PRINT PREVIEW
send to printer

Concierge.com

Bali See And Do

Art Museums of Bali

Bali's long history of visiting foreign artists and collectors means that the island has quite a few notable museums. Just in the Ubud area, there are four dedicated to Balinese art—all of them excellent. The Museum Rudana, in the village of Teges, does a wonderful job of explaining the iconography of Balinese art; the Neka Art Museum has perhaps the finest, most comprehensive collection of Balinese painting, from the 17th century to the present. The Agung Rai Museum of Art, or ARMA, houses an equally impressive collection of Balinese and foreign paintings, including the only publicly exhibited canvas on the island by Walter Spies, the German artist who founded the art colony in Ubud in the 1930s. The Puri Lukisan, in the middle of Ubud village, has a fine collection of drawings by Bali's greatest artist, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad.

Bali museums dedicated to individual artists are interesting mainly because they offer the opportunity to tour early-20th-century expat estates. Neither the Spanish painter Antonio Blanco nor the Belgian Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres was a great artist (both tended to focus their work on frolicsome, bare-breasted maidens), but they created fabulous spreads for themselves. Museum Le Mayeur retains much of the artist's original house, a traditional wooden structure with intricately carved doors, lintels, and pediments. The only entrance, charmingly, is on the beach. Blanco Renaissance Museum in Ubud is a rococo fantasy house perched on a high hill across the road from the Hotel Tjampuhan.

Hotel Photo
Balinese Dance
Bali
Indonesia

Bali's distinctive, highly stylized form of traditional dance, which evolved from ancient Hindu rites, is one of the island's most dazzling cultural displays. The best way to see it is in its ritual setting; ask at your hotel if there are any performances scheduled at nearby temples. Visitors are welcome to attend, so long as they observe protocol of dress and respectful conduct (which your hotel concierge or your Balinese host can explain for you). Dance programs staged at resorts and public theaters are also worthwhile.

There's an impressive variety of specific Balinese dances. Some, like the popular Kecak, feature male performers; in this particular dance, there can be 50 or more who chant and sway as a scene from the Hindu epic Ramayana is acted out. Other dances, like the extremely refined and oft-photographed Legong, are performed by costumed young girls in slow, graceful pantomime. Still others portray animals and mythical creatures—such as the Barong-Rangda cycle, which enacts the conflict between an evil witch and a shaggy, bug-eyed imaginary beast rather like a Chinese dragon. Don't pass up an opportunity to see the rarely performed Oleg Tambulilingan, a sexy virtuoso duet depicting a randy male bumblebee courting a coy lady bee.

Beaches
Bali
Indonesia

While the volcanic-black-sand beaches on Bali's north coast (especially Lovina) have attracted a low-key tourism scene, with small hotels and outdoor restaurants catering to budget travelers, the most popular white-sand beaches are in the south. Kuta, on the southwestern coast, is world-famous for its classic surf breaks. It's also a year-round free-form beach party of surfers, hippies, peddlers and masseurs, beer stands, and ice-cream vendors. There are occasional pickpocketing incidents here, but friendly police patrol the beach on bicycles. Just north of Kuta, Legian beach, lined with ritzy resorts and hotels, is much less crowded, with sweeping views of the coastline. But beware: The undertow here is dangerously strong. The southeasterly Sanur beach is delightfully mellow, and popular with Indonesian families on weekends. The grainy golden sand lacks the powdery purity of Kuta's and Legian's, but the morning views of the majestic volcano Gunung Batur more than compensate. The paved walkway along the beach is a superbly romantic setting for an evening stroll.

Farther south, Jimbaran beach, just south of the Denpasar airport, has shallow, calm water that's perfect for families during the day; at sundown, funky fish-barbecue restaurants open, with tables plunked down in the sand. Just south is Dreamland, the ruins of a half-built resort project abandoned after the economic crisis of the late '90s. It's completely undeveloped in any organized sense, but daylight-hour beer joints have opened up, catering to young, mostly European, backpackers. Uluwatu, at the southern tip of the peninsula known as the Bukit, is a prime surfing spot; if you want to hang ten, head to Padang-Padang, an exquisite white-sand beach punctuated by great boulders of volcanic rock, with a fierce break just offshore.

