Why is Bali Called the Island of the Gods?

From magnificent mountains to rugged coastlines to volcanic hillsides to black sandy beaches, it’s no surprise Bali is known as the Island of the Gods. Located between the Java and Lombok island, Bali (Balikapapan) boasts a rich and diverse culture that’s quite peculiar. The Balinese architecture is no less prominent with the island housing thousands of Hindu temples in every nook and cranny. The predominantly Hindu culture is certainly a rare form in the Muslim dominated country of Indonesia.

It was in the late 1970s that a flock of hippies went on to explore this beautiful island, especially the beaches of Kuta that attracted many surfers. You’ll be amazed to see how the city still retains its purification rituals by priests in white as well as the gracious use of natural materials like bamboo and coconut wood for architectural work and many other purposes.

I’m here to  learn and educate myself about the Balinese culture and most importantly its history; not precisely from a Xerox of information compiled online or books. I would rather hear from the locals who abide by the tradition everyday. Bahasa is the language spoken in Indonesia, also Kawi spoken in some parts. Not many here speak English and so my thrive to understand the local life is quite minimal.

Balinese Spiritual Offering

There ‘s a spiritual feel in the Balinese land as you wake up every morning, apart from the roosters crocking their lungs out. The women folks religiously begin their day with prayers at their homes,  some in their local shops while some in a temple. At the crack of the dawn, the women here splash a bucket of water in their front porch.

The smell of the incense when lit. Bunches of Plumeria and various colours of Frangipani are adorned mildly on an intricately square-shaped palm leaves pinned together with bamboo sticks like a basket called the Canang Sari.  The decorated palm couture is prayed and kept in every nook and corner of Bali. The different colours of flowers in this palm tray symbolizes a Hindu God. Sometimes the offering includes betel nuts, lime and even tobacco. The Balinese offering known as Banten is a form dedication to god as a Thank you note as well as to the demons – not as a prayer per say but as a request to go away.

Prayer offering

Canang Sari at a warung

I stroll through Ubud market at 9.am this morning and notice the locals going about their daily offerings carrying a thatched palm bucket on their shoulders. It has all their belongings for the prayer. Observing more made me more curious about the Balinese culture and their uniformed dedication. While I can’t enter a temple wearing pants or shorts, I began to get comfortable with the sarong and sash – I quite like the contrast of purple sarong and yellow sash.

Tourist Trap

At goa gajah, an old woman invites us and gestures to join our hands and pray to Buddha. She dips a bamboo stick into the holy water and sprinkles onto our hands and suggests to drink the water. She then takes raw rice and dabs them onto our forehead. Finally, she keeps a frangipaani on our ears.When I begin to feel that it’s for a godly cause, she points to a tiny glass box loaded with money. After all nothing comes for free. Blessings in bali comes with a price.

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At ubud market, Bargain is key as the prices they did set for me as a ‘last price’ had gone down to literally half the price than first quoted.  People here are friendly, some willing to help with sole intention of being friendly and some try their deciduous luck on offering a price to the assistance.

Abundance of Landscapes and Food

The greenery and the praying behaviour here takes me back to gods own country – Kerala. Having said that, the lush of coconut trees, banana, rice and the perfectly manicured paddy fields creates Bali what it is and none alike. The paddy fields at Jatiluwih (Rice terrace) follow the traditional irrigation system called the Subak.

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Jatiluwih Rice Terrace

The Balinese seem to make use of things that grow in their own land from rice, coffee, clove, to lettuce. My food is mostly rice stacked like an upside-down bowl with chicken satay  as a side dish – complete with ginger dressing. The food is placed on a circle shaped banana leaf. Indonesian breakfast comes heavy with rice and noodles – not for a light eater like me. So my options have been toast and egg, with fruits and Bali black kope (coffee) or white kope sachez. Warungs (family owned restaurants) serves the cheapest yet tasty food. One of the best warung food we had was at One homestay; food is cheap and tasty, and the view is to die for.

