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Sadly, this island, the most popular stop in Indonesia, was the scene of several horrific bombings in October 2002. Given that the bombings may be linked to terrorist groups, we can't recommend anyone visit Bali at this time.
It's especially sad to see terrorism reach Bali because the island's friendly people, Hindu culture, rhythmic and flowing dances, volcanoes, sculptured rice paddies, beautiful jungle and mountain scenery and spectacular beaches -- combined with a wide array of accommodations -- make it one of the most fascinating places you'll find anywhere in the world. It's a magical place -- despite the ever-expanding, crowded and commercialized tourist spots on the southern coast.

When it's safe again, the best way to see the "real" Bali is to head inland, past rice terraces and across the lush countryside. The island isn't that big, so just about any of the resorts can be used as a base to explore the island's sights. The adventurous should rent a car, while others should hire a car and driver (it doesn't cost that much more). Traffic is heavy on the island's main roads, which are narrow. Many budget travelers like to rent motorcycles, but accidents are so common that most insurers won't cover motorcycles without special provisions. You're better off renting bicycles and sticking to the back roads, which are quiet once you get north of Denpasar, and provide you with a glimpse of the real Bali.

Once you're away from the crowds of tourists, you'll have the best chance of encountering one of the island's many festivals, colorful weddings or ceremonial cremations. Much of Bali's charm is serendipitous, and many of its interesting sites and villages are somewhat off the beaten path, so a flexible, spontaneous attitude if necessary if you want to get the most out of your visit.

Religion governs every aspect of Balinese life, and each village has at least three temples where rituals and festivals take place (there are some 20,000 temples in Bali). Music, dance and drama are part of those rituals, and each village has its own troupe of dancers who perform for the spiritual well-being of the village. One of the most memorable dance performances you can witness is a topeng (mask) dance, during which a performer on a simple stage uses a variety of masks to transform himself into a variety of characters -- from a delicate, graceful girl to an angry, frightful monster. Magic!

Tourist offices and hotels can often provide information about temple festivals or ceremonies during a particular day or week. Other good sources of information are the Bali Echo, the best English-language magazine on the island; the Bali Post, which has a daily calendar of activities; and the Jakarta Post, the national English daily newspaper, which publishes a calendar of Bali activities and special events.

It's also possible to watch dance performances in a hotel after a sumptuous dinner buffet. It's pricey, but well worth a splurge. And for the true aficionado, there are music and dance schools in the village of Peliatan, near Ubud. Many Westerners and Japanese live in Peliatan long-term to study Balinese music and dance, but the Yayasan Polos Seni (Foundation for Pure Art) also offers short-term music and dance lessons at reasonable prices. You'll also learn how to wear sarongs the Balinese way.

Bali is famous for its handicrafts, too -- its own as well as those it draws from all over Indonesia (what is passed off as Balinese is not always made on the island). Most of the Balinese handicraft production is focused in the Ubud area and the larger Gianyar region in the south. Each village specializes in a different craft -- Celuk in gold and silvercraft, Batuan in miniature paintings and Pengosekan in larger, more boldly colored paintings of traditional village life. You'll find beautiful Balinese temple umbrellas near Taman Ayun in Megwi, fascinating and sometimes surreal wood carvings in Tegalalang, masks and other wooden decorative items in Mas, stone carvings in Batubulan and handmade quilts near Kedewatan.

Most of these villages are on the way to Ubud from Denpasar. But be aware that the roadside tourist shops are overpriced -- if you get off the main road and head for the smaller workshops and compounds where you'll pay less and get a chance to meet the artisans. If you want to see a wide range of crafts in a very different atmosphere, plunge into the Pasar Seni (Art Market) in Sukawati, where you can bargain away and get some of the best deals on the island. It's a traditional market, with small stalls and very narrow aisles -- not for the claustrophobic!

In addition to its cultural attractions, the island offers good diving and snorkeling (visibility in excess of 100 ft/35 m) at Tulamben (a wrecked World War II cargo ship lies just offshore), the port of Padangbai (variety of fish and a 130-ft/40-m wall) and the remote Menjangan Island (some of the best diving in Bali). It's also one of the top surfing spots in the world. While Kuta offers some big waves and a beautiful beach, ask around Kuta for a guide to the more private beaches, where you won't be bothered by the touts. A number of white-water rafting tours have been set up lately in the Ubud area and farther east: Ask in Kuta tour agencies or the Ubud tourist office on the main road for info. Some ecotourist sites are also being developed in the south. Bali lies 600 mi/965 km east of Jakarta.

