Bali to bring in new rules for visiting temples after decline in 'quality of tourists'

Visitors posing in bikinis and clambering over sacred Hindu structures prompt authorities to crack down

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.

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.

The newly appointed local government of Bali, who have held office for just two weeks, said the recent influx of visitors was negatively impacting 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 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.

Contributor

Hannah Ellis-Petersen South-east Asia correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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