Development Stands to Transform Tanah Lot

When I think of Bali‘s 15th century water temple at Tanah Lot, I think of two things: The magnificent structure rising from the water off the coast of Tabanan, and a giant bat.

So, when I heard of a certain brash, orange-hued developer planning a luxury resort overlooking a sacred Hindu temple, I couldn’t have thought of a more inappropriate juxtaposition.

The Associated Press writes that the dramatic temple and tourist attraction would get a new neighbor:

… described as “Trump International Hotel and Tower” in the Trump Organization’s promotions for what will be its first resort in Asia. They promise breathtaking views, a super-sized golf course overlooking the temple and an “enchanting and unrivaled getaway from the current luxury hotels” in Bali. For those weary of mere five-star opulence, it offers six.

My heart aches that such a unique, beautiful area would be marred by gaudy Western development that caters to the ultra-wealthy. Were it geared toward travelers who were genuinely interested in learning about the people, the culture and the history of Bali, that would be wonderful. There’s such a rich tapestry of existence here that felt unlike anywhere else in the world — and to bespoil it with an aesthetic that runs contrary to the basic tenets of its inhabitants’ beliefs feels, well, wrong.

A giant snake beside a sidewalk.
A giant snake greets visitors to Tanah Lot.

Yet I also have faith that the fiercely independent Balinese people who will be most affected by a giant resort in their community will hold firm on height restrictions and respectful treatment of the land.

Besides the giant bat, I also remembered an 18-foot python that greeted visitors to Tanah Lot, as well as the legend that says the temple is guarded by giant water snakes that seek to root out evil.

Will it be enough to stem the tide of rampant, wrong-headed development? Only time will tell. But some hope does remain. My fingers are crossed.

Sunset at Tanah Lot,
a 15th century Hindu temple, on the Indonesian island of Bali.

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