Like every country in the world, Indonesia has it’s own culture; with that culture comes it’s own set of rules that are followed by the residents and visitors. Whilst Indonesia is Muslim, Bali is Hindu, and because of that, there are a few difference in how to dress or behave when visiting. I’ll be breaking down a few of the most common differences between your home countries and a Hindu Bali.
Women in Bali, traditionally, are more modest. They don’t wear clothing like women in western countries, their shorts tend to be a little longer and tops a little more covering. As Bali progresses in the city areas, more local women are dressing “western”, but in the more rural areas, like Amed, women are still very modest. These rules do not apply to tourists visiting the area, and certainly not within the hotels or on the beach. However, it is not an area where it is appropriate to ride a motorbike in a bikini (also for your safety it is not a good idea), nor walk along the street in your bikini only. It’s not forbidden, but it is more culturally sensitive to wear a something over your bikini whilst out on the streets. As for men, it is also the same, put a tshirt on when walking around in your bathers, or whilst on a motorbike.
PLACES OF WORSHIP
Bali is the Island Of The Gods. Temples are in every house, and each village has a major temple, as well as each regency having an even larger one. You will have noticed the rules about not climbing the temples (for obvious reasons), but ever wonder about the clothing or the “bleeding” side? Clothing must be respectful and modest for both men and women; shoulders must be covered, and sarongs must be worn by both sexes.
But what about the bleeding? It seems so sexist to only not allow women in when menstrating. This is actually a rule that applies to both men and women. If a person has an openly bleeding cut, even if it’s a ceremony for their deceased parents, they are not allowed into the temple, regardless of sex of the person bleeding. The reason no one is allowed in whilst bleeding is simple: openly flowing blood from the body is the bad spirits or bad juju leaving your body. If you bring it into a temple, it means you bring your bad juju in and the temple is not a spiritually safe place any more.
There have been recent videos surfacing of people climbing temples for the videos or photos. Obviously this is a big NO in any culture. But why is it so bad here? To climb a temple is to put yourself higher than the gods. Putting your feet on a person, table, chair, near their head, or pointing with a foot, is similarly disrespectful. This is one of the highest signs of disrespect in Bali. Now imagine doing it to the gods?
Offerings are done twice a day in Bali, you will see them as you walk around, they are called Canang. Beautiful little baskets filled with flowers, sometimes cigarettes, food, or lollies, and a lit incense. It is not appropriate to kick nor step on these offerings. Accidents happen, and that is forgiven by the gods, but deliberate acts to damage the offerings is unacceptable behaviour.
GENERAL TRAVEL TIPS
It is always good to travel with a sarong/large scarf, long pants, and a long sleeved shirt. In many churches throughout the world they request modest clothing, as with many Asian countries and their religious practices. This then gives you flexibility when travelling to always be ready for a cultural tour without renting or buying appropriate clothes.
Always take a moment to find out a little about the area where you are heading to. What religion are they? What is appropriate? What cultural practices occur whilst you are there? Not only will this give you a better understanding of where you are going, but this also gives you time to talk to a local person, ask about these things, and make new local friends. Quite often in the Amed area, when you make friends with locals, they invite you to their home to meet their family and be involved in the local ceremonies. You may get to join a wedding, teeth filing ceremony, or even a cremation. All of these experiences will make your holiday one to remember, plus you make life long friends.