Most shops are located along Jl. Danau Tamblingan and in the Sanur Art Market (Pasar Seni). Both local handicraft, and export quality fashion and homeware outlets, cater to both the residential and touristic market. Uluwatu Balinese Lace is a favorite for great quality, lace fashion where "Home Lingerie is at 'better-than-home' prices! For the Sanur Beach market go to the beach-end of Jl. Danau Toba.

Nusa Dua
Galeria Nusa Dua offers the whole range of Balinese goods in one complex, plus all the international brands and it's free from the hassle of street vendors. Around the perimeter of Nusa Dua, you can find a number of small shops selling sarongs and souvenirs.

Renowned for Artists and Painting, Ubud is the place to go if you want to buy that special picture or two. The first recommendation to those of you looking to purchase a work of art, is a visit to one or all of the three museums to learn all you can about styles (See Arts & Artists Chapter), then buy at one of the numerous Gallery/Art shops, Genta Fine Art Gallery in nearby Lodtunduh is recomended. Shops stretch out along Jl. Raya Ubud and also along Monkey Forest Rd. The village atmosphere of Ubud makes it one of the more relaxed places to shop, and you can find just as much variety here as you can in Kuta.

Bali's Capital Jl. Gajah Mada has many handicraft and souvenir shops that stock similar items as found elsewhere on the island and a few curious Chinese medicine shops too. An offshoot of Jl. Gajah Mada is Jl. Sulawesi, which stocks a wide range of textiles. Denpasar has a number of good department stores like Matahari and Bali Mal - Ramayana, for air - conditioned shopping.


Poppies Lane I & II - The most famous lanes in Bali, consisting of small shops selling fashion, souvenirs, shoes, etc. Market stalls line both sides of Poppies I and II. Here bargaining is an absolute must!

Ubud Area
Pasar Seni Sukawati (Art Market) - Jl. Raya Sukawati - Gianyar. Crammed into a large two-storey building, the souk-like maze of small, packed stalls is sure to reward the curious shopper with endless discoveries of traditional fabrics, basketware, clothing, umbrellas and carvings.
Ubud Art Market - Jl. Raya Ubud. This is the place to buy Bali's best aromatherapy oils and incense, made from locally sourced plants, herbs and flowers, alongside carvings, paintings and textiles.

Sanur Art Market - Jl. Danau Tamblingan. Offering a wide selection of woodcarvings, paintings and other handicrafts from almost every corner of Bali.

Badung Market
- Jl. Gajah Mada. Selling everything from fruit and meat to clothes and textiles, Pasar Badung is a market that provides for the locals' needs. This is definitely the place for bottom-line bargains.
Kumbasari Market - Jl. Gajah Mada. A range of handicrafts, gold work and fine fabrics can be found.
Bird Market - Jl. Veteran. Sells an assortment of beautiful birds and other animals, which will surely leave you both impressed and depressed.

To buy goods right from the source we recommend the following places:

Antiques : Batubulan to Batuan Road

Art :
Ubud and surrounding areas of Campuhan, Penestanan, Pengosekan, Peliatan

Ceramics :
Campuhan, Kapal, Tabanan

Cigars :
Cigar and Cigars Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Ubud, Sanur

Clothes & Fashion :
Mambo, Milo's, Rascals, Kahuna Surf Kids, Mama & Leon, Uluwatu Lace

Furniture :
Kerobokan, Seminyak, Jimbaran, Ubud, Vinoti Living

Jewellery :
Ubud, Celuk, Denpasar, Jl. Sulawesi
Masks Singapadu, Batuan, Mas
Music : Cassettes and CD's in Bali are cheaper than at home. most music stores are located in Kuta/ Legian

Puppets : Klungkung, Sukawati, Gianyar, Peliatan

Stone Carving : Batubulan

Textiles : Sidemen, Kampunggelgel & Klungkung Market, Batuan, Negara, Tampaksiring - for ikat weaving, Tenganan - for gerinsing, Milo's - for silk, Asia style

Wood Carving : Mas, Kemenuh - Buruan, Tegallalang, Pujung, Nyuhkuning