Island of the gods

Stunning landscapes and a rich cultural life make BALI an island paradise. Words and Photographs: Alan Morrison

It’s currently not politically correct to recommend Indonesia as a holiday destination, but a case should be made for detaching Bali from the machinations of Jakarta and the horrors of East Timor. As the Western eye sweeps across terraced rice-paddies that have remained unchanged for centuries, or gazes on the indigenous art that overflows from road-side shops, a spiritual stillness rises above recent history and the demands of the tourist trade.

The Balinese people themselves are keen to stress their separate identity and culture, contrasting their welcoming and laidback nature with the more aggressive personalities of the neighbouring islands. Two key factors do set Bali apart from the rest of Indonesia. First of all, it is the only Hindu society in Southeast Asia, with only a small minority of its inhabitants Muslims (the dominant religion elsewhere in Indonesia) and religious rituals are woven through the island's daily routines. Also, the emergence of a profitable tourist trade (over 1.5 million foreigners each

Danu Bratan.

Lot at sunset or lakeSIde Pura Ulun

Lake placid: Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

year) has grafted a touch of the West onto the local culture.

Given that Bali, at its widest point, is only 92 miles across, it’s easy to travel around the island sampling its various moods and landscapes. The beaches around Kuta and Sanur are the most heavily populated by tourists, so while these areas offer the closest Bali has to a buzzing nightlife, they also have the overpriced shops, blended-down restaurants and traffic jams to match. If you’re based here, take a couple of days out to drive through the lush green paddies of the central region to the volcanic north, past crater lakes and over mountains to the National Park in the west.

With a proliferation of villages surrounding it, Ubud - almost bang in the centre of the island - has for decades been the hub of Bali’s artistic life. A handful of art galleries provide an on-the-spot introduction to the island's various schools of painting, while countless shops attempt to convert visitors into art collectors, offering everything from certified works by key Balinese artists to production-line tourist crowdpleasers. Different villages have their own specialities: wood carving, stonework, batik canvases and clothes. Spot something you like, haggle over the price and - in your own heart at least you'll be on the way to becoming the next Charles Saatchi.

Kuta and Legian to the southwest and Nusa Lembongan to the southeast are

Balinese legong dancer

Stating the obvious

Temples Religion is central to the daily lives of the Balinese, and their temples range in size from small backyard

affairs to imposing stone bUiIdings. For sheer splendour, don't miss Pura Tanah

Balinese dancing Diverse programmes featuring the skilfully controlled legong and bar/’5 styles are performed almost every evening, and it’s worth catching the dramatic kecak (monkey dance) as well.

Shadow puppet plays Stories from the Mahabarata and Ramayana are acted out by intricater detailed, two- dimen5iona| puppets, silhouetted by live flames.

Shopping Carved wood and stone, furniture, paintings and batik clothing are on offer everywhere; for the best bargains, try the side roads around Ubud.

Surfing Volcanic reefs off Bali’s coasts create excellent breaks which surt beginners and advanced surfers alike.

the prime spots.

The List alternative

Pura Meduwe Karang Many of the temples on Bali boast impresswe stone carVings, but this one on the northern- most tip of the island (in Kubutambahan) has peCuliar quirks, including a Dutchman on a bicycle PJ's Part of the expensive Four Seasons hotel complex at Jimbaran Bay, this Italian themed restaurant serves exceptional food at prices that seem reasonable to a western pocket. Seafood and pizzas are a speciality. After dining, walk on the beach and check out the hotel's lusoous landscape gardens.

Bintang By far the best of the local

Millennium Madness STA T"a\e' "ate (1 sct‘iui‘ted return fares to a ";i"‘t?e' of exc t'r‘g ritei'tatiom' oest "at 01‘s .mtzl the end of Marc"

Paris £95

Munich £121 Frankfurt £‘O9 Cairo £171

New York £130 Miami £176

New Orleans £176 Nassau £248 Bangkok £164 San Francisco £164 Mexico £369 Bombay £387 Sydney £505

All departures are ‘ron‘ Erimburgn 0" Glasgov. except Sydney (tl‘Cl Nassau whicl‘ are out of London and are exctusive of airport taxes i£17—£35 for Europe, £27 £55 for \.t./()r|d\.vide= Fares are valid for oatbound travel .irit:' the end of March, 'TTOSI have fi(?)(|l)l€? return dates, and many are available to non-students/over 26s All prices are SUbJCCi to availability

Getting there

STA Travel offer return tickets to Bali from £451 plus tax (£32 70) for students and people under 26, Tickets are valid for the travel season between Mon 10 Jan—Fri 31 Mar.

beers is this tasty pilsner try it rather than the bland but exotically named Bali Hai The only brand of Wine wh:ch is not extortionately priced is Hatten Rose, a local Vintage that's pleasantly drinkable.

ARMA The Neka Museum and Puri Lukisan are the most famous galleries in Ubud, but the collection at the Agung Rai Museum of Art ‘ARMA; prowdes the best one-stop gallop through Balinese schools. Well organised, smartly presented and set in lovely surroundings

Paddy fields walk Get up early to amid the heat and Witness the rich colours of Bali's c0untryside on foot. Across fields, through Villages, past some of the friendliest people yOu'li ever meet Aim to end up at the Monkey Forest south of Ubud.

STA Travel are at 184 Byres Road and The University of Strathclyde, 90 John Street Glasgow. Tel: 0141 338 6000

27 Forrest Road, Edinburgh. Tel 0131 226 7747 o 30 Upperkirkgate, Aberdeen. Tel 01224 658222 0

118 THE llST 16 Dec 1999—6 Jan 1999