Bali, known for its abundant tourist attractions, is now taking measures to address the issue of inappropriate behavior displayed by visitors. The governor of Bali, Wayan Koster, has recently put forth a proposal introducing a set of rules aimed at curbing years of tourist misbehavior on the Indonesian island.
The proposed rules include a prohibition on climbing the sacred mountains of Bali, which are regarded as the abode of Hindu deities. Upon arrival, tourists would receive a document advising them to dress modestly in temples, refrain from touching holy trees, avoid using profane language in public, abstain from scaling religious structures, and not disrupt Balinese ceremonies. However, the most impactful proposal among these rules is the ban on mountain hiking, a popular activity promoted by various Balinese tour companies that guide visitors to explore majestic peaks and volcanoes.
The governor’s initiative follows incidents involving tourists engaging in obscene acts. One case involved a German woman who entered a Bali temple in the nude, while another incident featured a Russian woman posing nude on a sacred banyan tree. Additionally, a Russian blogger who exposed his backside on a volcano was among over a hundred individuals reportedly deported from Bali in the past year alone.
Despite being a highly frequented destination with numerous resorts, bars, and activities catering to foreigners, Bali remains deeply rooted in its ancient religious beliefs. The island is adorned with sites that hold sacred significance within its Hindu-majority culture.
Adrian Vickers, a professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Sydney, explains, “In Hinduism, the mountains are regarded as the dwelling places of the gods, particularly the Himalayas, which are associated with specific deities. Therefore, the high mountains and volcanoes of Bali, Java, and Lombok are considered as variations of those Indian mountains. Moreover, in Bali, high places are also associated with ancestors.”
I Nengah Subadra, an associate professor of tourism at Bali’s University of Triatma Mulya, asserts that many tourists fail to comprehend the profound impact of their actions on Bali. Dressing inappropriately, speaking loudly, or engaging in intimate behavior at sacred sites disrupts the delicate spiritual equilibrium of the island.
Such behavior not only offends the local population but also unsettles the Hindu gods of Bali. To restore cosmic harmony and appease these deities, Balinese people perform ancient rituals at these disturbed locations, purging them of negative energy.
Subadra mentions that frustration over tourist misbehavior has been mounting in Bali for over a decade, citing a 2013 incident where an Estonian couple engaged in sexual activity in a temple. However, he acknowledges that the planned tourist rules will elicit mixed reactions from locals. He states, “Those who strongly support cultural preservation will welcome the rules, while those involved in tourism may be dissatisfied as it could affect businesses conducting mountain hiking tours.”
One such individual is Kadek Krishna Adidharma, the director of Bali Eco Trekking, a company that has been organizing mountain tours for 24 years. Adidharma contends that the governor of Bali does not possess the authority to ban tourists from visiting the peaks. He argues, “Determining whether a mountain or volcano is open to tourism falls under the jurisdiction of local authorities, not provincial ones.”
While it remains uncertain when Bali’s proposed tourist rules will be enforced, travelers can display respect when visiting mountains and temples by dressing conservatively and adhering to local customs.
Ronan O’Connell, an Australian journalist and photographer who frequently travels between Ireland, Thailand, and Western Australia.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Bali tourism rules
What prompted the proposal of new rules for tourists in Bali?
Regular obscene acts and misbehavior by tourists in Bali, such as nudity and disrespecting sacred sites, prompted the proposal of new rules to address this issue.
What are some of the rules proposed for tourists in Bali?
The proposed rules for tourists in Bali include dressing modestly in temples, avoiding touching holy trees, refraining from swearing in public, scaling religious buildings, interrupting Balinese ceremonies, and most notably, a ban on mountain hiking.
Why is mountain hiking being banned in Bali?
Mountain hiking is being banned in Bali due to the mountains being considered sacred and the abode of Hindu deities. The ban aims to preserve the sanctity of these sites and restore the delicate spiritual balance of the island.
How do tourists’ actions impact Bali’s delicate spiritual balance?
Tourists who dress inappropriately, speak loudly, or engage in intimate behavior at sacred sites disrupt the island’s delicate spiritual equilibrium. Such behavior not only offends the locals but also unsettles the Hindu gods of Bali, requiring ancient rituals to cleanse the disturbed locations of negative energy.
What is the reaction of locals to the proposed tourist rules?
The proposed tourist rules receive mixed reactions from locals. Some who prioritize cultural preservation welcome the rules, while those involved in the tourism industry, such as hiking tour operators, may be unhappy as it could affect their businesses.
Is there a jurisdictional issue regarding the proposed rules?
Yes, there is a jurisdictional issue. Some argue that determining whether a mountain or volcano is open to tourism falls under the authority of local, not provincial, officials.
How can travelers show respect when visiting mountains and temples in Bali?
Travelers can show respect by dressing conservatively, adhering to local customs, and being mindful of their behavior when visiting mountains and temples in Bali. This helps preserve the cultural respect and sanctity of these sites.