village. There you will see small offerings placed twice daily, showing the never ending influence of the gods in the daily life of the Balinese.
No matter what your preference for lodging, scenery, shopping, touring or activities, you will have the holiday of a lifetime in Bali!
A Brief History of Bali
Bali was first visited by the Chinese immigrants, traders, and settlers who roamed the Malay Archipelago between 3000 and 1000 BC Trade and commerce were more prevalent in this area of the world between 1000 BC and 100 BC than westerners realize. The Chinese introduced bronze, and the Indians Buddhism. Also about this time the people started the cultivation of rice and started the process of terracing the hilly slopes of the island resulting in the present rice terraced landscape.
In the 700’s and 800’s, the people of East Java gradually accepted Hinduism while still revering Buddha as a teacher and wise sage. This combination found its way to Bali and combined with the local animist to form the Balinese Hindu belief. It is a basic Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu dominated form of Hinduism with the lesser gods controlling their particular sectors of life. You will find ancient Balinese gods and belief in the mix.
From 900 to 1300 the family of King Udayana, his son Airlangga ruled East Java while his younger son, Anak Wungsu ruled Bali. In 1343 the army general, Gajah Mada annexed Bali to the Javanese empire of Majapahit founded in 1320. As Islam was establishing its roots in Java, the Majapahit scholars, teachers and members of the ruling class took refuge in Bali. It was a calm serene place and they flourished. The Balinese remained separate from the intrigue and politics of Java and was never invaded by the Javanese Muslims.
In the 1500’s the Europeans were establishing trading posts and forts in Asia. The spices and resources of Indonesia’s islands attracted with the Dutch being the predominant influence in the Java/Bali area while the local Batu Renggong kingdom based near Klungkung ruled Bali. They built many temples administration buildings firmly establishing the style of stone work, carpentry, roofing, woodcarving and crafts associated with Bali to this day.
About 1850 or so the Dutch began to establish tighter rule in Bali. There were many conflicts resulting in the deaths of many Balinese people. This went on until a particularly bloody series of incidents concerning the looting of a Dutch shipwreck in Sanur in 1904. The public outcry from the Netherlands succeeded in keeping Bali from the mass transformation to huge plantations seen on other islands. The arts, crafts and culture were valued as much as the commerce the Japanese invaded Indonesia and “liberated” the Indonesian people along with vast quantities of rice, oil, wood and slave labor. The end of WWII saw the Dutch attempt to re establish rule but the colonial days of Indonesia were over. There was a war for Independence from August 1945 until August 1949 resulting in the Republic of Indonesia being recognized as an independent country by the United Nations.
The first leader of modern Indonesia was President Sukarno until the 1960s when President Suharto took control. The time between independence and the late 1990s were days of growing pains, political upheavals, economic roller coaster rides and technological developments. Indonesia is now ruled by a democratically elected president and each state or Provence has a much larger say in the local government than ever before.
Bali has moved ever forward in the tourist industry while retaining its island paradise environment and attitude.