Bali is a tropical island, eight degrees south of the Equator, in the heart of the Indonesian archipelago. Because of its rich history, culture and arts – dances, sculptures and paintings – beautiful beaches, nature and tropical climate, Bali is thought to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Due to its many temples and pagodas it’s also known as “The Island of the thousand temples”. Its capital is Denpasar and its moto “Bali Dwipa Jaya” – “The Island of success Bali”.
The island is 153 kilometers long and 112 km wide, giving a total area of 5633 km2. Its highest point is Mount Agung (3 142 m), which is actually an active volcano; last known to erupt in March 1963. The main cities on the island are Singaradja – a port in the west part and of course the capital Denpasar. The city of Ubud, west of Denpasar, is considered as the cultural center of Bali with its many art shops, museums and galleries.
As compared to the Islamic Indonesia, Bali stands out with its ethnos, culture and religion. The population of the island is around three million, ninety three percent of which are Hindi and the rest are Muslim. The interesting fact is that, unlike India, the cow is not a sacred animal here. The most important economic feature in Bali is the agriculture and rice in particular but a substantial number of the people are also fishermen. The cities of Kuta, Sanur, Djibaran, Seminiak and the renovated Nusa Dua are important tourist attractions.
The people of Bali are descendants of tribes, which come to the Indonesian archipelago from Asia around 25th century BC. Around the 1st century BC the Hindi come from India and mark the end of the prehistoric era. In 5th century AC an independent Buddhist kingdom is established on the island until the 11th century AC when Bali is conquered by the Hindi kingdom of Madjapahit from the island of Java through a royal marriage between the king of Bali Udajana and the princess of east Java Mahendradata. This union joined Hinduism and Budhism, mixing in the primitive animistic beliefs and personifications of ancestors by deities.
Europeans first discover Bali in 1597 when the Portuguese ship of the Dutch adventurer Cornelius de Houtman anchored on the shores of Bukit. After several consecutive wars (1846-1849) the Dutch finally conquer the island. During World War II it’s invaded by Japan and becomes part of the Republic of East Indonesia, later known as United Indonesia. In 1965 the supporters of the communist party are brutally murdered after an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government. On October 12th 2002 a terrorist attack kills 202 people, mostly tourists in the town of Kuta.
Today, Bali is known for its Bali dances, scluptures, paintings and wood carving. The Hindu New Year, curiously, is in the spring, and is called “Nyepi”. It’s marked with silence and everyone, including tourists, remain at their homes or hotels. The Bali people believe that the left hand is impure so they use only their right for major things like eating, waving or giving/receiving things. The most widely used languages on the island are Bali and Indonesian, although most of sculpturestion speaks English because of the many tourists. After all, Bali received the Best Island Travel and Leisure award for 2010 given out by the US magazine Travel and Leisure