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Most of the 3 million Balinese are Hindus but at its core is animism, bound with threads of Buddhism. Their caste system is adapted from the Hindu traditions on Java, which dates back to 1350, but is not nearly as strict as their Indian counterparts. Being in a certain caste means that your roles in religious rituals and the form of language used in every social situation have been predetermined. However, this ancient practice is diminishing with time as status is achievable through education, economic success and community influence. Only in traditional villages is the caste system viewed as important during religious practices. Bali is an island of religious tolerance - Christianity, Buddhism and Islam coexist in harmony in respect of each other's regulations and customs.

The majority of Balinese are farmers but this is altering as tourism and associated businesses, such as souvenir manufacturing and selling, have become more important. The recent 1997 economic downturn affected Indonesia badly and the country had to resort to rescue packages from the International Monetary Fund totaling to about USD40 billion. This move did little to alleviate the countless bankruptcies, widespread unemployment and the plummeting of the Rupiah. The economic crisis had hit Indonesia hard and prices of staples have risen fivefold although wages remain unchanged.

Regardless, Bali is a paradise worth visiting. It is indescribably breathtaking, embellished with natural beauty and charms - you will be bewitched.

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