Hi world, Annie here. Today’s blog post comes off the back of all the news ‘exposing the fake photos’ of Lempuyang Temple (which the locals refer to as the ‘Gateway to Heaven’) in Karangasem, Bali.
Here’s the quick run-down to get you up to speed – it all started with this tweet from Fortune Magazine editor, Polina Marinova on the 4th July:
This has since triggered an outpour of replies from other disdained tourists and news publications that shared the same shock when realising that there was indeed no lake in front of the ‘Gates of Heaven’.
Instead, a local man has unknowingly created an Instagram frenzy by placing a small mirror in front of the camera lens to create that Instagram shot in return for a small donation.
Okay sure, I might be a bit biased in my response to this viral tweet because I’m in that ‘Instagram Influencer’ category that Marinova has just detested (I’m only human, and a soft human at that…) BUT as someone who spends a lot of time on Instagram, I’ve definitely been in situations where I’ve felt that ‘Instagram vs Reality’ disappointment …and Lempuyang Temple was not one of them for so many reasons. This is why I feel so compelled to speak up and defend one of the holiest and highly regarded sites in Bali. #realtalk #thisisnotasponsoredpost
Okay, firstly we’ll discuss the Instagram side of things. To aid me with my first point, here is my Instagram post from Lempuyang Temple last December:
The recipe for this shot was simple – my talented friend @smilewithjeryl perched himself high on the steps facing the ‘Gates of Heaven’ for the grand view of Mount Agung behind the ethereal 4 metre split gate and BOOM – just look at that majestic mountain panorama. Pure magic. No mirrors.
In fact, the first Instagram post that inspired me to Insta-save this location was this iconic shot that @smilewithjeryl took of the ‘Gates of Heaven’ when Mount Agung suddenly erupted as he was soaking in the view.
Again, no mirrors …yet this photo still gives me the goosebumps (in the best kind of way!)
I’m not going to lie, Instagram Influencers have definitely glamourised this site which has resulted in the masses. However, sans ‘mirror trick’, this Balinese Hindu Temple has been one of the most popular and sacred sites on the island for years.
As much as there are now tourists visiting the site just for ‘that Instagram shot’, there are other tourists (like me) that are still in awe of Lempuyang and see beauty in all corners of the temple.
Here’s another perspective of Lempuyang Temple also taken by my friend @smilewithjeryl:
In saying all this though, the Instagram Post I uploaded with the ‘mirror trick’ definitely reached more people… but that’s just the nature of Instagram. People are going to like and share whatever catches their eye, but it’s up to us to understand the places we travel to deeper and do our research.
To summarise the significance of this site for you – the whole Lempuyang mountain was divided into three sections that correspond to Balinese cosmology and the sacred-most point of Mount Lempuyang is where the Lempuyang Temple is built. It is considered to be part of the “six sanctuaries of the world” and the locals take a lot of pride in Mount Lempuyang and don’t speak negatively about the temple or its grounds.
Meanwhile, we have tourists complaining about their disappointment in a non-existent lake and the 2-3 hour wait in line for a photo at the gates…
Like any famous tourist attraction, peak hour is going to be… well, peak hour. If you want to replace the crowds with the clouds, you’ll just have to get up at the crack of dawn and get to the temple before everyone else does.
Who is crazy enough to do this you ask? Me. But I have no regrets.
Anyway, I’m not usually someone that participates in negative/clickbait news but I just hope that somehow this article encourages at least one reader to put their Instagram expectations aside and see places for what they’re really worth.
If you do decide to visit Lempuyang Temple, I hope you will take a moment to understand what this location means to the locals and its worshippers and appreciate that you are stepping foot on one of the oldest and holiest sites in Bali.
…and also, aren’t you on holiday? It’s all part of the experience, enjoy it!