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 Photograph © Rio Helmi
Overview of Balinese Culture

A vibrant culture, unique arts and ceremonies, a friendly people and scenic beauty make Bali an island almost unreal in today's changing world. It is the main destination for pleasure tourists to Indonesia. Bali's international airport, Ngurah Rai, is served by numerous international and domestic airlines.

Sanur and Kuta are located on the eastern and western coasts of the southern part of the island. The Nusa Dua peninsula on the southern tip is a high end tourist resort.

Bali's culture is based on its unique form of Hinduism called "Hindu Darma" which was retained after the Islamization of Java. Though the caste system is observed, it is not nearly as rigid as in India. Religion is the source of traditional customs in family and community life. Its influence is also strongly felt in the arts. With a completely different lifestyle from the rest of Indonesia, the Balinese have managed to preserve their culture despite the ever increasing number of visitors.

Bali's "rajas" and princes were deprived of their kingdoms by the colonial government in the early part of this century, but many of them still own their palaces and are respected as patrons of the arts. The classical dance drama is based on the old Hindu epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabarata, or on local folklore.

The island of Bali is mountainous in the center with a cluster of volcanoes of which one, Mount Agung is considered sacred. Terraced rice-fields dominate the landscape, with small streams bringing water for irrigation.

An attraction of Bali is its unique art and culture. It almost seems that every person is an artist in some form, whether it is painting, weaving, carving, basketry, etc., or even in religiously oriented decorations which are placed at many shrines in public areas, on roads, paddy fields or in the homes. Villagers spend their free time in these arts which are taught from a very young age.

The soul of the Balinese is in his religion, so it finds its expression in the arts.

A friendly people, the Balinese often speak more English than people in other parts of Indonesia. Keeping pace with the number of visitors and the need for their accommodation, more hotels have been built, from small bungalow types for the budget traveler to the luxurious Nusa Dua tourist resort area. Water sports have gained in popularity: surfing on Kuta, wind surfing at Sanur, sailing and scuba diving at several other destinations. White water rafting has lately been added to the list.

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