The capital of Bali has been the region of much
of the wealth and growth on the island over the last quarter of
a century. It now has all the bustle and hustle one associates with
the fast-growing cities of Asia. While the traffic, pollution and
noise make it a difficult city to relish, Denpasar still retains
some pleasant, tree-lined streets and gardens and is very much part
of the 'real' Bali.
The Museum Negeri Propinsi Bali is an attractive
series of separate buildings, including examples of both palace
and temple architecture. The exhibits are not always well presented,
but there are enough arts and crafts and other items displayed to
make it worthwhile. The tiny cane cases for transporting fighting
crickets are worth checking out. The Taman Wedhi Budaya
arts centre is home to a collection of modern painting and woodcarving.
Dancing groups and gamelan orchestras perform occasionally, mostly
for the benefit of visitors.
Denpasar is in the south of Bali, about 10km or 6mi northeast of
The volcanic cone of Gunung Batur and the lake
that fills half of the caldera form one of Bali's most beautiful
and spectacular landscapes. Climbing Batur (1717m or 5631ft) to
see the sunrise is an experience, but be prepared for cold, damp
and cloudy conditions and some aggressive souvenir sellers. Gunung
Batur is in northern Bali, approximately 35km or 22mi north of Ubud.
and Legian, this area has been a major draw for
travellers for more than 25 years, offering cheap accommodation,
Western food, good shopping, surf, sunsets and a riotous nightlife.
The events of October 2002, when nearly 200 people were killed after
the bombing of the Sari and Paddy's nightclubs, put a severe dent
in tourist numbers and the businesses that depended on them. Things
are slowly recovering - the Sari nightclub re-opened
in July 2003 - and tourist numbers are picking up.
Kuta is not stunning but it's not dull either. It's has the best
beach on Bali, with the only surf which breaks over sand instead
of coral. An abundance of cheap accommodation is on offer there's
a wide range of places to eat. Shops and hawkers offer everything
from fakes to genuine antiques offered with a considerably
Even the tourists have become a tourist attraction, with visitors
coming from Java to view the topless bathers, and from other resorts
to disaprove of all the tackiness. Despite all the extremes, away
from the traffic-clogged streets Kuta is still a village of quiet
compounds and narrow alleys, where loyal offerings are placed in
front of houses and neighbours appear in the coolness of the evening
to gossip in the street.
Behind the beaches, roads and alleys lead back to the most spectacular
groups of hotels, bars, restaurants, food stalls and shops. The
famous Poppies Gang, directly back from Kuta Beach,
is where most of the quieter, inexpensive hostels and restaurants
can be found. Cheap beachfront accommodation is available in Legian
and the lanes running parallel to the beach are the best places
to start looking for a decent bed.
Kuta Bay is in the south about 10 kilometres (6 miles) southwest
of Denpasar. To the north is Sanur, a more exlusive alternative
to Kuta; whereas Nusa Dua, to the south, is an upmarket alternative
to Sanur. Ulu Watu, on the southern tip of Bali, is the island's
best known surfing area.
In the hills 20 kilometres (13 miles) north of Denpasar, Ubud
is the quiet cultural centre of Bali. Extensive
development in recent years has meant that Ubud has engulfed numerous
villages, but these have retained their distinct identities. Each
direction offers an interesting walk to a secluded hamlet, through
the rice paddies or into the dense Monkey Forest,
which is just south of the town centre.
In Ubud itself, the Puri Lukisan Museum is home
to fine examples of all schools of Balinese art in a stunning garden
setting. There are some quality galleries such as Neka Gallery,
which features work of some Western artists who have painted in
Bali, and Agung Rai Gallery, a commercial operation
which also has a small, but significant, permanent collection. The
homes of influential Western artists Walter Spies
and Rudolf Bonnet, who were key players in transforming
Balinese art from the purely decorative, can also be visited. Ubud
is a good place to see Balinese dancing and listen
to Balinese music, it also has some of the best
restaurants on the island.