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Bali - Island of the Gods

Bali - where religion is the source of traditional customs in everyday life. A vibrant culture, unique arts and ceremonies, a gentle and friendly people and spectacular scenery make Bali one of the premier travel destinations in the world. Visit Bali and learn for yourself how beautiful it is.

Bali is one of more than 17,000 Islands that form the archipelago of Indonesia and is located between 8 and 9 degrees south of the Equator. A 2 hour flight from Singapore or 6 hours from Sydney or 4 hours from Hong Kong and 8 hours from Tokyo. There are many direct and some connecting flights from Europe, North and South America as well as Africa. A very narrow strait, called the strait of Bali, joins the Indian Ocean and the Java sea separating Bali from Java. Bali’s total area is slightly more than 2000 square miles. According to the latest census Bali’s population is three million five hundred thousand people.

The Balinese people are a friendly and remarkably artistic people, living amid breathtaking panoramas, have created dynamic society with unique arts and ceremonies and ceremonies, making Bali an island almost unreal in today's hectic and changing world. Terrace rice fields dominate the landscape, with rivers and small irrigation streams dissecting a luscious green landscape, filling the air with enchanting sounds of running water. Bali is divided by a string of impressive and authoritative volcanoes running almost through the center of the island. Mountains and particularly volcanoes are believed to be the home of the gods. Shrouded in mystery and magic, they stretch skyward in majestic splendor. Bali's main volcano is the still active and sometimes explosive. Gunung Agung, which is considered, sacred among local people as it is believed to be the center of the universe. Not just a view visitors leave with the same believe.

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The Balinese have been more exposed to international tourists and generally speak more English than people in other parts of the Indonesian archipelago. They have managed to preserve their culture despite overwhelming foreign influences brought to the region by an ever increasing number of tourist. Bali's international airport, Ngurah Rai, is in the south of the island and is served by numerous international airlines and charters. In order to keep up with the growing number of visitors and the need for their comfort, more hotel have been built, ranging from small bungalows types for budget travelers to the luxurious Nusa Dua tourist resort area, near the air port, on the southern tip of the island. Water sports have naturally gained in popularity and Bali offers superb surfing, windsurfing, sailing, scuba diving and white water rafting.

Topography, rice fields, mountains and beaches
A mountain range spans the island from Batukaru in the west to Gunung Agung in the East while in the center there are lakes which divides Bali into two plains in the North and the South. The Northern plain is much narrower, hilly and dry so that there is not much wet rice culture possible and yet the people here, as in the rest of Bali, live from agriculture. The mountains, in some places, comes right to the sea, the coast is swampy in the West, alternately sandy and full of pebbles in the center and rocky in the East. There are few beaches in the north  that are good for swimming or snorkeling and diving.

Gunung Batur is an active volcano. In this century it has erupted in 1905, 1926 and 1963 then kept erupting until 1974. One of its many craters sometimes emits smoke. The highest volcano, Mt. Agung, has been quiet for more that 150 years, but it is still considered to be a live volcano. It erupted suddenly on 18 February 1965 when Bali was just about to begin a big purification ceremony, called Eka Desa Rudra, which is held every 100 years. The previous eruption was in 1811, which was mentioned in the book, The History of Java, written by Raffles, when he was Governor General of Indonesia.

The center part of Bali is very fertile and in these regions the tourists can see the most beautiful rice field terraces. This part of Bali is called the rice belt of the Island. The southern part has white sandy beaches where most of the tourist hotels are located in the areas of Nusa Dua, Jimbaran, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak and Sanur.

To the South-East of central Bali lies the arid island of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan which is used for snorkeling by many of the  cruise companies.

Flora and Fauna

Bali is the last island before the Wallace line that separates the flora and fauna of mainland Asia and Australia as in Bali there are no Cockatoo birds, but one finds plenty of them in the islands East of Bali such as Sumba and Flores and a few can also be found on Nusa Penida. There are also more snakes and beautiful myna colored birds on the island to the east. The Australian flora and fauna begins in Lombok, the island just East of Bali and in Nusa Penida one occasionally sees a white cockatoo and the Horned bill; a bird with a very large beak which is too big in proportion to its head the body. .

Religion
Most of the population of Bali (90%) are Hindu and the others are Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Buddhist. The Hinduism in Bali has been mixed with local traditions and culture therefore almost everyday you can find a ceremony or festival. The Balinese take part in ceremonial rituals from birth to death. The birth is celebrated through the "penyambutan" ceremony, The three month ceremony when the child is allowed to touch the ground and given their name. They celebrate otonan (their birth day), after becoming an adult they have their 'tooth filling' ceremony and then their wedding ceremony. Hindus also have a Cremation ceremony, and when someone dies the body is cremated within the long funeral ceremony. It is believed that, when the body is  cremated, the soul can go the Heaven.

Temples, private homes and public buildings hold celebrations every 210 days (6 months) as an anniversary ceremony. Ceremonies can be found happening almost everyday and this is one of the attractions to  travelers who come to Bali.
 

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- beyond-bali.com