Mass tourism has undoubtedly returned to Bali’s leading destinations, and so have the queues. This week tourists have been queuing for upwards of 4-hours to take their photos at the iconic ‘Gateway to Heaven’ temple in Karangasem. Sad Kahyangan Lempuyang Temple quickly became one of the island’s most Instagrammable destinations during the early days of travel blogging.
Temple leaders have spoken with local reporters this week as queues mounted up to their longest since the pandemic began. Deputy Chairperson of the Sad Kahyangan Lempuyang Temple Development Committee, I Nyoman Jati, said the recovery had been slow. He explained that although it initally took time for numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels, the tourists have indeed found their way back. He explained that it was tourists alone who really gave the temple its popular name. Before that the temple was used strictly for worshipping purposes.
He said, ‘The most important thing is that tourists who come must be orderly and wear traditional Balinese clothes’. After dozens of reports of tourists disrespecting sacred sites in Bali since Indonesia reopened borders in February, temple leaders are working harder than ever to ensure tourists know what is expected of them if they visit holy sites.
@gracefkim ded ☠️ #lempuyangtemple #instagramvsreality #tiktokindonesia #bali #heavensgate #balitiktok #indonesiatiktok ♬ original sound – gracefkim
Jati also explained that many tourists are surprised by the walk up to the temple. Whether accompanied by a driver’s guide, tourists must park at the Kemuda Parking Terminal at the bottom of the hill, ending at the Sad Kahyangan Lempuyang Temple complex. Most visits then visit the Bentar Temple and Gelung Temple. Bentar Temple is the actual name of the Gateway to Heaven, also known as Lempuyang Madya or Penataran Agung.
@travelwithsamm Lempuyang Temple was not what I expected, but it was still beautiful nonetheless! 😍 #lempuyangtemple #lempuyang #heavensgate #balisquad #balitourism ♬ A-O-K – Tai Verdes
Upon arriving at the temple complex, tourists must pay their entrance fee and dress in a traditional sarong. Those who are menstruating are not permitted to enter any Balinese temple, as is the case for locals too. Tourists must then walk the steep hill towards the Bentar Temple where they can explore the temple, learn about the significance of the site to Balinese Hindus and take their place in the queue for their photo. To access the main Lempuyang Temple, visitors and worshippers must climb the 1700 steps.
Visitors can see Mount Agung right through the temple gates on a clear day. Travelers from all over the world and across Indonesia have visited Lempuyang Temple, the vast majority simply for the photo opportunity. Lempuyang Temple was founded in the 11th Century, during the reign of Mpu Kuturan and King Udayana. The temple complex was built to protest Bali and its religious freedoms.
Many visitors are shocked to learn that there is not a body of water in front of the gateway. The reflection is simply a camera trick where the photographer places a small minor beneath the lens to create the illusion of a reflection. On rainy days there is sometimes a puddle, however.
The increasing queue is not just being reported by the temple management teams. Visitors are taking to social media to highlight the ‘Instagram vs. Reality’ of the Gateway to Heaven. One tourist from Denmark showed her version of the trend and added the caption that she had to wait 4 hours to get her turn for a photograph. It has been recommended that visitors should arrive early in the morning to avoid queues.
Bali’s other iconic temples are also seeing a soar in visitor numbers in recent weeks. Tanah Lot Temple announced that between January 2022 and late August 2022, they welcomed over 700,000 visitors. Head of the Tanah Lot DTW Promotion and Development Division, Ni Made Suarniti, told reporters on Monday, 12th September, that he and his teams hope to welcome a further one million tourists to Tanah Lot by the end of the year.
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