An Introduction to
Indonesia & Bali
(introduction to Bali) is one of
seventeen thousand islands and also a province. It is a very well-known holiday destination
for visitors from both the West and the East. The island lies about 8 degrees south of the Equator, southeast of
(a little over two hours flight time).
While Bali is accessible by
a short ferry crossing from Java,
with Indonesia's capital Jakarta
and cities like Bandung,
Surabaya, most visitors fly to the
Bali capital Denpasar, near the southern tip of the island.
The distance by air from Jakarta to Bali is about 1,000 km (600 miles).
Overland, it's considerably more.
Most visitors to Indonesia (including the Province of Bali)
need a visa, available in
many cases on arrival, or from an Indonesian Embassy abroad. Visa-free
entry is granted to some (but not all) ASEAN nationals
(Indonesia is an ASEAN Member) and passports of
some other countries. See our
Visa Page for more information on visa requirements for
Bali, Indonesia and other Asian countries.
Bali is a
vacation destination for tourists of
many nationalities, especially Australians, including
divers, surfers and others, both young and old, as other Western and Asian visitors. There is a sizeable ex-pat community too, some with
their own businesses (usually joint ventures with an Indonesian partner), sporting and accommodation facilities to serve the
many tourist activities. There are other nationals who have made permanent or temporary homes
on the island including British, American, Germans, Dutch and Italians.
to some, Bali has
a total area of 5,600 square
kilometres (2,200 square miles); it's about half the size of
Hawaii's Big Island or Cyprus and about the same as Brunei. From north to south is about 90 km
(55 mi) and east to west 140 km (90 mi).
Apart from the busy capital
Denpasar and nearby
Sanur beaches, there are large
hotels and resorts at Nusa Dua
Peninsula and Uluwatu
near the southernmost tip of the island, beyond
Bali's Denpasar (Ngurah Rai) Airport.
Inland are several fair-sized towns
including the famously unique 'arty-crafty'
and its surrounding villages and resorts like
Payangan; there are also
Gianyar. Driving north past the
rice fields and terraces to dormant volcanoes and picturesque lakes, you
reach the less-populated north coast and Singaraja,
with nice beachside hotels and resorts at
Anturan. While the road west offers few
tourist attractions and scenery, it passes through Negara
and leads to the port of Gilimanuk and the ferries to East
Java – about 3km distant. Cutting across country, the road picks up
the north coast road and leads to Singaraja.
You can continue along the coast to the eastern
side of the island where there are quieter beachside resorts
and diving spots near Amplapura (also seen
as Amlapura) and
(pronounced CHAN-didasa) and to the south, the peaceful fishing village,
port and beach at
Padangbai (see picture) where there are
ferries to Lombok and other
Indonesian islands east of Bali.
Religion and Culture
One of the chief attractions of Bali is of course Balinese culture and
Hindu religious ceremonies and rituals which
form an integral part of the daily lives of most Bali natives.
This is even more apparent in the outlying villages and smaller towns than in
Denpasar itself, which as the main commercial centre, is inhabited by
several different ethnic groups,
including Muslim Indonesians from Java and other islands, Chinese and other
nationalities. Culturally, Bali differs from
most of the rest of Indonesia which is the
largest Muslim-populated country on earth. Bali is an island province, so has its own local authorities, but the economy is controlled to a great degree by the
Islamic majority government based in Jakarta, on the much larger island of Java, immediately to the west
A short ferry crossing links the two.
(including cremations) are a famous tourist attraction on their own, and many
spectacular performances of dancing and local culture demonstrations
are put on specially for the visitors. However, as a resident who has 'seen it all before' they can
intrude into normal daily life; even be an annoyance, especially for those not really interested in
religion or 'pagan rituals' like these offerings to the gods.
Art Galleries and
Not all ex-pats come to Bali to find their
'inner spiritual selves', most preferring the beaches, water sports and
nightlife. However, there are many that do and there is a smaller community some distance inland in the mountains that will suit these people better. It is called
a refuge for both foreign and local artists and art students, and where
there are many art galleries with paintings and shops selling handicraft and handmade
furniture to tourists who flock there daily. The areas of
Payangan are also known for their luxurious and
extremely expensive villas and
spa resorts, with beautiful panoramic views over rice fields and over steep ravines, with even a Mt Fuji-type dormant volcano on the horizon.
Accommodation and Infrastructure
hotels, guest houses and residential accommodation, restaurants and facilities for foreigners are
generally of a high standard, many exceeding those of other popular
ex-pat locations, technological advances have been slow in reaching the island. Bali is
'the end of the line' of Indonesian telecommunications (still
government-controlled), including land and mobile telephones, fax and internet.
Fast, reliable connections are not guaranteed even in the most populous areas.
Indonesia still suffers from the
corruption - past and unfortunately, present. Much of it is still in evidence,
but accepted by those who live there. Tourists are not really affected.
Bali appears to be
idyllic in many respects, and visitors are
invariably impressed when seeing it for the first time. But daily life for a
long term foreign resident can have its drawbacks, poor infrastructure
and utilities like phone and internet connections
being among them.
English is spoken in tourist areas, Bahasa Indonesia is the main
language and understood by most Balinese.
Bali also has its own language which
is quite difficult to learn. However Bahasa Indonesia will work very
well in most situations. An English to-local-language dictionary is
essential. Many people find
Talking Dictionaries to be invaluable while travelling around Asia!
They are available for many languages and not only from English into
There's also a Flash Card program you can download to your Nokia
mobile phone. This is an easy and fun way to learn Indonesian
general vocabulary, business, legal,
medical and computer terms. It runs on most phones using the Symbian operating
Indonesian <-> English Flash Cards for Mobile Phones
Government and Religion
It was thought (hoped) that the government of
Indonesia under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,
known by all as 'SBY'
would bring in positive
change on all fronts. Sadly this
does not look promising. From 2006 to 2010, proposals continue in Jakarta to impose Sharia
Law in Indonesia despite warnings
that adopting it
would adversely affect Indonesia's relations with other states.
Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population. Sharia law has
implemented by the self-governing region of Aceh.
Bali is unlikely to escape
in spite of its high Hindu religious majority or the billions of tourist dollars generated
there. Anti-pornography and promiscuity measures are likely to be
imposed, highlighted by several recent cases which have received world
Bali is excellent for a
holiday, vacation or
If you are planning a
holiday in Bali, I can recommend my former personal assistant and friend
and now excellent Balinese driver and tour
guide (many are from Java and other islands).
Bali-Driver.blogspot.com where you can get details of his tours
including a day trip to the Kintamani Volcano. See many photos and comments from Ari's
passengers who have also become his friends or send him an email:
Check out some great accommodation deals in Bali!
Bali hotels & resorts
our next page about the contrasts to be found in Bali
that makes it such a unique place to visit.
Other visa information for visitors to
Indonesia and other parts of Asia can be found on our
Click a destination above