Goa Gajah
Ubud , Bali
Indonesia

The "Elephant Cave," discovered by a farmer in 1923, is a temple that dates back to the 11th century. Worshippers likely purified themselves in the rectangular bathing pools in front, where water spouts from jars held by six stone nymphs. Visitors enter through the mouth of a menacing demon face. Inside, you'll see a statue of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, as well as three lingams (phallic fertility symbols) and three yoni (the female equivalent). The cave is in a valley outside Ubud and near the town of Bedulu.

Lembongan Island
Lembongan Island
Indonesia

A two-hour cruise due east from Bali's main harbor, Benoa (not to be confused with the Tanjung Benoa peninsula, much farther south), brings you to this lovely small island. It's a neat place to explore on foot, with beautiful white-sand beaches, excellent surfing, snorkeling, and diving, and one tourist attraction: an underground house excavated by a local eccentric. There are few overnight tourist accommodations, so if you do book one of the nice homestays or the mid-fancy Waka Nusa resort (operated by Waka Experience, 62-361-723-629), you'll wake up in a Bali populated almost entirely by Balinese people—and with a stunning view of the main island. The catamaran Bounty offers daily cruises to Lembongan (62-361-726-666; www.balibountycruises.com). Bali Hai Cruises also makes day trips on a luxury catamaran; packages include lunch, snorkeling, and water sports equipment (62-361-720-331; www.balihaicruises.com).

Pura Besakih
Besakih , Bali
Indonesia

The most sacred site in Bali, Pura Besakih (on Mount Agung's slopes) is a sprawling complex of many separate shrines and compounds arranged on seven terraces. It's divided into three parts, one painted black for Vishnu, one white for Shiva, and one red for Brahma. Besakih is an active spiritual center, with many Balinese coming here to get holy water for ceremonies in their home villages. The 1963 eruption of Gunung Batur damaged much of the temple area, but happily, most of the damage has now been repaired.

Hotel Photo
Scuba + Wreck Diving
Bali
Indonesia

Many dive-heads—including those who've made pilgrimages to the Red Sea, the Great Barrier Reef, and Manado—swear that Bali has the best diving in the world. Sites range from warm, easy dives for the novice around Nusa Dua to the spectacular wreck of the Liberty (pictured), a 390-foot American cargo ship that was sunk off Lombok on the island's northeast coast by a Japanese torpedo in 1942. (She was towed to shore by U.S. destroyers and abandoned on the beach at Tulamben; 20 years later, after Gunung Batur erupted, earth tremors caused the ship to slide into the sea.) While some parts of the wreck lie at a depth of about 100 feet, other parts are in shallow water—less than 20 feet—so it's a good site even for beginning divers. As many as a hundred divers a day visit the wreck in high season, so avoid early-afternoon excursions there if you can. Night dives of the Liberty are especially exciting. Bali is well-supplied with PADI-licensed dive centers, including Pro Dive Bali (62-361-726-823; www.prodivebali.com) and Scuba Duba Doo (62-361-750-703; www.divecenterbali.com). Both these dive centers will arrange transport from your hotel to the ship and return at day's end.

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival
Ubud , Bali
Indonesia
www.ubudwritersfestival.com

Held annually during the first week of October, this lit-and-culture festival draws celebrity authors—such as Michael Ondaatje, Anita Desai, and Madhur Jaffrey—who give readings, speak about their past and future books, and join issue-oriented panels, usually with ample audience participation. Most events are held at Indus restaurant and venues within walking distance. Yet for many in the audience, it's not the famous authors that make the festival memorable but the chance to mingle with other intellectually curious folk from throughout the Pacific region and to meet talented artists in many genres. In addition to bookish events, the schedule in Ubud includes performances by dance and drama troupes from throughout Asia, cooking demonstrations, walking tours in the countryside around Ubud, and workshops for aspiring travel writers.

Waka Land Cruise
Waka Experience
Bali
Indonesia
Tel: 62 631 484 085
www.wakaexperience.com/wakaland.php

Like other tour operators in Bali, Waka Experience explores the island's watery wonders (catamaran sails and dive trips to Menjangan Island are among the offerings). But it also gives visitors a rarer treat: a look at Bali's rugged, less-traveled interior. The Land Cruise starts when a rugged Land Rover picks passengers up at their hotel early in the morning; then it ventures deep into the heart of the island, winding through terraced rice fields and original rain forest over grassy tracks closed to ordinary cars. The "cruise" calls at an old quarry, hot springs, craft villages, and concludes at a bamboo tree house with an excellent French lunch (i.e., liberally accompanied by wine and cognac).

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.