Bali’s Gates of Heaven Temple, officially known as Lempuyang Temple, is one of the most spiritually significant landmarks on the island and one of the most popular tourist attractions too.
Tourists from all over the world queue for up to four hours sometimes just to have their photo taken at the iconic spot.
But a village in Northern Thailand has just opened a Gate of Heaven photo spot of their own.
Something that bonds both the creative youth of Indonesia and Thailand is their shared appreciation for photography.
The impact of social media across both countries has resulted in a sharp rise in the number of cute cafes and quaint photo spots created in previously unvisited places that have a scenic view or photo-worthy vista.
The Gates of Heaven at Lempuyang Temple quickly became world famous during the rise of the first travel bloggers and social media travel influencers.
The iconic photo, replicated hundreds of thousands of times over the last ten years, shows tourists dressed in their traditional sarong standing between the temple gates.
If they’re lucky and the weather is clear, they are gifted with a breathtaking view of sacred Mount Agung.
@melanien015 what it’s REALLY like at lempuyang temple in bali #fyp #foryoupage #foryou #bali #indonesia #lempuyangtemple #gatesofheaven #instagramvsreality #expectationsvsreality ♬ Andrei King – Andrei King
One aspect of the experience that is not so widely known is that the temple gates are not always reflected in a still pool of water beneath the gates; although sometimes there is a puddle!
The reflection effect is created when local guides put a small mirror beneath the camera lens.
So why has a small tourist town in rural Northern Thailand recreated the Balinese Lempuyang Temple gates? At first hearing this news, it would be easy to think that the new Gates of Heaven in Nan, Thailand are simply inspired by the famous view in Bali.
@nicovibessss Heaven’s gate 🌥️ #lempunyangtemple #Bali #heavensgate #travel #fyp #parati #indonesia #balitiktok #CapCut #foryoupage #foryoupage ♬ original sound – Kuys_Bob🔘
Yet, on closure inspection, it is evident that the Gates of Heaven in Nan is a pretty close replica, in fact it’s even on Google Maps and trending on social media as ‘Bali Nan’.
Given that Thailand is a Buddhist country with its own unique and visually impressive temple architecture, many online have called out the creators for copying Balinese Hindu temple architecture for the sake of a photo opportunity.
Some commenters online have even gone as far as to call the new photo spot cultural appropriation. A few people have noted that there is a certain irony to what they see as Thai people’s criticism of Cambodians and Vietnamese people for copying Thai culture while seemingly doing similar in this situation.
@dewnewnew17 BA LI น่าน #ที่เที่ยวใหม่ #บาหลีน่าน #ฟีดดดシ #JUTHAMAS #ใช่สิแน็กมันจน #กิ่วม่วง #เที่ยวน่าน #น่าน ♬ เสียงต้นฉบับ – JUTHAMAS1️⃣9️⃣9️⃣7️⃣
Much of the online hubbub has come from within Thailand, and folks from Indonesia, especially Bali, have yet to share much of a reaction.
Based on previous faux pas, Bali has been gracious in its response. Earlier this with the Philippines Tourism Board shared a marketing video on social media that featured stunning visuals of the most famous destinations in the country…and a drone shot of Bali’s Tegallalang Rice Terraces.
In response to the video, Indonesia’s Minister for Tourism and Creative Economies was generous with his understanding.
Minster Uno said, “I’m sure this is not a deliberate mistake of the Philippine government. As fellow ASEAN members, we must take an open attitude and see the positive side.”
Speaking separately the Head of the Bali Provincial Tourism Office, Tjok Bagus Pemayun, told reporters, “Don’t worry too much because the tourist attractions in Bali will not exist anywhere else in the world”
He continued to say “[The uniqueness of] Bali, which is based on cultural values and local Balinese wisdom, will be difficult to compete with other regions.”
So with a replica of the Gates of Heaven at Lempuyang Temple now in place in Northern Thailand, could Bali lovers be lured elsewhere? Unlikely.
Northern Thailand has an incredibly unique cultural and geographical landscape, a worthy and interesting destination in its own right, but fundamentally very different from Bali.
While some Bali lovers have noted they are going to start looking at vacation destinations across Southeast Asia as a result of Indonesia’s paid-for visa on arrival and the upcoming tourism tax, in reality, Bali lovers will keep coming back to the island to see the cultural and historical wonders in their original and most authentic form.
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