Why is Bali such a popular tourist destination in Indonesia?

bali-peopleAfter reading this editorial in the Jakarta Post I wanted to write my own article on why I think Bali is more popular than other islands in Indonesia.

The editorial tries to answer the same question, but only seems to talk about religion and the main religion of the Balinese – Hindu.

While Balinese Hindus are preparing for the observa-tion of Nyepi, hopefully it is not regarded as offensive or ridiculous to ask a tempting question: Will Bali remain as magnificent as what it is now when Hinduism is not the largest religion there? There is no intention at all to offend other religions; this question is merely a matter of curiosity.

What we want to say is that Hindus should have a central role in guiding Balinese people and that the world would benefit from such guidance. Indonesians, whatever their religion is, can learn a lot from the way and values of our comrades, while Balinese Hindus can also learn from other citizens of different religions to enrich Indonesia.

The numbers speak for themselves. In 2008 Bali had 1.97 million foreign visitors, while the whole of Indonesia had 6.4 million visitors.

I think westerners are interested in Balinese culture, but not just their religion. For many foreigners, including many Australians, a holiday in Bali means beaches and cheap beer.

I think part of Bali’s success is that is a very accessible destination and offers great value for money. If you only have a short holiday like many Japanese, it is only a six hour flight and you can be laying on the beach not long after you reach the island’s airport – Denpasar.

Sure Indonesia has many more beautiful islands and places to visit, but they take much longer to get to and the whole journey requires more effort. I heard Pulau Wei in Aceh is more beautiful than Bali and I thought of going there for Christmas last year. A friend told me how I wouldn’t be able to wear shorts when I arrived in Aceh as the area is under Shariah law.

Many parts of Indonesia have had their fair share of natural disasters. Bali had its terrorist bombings, which I believe put some people off visiting the island for a while, but tourism has been getting strong again in recent years. The trials and death sentences of the Bali bombers were widely reported around the world and it is well known that the terrorists were not Balinese. I am sure some people feel that by visiting Bali they are doing their bit to help the local economy after the attacks and not give satisfaction to the terrorists that they had somehow won by keeping people away from the island.

The culture, music, art and architecture of Bali captured the interests of several foreigners who spent some time there and wrote about their experiences. A House in Bali written by Colin McPhee in the 1930s is one such book that comes to mind.

Infrastructure in Bali is not great and the island is suffering from rampant development, but this doesn’t mean it is any better in other parts of Indonesia. Traveling on public buses with three people to a seat and more people traveling on the roof is not everyone’s vision of a holiday.

For people who do make the effort traveling outside of Bali they will be rewarded with beautiful jungle, diving, wildlife and friendly people and you can almost have it all to yourself.

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