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Diverse Weather Conditions

The mountains slightly up north makes me love Bali more and more. Temperatures in kintamani go down to almost 10 degrees. A drift from the heat and tourist population in kuta and ubud(south). Perhaps my travel to bali has been at the right time that it feels like a land of solitude.

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Our commute through all Bali is on a scooter. The photographs clicked here need no filter, the colours are naturally bright. Our research on homestays with a splendid view at Ubud, Batur and Munduk has added up extensively to our inner bliss. It is different from java – the locals have hardly met people outside their junction.
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A two-hour motorbike ride from Kintamani in the rains, the cold weather and the hairpin bend roads through jungles land you to the mountainous village of Munduk.The village has a similar feel to Cemaro Lawang in Java.

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Bali has been full of surprises and it officially tops my suggestion list to anybody who are off to some soul – searching, while the island stays true to those effected by wanderlust.

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Post Location: Canggu,  Bali

Want to explore Bali like I did? Read the post on how to explore Bali on a motorbike

51 Comments

  1. Love Bali – been there twice and had completely different experiences each time. We went to Kuta/Seminyak first and did everything that all the travellers do – but then on our second time we went to Ubud and saw a much more culturally diverse place which we loved.

  2. Bali sounds so beautiful and fascinating. It’s definitely on my travel list, especially after reading this post! The rice terraces are so incredibly green in your photo, I’d love to see them.

    • Oh it totally is. It’s even more brighter in person (of course on a bright day;) ). I can’t wait to visit Barcelona as well. It’s so cool u have a blog completely on Barcelona.

  3. Love the view from that balcony, I could work there every single day. I absolutely love this post and your smooth transitions sprinkled with awesome pictures.

  4. Great experience on a great island! I also explored the island on a scooter but didn´t have much luck with the volcanoes – every time we made it there, we only could see the fog 🙁

    • Hi elena, I heard that from our fellow travelers when they visited previously , but we were lucky to see the mountains pretty clear. Which month did u go?

  5. I love Bali, it is such a beautiful place. I feel like it is so different from the rest of Asia as well. Bahasa Indonesia seems like one of the easier Asian languages to learn, however it’s still hard to learn any new language. Good luck getting to know the local culture better!

    • Hi Adrian, keeping aside the culture n a lot of other things, there are fee places like bali in india aswell but sadly is quite unknown to foreigners and mostly enjoyed only by the locals.

  6. brmsimmons

    Bali is definitely on my wish wist, the beauty, the culture, the food…..

  7. I’ve always known Bali more for the incredible beaches, but that lush interior looks equally beautiful. You certainly experienced some amazing local food while you were there and those pictures are fueling my wanderlust!

  8. I love your tatoo!! Bali looks beautiful. I love both rice and coffee so it sound like Bali and I would get along just fine. Though sadly I have a banana allergy. Thanks for sharing about the island of the Gods. -I’ll have to look into it more now! (ever-growing-list… ) haha. -Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  9. Oh no, I so should not see this post as I want to go to Baliright now 🙁 My sister was there this year and I was already impressed, but now I know I will really have to put it in my plan soon 🙂

  10. I agree that bargaining is the key in Ubud or anywhere in Bali for that matter. I remember I got a very detailed beautiful painted Balinese painting for about way lower than the initial asking price. And the funny thing about it is I didn’t even want to buy it but I wanted to get rid of all my money before leaving and now it has a special place in my home.

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  17. I still remember the first time I came to Bali in 2008.
    Everything was so “strange” as I am from Borneo.
    The Hindu’s offering were everywhere and its smell so weird to me.

    BUT that’s long tome ago,
    Now I am living in Bali since 2009 and always falling in love everyday.
    Indeed Bali is Island of Gods, because it comfort peoples.

    Thanks for the article so I can remember how I felt in love with BALI
    Cheers

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