Bali Fast Facts, “Bit Of History”

BRIEF OF HISTORY

The first Hindus arrived in Bali as early as 100 BC, but the unique culture which is so apparent to any current day visitor to Bali hails largely from neighbouring Java, with some influence from Bali ‘s distant Animist past. The Javanese Majapahit Empire’s rule over Bali became complete in the 14th century when the Gajah Mada, Prime Minister of the Javanese King, defeated the Balinese Kingdom at Bedulu. The very few Balinese who did not adopt this Javanese Hindu culture are known today as the Bali Aga (“original Balinese”) and still live in the isolated villages of Tenganan near Candidasa and Trunyan, on the remote Eastern shore of Lake Batur at Kintamani. As the Islam in the Indonesian archipelago rised, the Javanese Majapahit Empire fell, and Bali became independent near the turn of the 16th century. The Javanese aristocracy found refuge in Bali, bringing an event stronger influx of Hindu arts, literature and religion.

Bali - Indonesia
Bali – Indonesia (Source : bali-indonesia.com)

Divided among a number of ruling Rajas, occasionally battling off invaders from – now islamic – Java to the West, and making forays to conquer Lombok to the East, the North of the island was finally captured by the Dutch colonialists in a series of brutal wars between 1846-1849. Southern Bali was not conquered until 1906, and eastern Bali did not surrender until 1908. In both 1906-1908, many Balinese chose death over disgrace and fought en-masse until the bitter end, often walking straight into Dutch cannons and gunfire. This manner of suicidal fighting to the death is known as “Puputan”. Victory came for the good and the bad, as the images of the Puputan highly tarnished the Dutch in the international community. Perhaps to make up for this, the Dutch did not make the Balinese enter into a forced cultivation system, as had happened in Java, and instead tried to promote Balinese culture through their policy of Balisering or the “Balinisation of Bali”. Bali became part of the newly independent Republic of Indonesia in 1945. In 1965, after the failed coup d’etat allegedly backed by the Communist Party PKI, state-instigated anti-communist violence spread across Indonesia. In Bali, it has been said that the rivers ran red with the reprisal killings of suspected communists. An estimated 80,000 people died, about five percent of the population at the time.

The current chapter in Bali’s history began in the 70’s when intrepid hippies and surfers discovered Bali’s beaches and waves. Tourism soon became the biggest income earner. Despite the shocks of the terrorist attacks in 2002 and 2005, the magical island continues to draw crowds, and Bali’s culture remains as spectacular as ever.

CULTURE & RELIGION

Barong Kedingling Festival
Barong Kedingling Festival (Source : taribarong.co.id)

Bali’s unique culture today is a combination of Javanese Hindu and Bali’s distant Animist past. This can be seen in architecture, dance, painting, sculpture, and the Wayang Puppet theatre. More than 80% of Bali’s population is Hindu. The others are Moslem, Catholic, Protestant, and Buddhist.

The temples has been, very important part of Balinese Hindu life as it is, place where they worship God and their Ancestors. It is not surprising that temples can be found everywhere in Bali. This fact makes some people call Bali the Island of the Thousand Temples.

CURRENCY

The currency unit of Bali is the Indonesian Rupiah (Rp / IDR). Banknotes are issued in domination’s of 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000; 50,000 and 100,000. There are also coins in denominations of 100; 200; 500 and 1,000. The exchange rate is approximately Rp 13,000 to the US Dollar.

ECONOMICS

Aside from the major farming industry as the most populous area of the island, the Southern part of Bali is where most jobs are to be found, mostly in the hotel or tourism industry. Smaller scales of home businesses include textile and garments, handicrafts and souvenirs. Rice has become an important agricultural product in addition to vegetables, fruits, coffee, copra, vanilla, soy beans and chilies. Most recently vineyards are to be found along the Northern coastline. Meanwhile fishing and seaweed farming are also important commodities for foreign markets.

GEOGRAPHY & REGIONS 

Bali is one of more than 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and is located just over 2 km (almost 1.5  miles) from the Eastern tip of the island of Java, and West of the island of Lombok. The island is approximately 144 km (90 miles) from East to West and 80 km (50 miles) from North to South. With the Java sea to the North and the Indian Ocean to the South, it covers an area of 5,636 km² or 0.29% of Indonesia. Bali is formed by a mountain chain that stretches from West to East splitting the island into two parts. Gunung Agung is 3,142m and the tallest point above sea level, Gunung Batur measures 1,717m.

Baturiti, Tabanan :

  • Gunung Pohen : Pohen Mountain is one of the most beautiful mountains in Bali. On the slope of this mountain lies the Bedugul Botanical Garden with a collection of original Indonesia domestic and imported plants. Visitors usually enjoy the beautiful view of Lake Beratan from this park.
  • Gunung Catur : Side-by-side Pohen Mountain, a great place for nature-lovers and adventure seekers.
  • Gunung Batukaru : The island’s second tallest mountain, located on the last true section of jungle. Enjoy spectacular 360 degree views on Bali from the summit.

Northern Tabanan :

  • Gunung Abang or Mt. Red : Sweeping views of the surrounding landscape, heavily forested in one side and lightly barren on the other, with many beautiful flowers of various colors along the way.
  • Gunung Seraya : Opposite of the slope, on the edge of Seraya Mountain is Tirta Gangga or Gange Water, a 1930’s water park built by Prince Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem, a respected statesman as well as self-educated architect.
  • Gunung Lempuyang : Is the island’s most Eastern peak, located in a heavily forested area, with forest animals like monkeys and various birds.
  • Gunung Agung : Bali’s most sacred mountain, an active volcano with an enormous and very deep crater that occasionally vents out smoke and steam.

