Bali, too many is the land of a thousand gods, a thousand temples, and a thousand dances. Some others see the island as perhaps the last frontier, waiting to be discovered, for its beauty, its culture, and its way of life. Others arrive here and undergo an experience, one that will etch a life-long impact and draw them back to its shores, again and again.
Ask around and you are almost sure to get the reply, "Come to Bali for its culture, its beauty". That seems to be the subtle message that the people themselves convey about their fables island. It's a message from the heart, for the Balinese are truly proud of the splendors of their island. Visitors soon realize that Bali is no longer a frontier waiting to be discovered; instead it needs to be re-discovered, over and over again. Bali is situated approximately on latitude 8 degrees South and longitude 115 degrees east, and together with the nearby island of Lombok, are the most westerly of the Little Sunda Islands. They are part of the nearly 13,700 islands that make up the Republic of Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago.
The island of Bali remains fiercely attractive to the visitor. They come here in search of character; their own perhaps! More significantly the journey to Bali should be undertaken to seek an understanding of a way of life that is truly unique. This journey cannot be undertaken in a short, jet-hop span, rather you soon realize that you could spend a lifetime in Bali and still feel there is more to be seen, heard and understood. No matter how often you watch a barong performance, or the kecak, or hear the gamelan, each time you are there, something deep inside you reminds you that it's a new happening, a re-discovery.
There are several other dances that could excite you. There is the gambuh - a classical form of dance-drama, the topeng, which is traditional masked dance, the Baris or the warrior's dance, legong, the Dance of the Heavenly Nymphs, the kebyar which is a flashy modern dance and the Shanghyang Dedari, the ritual trance dance. To first time visitors, who has been fed on leaflets and travel brochures, Bali appears as a holiday retreat, of beautiful beaches, a place in the sun. it can even be mistaken for a land on a perpetual holiday. But Bali is more than that.
One goes to Bali for experience, a journey of a lifetime, to come face with a remarkable people, their customs and traditions, their beliefs, their hopes and their eternal search for peace. You never seem to have enough of Bali. There is a yearning to "see" more. You feel the mysticism and get drawn in, like a magnet, forever attached to its people, to its beauty. It's the beginning of your search for the true meaning of the balance of the cosmic forces.
You are spell-bound by the dainty movements of the dancers, stunned by the roughness of the demons; you follow closely the trail of the spirits, wondering what other creature will appear of the scene. You wait, almost with bated breath for the final conquest. And when the performance is over, you feel you want more.
Prayer is central in the life of a Balinese, as it is important to keep all the forces in a balanced state. Every object, be it a mask, atone, even fire, has a spirit. There are mystical forces at work that can be molded for the benefit of mankind. To the Balinese such forces, both good and bad, emanate from one source.
The Balinese are Hindus. They practice a blend of that religion that was originally brought by Indian kingdoms of old. However Hinduism in Bali is quite unlike that in India. Over the centuries, the Balinese have incorporated elements of their indigenous beliefs and practices, with traces of Javanese influences as well. There are also strong elements of Buddhism in the island, and which perhaps like no place on earth has blended and intertwined perfectly.
Of course there are those who practice other religions as well on the island. One has to be reminded that Indonesia is the largest Moslem nation in the world, while in this island, the majority of the population are Hindus. It is this Balinese Hinduism that dominates all aspects of life here. Death and the cremation rites are important to the Balinese. Cremation is not a sad occasion; rather it is one of joy, as the person now has the opportunity to reach the higher realm. The cremation ceremonies draw huge crowds, and many foreigners as well these days.
Bali is whatever you want it to be. A tourist haven, with splendid beaches, a friendly people, a warm climate, cool mountain air, a slow pace. You get told stories of old, you find new meaning in the simple things of life. You can hike up trails, watch the birds, visit temples, and buy your gifts. You can fill your own treasure troves with the memories, with recollections of your own enlightenment when you stood and faced the mountains and gazed at the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside.
Bali is also about color, sound, smell and texture. The people churn out a bewildering array of garments, which thankfully remain at non-inflated prices. Little wonder why this remains a buyer's haven. There is music as well here. With music, naturally there is dance. And in Bali, the dances repertoire is seemingly endless. The music and dances vary from village to village in form and contents as well. It may surprise you to learn that many ways the people of Bali truly are individuals, for what is practiced in one village is quite unknown to the person from the next. Yet, within this diversity, there is unison in action, in thought and in common beliefs, hopes, and aspirations.
Welcome then to Bali, perhaps the last place on this earth that still conjures images of mystique, of beauty, of peace and goodwill and way of life that is unique in this modern day and age. Here you get a deep sense of satisfaction. It's an environment; it could possibly even be the hospitality that envelops you. You are bewildered by the hues of color, sound and natural beauty. Bali, the last frontier, where the search for the true meaning of life can begin.