The Island and People of Bali
Bali , renowned for its outstanding natural beauty and exuberant tropical vegetation, is home to a unique and vibrant culture. Its reputation as an island paradise attracts visitors from around the world, who flock to its palm-fringed beaches and luxurious resort hotels.
Lying eight degrees south of the equator, Bali is but one of the 13,677-odd islands that make up the great Indonesian archipelago. Just 5632 sq. km. in area, it is barely the size of the State of Delaware but has five times the population – some 3.5 million.
Like most of Indonesia , Bali is volcanic in origin, its East-West mountain spine rising to 10,000 ft (3000 m). The forested peaks enjoy high rainfall, and the rich volcanic soil, combined with extensive terracing and a complex irrigation system, supports intensive agriculture. Rice, the staple diet of the Balinese, is grown in such abundance that it is also a major export. Tourism has only recently overtaken agriculture as Bali 's chief source of revenue, although unlike tourism, the money from agriculture remains largely on the island.
The climate of Bali is subject to a monsoon pattern, meaning a seasonal reversal of wind direction as summer and winter fluctuate in the northern and southern hemispheres. In Bali this results in a wet season from November to March, as moisture-laden air sweeps across the Indian Ocean . From April to October the flow is reversed as dry air blows in from the deserts of Australia , bringing only intermittent rainfall.
The ancestors of today’s inhabitants arrived by sea some three thousand years ago, part of the great Austronesian migration that originated in Yunan , China about 7000 BC and extended from Easter Island to Madegascar. Archaeological sites at the western tip of Bali and along the north shore reveal evidence of a rich culture skilled in the ancient arts of metal-working and rice cultivation who regularly traded with India.
Today the Balinese are a heterogeneous mixture of beautiful people that includes Polynesian, Malay, Japanese and Indian features. Although the Balinese speak their own language, the lingua franca
throughout the archipelago is Indonesian.
Unlike most of Indonesia, which is Islamic, Bali has retained its own unique form of Hinduism. It is the outward manifestations of this rich religious tradition - the ubiquitous temples and dazzling processions and ceremonies - that delight and amaze visitors.
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