Bali, Indonesia is one of the world’s most beautiful and sought-after destinations for travel, vacation, and research among the world’s social and natural scientists. Although it’s a small island, the culture is incredibly rich and represents a long, diverse history. As part of the massive Indonesian archipelago, Bali is a tiny island with a very unique religious and cultural identity that sets it apart from its 14,000 neighboring islands.
Here you can find some general information on what to expect in Bali as a traveler, student, and cultural investigator.
Travel information: the WikiTravel guide on Bali provides some great information on the various regions of Bali, and the history, culture, and beliefs that shape daily life in modern Bali. More information on Balinese history, culture, and religion can be found here.
Climate: Bali has a tropical climate, due to its proximity to the equator. Year-round temperatures average 88 degrees, but that can vary according to the season. The rain season lasts from October to April, when it is very humid and overcast, and it rains almost every day. The heaviest rains are from December to February. Humidity is much lower during the dry season, from May to September, when it rains occasionally, but usually early in the morning or at night.
We can expect light, occasional rains like this during the first 2-3 weeks of our stay, while June has some of the most pleasant weather Bali has to offer, with cool breezes and clear skies during the day. Average temperature range in May is 77-90, and in June it is 73-88 degrees. Temperatures are generally cooler at higher elevations inland; we will be staying in the area of Ubud, which is at the base of the mountainous inland regions (see map).
Religion: Although Indonesia is known as the world’s most populous Muslim country, the Balinese practice a local form of Hinduism that is a blend of ancient, animist beliefs with the Hindu religion imported from South Asia and other areas of Southeast Asia. About 97% of Balinese are practicing Hindus, while the remainig population are generally Muslim (5.7%), Christian (1.4%), or Buddhist (0.6%).
Religion and the arts are closely integrated in Balinese culture, and many of the musical performances we will observe will have religious significance – either in its immediate setting and function (i.e. a temple ceremony), or latent religious influence that has changed over time to adapt to contemporary needs.
Food: Balinese cuisine is outstanding! Though, it tends to be spicy and often contains meat (though it’s very easy to eat vegetarian there). As in most Asian countries, rice is a staple, and in particular, coconut is essential to Balinese cuisine, served in a variety of ways: fresh, cooked, coconut milk in soups or sauces, and coconut oil used for frying. Other common ingredients are pork, peanuts, chilis, lime, and a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables. One popular dish is Babi Guling, fresh suckling pig cooked whole on a spit.
Bali is also a coffee-lover’s paradise, as some of the world’s finest coffees are grown and produced in Indonesia (ever wonder how “java” got its name?). You can easily find fresh-roasted coffee, and you can expect it to greet you every morning. Speaking of mornings, breakfast will likely be included in our accomodations, in which case you can expect breakfast to consist of coffee, bread, and lots of fruit.
Bali is well-known as one of the most beautiful places on earth, with sweeping, terraced rice paddies, three major (and active!) volcanoes, deep gorges with flowing rivers, and lush greenery and fragrant flowers everywhere you look. After a while you really don’t notice the heat…