Bali has four major lakes :

  1. Danau Beratan (4 km²)
  2. Danau Buyan (4.5 km²)
  3. Danau Tamblingan (1 km²)
  4. Danau Batur (18 km²)

GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

In addition to local government who are mostly responsible for schools, health clinics, hospitals and roads, Balinese have local community institutions called “Banjar” which organize Temple ceremonies, marriages, cremations, farming and even creative art festivals. A banjar consists of an average of 30 to 150 family members, owning a meeting venue called the Bale Banjar, which is for regular gatherings and is a center for local gamelan orchestras and drama groups. There is also another local association named “Subak” concerned with the production of rice and organizing the complex irrigation system. Every family who owns a rice field must be a member of their local Subak, which then ensures that every member gets his fair distribution of water.

LANGUAGE

The major languages used are Balinese and Indonesian. As the tourism industry is a very important economical factor, many Balinese also speak English.

POPULATION & DEMOGRAPHY

Estimated population of Bali is 4,220,000.

Major population numbers of city centers :

  • Denpasar 788,445
  • Badung 579,200
  • Gianyar 469,777
  • Klungkung 170,543
  • Karangasem 215,353
  • Singaraja 624,125
  • Tabanan 420,913
  • Jembrana 261,638

REGIONS

The Province of Bali is divided into 9 districts (8 regencies and 1 municipality) and 9 districts are furher sub-divided into 51 sub districts, 565 villages, and 79 local political districts.

South Bali (The most visited part of the island) :

  • Kuta – surfer central, by far the most heavily developed area in Bali. Lots of shopping and the centre of the nightlife and party culture on Bali.
  • Legian – located between Kuta and Seminyak; also the name of Kuta Main Street.
  • Seminyak – quieter, more upscale beachside resorts and villas just to the North of Legian, with some fashionable upscale restaurants and trendy designer bars & dance clubs.
  • Benoa – port for small cruise ships and yachts.
  • Denpasar – a bustling city, the administrative centre and transport hub of the island but not a major tourist destination.
  • Jimbaran – sea-side resorts, a nice sheltered beach and seafood restaurants, South of Kuta.
  • Sanur – sea-side resorts and beaches popular with older families.
  • Bukit Peninsula – the Southern most tip of Bali, with world class surfing, great beaches, and the can’t-miss, cliff-hanging, Uluwatu temple.
  • Nusa Dua – an enclave of high-end resorts and a long, golden sandy beach.

Central Bali (The cultural heart of Bali and the central mountain range) :

  • Ubud – the centre of art & dance in the foothills, with several museums, the monkey forest and lots of arts & crafts shops.
  • Bedugul – nice lakes in the mountains, a golf course, the botanical gardens and the famous Ulun Danu Bratan Temple.
  • Tanah Lot – beautiful temple, black sandy beach and abundance of rice fields.

West Bali (ferries to Java, the West Bali National Park) :

  • West Bali National Park – trekking, bird watching and diving in Bali’s only substantial natural protected area.
  • Gilimanuk – ferry port to Java.

North Bali (quiet, black sandy beaches and the old capital city) :

  • Lovina – beautiful black volcanic sand beaches and coral reefs.

East Bali (laid-black coastal villages, an active volcano and the mighty Mount Agung) :

  • Candidasa – a quiet coastal town, the Bali Aga and gateway to the east coast.
  • Amed – an area of peaceful, traditional fishing villages, featuring black sandy beaches, coral reefs and excellent diving.
  • Kintamani – active volcano Gunung Batur, great mountain scenery and fruit plantations.
  • Gunung Agung – highest mountain in Bali and the mother temple of Besakih.
  • Padangbai – port for larger and luxury cruise ships and ferries to Lombok Island.
  • Tirtha Gangga – beautiful Royal water park.

Southeastern Islands (quiet, off-shore islands in the southeast, popular for diving activities)

  • Nusa Lembongan – good diving, snorkeling & surfing and a great place to relax.

Two of Bali’s four sea ports are used by international cruise ships and yachts. Benoa is a small port relatively close to the airport, while Padangbai is used by larger and luxury cruise ships. A ferry service runs from Lombok’s port of Lembar to Padangbai as well as the above mentioned ferries from Java to Bali. On the North coast, the harbor of Singaraja is used by Bugis schooners and smaller craft serving the lines between Java and North Bali.

SEASONS & WEATHER

Bali has a tropical monsoon climate. With sunshine shining throughout the year, the pleasant day temperatures are between 20°C and 33°C. The dry season is April – October and the rainy season is November – March.

TIME ZONE, ELECTRICITY, AND MEASUREMENT

Timezone : Indonesia has three time zones where Bali is the Central Indonesia Time Zone GMT-UTC + 08:00 / IANA Asia – Makassar WITA (Waktu Indonesia Tengah).

Electricity : Electrical power in Indonesia is at 220-230 volts (50 Hertz). Plugs are of the European two-pronged variety.

Measurement : Kilometers or Meters are used for distance measurement (metric system).

TOURIST STATISTICS

Bali Attractions
Bali Attractions (Source : bali-indonesia.com)

A consideration is the tourist season and Bali can get very crowded in July and August and again at Christmas and New Year. Australians also visit during school holidays in early April, late June and late September, while domestic tourists from elsewhere in Indonesia visit during national holidays.

TAX & TIPPING

A value added tax of 10% is added to bills. It is common in larger cities for 5 percent to be added for service in restaurants and 11 percent for service in hotels. As many lower end staff often don’t get a slice of the service pie, an additional 10-15% tipping is highly appreciated. Hand it to them personally and discretely. (Credit to : Bali KwikFind Magz)

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