Following the news of yet another arrest of foreigners in Bali for disrespecting a sacred site, one Balinese professor has spoken to the press about how and why tourists should dress appropriately at temples and other holy sites.
A group of Russian tourists was recently arrested at Pengubengan Besakih Temple for not dressing appropriately at the sacred site.
Now the Professor of Tourism Science at Udayana University, I Gede Pitana, spoke with reporters about why it is so important to wear the correct attire in Bali’s sacred temples.
Professor Pitana explained, “What is appropriate is according to local clothing. For example, we are in Bali; the temple is in Bali, so please dress like the Balinese. Wear women’s and men’s cloth. Don’t wear shorts, let alone bikinis.”
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He continued to explain that everyone must wear a sarong when visiting a temple. Prof. Pitana noted, “Because the sarong or shawl has a meaning, we have to tie up all negative things.”
Prof Pitana reminded tourists that anyone with long hair, whether a man or a woman, must tie their hair back when entering a temple.
“Don’t let your hair down, but tie it up neatly so that no hair falls. It’s better to wear a headgear (headband)”.
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He also called on tourists to be humble to accept a guide to visit Bali’s temples.
The tourism academic explained, “When entering the temple, it is highly recommended to invite or be accompanied by a guide. Why is that? Because temples are inanimate objects. There will be nothing interesting besides the architecture, but actually, if we go to the temple, what is much more interesting is the interpretation.”
During the interview, Prof Pitana reiterated the importance of temple visitors adhering to other important cultural practices.
He was impressed that those who are menstruating are prohibited from entering temples.
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The conversation also touched on when it is and isn’t appropriate to take photos within a temple and what kinds of images are respectable.
Visitors cannot hold objects that belong to the temple, stand on pagodas, on holy trees, temple seats, or shrines. Wherever possible, visitors should sprinkle holy water, especially on the head, before entering the temple.
Not all Balinese Hindu temples are open for non-Hindus, be sure to double-check that it is appropriate to enter a temple grounds if you are out exploring the island independently.
As a general rule, if there is no one at the temple to ask whether you can enter, you should not enter.
Always wear a sarong, and wear modest clothing on the top, whether that be a t-shirt, shirt, or long sleeve top.
Some temples require you to remove shoes before entering; others do not, so again, always ask what the rule are at each temple that you visit.
At Bali’s biggest temples, and those which are especially popular with tourists, there are always guides and temple keepers on hand to ask questions about what is and isn’t appropriate and respectful behavior.
In the last few weeks, the Indonesian Tourism Board, Wonderful Indonesia, has released a series of infographics online to help tourists understand the behavioral do’s and don’ts of a visit to Bali.
The public service announcements include information about what is and isn’t considered respectful and reminds tourist of legalities that have been increasingly overlooked by some tourists on the island, like the rules of the road.
The provincial movement in Bali has launched a task force to crack down on foreigners breaking the law on the island.
This includes disrespecting sacred sites and temples, working illegally, and driving recklessly and without the correct driving license.
Officials have confirmed that they are in the process of publishing what has been dubbed the ‘good tourist guide’, which will be a more comprehensive version of the information shared on social media posts by Wonderful Indonesia.
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