Located 8 degrees south of the equator in the Java Sea, Bali is an island of Indonesia situated between Lombok and Java. Home to approximately 4.2 million people, Bail has a rich and fascinating cultural history. Bali was originally discovered in when Chinese voyagers first arrived in 2500 B.C and set up a complex and effective irrigation system to grow rice and other agricultural products which is still being used in modern Bali society.
The early settlers in Bali practiced Buddhism and Hinduism and are still the major religions to this day. The influences of these religions can be seen in the architecture, visual arts and cultural performances. In the 10th century a Balinese prince married a princess from Java which created a brief union between the two regions. However, Bali continued to practice and develop its own unique culture, separate from Java.
In 1557 Dutch explorer, Cornelis de Houtman arrived in Bali and in 1602 established the Dutch East India Company. Soon after, the Dutch gained economic and political control of Bali for a number of years until the European wars occurred during 1795 to 1815 causing control to shift between the French to the British and then back to the Dutch.
It wasn’t until 1945 that Indonesia proclaimed its independence from the Dutch and the Balinese regained control. In 1960 the airport was renovated which began the rise of tourism in Bali. Unfortunately, three years later Mount Agung erupted which killed thousands of people and ruined entire villages. The eruption also had a negative effect on Bali tourism. However, in 1972 an Australian Filmmaker produced a documentary on Bali which lead to a huge stream of Australian tourists. These tourists then recognise the wealth of tourism opportunities in Bali and began opening up bars, clubs, and tour companies.
In 2002, the Bali bombings were a tragic event that killed hundreds of people, and again in 2005 killing 20 locals and injuring hundreds. It wasn’t until 2010 that Bali's tourism started to rise again thanks to the International Geothermal Congress which urged people to realise that Bali was a safe place to travel. The movie Eat Pray Love starring Julia Roberts was also a driving factor in the tourism surge.
Despite it's controversial past, Bali today is a fantastic destination teeming with culture and vibrance. Boasting a laid back atmosphere, and traditional way of life that centres around spirituality and family values, the Balinese are some of the friendliest, most peaceful and welcoming people on the planet.
To learn more about Bali's cultural traditions, religion and customs, check out our Bali Culture page.