Obnoxious tourist behaviour at sacred temples under scrutiny in Bali
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Obnoxious tourist behaviour at sacred temples under scrutiny in Bali

THE Indonesian paradise island of Bali is known for many things: pristine white sand beaches, scenic highland retreats, a vibrant and pulsating nightlife, extraordinary cuisine, and a plethora of sightseeing options.

Spread through the far-flung corners of Bali are its religious attractions, popular with tourists. In fact, it has been said that there are probably more temples than homes on the island.

Among the more popular, most-visited sites are Pura Besakih (the oldest, holiest and largest temple in Bali), Pura Tanah Lot (a stunning sea temple), Pura Luhur Uluwatu (which sits atop a soaring 60-meter cliff), Pura Ulun Danu (located next to a picturesque lake), and more.

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Although these sacred temples, shrines, and religious compounds, each unique in its own way, are usually peaceful and desolate, they transform into perfect venues during festivals or anniversaries hosting activities such as traditional dance performances.

And with about 10,000 breathtaking temples on the island, travellers will never have to walk too far to find one to visit no matter where in Bali they are staying.

However, authorities in Bali are unimpressed with the way visitors have been behaving in and around these attractions.


Pura Tanah Lot in Bali, Indonesia. Source: Shutterstock.

Lamenting a decline in the “quality of tourists” visiting the island, they have vowed to stop bikini-wearing tourists from posing in front of temples.

The Guardian quoted Bali deputy governor Tjokorda Oka Artha Sukawati, known as Cok Ace, as saying that the authorities were concerned about a recent rise in disrespectful behaviour by tourists visiting Bali’s hundreds of sacred Hindu sites.

“This is the government’s attempt to maintain the Pura [temples],” Cok Ace said, adding that the temples need to be preserved since they are the spirits of Bali’s cultures and customs.

In the coming weeks, the authorities will be re-evaluating the system that allows tourists to visit temples unaccompanied. This comes after a photo of a Danish tourist sitting on the Linggih Padmasana shrine at the Puhur Lutur Batukaru temple went viral, drawing the ire of Bali’s authorities and locals.

For the uninitiated, the throne-shaped shrine is reserved for the most important deity in Balinese Hinduism, known as the supreme god.

Sitting on it is regarded as highly offensive in their faith.

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Indonesia has strict blasphemy laws, and the Indonesian Hindu Religious Council has since instructed police to investigate the above incident.

They are still trying to locate the tourist who took the photo.

Other recent incidents that have fuelled the authorities’ unhappiness at visitor behaviour include a Spanish vlogger who videoed himself climbing up a temple structure and a bikini-clad woman who Instagrammed herself in a “downward facing dog” yoga pose in front of a temple’s doors.

“It is because we are too open with tourists, so too many come, and indeed the quality of tourists is now different from before,” Cok Ace told The Guardian.

Though it may differ from country to country, most sacred sites have a set of rules that visitors are expected to adhere to. Make it a point to keep these in mind before you visit Bali’s religious complexes:

  • Dress modestly: Balinese locals are conservative. Both men and women are expected to wear clothing that covers shoulders and part of the upper arms. Leg coverings such as a sarong and a temple scarf are mandatory as well. Bring your own or rent them at the temple entrance.
  • No touchy-feely: When in and around religious grounds, keep your hands to yourself. By that, it means you should dial down the public displays of affection to a bare minimum.
  • Menstrual taboo: For women who are menstruating, it is best to skip the Balinese temple visit. This is because menstrual blood is considered impure.
  • Temple manners: There is a score of things you should not be doing inside the temple including using flash photography or walking in front of locals who are praying. Also, the level of your head should never be higher than that of the priest.
  • Procession tips: Religious processions are a norm on the island, especially during holy celebrations such as Galungan and Nyepi. If you find yourself stuck behind a procession, do not attempt to honk or overtake.

This article first appeared on our sister website Travel Wire Asia.

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