That Temple Party

Australian tourists drinking and making merry at one of Bali’s most revered Hindu temples is inherently disturbing in that some visitors to our shores cannot comprehend the difference between a boozy night out in a club and a hallowed place of sanctity that commands reverence and introspection.

If they were to beer-drink at their own places of worship, churches, they would be thrown out and humiliated by the community.

Not so in Bali. Indeed, even one of our own was pictured taking the miscreants on a tour around the picturesque Uluwatu temple of monkeys, dressed in fine Balinese traditional clothing.  

That the group of tourists adopted a religious pose by donning sarongs – a requirement before entering any Balinese temple – and then whipping out large bottles of beer and guzzling them as they strolled around the cliff-top shrine is not only at odds with this distorted picture but distressingly peculiar.

With the emergence of low-fare airlines serving Bali, many are wondering if our exceptional island will become the European hedonistic equivalent of Ibiza, where sex, drugs and whatever else takes people’s fancy prevails. We do not think so, because Bali is an island that, unlike that overrun Iberian enclave, is fundamentally centred on religion, spirituality and a vibrant culture that is as strong today as it was many centuries ago.

But with the rise of the cheap airfare, in touristy southern areas of Bali we have in recent times observed an influx of low-end tourists with no regard whatever for the foreign environment they find themselves in.

Other foolhardy visitors to our shores deign themselves above the law. They ride motorbikes, for instance, without helmets and then wonder why they are pulled over by the police. These are people who see their Bali experience as time in an adolescent playground where there are no rules, at least not for them.

Earlier this month we witnessed fury from the Bali government and police over a harmless documentary following the lives of men on Kuta Beach who form easy relationships with foreign women. That uproar was misplaced. It should instead be directed at the likes of those who really do trample on our religion and culture.

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