a quick guide to temple etiquette in Bali, Indonesia

Coming to Bali, I wanted to visit some of the gorgeous temples that fill this little island. But, in doing so, I wanted to make sure I had my wits about me. Especially because the Balinese people practice their own unique branch of Hinduism.

You might remember in my post from visiting Kuala Lumpur that Touk and I opted out of visiting a mosque since we had no real idea of proper behaviour or cultural keynotes for what was acceptable. Nothing drives me as crazy as when visitors come to Luang Prabang to the temples in the wrong attire or they snap photos at massively inappropriate times. 

After learning a bit more, I headed to Pura Titra Empul to see the famous purification ceremony. My time at the temple felt less spiritual and more like a tourist attraction. You pay an entrance fee to go into the temple, then have to pay another fee if you wish to get purified in the holy water. You have to exit the temple via market stalls selling everything from penis key chains carved from wood to Bintang tank tops {a classic trademark}. It felt like a place that should have been quiet and ceremonious, but...wasn't. That's just my personal experience, however. I still feel like visiting the temples in Bali is something that every visitor interested should do, as long as they follow the correct temple etiquette. 

Here is what you should know before you go visiting temples in Bali..


Women menstruating may not enter //

I know, I know. And, yes, I've broken this one before in Laos where Theravada Buddhists also have this as a rule. When work required me to take volunteers to the temple during that special time of the month, I just had to do it, ya know? It's also forbidden to enter a mosque while on your period. I always wonder...how would anyone know? But, rules are rules. This tradition has to do with cleanliness. You get the picture. I'm not telling you not to go while you are menstruating, but you can't be shocked when you see signs posted around telling women they can't enter the holy water while bleeding. 


 You need to wear a traditional sarong //

I came to the temple with my knees covered by a pant-jumpsuit and my shoulders covered with a Lao scarf. Despite being fully covered, I was asked to wear a traditional sarong. This is the customary attire for temple visits. Every temple we visited asked us to wear one and most tied them around my waist for me. Shoulders are okay to be bare, which is nice given the heat. 


Medium and long hair must be tied up //

When going to temple in Laos, I know to have my hair tied back {it has to do with beliefs about vanity and its association with long hair}, so I'm not sure why I didn't have my hair pulled back. I couldn't find a hair tie anywhere in the backpack Luke and I used during the day and became flustered. Luckily, they have rubberbands you may use if you have don't have anything that can hold your hair back. 


The Balinese are less rigid about shoes //

In Buddhist culture, you take your shoes off before entering a temple {and, like, everywhere else. While visiting the temples around Bali, I was surprised that all the visitors were allowed to walk around temple grounds with shoes on. It was only a group of visitors preparing to be cleaned in the holy water at Pura Titra Empul that were barefoot.