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
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.
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)
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.
Tanah Lot Temple