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Explore Bali

LuxuryTravel.com - Explore Bali

Bali has been called a paradise on earth, and you would be hard pressed to find another spot on earth that so richly deserves the title. The island of Bali, described by many as born of fire and water, is blessed with a spectacular landscape of volcanoes, intricate rice terraces, rainforest and beaches. It has a deeply spiritual culture and many colorful traditions woven into the fabric of island life, strongly influenced by the unique form of Hinduism which is the island's main religion.

Even the most jaded travellers will find something on this Island of the Gods to refresh and renew their spirits. For many, Bali’s pure white beaches, with their promise of perfect surf and golden sunshine, is the antidote to the demands of modern life. The island boasts a massive water park, perfect for entertaining kids.

It’s also home to numerous spas and retreats which cater for the more spiritually minded, offering balancing, detoxing and rejuvenating treatments for mind, body and spirit. Yoga and meditation retreats promise to be the ideal balm to the effects of a stressed and harried lifestyle. Many couples choose to pledge or renew their commitment vows in this earthly Eden, in wedding ceremonies which can incorporate traditional Western, Balinese and international elements.

Bali offers much for the arts connoisseur, with a profusion of cultural activities, including the vibrant dance perfomances and elaborate religious ceremonies conducted in a spirit of welcoming openness to all. Ubud in particular, a bustling little town bursting with a wonderful variety of studios, galleries and restaurants, is well worth a visit.

Dance & Music in Bali
Dance performances can be seen most days anywhere there is a festival or celebration or simply for the visitors’ entertainment. Traditional dances in particular should be viewed in their entirety, as they often convey a story with both comic and spiritual elements. The dances relate stories from the Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, with dancers depicting valiant struggles between the forces of good and evil with breathtaking acrobatic skill and sporting vivid costume and makeup. As with most things Balinese, dance is deeply rooted in spirituality, making it a truly awe-inspiring spectacle.

In particular, keep an eye out for performances of the kecak dance, an unmissable showcase of Balinese choreography. A large male chorus sits around a fire, rhythmically chanting "cak cak cak" and banging their chests, while dancers act out a story from the Ramayana, in which Rama must enlist the help of the monkey army to rescue his kidnapped wife, Sita.

Most dance is accompanied by a gamelan, a musical ensemble featuring a variety of instruments such as metallophones, xylophones, drums and gongs; bamboo flutes, bowed and plucked strings, and sometimes vocalists as well. The modern, more popular form comprises up to 25 musicians, while more traditional gamelans comprise of between 35 and 40 musicians in one orchestra. The prevalent xylophone and jangly percussion combine to produce music that is uplifting, stirring and exciting, though it may at first sound strange to the Western ear.

Temples
Every village in Bali has several temples, and every home has at least a simple house-temple. The Balinese word for temple is pura, taken from the Sanskrit word meaning 'space surrounded by a wall'.

All temples are built on a mountain-sea orientation. The direction towards the mountain is called kaja and it is here where the holiest shrines are found. The temple’s entrance can be found at the kelod side, which points towards the sea. Kangin, towards the sunrise, is said to be more holy than kuah, towards the sunset. It is said that each of the sea temples can be seen from the next, thus forming a chain along the Balinese south coast.

Though you will have no difficulty finding temples wherever you go, here are our recommendations for the most breathtaking examples.

Besakih Temple (Mother Temple)
Besakih is the biggest and holiest of all the Balinese temples, and is over a thousand years old. Known as the "Mother Temple of Bali" and perched on the slopes of Mount Agung, at a lofty 3,000 feet, Besakih is named after the Dragon God believed to inhabit the mountain. It’s said to be the only temple in Bali where Hindus of any caste can worship.

Eighteen separate sanctuaries belonging to different regencies and caste groups surround the three main temples dedicated to Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. To the Balinese, visiting the temple sanctuaries is a special pilgrimage. The mountain top setting gives it an almost mystical quality. If possible, try to reach Pura Besakih before 9am, when many tourist buses start to arrive, so that you can take in the lovely temple in the quiet Balinese morning.

Uluwatu Temple
Pura Luhur Ulu Watu is one of the group of temples devoted to the spirits of the sea. In the 11th century the Javanese preist Empu Kuturan first established a temple here, which was later added to by the Majapahit priest, Nirartha. The temple is one of Bali’s most spectacular, located on a a cliff top at the edge of a plateau 250 feet above the waves of the Indian Ocean. It’s an architectural wonder in black coral rock, beautifully designed with spectacular views, and a popular place to view the sunset. Note that the inner sanctum is open to Hindue worshippers only.

Tanah Lot Temple
Pura Tanah Lot is another of the important group of sea temples and if possible should be visited early in the morning when crowds are few. Set in a perfect west facing orientation, this temple is one of the best known and most photographed on the island. It proves popular with visitors who flock to watch the sun set from the spectacular location. Like Pura Ulu Watu it has close associations with the Majapahit priest, Nirartha.



 


Why? Simplicity, romance, and style are at the heart of this elegant beachfront resort more »

Why? Living up to its evocative name, this stunning resort truly is paradise on earth more »


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