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Friday, October 28, 2016

Besakih Temple, Bali – Not so pleasant experience

Ok, Done with Tata Hexa, back to Indonesia…

Pura Besakih or Besakih temple is one of the largest and most important temple complexes in Bali. It is too far from Denpaser (65km from Bali airport) so most tourists skip this temple. Out of curiosity I went here while returning from Mount Batur. This post shares my experience at the temple complex.
2 km before the entrance to temple complex, I was stopped for ticketing- IDR 15000 for entry and IDR 5000 for parking.

As I entered temple complex, ladies selling Sarong surrounded me, suggesting that I buy it for IDR 50000 for them. When I asked if I can rent it, they were ready to offer it on rent for IDR 20000. I wanted to find out if temple gives one free, before buying or renting, so I resisted their advances and went to a ticket inspection counter. (Sarong is typically not needed if you are wearing full trousers or a dress that covers till your ankle, it is needed only if your legs are exposed. Many temples in Bali let you borrow one free of cost with ticket, without having to buy or rent)

At the ticket checking point, I was shown a large map of temple complex, was told that it takes about 2 hours to explore the whole complex and that I should hire a local guide for IDR 70000 mandatory. When asked why, I was told that some rituals are going on inside the temple and tourists are not allowed in certain areas- because tourists won’t know which areas are prohibited, I should hire a guide who will tell me where to go and where not to. I felt this excuse flimsy- they can simply put some boards indicating "No Entry",

I wanted to find out what I can see for the 15000 IDR that was collected from me- I pressed on without hiring a guide towards the temple complex- where I was stopped again, for not having a guide with me. Few guides came to me and offered their services for a lower price of IDR 50000- if I had negotiated may be they would have agreed for IDR 30k, but I was not very keen. More than money, I feel I was being tricked into spending more, as this expense was not communicated to me while selling the ticket. (whatever minimum it takes to go in should be communicated up front, not in stages, tricking tourists to keep shelling out more n more- if it was told upfront that visiting the Besakih temple costs IDR 100000 (15k entry + 5k parking + 20k sarong rental + 50-60k for the guide) I would have simply skipped it and gone to next item on my agenda. Let alone going inside, without a guide, I wasn’t even allowed to go closer to the steps for some better photo of the entrance.

A guide fee of 50-70k for large group is an insignificant amount. 70K IDR is about INR 500 or USD 8. For just one person, without any serious intentions to know about the history, I didn’t feel like opting for this forced guide hire. I made a conscious decision to return from Besakih temple without going inside. Took a few photos from outside and left the place. I am glad I did, because if I had stayed back, probably I wouldn’t have met Karol.

Keep this in mind if you are planning to go all the way to visit Besakih temple. Local people are free to go on their own, but visitors will be forced to shell out more under various excuses. Most temples in Bali give free piece of Sarong, but this temple doesn’t – you will have to carry one of your own or buy or rent. Plus the mandatory guide fee 4 times the entry fee, just to know which part of temple complex are prohibited. I can't even tag along other groups, because I didn't pay for their guide.

I have visited half a dozen other temples in Bali- none of them had this kind of rules. Of course it is their temple and their rules- I am no one to object to it, but if I feel tricked, I will use my discretion to skip it. My recommendation is to skip visiting this Besakih temple- not really worth going all the way from South Bali, unless you are very serious about exploring this temple and can club it with some other places nearby.

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