Bali is the original magical isle. From the earliest years after its bloody incorporation into the expanding territories of the Dutch East Indies in the early 20th century, Westerners have been entranced by the heady combination of fabulous landscape and mesmerizing culture. Streams cascade down impossibly green mountainsides from sacred crater lakes, while dance dramas are performed to please the gods. Artists and the artistically inclined settled, worked and died amidst the rice fields and temples, reluctant to leave their Garden of Eden.

The advent of cheap air travel has brought increasing numbers of visitors, interested more in the attractions of the beach than of the temple and theatre. Today, hundreds of thousands of people visit Bali, many scarcely aware of the world beyond the sun lounger and the cocktail shaker. But while Bali may have changed – and the notion that the island is on the verge of being ‘ruined’ is a constant motif in writings about the island from the 1930s – the singular magic of the place has not been erased. As tourists continued to pour onto the island the calm was shattered in October 2002 by bombings in Kuta blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah. Many people were killed, and for months afterwards tourists stayed away, savagely damaging the island’s economy. Just as plane-loads of sun seekers were starting to return, a second wave of bombings hit Kuta and Jimbaran in 2005 further decimating the island’s reputation and economy. It has been a rough decade for the Balinese tourism industry, and some places continue to be affected by low numbers of visitors. However, tourists are again returning in droves, particularly tourists from emerging markets such as Russia and China, and the future is looking bright.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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