Seeking some new facts about Bali? Bali is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia. Whether you want to explore the beaches, are a wildlife enthusiast or a lover of art, Bali is ready to give you the ultimate treat.
We spent a few weeks exploring the best that Bali has to offer. While it’s not the exotic destination that it once was, it still has a lot to offer visitors, and there are plenty of things to know before you visit Bali.
Let’s dig in to some interesting Bali facts!
Amazing Facts About Bali
1. Babies in Bali can’t touch the ground till they’re three-months-old
We’re kicking off our facts about Bali with this unusual practice. Balinese people believe that newborn babies are sacred (who doesn’t?) and that they’re not allowed to become unclean. Where’s the most unclean place? The floor. Or the ground. Instead, the baby is passed deftly from person to person all day long.
2. People celebrate with penjor
“What’s penjor?” We hear you ask. Well, we’re here to tell you. Outside Balinese homes and other compounds like shrines throughout Bali, you’ll see tall, cut bamboo that’s been decorated in a super ornate way. These are basically offerings to the gods and symbolize victory over evil. Some times of year see these things hang everywhere – sometimes up to 10 meters high!
3. They’re not monkeys, they’re long-tailed macaques
You’re going to see a lot of these across the island. The Balinese word for these critters is monyet. They often steal food. If you really, really want to see some, then you should head to Ubud Monkey Forest. There are over 700 of them there. Honestly though, keep your belongings close to you!
4. Bali used to be part of the Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East India Company made their move into Indonesia hundreds and hundreds of years ago, but the actual colony of the Dutch East Indies was only “officially” founded in 1816. Bali didn’t become a part of it until the Dutch invaded them in 1906. Even then, compared to the rest of Indonesia, Bali was allowed a relatively high degree of local autonomy. Apparently.
5. The Empire of Japan occupied Bali during WWII
The whole of Indonesia at first welcomed the Japanese when they invaded in 1942, with hopes for independence from the Dutch on the horizon. That changed as the Japanese stayed. On Bali in particular, they were particularly resented for being harsher than their Dutch overlords. Japan surrendered in 1945, Indonesia declared independence days afterward, the Dutch came back… Aaaand that’s a whole other story.
6. The local liquor can be lethal
Bali’s local moonshine is called arak. This liquor is often homemade and is a sweet wine made from coconut palm flour. It already sounds deadly. Tax on alcohol is pretty high, so in bars, they often use the homemade stuff. Okay, sometimes it’s fine, but if it’s a “bad batch” you could end up with a lethal case of methanol poisoning.
7. There are a lot of weekend markets
From the Love Anchor Market Bazaar and the Samadi Market to the Old Man’s Market, there are a lot of places to shop ‘til you drop in Bali. Those three are found in Canggu, with each town having at least a few. You can find everything from fresh fruit and veggies to souvenir trinkets.
8. You can feed yourself up in restaurants called warung
The warung isn’t a phenomenon endemic to Bali, but an Indonesian thing. In Bali, however, there are still a ton of them to choose from. What are they? They’re basically mom-and-pop restaurants, mainly run by women, that serve up local food with an authentic taste. Babi guling – suckling pig – is a Bali favorite.
9. There is an actual whole day of silence
Nyepi is the Balinese “Day of Silence.” It’s a Hindu celebration that is pretty much a Bali thing alone. But it’s not just silence – oh no. Being all about self-reflection and fasting, the airport closes, lights should be off, all businesses close… For 24 whole hours. It’s commemorated every Isakawarsa (New Year) according to the Balinese calendar.
10. Bali has two seasons
This is probably a pretty useful fact about Bali if you didn’t know it already. Thanks to its location close to the Equator, Bali has just two seasons – dry and wet. Both are hot. May to September is dry and mainly sunny. From October to April, you’ll get tropical downpours, higher humidity, and thunderstorms, but if you’re thinking perpetual rain, it’s not that bad.
11. Mount Agung is actually an active volcano
Yes, that’s right. The highest peak on Bali also just happens to be a volcano. An active one. It towers above everything else at a huge 9,994 feet above sea level. Just to give you an idea of how active it is, the latest eruption began in 2017 and is ongoing as of 2019. Yikes. Balinese people believe that Agung is the mythical Mount Meru – the center of the universe for Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists alike.
12. Bali is Indonesia’s only Hindu-majority island
While most of Indonesia is a Muslim affair, it wasn’t always the case. Hindus came over from India spreading the good word in 1st century AD; Buddhists followed. The Hindu part stuck in Indonesia, mixing well with the local animist beliefs for the unique Balinese Hinduism as it is today. Over 85% of Bali’s population subscribes to the religion.
13. The famous Kecak dance isn’t entirely Balinese
Though it all seems legit, being based on the Hindu epic of the Ramayana and all that, it was actually fabricated by a German named Walter Spies in the 1930s. The original kecak ceremony was a trance-based ritual featuring a male chorus. Walter saw this and developed it into a dance for the benefit of early tourists to Bali.
14. You can drink coffee made from civet poop
Okay, not its actual poop, but you can drink coffee that’s been made by coffee beans pooped out by civets. Sounds pretty gross. You’re probably wondering, “What is a civet?” It’s a kind of cat weasel type creature. It eats coffee cherries. As the undigested bean moves through the animal’s digestive system, it alters its make-up and starts being processed.
More interesting is that native farmers, prohibited by Dutch colonists to try the coffee they were farming, noticed the civet cats (called luak) were pooping out the beans. Intrigued, they prepared the coffee and inadvertently birthed one of the world’s most expensive coffees, sometimes going for $50 a cup. Bear in mind that this is a notoriously cruel industry which you should think twice before supporting. Read our tips on how to avoid unethical animal encounters here.
