Bali Vacation and Travel Information
Probably no island in the world has, had its praises sung so frequently or so vehemently in recent years, as Bali. For here is the world's last paradise, an island haven of such shimmering beauty, such magical atmosphere, that few can easily tear themselves away. Scholars may scoff, businessmen smile, but let them put one foot on Bali and suddenly it dawns: almost everything that has been said about the island is true. Bali has a magic about it, an atmosphere at once relaxing and unique that springs, not from any one factor but from the inter-relationship of many: a fabulously green and fertile countryside, terraced paddy-fields, dream-like beaches of coral sand, the majestic mixture of volcanic mountains, lakes and streams, flora with the most exotic hues - and temples, flamboyant ceremonies at every turn, their form guided by the complex Hindu-Bali religion.
According to legend, Bali was originally a flat, barren island. When Java fell to the Mohammedans, the disgusted Hindu gods decided to move to Bali, but it became necessary for thern to build dwelling-places high enough for their exalted rank. So they created the mountains, one for each of the cardinal points. The highest, Gunung Agung, was erected in the east, the place of honour; the Batur in the north; the Batukau in the west; and since there had to be one for the south, the raised table-land (Tafelhoek) of Bukit Pecatu became the seat of the patron of the south. The Batur is venerated in its neighbourhood, and the Batukau is holy to the villages on its slopes, but it is the Gunung Agung, Bali's highest mountain (10,506 feet) that is most sacred to the whole of the island
Half-way up the mountain is the mother temple of Bali, the great Besakih with its impressive stone gate and its hundreds of towers thatched with sugar-palm fibre. The Gunung Agung is regarded as the Navel (puséh) of the World. lt is to the Balinese what Kaisala and Meru are to the Hindus of India. To the Balinese, Bali is the entire world. Only a narrow strait, hardly two miles across, separates Bali from Java. Here again, the idea that the two islands were once joined and then separated is sustained by the legend of the great Javanese king who was obliged to banish his good-for-nothing son to Bali, then united to Java by a very narrow isthmus. The king accompanied his son to the narrowest point of the tongue of the land; when the young prince had disappeared from sight, to further emphasize the separation, he drew a line with his finger across the sands. The waters met and Bali became an island.
The Hindu religion and culture was brought to Indonesia about 2,000 years ago, probably by Indian traders. Early inscriptions show that many areas of present day Indonesia including Sumatra, Kalimantan and Java came under the influence of the new beliefs. But it was in Central and Eastern Java where the greatest of the Hindu Kingdoms arose and nearby Bali naturally came under their influence. In the 1 5th century these kingdoms declined and with the spread of the new religion of Islam, large numbers of priests, nobility and craftsmen, of the last of the great Hindu kingdoms moved to Bali. From this time on and because of various factors, the Balinese were successful in resisting influences from outside the island and preserving their culture, in fact up to the present day. The Balinese have always been strong in resisting military conquest and later Javanese attempts to secede the island, always met with failure. Due to a lack of good harbours and to the small volume of trade, the Moslem religion never succeeded in taking a firm hold in the coastal area as it did for example in Java. The Dutch administration was content to have the local Balinese kingdoms virtually untouched because of the absence of many important exportable commodities. lt was only in 1906 that the island was finally brought under colonial rule and the succeeding administration remained only nominal. Local social structures and religious practices were not changed or influenced to any extent. Indeed it could be said that the Dutch administration took almost a paternalistic attitude towards the people, the culture, the religion and the traditions which had remained unchanged throughout the cultures. For these reasons, the customs and traditions of present day Bali are a living link with the past, drawing their origins from a time when the world was young, when the human race looked out on the world with the clear bright eyes of childhood and saw pleasure and happiness in everything around it.
