Goa Gajah Temple
A temple in the heart of bali holds an incredible site of worship that’s tainted with greed. On this episode we’ll uncover the Bali temple scam.
Goa Gajah, a temple located near the central town of Ubud Bali is a tourist hotspot. The name Goa Gajah translates to Elephant Cave but upon visiting the temple there are no elephants in sight. This name comes from a small elephant carving inside the sacred cave. The temple is nearly 4 miles or 6 kilometers from Ubud on the western side of Bedulu village. Upon arriving to the temple you will be swarmed by shop owners trying to sell you a sarong to wear while walking around the temple. Sarongs are mandatory to wear while visiting any temples in Bali.
This used to be an ancient Buddhist temple but what’s left here are the remaining blocks that could be brought back to the temple. Larger sections of the temple still exist at the bottom of the ravine close by. Across from the buddhist temple are holy pools of water that were used by pilgrims to wash up before entering the cave to meditate. The pools are supposedly fed by holy water from under the ground. 7 Statues standing overtop of these pools represent the 7 great rivers of India.
At this point in your tour of the grounds guides will start to lock onto you like a eagle stalking its prey. The guides have 2 different approaches to scam tourists. In my case when I visited a man approached near the pools and asked if I’d like a guided tour for “20”. In Bali everything is abbreviated into numbers usually between 1 and 100 which are short for a 1000. In this case 20 meant 20,000 rupiah. 20,000 rupiah is about a dollar 50. Basically anywhere you go you’ll see 10 for a breakfast sandwich 18 for a cherimoya it’s their common way of communicating the price without saying thousand every time. So the guide asked guided tour for 20? I said sure and he started explaining the different areas of the temple. After the first few areas we went over to the cave.
The cave is dark, small and not all that interesting on the inside, a typical meditation site like many of the others around Bali, except in a cave. The entrance though is awesome, the carvings in the stone are impressive, detailed and wacky. It is believed this worship site is over 1000 years old. The goa gajah temple itself was discovered then revealed to the public in 1923, then in 1954 the statue fountains and pool were discovered and painstakingly restored by archaeologists.
So back to the scam story, after a quick look inside the dark cave the guide started to complain about how expensive it is to have 7 children. He took me over to some flat stone platforms started talking about how he lives here and how he sleeps on this hard stone floor. He then started complaining how he doesn’t have any other job, the temple doesn’t pay him, and once again how his 7 children are so expensive to raise. I couldn’t help but think that maybe he should have been responsible with his actions and bought some contraception vs. complain to every tourist the walks in the door, and make it seem like his kids are tourists responsibility. I grew tired of his complains and presented him with the “20” or 20,000 rupiah. He gasped at me and demanded 20 US dollars. I was taken back, first off I’m not America so I don’t have US dollars and secondly I knew this was a scam considering the entrance fee into the temple was 15,000 rupiah or a dollar ten US. For those of you wondering the guided tour lasted 10 – 15 minutes which if his scam proves successful he’d be making around $100 US an hour. Now if we look at the average monthly income in Bali, it’s around $200 US. After his ridiculous demand I said no 20,000 rupiah, he proceeded to change his tone from being a victim to being aggressive and angry. He threatened to get security if we don’t pay. I gave him 40,000 rupiah and said that’s all I had. He once again he threatened to call security and I said “go call em” and started walking away. The second he realized he wasn’t getting another dollar from me he swooped in on some new tourists who just walked into the temple area.
Now there are actually two different versions of this scam. Some people will refuse to take him up on his offer of the guided tour, he’ll then just follow the tourists around explaining the areas as they go through the temple. He’s like a pesky fly you can’t get rid of except once he notices people start to head for the exit he’ll demand 200,000 rupiah or 15 US dollars. Once again if denied he’ll threaten to call security.
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Intro music thanks to Machinmasound:
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