Besakih Temple, Bali: sacred extortion?

I’ve never believed that religious people have better morals or ethics than non-religious people and my experiences in Indonesia only serve to confirm this feeling.

Now, I’m not saying that religious people are bad. Or even that religion doesn’t make some people do good. But overall, when we look at the larger picture, there really doesn’t seem to be any evidence to believe that people somehow become more moral or ethical just because they fear some sort of omniscient entity (who may or may not be imaginary, anyway).

I was reminded of this when we recently made a visit to the Besakih Temple in Bali.

Now, I’d heard bad things about Besakih Temple and what a tourist trap it was, but I really didn’t expect it to be THIS BAD. After all, how is it possible that a visit to the most sacred and holiest of temples in Bali could be one of the most unpleasant and unspiritual of experiences you could have on the Island of the Gods? (second only to a night on the razz in Kuta drinking cheap Hello Mister whiskey)

It really is that bad.

As you drive up to the temple - where there is actually ample parking - you will find you will not be allowed to continue your journey (although some other vehicles are mysteriously waved on). Nope, instead, you are forced to park in the car park which is – especially for your inconvenience of course – located over 1km away from the temple! Clever thinking lads!

So with your tickets in hand you start the long walk up to the temple, but before you know it you are ordered into a small hut where you are told that you MUST have a guide to visit the temple. There’s a special ceremony on today, you should understand. And nope you DON’T have a choice. And besides you can pay what you want – well at least something like the US$100 that the ripped-off American was forced to pay before you.

So what do you do? Well, I just shrugged my shoulders and left the hut to continue walking up the road toward the temple. A few people in the hut shouted out bad things but I just ignored them.

The locals here think it’s great you have to walk a long way up the road to the temple and it explains why motorcycles continuously hover around you, asking whether you’d like a ride up to the temple (for some ridiculously large fee of course!)

But they don’t realize I like exercise. And a brisk 20-30 minute walk up to the temple is like water off a duck’s back for me.

At the temple, you’ll find there is no special ceremony taking place (well what did you expect?), and even if there was it wouldn’t mean you’d have to be forced into paying a guide an exorbitant sum to visit this government temple.

Besakih Temple, Bali

The temple itself is nice enough but not as impressive as Tanah Lot. According to Wikipedia, it probably dates to the fourteenth century – which makes it pretty old as stuff goes. But it is it’s location on the south slopes of Mount Agung, Bali’s largest volcano, which truly gives the place a mystical and ethereal ambience.

All in all, I wouldn’t really advise coming here unless you are comfortable with dealing with a potentially very unpleasant situation.

So be warned! And if you want to read some further testimonies on how bad things can get at Besakih Temple, here are some accounts I have come across on the net:

I absolutely agree with the other reviews that there is a big problem for the tourists in Besakih. I call it Besakih mafia. To say that local people are annoying is to say nothing. They are very pressing. We were very naive at the beginning of our excursion: we bought sarongs, we paid at the entrance, we were told that they wouldn’t let us go inside without their guide and we paid for the guide. Oh, we hoped he would tell us something interesting… But his English was sooo poor. As we took the guide at the very beginning of Besakih place we weren’t attacked by the other groups of aggressive aborigines except small girls trying to sell us tiny flowers. We were asked to donate money inside the temple. We did. At the end of excursion we gave our guide some tips and he asked for more. Oh… We spent about $200 in total (for two) for the visit to the mother temple (later we wondered how could we manage to spend such amount).

One of the most and top rated ripped off tourist attraction is Pura Besakih. (Temple). I am saying this by experience as I just had my third trip there last month and still the locals tried to threaten me to pay for local guide or else I will not be allowed to enter the place after seeing there are 11 of us $_$.

A local guide is totally unnecessary if you already know how to walk around the temple as long as you do not trespassed into family temples. Anyway, I managed to argue with the guy and we went up without paying anything more because I didn't need any guide when I've already know my way.

And then it was ‘Stage Two’… really felt like in Mario Brothers. When you reach exactly the foot of the temple, there will be 3 or more people attacking you. At least 2 will tell you ‘We are the guardians of the temple’ (I really like that Phrase)… and it made you feel like the place is 120% sacred before you realize it’s a tactic to rip you off. They will ask for at least 20,000 rupiah – 50,000 rupiah for the tour around the temple telling you that their family have been guiding the temples since centuries ago.

I told them. Tak perlu terima kasih.

Actually the first visit, I was tricked by THE GUARDIANS OF THE TEMPLE because I didn’t want to offend anyone especially when I am not in my own country. He brought us to his family temple and asked for 50usd as a donation for the prayer. Me and my friend put RM20 in coz we were not very keen to give RM150 away just like that even though it is for temple…. To be honest, I have never even given more that Rm10 to Tua Pek Kong Temple in my hometown…

Originally, Pura Besakih is a very beautiful mother temple of Bali. The biggest temple that have many small family temples in the area. However, it is the blood suckers that will spoil your holiday. If you don’t mind to pay more, you can still enjoy but if you are in budget and do not wish to spend the unnecessary, there are plenty more beautiful places that you can visit in Bali besides Pura Besakih.

My driver told me there were guests paying USD100 per person when they were at the gate. My brother paid about RM300 just to go up if not mistaken because the Local Guide has told him it is compulsory or he will not reach the top. My next trip to Bali with friends or family, this will be the last place I will suggest unless if they insist!


  1. bali informaton,bali driver recomend

  2. I partly agree with you. I agree about how the most balinese tour guide asks for a lot of money to the tourist, but I don't agree about the useless sarongs because it's a manner in Bali that we have to wear a polite clothes while entering the temple. For example, the Balinese people must wear kebaya when they go there. That's why they asked you to buy it. But, you can buy sarongs outside the temple region for cheaper price. And I suggest you to find a balinese friend before going there, so you don't have to spend a lot of money because they think that you're the family of that Balinese people lol
    -Dita Windayani


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