Why World Travelers Flock To Bali
True to its legend, Bali delivers an exotic landscape, mesmerizing dances, fascinating temples and a myriad of crafts to be indelibly etched into the minds and hearts of tourists. Since its first encounter with well-known occidental visitors in the 1930s, Bali has developed its tourism to embrace worldwide travelers. The secrets of Bali's thriving tourism lie in its isolation from world political turmoil, vividness of Balinese culture and arts, and array of amenities, facilities and leisure activities to accommodate any type of traveler.
How is Bali different from the rest of Indonesia?
Safety - In our present world of anxiety and uncertainty after the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, Bali remains one of the few escapes for vacationers. Although social unrest has existed in other parts of Indonesia, Bali stands unfazed by religious upheavals or political disorder. As an island paradise with crimson sunsets and tropical mystique, it has been shielded from a world of cruel reality. As one Japanese tourist describes it, "Bali is the safest haven when the world is collapsing around you."
Tourism - With an international appeal and a bustling economy driven by tourism, Bali has become a paragon for the rest of Indonesia plagued by political strife and stricken by economic deterioration. As a result, the Indonesian government implemented policies to improve facilities for advancing tourism on other islands, hoping to spark the spread of magic in Bali to the rest of the archipelago.
Religion - Although the majority of the population in Indonesia follow Islam, ninety-five percent of Balinese adhere to Hinduism. The Balinese ubiquitously express their religious devotion through social obligations, cultural practices and art endeavors. An estimated 20,000 temples are located conveniently throughout this small island where people can celebrate endless series of ceremonies extending from birth to even after death.
Trained Guides - Like many Asian nations, a foreign language is compulsory in secondary schools. In most parts of Indonesia, the common foreign language is either English or German, but in Bali, Japanese is required. "I like to come to Bali because I don't have to worry about communication problems," said Etsuko Murata who has visited Bali three times in the last five years. "I was surprised to find Japanese spoken more than English here," commented Ben Kingsley, an Australian who came to surf for the first time. Besides being trained to communicate in different languages with worldwide travelers, the tour guides are well prepared to handle the annual onslaughts of the three largest groups of visitors - the Australians, Japanese, and French.
What makes Bali tourism unique?
Guided Tours - Trying to reduce high unemployment and satisfy customers' needs in one stroke, the Indonesian government implemented a policy stipulating that vehicle tours, except buses, must provide an experienced driver and a trained guide for a maximum load of four passengers. Thus, guided tours are abundant and competitive; some even offer discounts and free coupons. Often unreliable and crowded, local buses run few and far between to the dissatisfaction of most passengers. Although popular among individual travelers, riding rental motorcycles faces danger in congested and undisciplined traffic. Motorcycle accidents have been the largest cause of death among foreign visitors to Bali to date. With those points in mind, most travelers opt for small guided tours ranging from US$15 to US$50 as the most convenient and the safest way to see Bali.
Range of Accommodations - Throughout the year, international travelers with a broad range of interest flock to Bali, some come for relaxation to dabble in water sports or just sunbathe on the beach, others venture here for beauty treatment - massages and cosmetology, still others seek to immerse in Balinese culture and art, yet others want to explore the highlights of Bali. For whatever reason, Bali offers a wide selection of accommodations, ranging from a losmen (US$10 for a bed) to a five star luxurious hotel (over US$100 a night), catering to every visitor's taste and budget. The restless young and foreigners alike hang out in Kuta district, known for its nightlife and low budget bungalows. At the southern tip of the island, Nusa Dua, a tourist enclave hosts a slew of luxurious and exclusive hotels designed in traditional Balinese styles. "We usually have Australians stay in losmens and enjoy the beach. On the other end of the scale, Japanese prefer to stay in deluxe hotels and go for beauty treatments or sightseeing tours," said a guide from Alba Tours (Tel: 62-361-281088, ext. 1745).
Shopping - Shopping in Bali runs a gamut from small tourist souvenir traps situated at the entrances of most famous sites to the duty free store 'Bali Galleria' (Tel: 62-361-702702) just outside of town. "What I like about shopping in Bali is that you can bargain for everything," remarked René Dubois, a middle-aged French on vacation with her male companion. Evidently, art is a vital part of a Balinese life whether expressed through vibrant paintings, artistic carvings, or remarkable weavings. "It seems that almost everyone living along the road to Ubud is an artisan," as René recalled countless of specialized handicraft shops that lined the road to the Balinese cultural center.
Food - Along with popular Indonesian food, sate skewered meats served with peanut sauce, nasi goring fried rice with either meat or shrimp or gado-gado a combination of various vegetables with peanut sauce, tourists can savor Balinese specialties, such as babi guling the crispy sucking pig or bebek betutu a delicious duck with herbs and spices baked in banana leaves. For an unforgettable event, experience a seafood feast served on the beach or wander through a market displaying an unusual selection of island fruits. Of course, a variety of international cuisines exist whether it's Italian pasta, Japanese sushi or Indian curry to sate one's epicurean appetite.
Besides the accomplished dance dramas and hypnotic trances, enchanting temples and religious festivities, as well as distinguished crafts and carved landscapes, visitors usually return to Bali for one simple reason - life is wonderful in paradise. Bali has all the right elements to convince travelers that it is a true heavenly spot on Earth.
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Published on 4/28/02