Indonesia must be one of the most interesting countries you pass through and Bali will definitely be a case of not saving the best for last. The islands of the chain are each different and each has its own attractions. The southern islands tend to be drier and less tropical than Bali and the northern islands. Alfred Russel Wallace, a predecessor of Darwin, drew his ‘Wallace line’ through Bali – dividing Asia from Australasia. The best known of the southern islands is Komodo, famous for its ‘dragons’ – actually just giant lizards.
Bali is still Indonesia’s chief tourist attraction and one could hardly ask for a more pleasant introduction to the type of cheap living you’ll get used to all the way to Europe. Go soon though – the charm of Bali shows every indication of being rapidly eroded by tourism. every town seems to have some artistic speciality but particularly worth seeing are Mas, the centre for woodcarving and Ubud, the artists colony where many foreign and local artists operate. Then there’s Trunyan, supposedly the oldest village in Bali, and the nearby volcanoes. You can climb Batur or Agung which is over 3000 metres high and last erupted in 1963. South of Kuta is Uluwatu with a fantastic temple perched a hundred metres above the water on a cliff face. Temples are scattered all over the island, Gua Gadjah – the elephant cave is an ancient cave monastery near Denpassar.
It’s the people who make Bali the total experience it is, somewhere you’re bound to see one of the Balinese dances. Best known is the Ketchak, telling a tale from the Ramayana in which Rama resues his kidnapped wife with the help of Hanuman and his monkey army, from which comes the name monker’ dance. It’s a reminder that Bali is still a Hindu country, the Moslem influence never crossed the channel from Java. The best feature of the Ketchak is the crowd of people who provide sound effects and fantastically synchronised actions. The Tjalonarang is a spectacular confrontation between good, the comic lion Barong and evil, the witch Rangda. Within the dance is the dance of the kris where supporters of the Barong, unable to stab the Rangda attack themselves while in a trance. The Legong is a dance performed by young girls accompanied by the traditional Balinese orchestra -the Gamelan. Other Balinese entertainments are the Wayangs – shadow puppet dramas and of course, cock fights. Many Balinese keep fighting cocks find you can often see them sitting by the roadside watching passers-by – in order that they don’t get bored between fights. You’ll often see an owner giving a little mouth to beak resuscitation between rounds.