The Indonesian island of Bali engulfs visitors in a heady tempest of sight and sound. A necklace of volcanic peaks adorns Baliís center from east to west. Its beaches are legendary. The island is covered in rice paddy fields and densely forested mountains. River gorges slash into the earth. Color drapes Bali like a tapestry embroidered with orchids and exotic birds.
The Balinese culture is as colorful as the land it inhabits. Island artisans create ikat cloth, basketry, wood carvings, puppets and masks of unique style and beauty. Shoppers can jam their suitcases with gold and silver jewelry and splashy textiles. The Balinese breeze carries the chiming tones of gamelan music, and Barong dancers re-enact a tale of mortal combat between good and evil. But despite its exoticism, Bali is no primitive outpost of remote villages and quaintly antiquated amenities. Its capital, Denpasar, tends to be crowded and traffic choked. In other areas Bali is a major tourist destination with first class hotels, gourmet cuisine and cutting edge discotheques. The resorts of Kuta, Nusa Dua and Legian have drawn tourists for decades, though the terrorist bombing of 2002 severely dampened tourism, and still impacts the Balinese tourist industry.