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Asia travel

‘We are too open with tourists’: Bali to rethink temple visits

Picture of Danish tourist sitting on shrine reserved for highest Hindu deity the last straw for authorities on Indonesian island, who will consider whether visitors can continue touring sacred sites unaccompanied

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2018, 6:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2018, 6:00am

Authorities in Bali have vowed to stop holidaymakers 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.

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“This is the government’s attempt to maintain the Pura [temples],” said Cok Ace at a regional council meeting last week. “The temples need to be preserved since they are the spirits of Bali’s cultures and customs.”

He said in the coming weeks authorities 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 five million visitors in 2017, with many drawn to the island’s unique Hindu temples.

The government crackdown was prompted by a photo of a Danish tourist sitting on the Linggih Padmasana shrine at the Puhur Lutur 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.

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Indonesia has strict blasphemy laws and the Indonesian Hindu Religious Council said it had instructed police to investigate the Linggih Padmasana shrine incident and find the tourist responsible.

The newly appointed local government of Bali, which has held office for less than three weeks, said the recent influx of visitors was having a negative impact on the island.

“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 sacred structures to take pictures, and another woman for posing in her bikini in front of an ancient temple whilst doing a yoga pose.