Why People Love Bali! Photo Essay of People, Landscapes, and Traditions
As I began editing my Bali photos, I realized they truly represent the essence of the island. They captured the warmth of its people, the breathtaking landscapes, and the rich cultural traditions, worthy of a photo essay. With these, it’s easy to see why people love Bali!
After a grueling twenty-two-hour journey from South Carolina to Bali, Indonesia, I arrived at the hotel dining pavilion. With glassy eyes, I met Lori Allen, the founder and CEO of Focused Escapes, and our small group of photographers. After a much too brief catnap for me, our photo journey began with a traditional dinner and Balinese storytelling performance. We met our guide, professional Bali photographer Nyoman Pujawan, the following day.
Rice Terraces and Water Temples
“The cultural landscape is why people love Bali! It consists of five rice terraces and their water temples that cover 19,500 ha [the entire island]. The temples are the focus of a cooperative water management system of canals and weirs, known as subak, that dates back to the 9th century.” ~ UNESCO
The Balinese combines the natural, spiritual, and human worlds, “Tri Hita Karana Philosophy.” which has Hindu origins. Egalitarian water management, over one thousand water temples, and cultural traditions form part of the philosophy.
Portraits in the Market, Textiles, and Other Vendors – why people love Bali!
My favorite photo opportunities occurred with the vendors, in the market, and others. The Balinese people are naturally friendly. But, their warm familiarity with our guide, Nyoman, gave us access to them for beautiful portraits.
I learned many photography techniques from Nyoman. Use the available light in indoor spaces to capture the beauty in faces without a flash.
Bali Fishermen – why people love Bali!
A staple of the Balinese diet is fish and mackerel, a particular delicacy. Net fishing at the beach and traditional wooden outrigger canoes called jukung are ways to catch fish. Once a catch is in, family members assist in processing the fish. For some coastal villagers, it provides a source of income.
We enjoyed mackerel several times in the restaurant and the home of Nyoman’s friends. Again, I learned a vital photography technique from Nyoman. When you think there is no more light in the sky, Nyoman demonstrated that you can capture a little more. Place the camera close to the ground.
Traditional Sea Salt Farming, East Bali
This husband-wife team harvests salt from the ocean in the traditional method. They start the backbreaking process in the morning by collecting salt water and spreading it on flat sand. After the saltwater evaporates, they use rakes to gather the dried salt flakes. Then they filter the salt in water for several days before drying it on split log racks. Slowly, this traditional method of salt harvesting is disappearing. Some believe that this generation may be the last to continue the practice. See Kusamba Sea Salt Farmers. In addition to artisanal salt, the family sells other crafts to tourists. Like all Balinese, they strategically place small baskets of various items as an offering to the Gods.
I was struck by how this family has also become seasoned models, allowing us to create stunning portraits.
Traditional Dancing – why people love Bali!
The traditional Balinese dance is a mesmerizing array of colors and dynamic movements. The angular body and sharp eye movements may be warding off evil spirits or connecting with the Gods. Balinese dancers begin their training as early as age seven.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that Balinese dance is sometimes performed to induce a trance-like state. People love Bali for the beauty of the dance!
People love Bali for its Colorful Festivals!
Cultural festivals in Bali are deeply rooted in the spiritual world and the eternal struggle between good and evil. They often narrate the history of Bali, the Kingdoms, and beyond to the present day. Balinese children experience their history through live performances throughout the year.
I counted forty-one festivals on the Bali festivals calendar, two or more each month.
Bali’s Beloved Marigolds
Marigolds are omnipresent in Balinese culture. We saw them frequently in the offering baskets. They hold a unique connection to the soul in Balinese culture, and they use them widely for ceremonies. Dazzling marigold fields glowing in the tropical sun are why people love Bali!
“In Bali’s rich cultural diversity, marigolds symbolize sacred light that guides the soul, a symbol of hope, resurrection and eternal love.” ~ Discover Bali
About Our Guides
At 26, Lori Appling-Allen founded her first company, Great Escape Publishing. She grew it into a multi-million-dollar business, with $30 million in sales. In 2019, she and the owners sold it to International Living. Today, Lori is the founder and CEO of Focused Escapes, which takes small groups (10-12 travelers) on unforgettable trips to her favorite destinations. In 2023, she added a partner, Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki, a well-known food blogger. Together, they created International Mystery Tours, a surprise destination until the day before the traveler’s flight!
“I’m Nyoman Pujawan. I come from Petemon, a village located just 20 minutes away from Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. Born in the countryside, my love for my village and its rich culture is deep. My passion for photography began when I was 18 years old. I continue to capture and immortalize the beauty and essence of my village through my photographs to this day.
With warm hospitality, Nyoman and his family invited our travel group to dinner at his home. We enjoyed a delicious traditional Balinese dinner and a private Balinese Dance session. See Nyoman’s photos on Instagram.
One of the best books about the island is Bali Heaven and Hell by Phil Jarrett, published October 1, 2015.
Bali, the “Land of the Gods,” is only 95 miles wide and 70 miles long. The population estimate is 4.2 million people, including 30,000 ex-patriots. World Population Review.
Balinese cultural practices date back to the introduction of the Hindu culture to Java in the 16th Century. This was Bali’s Golden Age. Today, Bali’s rich history survives in the Balinese festivals and other cultural practices. It’s the reason people love Bali! It is an intriguing and colorful place! I was fortunate to travel with a group led by Lori Allen and learn photography from professional photographer Nyoman Pujawan. You can see him in the photos, setting the example and showing how it is done! The result of a camera in his hands is pure magic!