It’s small and special. Bali is a small island (2,232 sq km or 862 sq miles, about the size of Tokyo) in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago. Its 4.22 million people are mostly ethnic Balinese who practice a unique form of Hinduism with strong undercurrents of animism and the veneration of ancestors. This makes the Balinese a minority in largely Muslim Indonesia. Bali is the only island in Indonesia that is also a province and an ethnic group.
It’s multi-lingual. Balinese is a unique language with its own writing system, related to Javanese and Sanskrit — but everyone also speaks the national language, Bahasa Indonesia, and most Balinese in the hospitality industry speak English. Tour guides are also proficient in other foreign languages.
It loves visitors. The Balinese have been welcoming visitors since tourism was first introduced in 1914 by the colonial Dutch. Although it is traditionally agricultural, tourism plays a big role in the island’s economy, so guests are highly valued and treated with warmth and courtesy.
It is proud. The Balinese are proud of their unusual culture with its many traditional art forms, and they fiercely protect their religious traditions. Yet they are happy to share these cultural riches with tourists and to show visitors how to fit in respectfully and comfortably.
It’s developing fast… Bali’s tourism boom began in the mid-1970s and soon brought wealth to the island, which had suffered from poverty since World War II and the unrest following Indonesian independence in the 1950s and 60s. Tourism and a rising middle class have brought a building boom that is fast changing the landscape, especially in the southern part of the island around Denpasar, the capital.
… but there’s still much from an archaic past. Many of Bali’s dramatically contoured rice fields have been under cultivation for hundreds of years. Its countless temples date from many centuries ago, although they are periodically renovated. Its spectacular religious rituals have been carried out for over a thousand years and remain strong even in the towns.
An excellent way to get to know Bali is to stay at one (or more) of the Komaneka Resorts. Founded and run by Balinese, you will find genuine Balinese hospitality in these small luxury hotels known for their superb architecture and great value.