15. There’s a lot of marine life, too
It’s not all coffee-pooping mammals; Bali boasts a whole lot of marine life. How much? Around the shores of Bali, there are over 500 reef-building coral species making up the subterranean seascapes. You can also see manta rays, sunfish, and over 700 species of reef-based fish. Oh yea, it’s a great place to get dive certified.
16. Bali has a unique irrigation system
Called subak, this mad irrigation system was founded literally over 1,000 years ago and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s not all practical. Rooted in the Balinese philosophy of Tri Hita Karana (harmony between God, people, and nature), subak features many water temples with reservoirs that bless the water as it goes along its journey. The rice plant is a gift from God, the irrigation system is an actual part of temple culture, people work the fields and tend to the temples. An incredible Bali fact.
17. There are 10 traditional royal houses
Not one dynasty ever ruled the entirety of Bali. Instead, it was a confederation of different royal households. There are 10 of these, each one traditionally ruling a different geographic area. The head of each is seen as a custodian of the Hindu faith. The Indonesian government doesn’t recognize them as “royal,” however.
18. One side of Bali has black sand beaches
Though famed for its white-sand beaches, the north and west of the island are pockmarked with black sand beaches. These are only just now being developed for tourists, black sand being eminently hotter on the ol’ feet than its white counterpart.
19. Bali is nicknamed Pulau Dewata – ‘Island of the Gods’
Deva is the Hindu term for a deity. Devata – or in Indonesian, dewata – is a more localized deva; things like forest spirits, village gods, the gods of certain river crossings, caves, etc. etc. With over 20,000 temples and palaces dedicated to deities big and small, you can understand the nickname!
20. Plastic waste is a big issue in Bali
A big issue. It’s such an issue, in fact, that in 2017, a “garbage emergency” was declared. That was after an almost four-mile stretch of coastline was found covered in plastic brought in by the tide. The beaches are not the unspoiled bastions of sun, sea, and sand they used to be (especially not Kuta Beach). In fact, Indonesia is one of the world’s worst plastic polluters, contributing around 10% to the global plastic waste. Not good.
21. Bali is one of the wealthiest regions in the whole of Indonesia
And that’s down to tourism. It’s the island’s single largest industry, counting for about 80% of Bali’s economy. After terrorist attacks in 2002 and 2005, tourist numbers dwindled, and the economy faltered. However, the island remains one of Indonesia’s richest.
22. There’s a lot of creativity and local arts
There really is a lot of creativity going on in Bali. Partly, this is down to the country being something of a haven for artistic Europeans in the 1930s, and partly down to hippies drawn to the country since its earliest backpacking days. But 100%, it’s because of the traditional crafts of the island itself. Batik, ikat, wood carving, stone carving, painting… If you’ve ever seen a Balinese temple, you’ll know these folks have an eye for design.
23. David Bowie requested for his ashes to be scattered in Bali
It was revealed in David Bowie’s will that he wanted his ashes to be scattered in Bali, “in accordance with the Buddhist rituals,” the will read. And scattered in Hindu Bali they were. He had visited (and performed in) a fair few Southeast Asian locales early in his career – Bali being one of them. One of his houses in the Caribbean had heavy Balinese influences.
24. Celebrations are held for many occasions, such as a tooth-filing
Bali is bursting with festivals and celebrations throughout the year, and not just ones for the whole community, but personal ones, too. Tooth-filing, for example, is a coming-of-age ceremony that takes place before puberty or marriage. A high priest conducts the ceremony, in which incisors are filed down to uniform height. The child is then considered an adult. How are your teeth feeling after that Bali fact?
25. There are a zillion spas in Bali
A “zillion” isn’t a very factual number, but still – Bali has got to have one of the highest spa-to-people ratios in the world! Flower baths, crazy hair treatments, hot stone therapy, eco retreats, hand massage, holistic deep tissue whatevers, and even the humble pedicure – you can get it all here at one of Bali’s hundreds upon hundreds of spas – from low to very, very high-end.
26. There’s a ton of Australian tourists
Just a few hours by plane from the Aussie motherland, Bali is the quintessential vacation destination for Australians. They love to party, which you can do super cheaply on Bali. They love to surf, which is very much a thing on Bali, too. What more could they want? While Australians may be the top visitors to Bali, Chinese tourists are slowly inching towards first place.
27. Bali is home to an endemic species of bird
Called the Bali myna, Bali starling – or jalak Bali by locals – this is a cute, white bird species that is, unfortunately, critically endangered. Fewer than 100 of these mynas are thought to exist in the wild. Birds are captured and sold on the black market. Not cool.
28. The Bali tiger once roamed the island
As recently as the 1950s, the Bali tiger sadly was declared extinct. The last sighting of one was… more of a shooting actually, occurring in 1937. This tiger species is no longer. Hopefully, this will serve as a lesson for other threatened creatures that call the island home.
29. The Balinese calendar is only 210 days long
365 days, you say? Not in Bali. The calendar here – called Pawukon – is part of the Hindu religion. It is 210 days long and basically makes no sense. Sorry, but it doesn’t. Weeks can be anything from 1 to 10 days long. What? To help things out, there’s the Balinese Saka calendar, which is lunar and thankfully matches up to stuff… pretty much, anyway.
30. There are a lot of abandoned airplanes scattered around Bali
Aside from the beaches, mountains, spas, hiking, and Hindu temples, if you get bored of all that, you could always go discover the abandoned airplanes of Bali. There’s a Boeing 737 in South Kuta, there’s another near Pandawa Beach, there’s one on top of a mall that never opened (Gate 88 Mall), there’s also one in West Bali.
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