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Flora

Balinese flora include majestic, holy Banyan trees, swaying palms, the versatile bamboo, acacia trees and flowers, flowers, flowers! Flowers can be seen everywhere; Balinese love beauty and their gardens, roads and temple grounds are delightfully adorned with all kinds of blooms imaginable. Hibiscus, bougainvillea, poinsettia, oleander, jasmine, water lily, roses, begonias, magnolias, orchids and hydrangeas can be found and enjoyed throughout Bali. Ubiquitous frangipani flowers with their exotic perfume blend well into the picturesque scenery.

Fauna

Wildlife flourish in Bali. Inquisitive monkeys with outstretched hands forever beseeching a treat, lizards living harmoniously with humans and it is purported to be a fortuitous omen if one hears the lizard call seven times. The elusive Balinese tigers still roam the remote northwest part of the island but a sighting is indeed rare. Bats, squirrels, iguanas, civets, barking deer, mouse deer and more than 300 species of birds share Bali's lush greenery. You will also see schools of dolphins near Lovina, Candidasa and Padangbai, and there are colorful coral and small reef fish, moray eels, crustaceans, sponges and plankton-eating whale sharks along the east coast of Menjangan island, near Gilimanuk. Of course, we must not ignore our domestic friends, who wake us up in the morn or bark at night. Roosters, chickens, ducks, pigs, buffaloes and cows form the complete picture of a Balinese farm life.

History

Bali, island of a thousand temples- charming, beautiful, captivating and alluring. Images of lush, green paddy fields, ancient temples, exotic beauties performing traditional dances, friendly people, peaceful beaches and intricate carvings arise when one thinks of Bali. It is this combination that makes Bali so special and memorable.

It is certain that Bali has been inhabited since early prehistoric times. Fossilized human remains have been discovered from neighboring Java, which are dated to be as old as 250,000 years. Stone tools and earthenware vessels, which were estimated to be 3000 years old, were unearthed near Cekik (west Bali). Other artifacts also show that the Bronze Age began in Bali before 300 BC. Hinduism spread its influence around 400 AD followed by Buddhism in 500 AD.

Bali and West Java then underwent several episodes of conquering that includes conquering each other until the Dutch arrived and established themselves partially in Bali in 1850. Dutch troops landed in Sanur Beach in 1900 and Bali was then completely occupied by them. Many prominent families committed suicide due to this defeat.

After the Japanese occupation in the Second World War from 1939 to 1945, Bali became an Indonesian province but was able to maintain its own unique culture.

Population

Most of the 3 million Balinese are Hindus but at its core is animism, bound with threads of Buddhism. Their caste system is adapted from the Hindu traditions on Java, which dates back to 1350, but is not nearly as strict as their Indian counterparts. Being in a certain caste means that your roles in religious rituals and the form of language used in every social situation have been predetermined. However, this ancient practice is diminishing with time as status is achievable through education, economic success and community influence. Only in traditional villages is the caste system viewed as important during religious practices. Bali is an island of religious tolerance - Christianity, Buddhism and Islam coexist in harmony in respect of each other's regulations and customs.

The majority of Balinese are farmers but this is altering as tourism and associated businesses, such as souvenir manufacturing and selling, have become more important. The recent 1997 economic downturn affected Indonesia badly and the country had to resort to rescue packages from the International Monetary Fund totaling to about USD40 billion. This move did little to alleviate the countless bankruptcies, widespread unemployment and the plummeting of the Rupiah. The economic crisis had hit Indonesia hard and prices of staples have risen fivefold although wages remain unchanged.

Regardless, Bali is a paradise worth visiting. It is indescribably breathtaking, embellished with natural beauty and charms - you will be bewitched.

Geography

Bali has an area of 5,632 sq. km and measures only 140 km by 90 km. It is dramatically mountainous especially in the western region, and the center of the island is dominated by a number of volcanic mountains. Many people had perished in Gunung Agung's 1963 destructive eruption and a lot of wreckage took place in the eastern parts of Bali. The north and south of the central mountains are agricultural lands and the terrain is wider with gentle slopes. Bali is also encircled by coral reefs, and black (volcanic) sand blankets the beaches in the east and north.

Paradise is not even in the Balinese vocabulary but this island is a likely candidate for paradise. Located near the equator, Bali is a perpetual tropical haven with a temperature range of 32 to 35 degrees Celsius. Bali is usually less humid during the dry season from April to September, which would be the ideal time to visit the island when rainfall is light and infrequent, whilst complemented by lower humidity.

Rice remains the ancient staple that has sustained generations of Balinese, and therefore a complex and amazingly breathtaking patchwork of rice terraces will usually meet the eye. On their own, the rice paddies are a complete ecological system, supported by an elaborate irrigation network. This significant crop has contributed greatly in changing the natural landscape of Bali and making it ever so beautiful. Other agricultural produce are corn, tamarind, cloves, coffee, tea, tobacco, cocoa, copra, vanilla, soy beans, chillies, fruits and vegetables.

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