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With its fine beaches, pounding surf, emerald-green rice terraces and exceptionally artistic culture, the small volcanic island of Bali - the only Hindu society in Southeast Asia - has long been Indonesia's premier tourist destination. As a result, it has become very much a mainstream destination and suffers the predictable problems of congestion and commercialization. However, Bali's original charm is still much in evidence, its stunning Hindu temples and spectacular festivals set off by the gorgeously lush landscape of the interior.

Bali's most famous and crowded resort is Kuta beach, a six-kilometre sweep of golden sand, with plenty of accommodation, shops and nightlife. Nearby Sanur is much quieter, but most backpackers prefer the beaches of peaceful east-coast Candi Dasa and traveller-oriented Lovina on the north coast. The island's other major destination is the cultural centre of Ubud , a still charming but undeniably commercialized overgrown village, where traditional dances are staged every night of the week and the streets are full of arts-and-crafts galleries. In addition, there are numerous elegant Hindu temples to visit, particularly at Tanah Lot and Besakih , and a good number of volcano hikes, the most popular being the route up Gunung Batur , with Gunung Agung only for the very fit. Transport to and from Bali is extremely efficient: the island is served by scores of international and domestic flights, which all land at Ngurah Rai Airport just south of Kuta beach, as well as round-the-clock ferries to Java, thirty minutes' west across the sea from Gilimanuk , and frequent ferries to Lombok, two- to four hours' east of Padang Bai and Benoa. The Pelni ferry KM Dibonsolo also calls fortnightly at Benoa Harbour . Prices throughout Bali rocket during the peak tourist seasons from mid-June to mid-September and over Christmas, when rooms can be fully booked for days, if not weeks, in advance.

Edit by: Chris
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