Bali is not the fanciful island of South Pacific fame. It's not in the South
Pacific, and it's not Polynesian. But those realities aside, Bali is as
romantic as a Hollywood set, and its culture is even more exotic than you might
This is a land of rice, religion, and tourism. Rice is raised in paddies on
steep hillside terraces. Religion and religious ceremonies permeate every
aspect of daily existence. And visitors have long come to the island's
seductive landscape in search of the elusive Bali Hai. Despite their reliance
on tourism, the Balinese seem to maintain a healthy separation between their
economic and spiritual lives.
Although the Indonesian archipelago is predominately Muslim, most Balinese
are Hindu, and signs of their faith are apparent everywhere—in carefully
tended shrines and temples at every roadside corner, in markets, and in every
family compound. Offerings are made daily, and visitors are welcome to observe
processions and cceremonies, including cremations. Be sure to dress modestly,
however, which means covering your legs.
For all its beauty and mysticism, some parts of Bali are incredibly
touristy. The capital of Denpasar and the south-shore beaches of Kuta and Sanur
are very commercial, and Nusa Dua—an enclave of upscale resorts, a golf
course, and pretty beaches—is pleasant enough, but it's not Bali.
For the real Bali, head to the relatively undeveloped Legian Beach, Jimbaran
Bay, the uplands around Ubud, plus the remote parts of the eastern shore. Here
you'll find serenity in some of the world's most pampering hideaways.
Thankfully, the political turmoil in Indonesia has not been felt here, but
the negative publicity has cooled tourism, making Bali a price-buyer's