Against a tumultuous historic backdrop, and in an otherwise Muslim-dominated archipelago, Bali has somehow managed to not only retain its Hindu independence but has flourished as a tourist paradise. The Balinese amalgam of Hindu traditions, Buddhism, and ancient Javanese practices and their acceptance of different lifestyles, has led many outsiders to call this place home or at the very least to return time and time again. Recent efforts by politicians to impose Sharia law and far-reaching antipornography measures in Indonesia indicate that support for an Islamic state is still strong in some areas of this vast nation. Thankfully, the Governor of Bali has gone on record as declaring that the law will not be enforced in Bali, although for cultural and historic reasons rather than for the economic benefits that tourism brings. Bali has seen a huge inflow of foreign investment in recent years. Luxury resorts and multimillion-dollar villas are commonplace, even despite the fact that only Indonesian citizens can own land in freehold title. Foreigners investing in Bali adhere to different ownership forms, which all have time limits on the control of the land in question -- though it is possible to own a patch of paradise.

The country as a whole has seen improvements in infrastructure, telecoms, education, and health, and Bali, while still lacking many modern facilities, is beginning to develop as well. That being said, the roads remain potholed, the litter piles up by the side, and many locals still use the rivers for all aspects of their daily ablutions. Though this peaceful island has been dealt various blows in recent years, not least the bomb attacks of 2002 and 2005, the resolve and determination to carry on has been rewarded with a resurgence in popularity. Bali is now increasingly global and, noticeably, travelers are emerging from Russia and China, competing with the traditional Australian, Japanese, and European markets.

While many Balinese have deserted the rice fields to work in the tourist industry and the double-edged sword of tourism has wrought many changes, the island's culture has survived intact, and is perhaps stronger than ever. As with any undiscovered paradise that isn't so undiscovered anymore, many people criticize this little island for not being what it was. And while certainly it is not the island of Walter Spies and Charlie Chaplin, it is an enchanted isle, where the Bali you want to find is there -- so long as you wish to discover it.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.