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Hear what the new Lonely Planet has to say about Bali

Travel > International Trips  This is an edited extract from 'Bali Encounter', by Ryan Ver Berkmoes, at al. Lonely Planet 2010.

Bali - High

The culture, scenery and people make it so much more than just a typical tropical island destination

Bali packs a lot into a little island. A single day can bring more sights, adventures and discoveries than a week's worth of travel elsewhere.

A religious procession brings the tourist-thronged streets of Seminyak to a stop, a dancer displays trance-like artistry at an Ubud cultural pavilion, a diver is transfixed by an untouched reef, a surfer finds the perfect break, a walker rubs her eyes trying to cope with the lush green beauty of the surrounding rice paddies, a jaded tourist is charmed by an unexpected act of kindness by a local _ all of these things are part of a typical day in Bali. This is a destination that rises far above a typical tropical island destination by virtue of its culture, scenery and people.

Where else will you find intricate little offerings to the gods placed in serene little niches at world-class resorts? Or see a dance show with movements and music performed by a village dance troupe that has been perfecting their act for generations? And amid myriad palms and other lush growth, where else can you find sinuous ribbons of rice growing on green terraces wrapping around the hills?


Who knew you could fit so much into such a small place? Bali has an amazing diversity of regions crowded across the island, like so many offerings at a temple festival. Bali is insanely convenient for visitors. Tired of one area? Something completely different is close by, often just a short walk away on the beach. Kuta is the original tourist hub. Its very name causes some to shudder with delight and others to shudder with horror. Yet a quick stroll along the iconic beach and you're in Seminyak, which couldn't be any more different thanks to its posh hotels and dozens of designer shops. Its greatest similarities to Kuta are two _ it has that beach and people either love or hate it.

BALI ENCOUNTER: Available from all good bookshops for 450 baht.

South of the airport, the Bukit Peninsula is the barren alternative to that Balinese vision of endless green rice fields. Again, there's a sharp divide in just one little peninsula. In the west are the legendary surf breaks around Ulu Watu. Funky guesthouses cling to the cliffs while surfers enjoy epic rides below. Go east to Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa and you find tiny waves lapping at reef-protected beaches, fronted by a string of huge hotels, while package tourists zip past in banana boats.

Across the channel and up the coast, Sanur serenely steers the middle ground, offering a little bit of everything. The bustling capital Denpasar offers entry into the best food and shopping experiences. Move up the hillside and you discover the heart of Balinese culture in Ubud. The magical notes of gamelans echo through the quiet streets at night, while those seeking something special browse around art galleries by day. Head east and you can almost lose yourself in sinuous roads wandering through lush valleys, palm-topped hills and an often wild and untamed coast.

Within a drive of an hour or two you can enjoy several Balis. Choose your favourites, but enjoy several.

This is an edited extract from 'Bali Encounter', by Ryan Ver Berkmoes, at al. Lonely Planet 2010.

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