approximately 3,500,000 inhabitants of which probably 80%
are Hindu Balinese. The remaining having come from neighboring
islands of Java, Lombok, Madura in search of employment.
lies just 8o (375km) south of the equator. As such
the weather is tropical - consistently hot and sunny. Days
are almost universally 12 hours long with sunrise is around
6:20 a.m.; sunset at 6:30 p.m.. The daytime temperature averages
between 27o C to 32o C ( 80oF
to 90o F) in the southern lowlands (the main tourist
venues). Humidity is quite high - a sticky 75% so often times
it feels much hotter. Average temperature in the mountains
is between 20o C to 25o C (70oF
to 80oF). At night the mountains can get downright
chilly - so bring a sweater if you plan to overnight there.
tropical monsoon climate has two distinct seasons; dry (May
to September) and wet (October to April). Monsoon refers to
the wind, not the rain. However even in the wet monsoon theres
a better than even chance that it will be sunny for a good
part of the day. Weather wise May, June and July are generally
considered the best.
was first settled by Chinese immigrants sometime around
2500 BC and after working on it for 2,000 years the complex
irrigation system that is still the focal point of Balinese
agriculture and way of life today was established. Things
remained pretty much unchanged until the 11th century. Around
1010 AD a Balinese Prince named Airlangha took over East
Java intending to unite it with Bali under his rule. Successful,
he subsequently appointed his brother, Anak Wungsu, to rule
Bali. As such there was a great deal of commerce between
Bali and Java bringing with it an exchange of politics and
arts. It was at this time the Bali adopted the Javanese
language, Kawi that is still used today.
death brought on several wars waged by Javanese Kings to
continue the Javanese control of Bali. Finally in 1343 Bali
succumbed to Javanese control when it was defeated by a
General by the name of Gajah Mada from the Majapahit Empire,
the last Hindu Javanese empire.
Islam began spreading south from Sumatra into Java in the
16th century, the Majapahit empire collapsed and a large
number of aristocrats, priests, and artists fled to Bali.
From then until the Dutch arrived in 1597 little changed
except the culture continued to be refined - which is where
we pick up the story.
People of Bali
Balinese were not able to develop and sustain their extremely
complex agricultural economy for centuries on end without
a very organized community structure. The basis of this
community structure is the Subak and the Banjar. Everyone
who owns a rice paddy must join the Subak in their village.
The Subak controls who will plant rice and when (plantings
are staggered so that pestilence is minimized). As well
and more importantly the Subak ensures that all farmers
receive their fair share of irrigation water since traditionally
the head the Subak was the farmer whose field was at the
bottom of the hill and water first had to pass through everybody
else's field before it was allowed to irrigate his.
other important community structure, the Banjar, organizes
all other aspects of Balinese life (i.e. marriages, cremations,
community service, festivals and the like). When a man marries
he is expected to join the village Banjar and must participate
in community affairs. Meetings are held at a large open
air building called the Bale Banjar.
the Balinese are Hindu and worship the Hindu trinity Brahma,
Shiva and Vishnu, the Balinese religion is very different
from the Indian variety. The Balinese do have a caste system
but there are no untouchables. The caste system is most
evident in the language which has three levels: a low level
for commoners, a mid level to address strangers and a high
level only used when addressing aristocracy.
Balinese are an unusual island people in that they have
never been sea faring people. They believe that good spirits
dwell in the mountains and that the seas are home to demons.
Most villages have at least three main temples: one of which
is the Pura Puseh or temple of origin, is dedicated
to the village founders and which faces to Mt Agung - home
to Pura Besakih the mother temple on Bali. Together with
the other two village temples each house may several temples
and as well as rice fields, markets etc. etc. etc. Now you
can see why Bali is often referred to as the Island of the
Balinese are extremely devout and no day goes by without
making offerings to the gods. These daily offerings - called
Banten are a major part of Balinese life. You will see these
offerings nearly everywhere in Bali. Made of flowers, cigarettes,
cookies, rice and even sometimes money (the actual items
used are not as important as the process of making and offering
it to the spirits) these offerings are given to the good
spirits in hopes of continued prosperity as well as to the
evil spirits as an appeasement.
Balinese are inclusive by nature and take great pride in
their heritage and therefore do not mind visitors observing
ceremonies and traditional dances, just as long as you follow
a few simple, basic points of etiquette. (After all, how
would you like a group of foreign speaking tourists invading
your wedding or funeral of a close relative to snap a few
photos?). First, dress appropriately - smart casual is appropriate
- swim wear is not appropriate. Two, be quiet and respectful.
Cameras and camcorders are ok - but try to be unobtrusive.
do not step in front of anyone to snap a photo and do not
sit higher than the local priest presiding over the ceremony.
When visiting temples be aware that you should wear long
pants or a sarong with a selendang tied around the waist
(men and women). Whilst you can take your own every major
temple has selendangs to borrow for a small donation. It
is extremely bad form (in fact its taboo) for women
who are menstruating to enter a temple.
a word about being stuck in traffic. If you do find yourself
stuck in traffic for no apparent reason you may have come
up on a Balinese procession on the way to temple. Be patient.
No amount of honking the car's horn is going to speed things
up and it's rude to try and pass.
one of some 13,000 islands comprising the Indonesian Archipelago,
had an auspicious start. According to legend, when the world was
formed Bali was put afloat on the back of a giant sea turtle with
fragrant skies above.
The gods have been generous ever since.
advised that the time in Bali is GMT + 8 hours.