The religion of the Balinese is not the same as the Hinduism found in India. Based on both Hinduism and Buddhism, it also incorporates local indigenous customs, practices and beliefs, which were present on the island before the Hindu-Buddhist influence. lt is generally referred to as the Hindu-Bali religion. The religion is theologically extremely complex and it is not really possible tot reduce it to any simplified formula. It is basically monotheistic. The Balinese believe in one central omnipotent God, who encompasses the whole of the created universe and who is called Sang Hyang Tunggai or Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa. This all-embracing deity manifests himself to man in three main forms: Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver and Shiva, the deity who dissolves the material universe and returns all things to their basic elements at the end of each cycle creation. But it is only Brahmana priests who can devote a large part of their lives to the study of the complex theology and philosophy underlying this seemingly simple structure, who can reach any full understanding of the religion. This doesn't mean that the religion is hopelessly beyond the reach of people who have to concern themselves with the more immediate problems of everyday living, for the Hindu-Bali religion lays an equal stress on ritual, in which the whole of the population can participate. This is the aspect which has given the religion its reputation for love of gaiety, colour and ceremony. To the Balinese, no action can be complete without the prescribed daily ritual, no week lacks a special holiday, no month is without an important festival and every year is an opportunity for worshipping God in a thousand and one ways
Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA),Tel: 976-659, 96495, Fax: 974-229, Jl. Pengosekan, Peliatan near Ubud, open daily 8 am-6 pm. Antonio Blanco, Tel: 975-502, 975-551, Ubud, open daily 8 am-5 pm Archaeological Museum, Tel: 942-354, 943-357, Pejeng, open 8 am-3 pm weekdays. Gedong Kirtya Historical Library, Tel: (0362) 25141, Jl. Vetran in Singaraja, open 7 am-3 pm Monday-Thursday, until noon Friday, closed weekends Museum Bali, Tel: 235-059, 222-680, Jl. Letkol Wisnu, Denpasar Museum Le Mayeur, Tel: 286164, Jl. Hang Tuah, Sanur, open 8 am -2 pm Tuesday-Sunday Museum Lempad, Jl. Raya Ubud, Ubud Museum Manusia Yadna, Mengwi, open daily, but often unattended Just before Tabanan town, on the right hand side of the road. Neka Museum, Tel: 975-074, 975-034, Jl. Raya Campuhan, Ubud, open daily 9 am-5 pm. Museum Puri Lukisan, Tel: 975636, Jl. Raya Ubud, open daily, 8 am-4 pm. Museum Rudana Museum Subak , Tel: 810315, Jl. Raya Kediri, Desa Sanggulan, Tabanan Seniwati Virtual Art Gallery Nyoman Suradnya, Tel: 975415, Padang Tegal, Ubud.
Children are loved in Bali. Reliable babysitters are available at all major hotels and even small inn owners are happy to look after youngsters. Many hotels have kid's clubs and children's programs.
Bali has two seasons: Dry from April to November, with July being the coolest month; rainy from November to April, with January the wettest month. Humidity averages 75 percent year round. The sunny days within dry season between April and September is warm and pleasant, while in rainy season between October and April, tropical shower will alternate with clear sky and sunshine. But it can rain at any time of year and even during the wet season rain is likely to pass quickly. The weather is most pleasant between April to September. At that time of year the climate is likely to be cooler and the rains lightest.
Around the coast, sea breezes temper the heat and as you move inland you also move up so the altitude works to keep things cool. It can get very cool up in the highlands and a warm sweater can be a good idea in mountain villages like Kintamani or Bedugul. The average temperature of the day in coastal areas varies from about 28° C (82° F) during May, June and July to about 30° C (86° F) in March and October. In the highland temperature varies from 16° C to 26° C and it is known to drop to about 8° C during the night. The humidity is high (from a minimum of 70 % to maximum of 95 %).
Reconfirm your airline reservations 24 hours prior to departure. Not all international airlines require reconfirmation, but check 72 hours before your flight. Indonesian carriers frequently overbook. Make sure you get the computer printout from the airline office/travel agent that says you have a reserved seat. Seats cannot always be arranged in advance. Arrive at the airport two hours prior to international departure. A Rp. 50,000 airport tax is required. Residents pay an additional Rp. 1 million fiscal tax.
Balinese believe physical and mental disabilities are due to behavior in a past life; that imperfections are punishment for past acts. Thus, people with disabilities often are laughed at, but with compassion. There is little awareness in Indonesia for the disabled's special needs. Wheelchair ramps and van lifts are non-existent. Many major hotels have handicapped facilities and accommodation. Advise your tour operator in advance for special assistance. Handicapped access is not common.
Health & Medical Service
Call an ambulance by dialing 118, but it is quicker to hire a taxi. Most hotels have on-call doctors. For "Bali Belly", Lomotil and Imodium eliminate symptoms, but not infection. A fever along with above symptoms, require doctor prescribed antibiotics. Drink as much liquid as possible. For discomfort, diarrhea and cramping, drink strong, hot tea; avoid fruits and spicy foods. Day-biting mosquitoes carry dengue fever, but this is not a problem tourist areas. Bali is non-malarial and prophylaxis is not required. Mosquito bites, cuts or abrasions easily become infected in the tropics. Treat them immediately. Drink only bottled or boiled water (air putih). Peel fruit before eating, avoid raw vegetables except at reputable restaurants. Ice in restaurants is safe. Protect yourself from the intense equatorial sun. Use sunblock and a hat. AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases are increasing in Indonesia. Local sex workers have multiple partners from around the world. They are not checked sexually transmitted diseases. Act responsibly and use condoms, available over the counter at pharmacies.
