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A Small Island With Many Faces

For a small island (87 miles across and 50 miles wide), Bali encompasses an amazing diversity of terrain. A great many of its communities display distinct personalities, so seeing one definitely does not mean you have seen them all.


Some travelers never venture beyond the beaches lining Bukit Peninsula, the Bali resort capital.

Jimbaran is sedate, with widely spaced resorts facing west. At the beachside restaurant strip, patrons crowd in to view the bright-orange sunsets. That's about the only part of the Jimbaran shoreline where traffic noise out-shouts the roaring surf.

Slightly inland from the beach, the town of Jimbaran--still a fishing village at heart, bustles with an early morning market. Cows roam free, having learned to avoid the motorbikes, taxis and trucks on the main road to Kuta.

Kuta attracts the surfing crowd and the surfing, beach-blanket lifestyle. Funky hotels outnumber the luxurious kind. Away from the beach (always alive with hawkers of souvenirs and roving masseuses), Kuta will appeal to those who love a scruffy, tacky and energetic scene where the designer labels cannot be believed.

Sanur and Nusa Dua resemble high-end Hawaiian resort areas. Hotels sit discreetly in manicured compounds lined with coconut palms. They bristle with Balinese temple-style architecture. Unlike Maui, however, waves roll in from Badung Strait without much zest, due to outlying coral reefs. It's pricey. A morning at the golf course costs more than $200, including rental clubs, caddie and tips.


Denpasar, the capital, is also in the south, but it's on the way north and worth a stop for the culturally rich collection of artifacts at the Negeri Propinsi Museum. It's also good for dose of big-city life, Asian style, complete with shop houses, noise and motorcycles.

The capital of the "real Bali" (or at least the one we had fondly imagined) would be the town of Ubud; a showcase for Balinese artistry of every kind. Roads flare out from the magnificent central palace, and most are lined with shops, markets and galleries. Even the humblest restaurants and hostels will show off something exquisite: a flowered courtyard, a family temple, a treasured carving of the Rice Goddess, or a statue of a spirit with a fresh hibiscus on its ear. The "vacant lots" of Ubud are rice paddies, brilliant green and a preview of rice paddies on a grander scale in the fields outside town.


Up toward the central mountains, (the northernmost point of Bali as far as the majority of visitors are concerned), roads climb through terraced rice fields that spread out like concentric puddles of green on the foothills of Mts. Batur and Batu Kau. Picturesque temples with pagoda towers enhance the mountain lakes.

On the northern shore of the island, facing the Bali Sea are the black sand beaches of Lovina with nearby hot springs and a Buddhist temple. Some of the best diving awaits you here at Pulau Menjengan.


Travelling East you'll find one intriguing village after another, each with its own artistic specialty and unique character. Klungkung, with its Court of Justice complex, comprises a beautiful collection of highly decorated buildings including a museum set off by a lily pond and statuary.

Further along the coast you will come to Candi Dasa, a once tiny beach resort that still holds the charm of yesteryear. Nearby is the Bali Aga village of Tengenan. The beautiful fresh water pools of Tirtaganga are further east, just before you head to the beach resort of Amed and the slopes of Mt Agung which holds the most sacred of all Balinese temples, Besakih.


While the far west is mostly protected wilderness, the part that slopes gently westward north of Kuta shouldn't be ignored. A must stop between exploring still more villages and admiring the green, terraced countryside is the temple of Tanah Lot. Its pagoda tower and other buildings thrust out to meet the Indian Ocean in spectacular fashion. At sunset the temple can be seen at its most dramatic--hence the crowds. But even on a rainy afternoon, it speaks of beauty and mystery as it stands silhouetted in the mist.