in Brief :
has 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
thereís 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
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
Balinese are influanced 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
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 itís taboo)
for women who are menstruating to enter
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.