Bali Blog

Do we have a choice of what to wear in Bali?

We understand in many Western countries you are not used to being told what to wear. But for Balinese it is different, on many occasions what you wear is not a choice, whether it be doing a community clean up, going to a ceremony, going to school, work etc, there is a strict dress code for all.

We often get asked by our guests how can we help with a donation etc for the village. Well this week, we’d like you to donate your time, not just to our village but to all the Balinese by simply sharing on social media this post..this can help the tourists as well of course.

WHAT TO WEAR AT TEMPLES: There seems to be a misconstrued idea that you can enter all temples as long as you are wearing a sarong and a sash.

This probably comes from major tourist attractions such as Uluwatu Temple where you show up, hire a sarong (and a sash) and off you go to fight off the monkeys and take photos of amazing sunsets.

However, you are not actually entering the temple, you are walking around the outer grounds. There are signs at the actual temple gates at Pura (Temple) Uluwatu that say “only for Priests”.

It’s is very important to wear the sarong and the sash to show respect around the grounds, however sarong is a term used for tourists, it’s a fairly casual piece of clothing. The correct word for the Temple cloth worn is a Kamben (Batik).

However, most tourists aren’t going to Temples to pray. But Balinese do, and when they go to major temples they dress in their finest, and they dress the same, this is NOT BY CHOICE, this is NOT a fashion statement (although they do look amazing), this is a symbolic gesture of function.

I noticed 2 European tourists walk hand in hand in their swimwear into the grounds to a Pura Dalam (best explained as the temple for the dead, like a cemetery in Western culture) in Nusa Dua the other week, I was mortified and luckily a Balinese security guard rushed to tell them to please leave, before I got involved (lucky tourists). I wonder if they would walk around a cemetery in their country in their bikinis (maybe not, maybe it’s too cold?)

I just can’t see a tourist walking into a Catholic Church in their bikini and someone saying, “well there was no sign, so I didn’t know?”

What seems to have happened in many parts of Bali is that the Balinese culture of respecting all peoples religions and places of worship has meant they did not realise that when they opened their Island to the multitude of tourists from such different cultures that tourists would not understand that these 20,000 temples they see everywhere are places of worship, so the Balinese just didn’t think there was a need to explain it.

Now, with social media accessible to most Balinese they are voicing their concerns on facebook etc. However tourists are sometimes still unaware of what’s right and wrong, and I often see comments such as “well there was no sign, no one told me, I didn’t know, the government should put out flyers, there should be something at the airport etc etc”.

Balinese are not confrontational people, they are very tolerant and they don’t feel comfortable telling a tourist off when they are doing something wrong, it’s just not in their nature.

One post that went viral last week on fb about a tourist complaining about going to Besakih (The mother temple) and that they were 'dressed appropriately' yet were hassled for a donation. A Balinese commented on the post and very carefully explained what "dressed appropriately" meant. Being that they had chosen to go at an very important time in the Balinese calendar for all Balinese to visit, it can only be presumed they were not dressed appropriately and that they were trying to enter the area meant only for prayer. (Borrowed Photo at Besakih shows that everyone is dressed the same, white on top being symbolic and most important for this event). Good on him for speaking up and trying to offer an explanation.

As tourists are using social media more and more to ask questions about where to buy this, how much to pay for this, social media can also be used to help tourists understand what to wear in Bali.

We ask that tourists consider raising awareness rather than asking Balinese to put signs up at all their places of worship.

WHAT TO WEAR IN BALI: While we are spreading the word, can we spread the word that clothing in all of Bali should be modest, save the beach wear for the beach not for shopping, supermarkets, banks etc and especially not In government offices. It is expected that long pants, collared shirt etc be worn in government offices, so don’t walk into a police office, immigration etc in board shorts and a singlet top and expect a good response.

PLEASE HELP THE BALINESE, and the tourists by just clicking share.


For more information click here…/thingstodoi…/do-s-and-don-ts-in-bali

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