One of the new Bali Province administration’s first orders of business will be regulating how tourists enter the island’s many temples.
Known as the “island of 1,000 temples,” predominantly Hindu Bali is filled with temples.
“This regulation is one of the government’s efforts to safeguard the temples. The sanctity of the temples in Bali needs to be maintained, because it is the spirit of Balinese customs and culture,” Bali deputy governor, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, said in Denpasar on Monday.
Speaking at a regional council (DPRD) meeting on Monday, the deputy governor, also known as Cok Ace, said that the government will also be making a strategy to address the “quality” of tourists that Bali is getting.
“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 said, as quoted by Berita Satu. In other words, Bali has been getting some ill-behaved visitors.
Prompting the provincial government’s move to regulate tourists’ entry to temples are a number of incidents in recent years where foreigners have gone viral, inappropriately posing in photos and videos at temples.
Most recently, there was a photo of a tourist, believed to be from Denmark, squatting at a plinggih padmasana shrine, at Puhur Lutur Batukaru temple in Tabanan. The shrines, shaped as thrones, are meant to be left empty for Balinese Hindu deities.
Earlier this year, a Spanish vlogger learned the error in his ways after a video of him climbing up a temple earned him a whole lot of feedback from Balinese netizens, while a couple of years ago, another woman was called out for doing yoga poses in her bikini in front of temple. However, it’s not only foreigners who behave insensitively. An Indonesian middle schooler was reprimanded for blasphemy in October 2017 for climbing up a plinggih padmasana.
This kind of behavior goes on with the millions of tourists visiting Bali each year, many traveling without guides, says Cok Ace, who also happens to be the chairman of the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Hotel & Restaurant Association (PHRI).
“And even if (they have a guide), there are still many rogue guides operating,” the deputy governor said, referring to unlicensed tour guides.
“This will also be evaluated.”
Meanwhile, the chairman of PHDI Bali, I Gusti Ngurah Sudiana, said he hopes the government can “restore” the function of Bali’s temples as holy places.
“In connection with the case of the foreign tourist at Batukaru Temple, we are asking Bali Police to conduct a legal process and secure the perpetrator,” Sudiana said.
Blasphemy–which can be interpreted quite vaguely under Indonesian law–is a criminal offense in Indonesia.