Sights & Landmarks in Bali
Bali's best-known attractions are its countless Hindu temples. Each village is required by adat (customary law) to construct and maintain at least three temples: thepura puseh (temple of origin) located at the kaja (pure) side of the village, the pura desa(village temple) at the centre for everyday community activities and the pura dalem (temple of the dead) at the kelod (unclean) end. Wealthy villages may well have more than these three obligatory temples, and additionally all family compounds have a temple of some nature.
The nine directional temples (kayangan jagat) are the largest and most prominent. These are located at strategic points across Bali and are designed to protect the island and its inhabitants from dark forces. Pura Luhur Uluwatu (Uluwatu Temple), at the southern tip of Bali, is easily accessed and hence very popular, as is Tanah Lot. For the Balinese, the "mother temple" of Besakih on the slopes of Mount Agung is the most important of all and sits above the nine. The other seven directional temples are Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Pura Ulun Danu Batur,Pura Pasar Agung, Pura Lempuyang Luhur, Goa Lawah, Pura Masceti and Pura Luhur Batukaru. All of these are located on either rugged high ground or at the water's edge, and this is a clear indication of the likely source of dark forces as far as the Balinese are concerned.
Balinese temple design is an involved subject and one that baffles many visitors. Local geography has a fundamental effect on design, and two temples are rarely the same. Everything you see, be it decorative or structural, has a specific, well-considered function which may be of an earthly or spiritual nature. There are, though, general elements which are common to the vast majority of temples, which are always split into three courtyards: jaba (outer courtyard), jaba tengah (middle courtyard) and jeroan (inner courtyard). Each of these courtyards contains various structures and/or shrines of differing levels of importance.
The tiered, black-thatched roofs that you see on temples are made from a palm fibre, and this material is not permitted to be used for any roof other than those on temples. The elegant, pagoda-like tiered structure is itself called a meru (named after sacred Mount Meru (Mahameru), the home of the gods), and the most dramatic of them can consist of as many as 11 tiers. The number of tiers, though, is always an odd number.
The temple entrance is always on the kelodaxis point (facing away from Mount Agung) of the compound and is usually a gateway of some nature. This leads into the jabawhich is the domain of humans and all things earthly. The jaba contains only minor shrines, is where some celebratory dance performances take place, and during special ceremonies is where the foods stalls are set up. Non-Hindu tourists are nearly always allowed to visit this part of a temple.
A gateway called a candi bentar leads into the central courtyard which is called thejaba tengah. This is the intermediary point between our earthly domain and the realm of the Gods, and this is where daily offerings are prepared in an open pavilion called a paon. The jaba tengah also usually contains a large pavilion called a wantilan, which is used for special dance performances.
The kori agung gate leads into the jeroan—the inner sacred area. This houses the most important shrines to different Hindu gods and deities and is where serious rituals and prayers take place. Shrines are many and varied but usually include apadmasana, the throne of the supreme deity Sanghyang Widi Wasa. The large pavilion in this section is called a gedong pariman, which is always left completely empty to allow the gods to visit during ceremonies. Sometimes properly dressed visitors will be allowed into the jeroan and at other times not; it depends on the individual temple and the ceremonies that have been, or are about to be, performed.
The most common and practical architectural features to be found in virtually all temples are gazebo pavilions called bales. Each has a raised seating section and either an alang-alang (grass-thatched) or tali duk (black palm fibre-thatched) roof and has a myriad of social functions. Bales can serve as a place for the gamelan orchestra to sit, as a village meeting point, host dance performances or simply be a place of rest for worshipers. This part of traditional Balinese temple architecture has been copied by hotels all over the island and in the wider world. The open grass-roofed pavilions you see everywhere in Bali are all derived from this original piece of temple design.
To enter any temple you must be appropriately dressed with a sarong and sash. These are always available for rental at the large temples which attract a lot of tourists (usually included if you're paying to enter, else a few thousand rupiah per set), but it's better to buy one of each when you arrive and use them throughout your visit.
Most of the coastline of Bali is fringed by beaches of some type, with the exceptions being some important areas of mangrove forest in the southeast, and certain parts of the Bukit Peninsula where high cliffs drop straight to the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean.
Unsurprisingly, given the volcanic nature of the island, black sand is the norm, but there are also some beaches in the south which have fine-grained white sand. Beaches that are especially safe for swimming include Jimbaran Bay and virtually all of the north coast. At all times though, visitors should be aware of and obey local swimming safety markers—far too many visitors to Bali drown each year after ignoring these. Bali's popular southern beaches are sometimes not the cleanest you will find. This is particularly true during the height of the wet season (December to January), when the heavy rains cause extensive agricultural run-off and garbage to be washed onto the beaches.
Away from the coast, Bali is largely lush, green and fertile, and rice paddies are the dominant agricultural feature of the island. In some areas, paddies take the form of dramatic sculpted terraces which efficiently utilise every available acre of land for cultivation. Especially beautiful examples of terraced paddies can be found in the centre of the island north of Ubud and in east Bali around Tirta Gangga. Elsewhere, gently rolling rice fields make for very pleasing rural scenery. There are a number of rice field tours available, and these can involve staying at a resort in one of these areas.
All of Bali's mountains are volcanoes, some long dormant and some still active. At 3,142 m, magnificent Mount Agung dominates the landscape of East Bali and has not erupted since 1963. Much more active is Mount Batur, which permanently smoulders and periodically produces a large bang and plumes of ashy smoke as pressure is released from within. Taking only 2 hr to climb, Batur is one of the most accessible active volcanoes in the whole of Indonesia.
Art, both traditional and modern, is everywhere in Bali and impossible to miss.Ubud is the artistic capital of the island with several museums and a variety of informal workshops and retail outlets. Ubud's museums showcase the works of local artists, both living and dead, as well as works by many foreign artists, who either have a strong affinity to Bali or have made the island their permanent home.
A sad reminder of the modern world is the Bali Bomb Memorial on Jalan Legian in Kuta, which commemorates the 202 victims of the first Bali Bomb attack in October 2002. The site of the former Sari Club, obliterated in one of the blasts, lies adjacent to the monument and has not been redeveloped.
There are several monuments commemorating the puputan (suicidal fight to the death) of the Balinese against the Dutch colonialists in the early 20th century. The two most famous are in the town centre of Klungkung in East Bali and in Puputan Park, Denpasar.
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