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Bali is a wonderful island, but for how much longer will it retain its distinctive character?

One of our guides, the son of a duck farmer, pointed to the increasing amount of land sold for development. Inhospitable land can be tamed into a golf course to serve a hotel complex, and along the roads plots are available and waiting to sprout estates of holiday villas. Yet you do not need to venture more than a few yards beyond the artifically created tourist zones to encounter rural life and the routines of harvesting rice and taking part in village celebrations.


poolside

This is the other Bali, and very beautiful and comfortable it is, too. But if this is all you see, you will have missed out on so much.


 

kids by roadside

Children acting up as our car went past, as naturally friendly as their parents, but perhaps also hoping for a thrown gift of money.


UBUD is a cultural 'must' with plenty of opportunities to explore Balinese art, fascinating architecture, the monkey forest, dance shows, and the general chaos of traffic, and treacherous pavements. We found it a great place to start a trip to Bali. Walk through the town to soak up the atmosphere, or take a stroll out into the rice fields, for a sense of the Bali that pre-dated tourism.


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A thin sheet of water is caught by the wind and transformed into an artwork of random swirls.

 

sunset

Sunset from Paradise Beach, Balangan. 


It's possible to opt for a beach holiday and stay around the south coast, with busy resorts such as Kuta - stunning beaches and surf, if that's what you're into - but it's worth venturing further north, either into the hills around Ubud, or further north to Munduk in the central mountainous part of the island.


climbing palm

It didn't take long for this young woman to put string round her feet and haul herself up the palm to get us a coconut, cutting it expertly to enable us to drink its milk. Her very basic living conditions, in a farm near Munduk, made me feel a bit uncomfortable as a tourist for whom she now performs her demonstration on what is, I imagine, a daily basis. Life is changing, even for those in the more remote villages.


 

Bali

Where do you start when it comes to images of Bali? Perhaps with the rice fields near Ubud, where - as here - the newly harvested rice is spread out on sheets to dry in the sun...

boys

Or perhaps with the people - friendly, open and utterly charming. These boys were dressed smartly ready to take part in a festival - of which the Balinese have many...

girl dancing

Or perhaps with the wonderful costumes and displays of dancing, as here, in Ubud, where, sadly, the number of performers on a Tuesday night almost outnumbered the audience...

surfer

Of course, many people come visit Bali for the surfing, as here on Paradise Beach, Belangan.

door

An elaborately carved door in the art museum in Ubud, leading from shade out into the blistering heat and light of an Balinese afternoon.

bird scarer

Best job on Bali? This bird scarer sits in his raised hut and pulls on lines, which spread out in all directions. across the rice fields. With a sharp tug on a line, its attached flags are set in motion and its cans jangle away, sending the birds aloft. There's nothing more soporific in the afternoons than hearing the intermittant jangling of lines over the rice fields..

chillies

It can get hot on Bali, and that applies to the food too. Here chillies are spread out in a market.

festival

Each village has its own festivals. Here worshippers have moved from the temple down onto the beach at Balangan, in the south of the island. At the end of the day, the temporary shrine is left on the beach and the sand strewn with little offerings in their palm baskets.

shrine offerings

Offerings are prepared in small, square baskets made of palm leaves and left in the temple of shrine - as tokens of devotion, is it the intention that counts, not the value of what is offered.

workers

Break time for those working in the rice fields. It's a tough life, stooping over for hour after hour.

forest

Rice cultivation requires plenty of water, and that's proved by the mountains of central Bali, and not just during the rainy season. Looking out over the hills beyond Munduk, I had assumed that what I saw was just unharvested forest, but was quickly disabused of that idea by an expert guide who pointed out that everything was farmed - with coffee, ginger, tumeric and many other things growing all mixed in together in the rainforest. It was certainly a very natural, environmentally sensitive way of farming, but it also accounts for the relative poverty of many of those who work on the land.

rice terraces

But for me, the enduring image of Bali is that of the rice terraces...

woman in rice field

... and of those who work in them.

And now... Why not take a look at my photographs of the Monkey Forest?

monkey forest

 

 

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 women with fruit

Women carrying offerings of fruit for a village festival, and, behind them on the road, a scooter - the standard means of transport for up to two adults and two children, with the women riding side-saddle. Scooters and motorbikes are in Bali what bikes are in the Netherlands; they dominate the roads and haul amazing loads, as shown below...

loaded scooter


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 decorations

During the Galungan and Kuningan festival streets are decorated and little shrines spring up outside houses. The Balinese religion - a form of Hinduism but with local traditions added - is a way of life. Early in the morning, women - young and old - go round to place little offerings on the shrines, some in the home, others down the street. It is a natural part of life, quite different from the more cerebral and wordy approach to religious with which Westerners are more familiar.

 

 

ganesh

Shrines adorn private houses, often just inside the main entrance. Here is an image of Ganesha.

 

shrine

A roadside shrine.


roadside shrine

Another roadside shrine - each tended daily with offerings, each expressing something of the imagination of its creators.

snakeskin fruit

Snakeskin Fruit - sweet and rather good!