World Travel Guides


Topeng dancer; the refined features of the mask represent royalty

Bali is so picturesque that you could be fooled into thinking it was a painted backdrop: rice paddies trip down hillsides like giant steps, volcanoes soar through the clouds, the forests are lush and tropical, and the beaches are lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

But the paradise gloss has been manufactured and polished by the international tourist industry rather than by the Balinese themselves - who don't even have a word for paradise in their language - and it pays scant regard to the political and economic reality of life on Bali.

Until the Kuta bombing, a popular destination for pleasure-seeking Western tourists - at least until 12 October, 2002 - Bali is also part of Muslim Indonesia, and thus a flashpoint for extremism on both sides. Internal strife and international affairs have imposed themselves on this postcard island - with tragic results.

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