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Make No Bones About It

Seeking to Restore its Good Reputation, Bali Aga Village of Trunyan on Lake Batur Pledges a More Cordial Welcome to Future Visitors

(2/26/2012) The Jakarta Post reports that tourists visiting the Bali Aga site at Trunyan on Lake Batur can now expect a more hospitable reception than has been the case in the past.

Aggressive, heavy handed and coercive behavior by Trunyan villagers towards tourists crossing the lake to view their unique community had been the source of numerous complaints, causing tour operators to largely avoid sending their guests there.

Trunyan village, approachable only by boat, is home to a Bali Aga village with a unique ancient tradition that leaves the dead unburied and exposed to the elements. Villagers and visitors insist that the decomposing bodies emit no significant odor.

A temple in the middle of the village contains an ancient stone statue honoring Da Tonta or Ratu Sakti Pancering Jagat – a giant, dark figure dating from the Megalithic period dating before Hindu settlement of the island.

In the past, local people at Trunyan have often charged onerous prices for boat rental, guide fees and souvenirs. Complaints were such that the once popular destination within Bali has sunk into oblivion over the past two decades.

In an effort to restore the reputation and tourism fortunes of Trunyan, the village chief, I Ketut Sutapa, has taken broad steps of reform. Said Sutapa, 
“We have declared that the local villagers are ready to guarantee the safety of the visiting tourists as well as the honesty of the locals in carrying out their services.”

The public declaration was made before the regent of Bangli, I Made Gianyar, and representatives from the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Guide Association (HPI) and the tourism industry representatives.

Sutapa said the bad reputation in the past was tied to the behavior of a small group of his villagers who needed the funds their coercive behavior generated. Explaining, “there may have been one or two people who committed such acts and they did that because they were poor.”

To bring such negative activities to an end, the Trunyan village has undertaken steps to improve their tourism infrastructure, provide training for local guides, and establishing an official tariff for the lake crossing.

“Everything is transparent now, the boat service tariffs are displayed prominently on the crossing facilities in Kedisan and Trunyan.”

52 official guides from Trunyan have now been appointed and an official umbrella organization for local boatmen for the 169 boatmen working on 40 boats has been established.

Trunyan is home to 760 families. Presently only 40 tourists visit the village each day.

The village secretary, I Ketut Jaksa, has called on the public to report any instances of harassment by boat workers, guides, souvenir sellers or local beggars so stern action can be taken.

Commenting on the villages commitment to changing their image, the head of the Bali chapter of the Indonesia Tourist Guides Association (HPI), Sang Putu Subaya, pointed to how boats are now equipped with life jackets, the installation of walking tracks and public toilets at the village.

Subaya said his organization would send guests to the village in recognition of positive changes now underway at Trunyan.