Medical evacuations: contact your consulate. Bali International Medical Center for routine medical attention, emergencies and evacuations, Jl.Ngurah Rai, at the Kuta-Sanur-Nusa Dua roundabout, Tel: 761263. SOS representative in Jakarta, Tel: (021) 725-811. Asia Emergency Assistance (AEA) with Bali Tourist International Assist, Jl. Bypass Ngurah Rai, Kuta Tel: 755768. Major hospitals' emergency rooms have English speaking staff. Rumah Sakit Umum Sanglah (Public Hospital), Jl.Diponegoro, Sanglah, Denpasar, Tel: 227911, 227912, 227913 Rumah Sakit Wongaya (public hospital; psychiatric unit),Jl. Kartini, Denpasar, Tel: 222142 Rumah Sakit Angkatan Darat (Army Hospital), Jl. Sudirman, Denpasar, Tel: 226521 Rumah Sakit Dharma Usada (private), Jl. Sudirman No 50, Denpasar, Tel: 227-560, 234824 Rumah Sakit Kasih Ibu (maternity hospital), Jl. Teuku Umar No l20, Tel: 223036, 237016 Psychiatric Clinic: Dr I Gusti Putu Panteri, Rumah Sakit Bina Atma, Jl. HOS Cokroaminoto 30, Tel: 425-744 Emergency Dental Treatment: Dr Indra Guizot, Jl. Patimura 19, Denpasar, Tel: 222-445, 234-375
Pharmacies (apotik) open daily 8 am-6 pm. Late night, Sundays and holidays, Denpasar pharmacies open on rotation. Kimia Farma, Jl. Diponegoro 123-125, Denpasar, Tel: 227812 Ria Farma, Jl. Veteran 43, Denpasar, Tel: 222635 Bali Farma, Jl. Melati 9, Denpasar, Tel: 223132 Dirga Yusa, Jl. Surapati 23, Denpasar, Tel: 222267 Farmasari, Jl. Banjar Taman, Sanur, Tel: 288-062 Apotik Maha Sandhi, Jl. Raya Kuta, Kuta, Tel: 751830. Smaller "drugstores" on the streets, sell film, toiletries, etc.
There are three time zones in Indonesia. Bali is on Central Indonesian Standard Time, +8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Bali is on the same time zones as Singapore and Hong Kong.
Indonesians work in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. If you need to visit a government office, arrive there between 8 am and 11:30 am. This also applies to banks and private businesses. Government offices close early on Fridays and Saturdays. Generally, offices are open from 7 am-3 pm Monday-Thursday, 7:30 am-noon on Friday, closed Saturday and Sunday.
Most larger hotels and restaurants automatically add government tax and service charge of up to 21 percent to the bill. Tipping in the Western sense is not part of Balinese culture. Never tip waiters in restaurants, bartenders, reception people in small hotels, hairdressers, medical personnel, or tailors. Only tip taxi drivers and porters for unusually good service or extra-heavy bags. If like your taxi driver, a tip of 10-l5 percent is appreciated. If traveling in a group, a tip to drivers and guides is appreciated. Airport or hotel porters expect Rp. 500-Rp. 1,000 per bag depending on the size and weight. Carry small change with you as taxi drivers often have none. Round up the fare to the nearest Rp. 500.
Western films are shown at: Indra Theater, Jl. Gajah Mada 7, Tel: 235-424. Kusumasari Theater, Kusumasari Shopping Complex, Jl. Gajah Mada, Tel: 436-049. New Jaya Theater, Jl. Kartini 114, Tel: 222-078 Wisata Cineplex, Jl. MH Thamrin 69 Legian Cineplex Jl. Legian, Tel: 755-142. Many restaurants show current videos, usually posting the day's features prominently.
Internet: Numerous local providers in Bali have internet gateways. As everywhere, facilities are growing daily. America On Line and CompuServe have Bali nodes. Lines don't always hold well. Newspapers & Magazines: Two major English language papers are widely available: Jakarta Post and Indonesian Observer. International newspapers and magazines. Various tourism magazines are available for free. Radio & Television: Government Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI 93.5 FM) plays traditional Indonesian music. Some Denpasar stations have limited English programming and most play Western pop and rock music. Most hotels have satellite television, bringing in international programming. Government stations TVRI and TPI, have Indonesian programming with daily English news segments. TVRI's half-hour, local English news broadcast, "Bali Vision", airs daily at 6:30 pm. Private channels SCTV, Indosiar, ANTV and RCTI mix Indonesian and Western programming.
