Pura Besakih: The Mother of all Temple Scams

The farthest I got in Pura Besakih was the Tourist Information. I have been warned before hand by both guidebook and driver-guide about the rogues that stand guard at the temple but I wasn’t prepared for its confrontation.

It all started at the WC (rest room in Indonesia). What was a IDR 2,000 fee magically became IDR 5,000. No big deal especially since I just got past the women pushing umbrellas and sarongs for rent. I had brought both, so a “sudah” stopped them. At the information counter, a slim guy did the perfunctory explanation about the largeness of the temple complex and how important it is to have a guide who could show me which area was forbidden and which was not.  “Berapa harga?” I asked.  He opened a blue ledger book.  The prices scrawled beside the names of tourists who have supposedly availed (or more properly fallen into their scam) was shocking.  One traveller paid IDR 450,000! Resigned to the prices, thinking they were real,  I counted put IDR 500,000. Slim guy pointed to the IDR 550,000 which a party of three paid. I pointed to 450,000 and counted-out my money.  No response. Maybe I was just pissed-off with his bland expression or I was pissed-off with the price or both.  I muttered “terlalu mahal” got my money and ticket and left. One guy offered IDR 100,000. “Never mind.” I said. It was a miracle I managed to remain calm and even smiling through all this.  The guy followed me to the parking while I tried to locate my driver.  “You can go. He (pointing to an older guy) guide you.” By the time I found my driver,  he had lowered the price to IDR 50,000 which my driver said was the real price. “Tidak tertarik” I told him which I know are strong words to tell someone trying to sell you something.  It’s like slamming the door on someone’s face. Heaved a sigh of relief as we finally left the complex.

My driver had told me about the real price earlier but the Ledger book made me think that the prices written there were real after all it appeared that people have already paid those prices. Maybe it is real. After all, people do fall for scams.  Whatever it is, I’m glad I left. They can have their temple to themselves.  It’s just unfortunate that these rogues run this most holy of temples.

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