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Bali Cruises

About Bali, Indonesia

With a thriving and colorful arts scene, lush beauty and magnificent seaside vistas, Bali has long beckoned travelers in search of ultimate beauty. Denpasar is the island’s thriving capital. Founded as a market town (the name translates roughly into “north market”), it still today bustles with colorful stalls and vast emporiums selling bright sarongs and intricately patterned batik. The city has a serene side, too. Some of its many elegant and highly revered temples are carved from white coral harvested from the sea.

Java’s aristocracy found safe haven in Bali after an uprising on their island around the late 1400s. They brought with them their Hindu traditions, many of which survive to this day. Around the same time, Europeans arrived, first the Portuguese and then the Dutch about 100 years later. The latter established the Dutch East India Company in 1602 and expanded their control through the end of the 19th century. It wasn’t until 1949 that Indonesia proclaimed independence and Bali became part of the Republic of the United States of Indonesia.

Bali Lifestyle and Culture

The island’s rich Balinese Hindu culture has believed for centuries that gods live in all natural things—from mountains to streams to pebbles on the beach—lending the island a peaceful air. The religion permeates most every aspect of local life, earning Bali the nickname “Island of a Thousand Temples.” In fact, the island boasts 20,000 of them, each hosting rituals throughout the year. Two of the island’s most significant celebrations are the Galungan, a 10-day festival that celebrates the death of the mythical tyrant Mayadenawa, and Nyepi, or the Hindu New Year, a day of absolute silence.

Bali is world renowned for its performing arts culture. Song and dance typically depict stories of Hindu epics, with a strong influence from Balinese tradition, and may be staged at public theaters or temples. At the latter, the dance is performed in an outer courtyard for the public and in an inner courtyard for the gods. Though many celebrations in Bali may be boisterous and even improvised, they follow a strict tradition in which social contexts must be adhered to. Day-to-day living in local villages can be equally structured. Ancestry is critically important to a community’s identity, and village councils retain a sense of order and continuity between generations.

Bali Sights and Landmarks

Denpasar, Bali’s richly historic and bustling capital, is the center of the island’s market culture. At the Pasar Badung, the island’s largest food market, all manner of fruits and spices are on display in an energetic atmosphere, providing a colorful snapshot of the island’s vibrant culture. The area’s temples, with their intricate carvings and bas-reliefs, range from intimate to gigantic. Two of the most impressive are the Pura Maospahit and the Pura Jagatnatha. To honor the island’s history and the struggles of its people over the centuries, visit the Bajra Sandhi Monument in front of the Governor’s Office. This vast rectangular complex features courtyards, a towering column and several rooms chronicling a long history.

Some of Bali’s most dramatic sites are its emerald-green hillsides sculpted into terraced steps. The stepped agriculture wasn’t only created to maximize planting space; rather, it is part of a complex irrigation system, or subak, which optimizes the use of the island’s water.

Bali Entertainment and Activities

Peel back the layers of Balinese culture and history at Denpasar’s Museum Negeri Propinsi Bali, a rich collection of artifacts and architectural styles across several buildings and pavilions. In the eastern part of Denpasar, explore the art gallery and cultural center of Taman Wedhi Budaya for a glimpse of some of Bali’s most vibrant works. Or head to Puputan Square in the city center, named for the 1906 event in which 400 Balinese marched toward Dutch forces (and certain death) rather than surrender. A monument commemorates the solemn day.

Denpasar’s white-sand beaches attract visitors from all over the island. Visit Sanur Beach for calm waters and to absorb an old fishing culture. Belgian painter Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès lived in this once sleepy village for 26 years, and a museum displays his work.

Bali Restaurants and Shopping

Indonesia produces up to 50 million tons of rice each year, and it seems that each of the nation’s 6,000 populated islands has its own special side dish to accompany the staple, each spiced with a unique blend of flavors that have earned the archipelago a reputation as the Spice Islands.

In Denpasar, sample the seafood satay at Warung Satria, situated on a quiet street and so popular among locals that you’ll want to get there early. Join students and government workers at Cak Asmo, where delicious dishes are cooked to order. Or stop by Warung Lembongan, whose simple atmosphere of folding chairs laid out at a long table belies its amazing menu of fresh, local preparations.

Sample fresh produce and delight in Bali’s lively market culture at Pasar Badung, busiest in the morning and evening. Find produce in the market’s heart, and explore the side streets for some of the island’s famed textiles such as batik and sarongs. For an enormous selection of brilliantly colored batik, stop by Adil. Or cross the river from Pasar Badung to Pasar Kumbasari, where more fabrics and gilded masks and costumes can be found.