News & Politics

Bali Wants a Better Class of Tourist

Cheap air flights apparently also mean a cheaper, meaner class of tourist.

Authorities in Bali have vowed to stop westerners in bikinis posing in front of sacred temples as they lament a decline in the “quality of tourists” visiting the island. Bali deputy governor Tjokorda Oka Artha Sukawati, known as Cok Ace, said the authorities had been concerned by 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],” said Cok Ace at a regional council meeting this week. “The temples need to be preserved since they are the spirits of Bali’s cultures and customs.” He said in the coming weeks they would be re-evaluating the system that allows tourists to visit temples unaccompanied.

Bali has become an increasingly popular tourist destination over the past few years, attracting over 5 million visitors in 2017, with many drawn to the island for its unique Hindu temples.

Or its beach parties. As culture becomes “lifestyle,” religion is denigrated, and the past is either Disneyland or an obstacle to be swept away, why should we expect people in the West to care a fig about other peoples’ shrines, other than as photo-ops?

The government crack down was prompted by a photo of a Danish tourist sitting on Linggih Padmasana shrine at Puhur Luhur Batukaru temple, which went viral. The shrine, which is shaped like a throne on top of a pillar, is reserved for the most important deity in Balinese Hinduism, known as the supreme god and to sit on it is seen as highly offensive to the faith.

Indonesia has strict blasphemy laws and the Indonesian Hindu Religious Council said they have instructed the police to investigate the Linggih Padmasana shrine incident and find the tourist responsible. “It is because we are too open with tourists, so too many come, and indeed the quality of tourists is now different from before,” said Cok Ace.

Other tourists have come under fire over the past year for climbing on the sacred structures to take pictures, and another woman for posing in her bikini in front of a ancient temple whilst doing a yoga pose.

Yeah, that’s how to win friends and influence people. And it’s not just the Ugly American any more, but hordes of young people with the economic freedom to travel widely. Whether they learn anything from it is another matter.


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