Government and private Wartel (warung telekomunikasi) offices facilitate local, interlocal and international calls, send and receive faxes, sell telephone cards, etc. A list of 52 Telkom Wartels is in the front of the Denpasar telephone directory. Denpasar's main telecommunication office (with International Direct Dial, facsimile and telex and telegram services), Jl. Teuku Umar 6, Fax: 62-361-236021, open is 24 hours a day. Branches: in Gianyar, Kuta and Sanur. Ubud branch, in Andong, open 7 am-7 pm daily (Fax: 62-361-95120). Received faxes delivered within 24 hours for service charge, with complete delivery address for nominal service charge. Pay phones cost Rp. 100 for a two-minute call. Those which use a debit card, available from post offices, wartels, airports, supermarkets, etc., are abundant and a handy for lower cost international calls, but will not allow calls to cellular hand phones.
Post offices in every major town and village. Hours: Monday-Thursday 8 am-2 pm, Friday 8 am-noon, Saturday 8 am-1 pm, and in some places (such as Ubud) Sundays 8 am-noon. Central post office, Denpasar: Jl. Raya Puputan, Renon; open daily 7:30am-8:30 pm, 8 am - 8 pm Sundays.
Security & Crime
Bali is not free of theft and petty crime. Don't leave valuables unattended. Be extra careful of purses, wallets and backpacks at crowded areas. Don't leave valuables, even in a locked vehicle. Don't lend money if you expect it to be returned. Report theft immediately to police or security officers. Without a police report, new passports and documents to leave the country are difficult to obtain. Carry photocopies of passports, tickets and driver's licenses and keep originals in the hotel safe. All narcotics are illegal in Indonesia and prosecution means a long prison term-even death- and/or huge fines.
Small vans called "bemo" or "colt" ply the island for local access. Un-air-conditioned and crowded, they are an good way to get to know the "real" Bali. The major Denpasar bus terminals: Tegal (going to Kuta, Sanur, airport and Nusa Dua); Kereneng (to Batubulan, Sanur and the city); Ubung (all points north and west, including Java). Outside Denpasar: Batubulan (north and east), Singaraja (to Java and Denpasar). Inter-city buses depart for Java from Ubung. These bus companies have offices in Denpasar on Jalan Hasanudin near Jalan Sumatra and at Ubung. Within Denpasar, you must travel distances from one end of town to the other and the city is full of one way streets. Sometimes it's quicker to walk.
Bali Taxi, 701111
Bali Van, 228271
Praja Taxi, 289090
Pan Wirthi, 723355
Serasi Autoraya, 751282, 755003
Chartering a Minivan/Car
Charter a minivan with a driver (and a guide if through a tour agency or your hotel) for an hour, a day or month. There are shuttles from Kuta and Ubud and major resorts and Lombok.
Driving in Bali is dangerous. Drivers are not defensive, roads are narrow and poorly maintained, and stray animals and people dart into the road. If you collide with anything, or it collides with you, you are responsible for all costs. Hire a driver by the half-day or full-day, relax and enjoy the view. Tip driver pocket money for meals if you stop for lunch or dinner. If you are pleased with service, tip (Rp. 10,000 is sufficient) at the end. Self-drive cars are available everywhere. You must have a valid Indonesian or International Driving License. Book a car through your hotel or car hire companies below. They will deliver and pick up the car.Test drive the car before paying in advance. Take insurance coverage for vehicle damages.
Motorcycles are a convenient and inexpensive way to get around the island. Tourists are frequently injured or killed in motorbike accidents. If you rent a bike, drive slowly and very defensively. Helmets are required by law and those provided by rental agencies offer little protection. Motorbike hiring cost is negotiable, varying by condition of the machine, length of rental and time of year. You should have an International Driving Permit valid for motorcycles, or visit the Denpasar Police Office for a "Temporary Permit" (valid for six months on Bali only). Take your passport, three passport size photos, and valid auto driving license.
Stay a couple of days in that cheap hotel, but stay a couple more in a basic losmen or homestay-rooms or bungalows let out by ordinary people, which cost just a few dollars a night, including breakfast. Forget about what comforts you may have traded in (though in some cases, not as many as you might think) and take some time to get to know your hosts or the environment. The Balinese are a friendly people, and are usually pleased when tourists take the time to get acquainted. If their English is good enough, you can learn a great deal from them. Another way to dip into the culture is to join in on temple ceremonies. Celebrations and ceremonies are integral parts of everyday Balinese life, and not a day goes by without a temple ceremony somewhere on the island.