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A Bali Instagram Hotspot is a Sham

The camera trick used at Lempuyang temple, popularly known as 'Gate of Heaven’, is more common around the world than you may think.

by Ikhwan Hastanto; translated by Jade Poa
12 July 2019, 4:56am

Photo collage by VICE. ‘False’ view at Penataran Agung Lempuyang temple  [left], source: Instagram. Actual view at the gate of heaven [right] also from Instagram.

There’s nothing worse than being betrayed by high expectations. Especially when you fly to the other side of the globe for the pleasure of snapping some Insta-worthy shots. Imagine that once you get there, you’re struck with disappointment: the reality looks nothing like the pics you drooled over on Instagram.

This is probably what happens to countless travellers who come to Penataran Agung Lempuyang temple in Bali, a frequent sight on Instagram feeds. Many photos on social media will show the wildly popular tourist hotspot reflected against a body of water. In reality though, the temple is not at all surrounded by water and the reflection is actually fabricated through a camera trick. The photographer cleverly places a mirror under the camera lens in such a way that the entire image appears to be reflected on the non-existent water.

This case definitely highlights the importance of doing your homework before going on vacation, to manage your expectations. Reports of camera illusions aren’t difficult to find online. To find out more about the sham, I searched for the temple on YouTube and found a video review by Indian vlogger Antarik Anwesan.

In the video, Anwesan documents his journey to Penataran Agung Lempuyang temple in Karangasem, Bali. While waiting in line to take a photo in front of the “Gate of Heaven”, the name used by tourists for the temple, he notes that more people were in line for a photo than for the actual temple. He ended up waiting two hours for his turn to snap a pic.

Before you cancel your trip to the temple though, be comforted that there’s still a chance for you to snap a photo of the temple and it’s reflection without manipulation. Well that is, if you’re as lucky as this French tourist who was able to take a genuine photo because of a huge puddle in front of the Gate of Heaven.

Perhaps this is also a good reminder not to believe everything you see on Instagram. In Brazil, home to the Instagram hotspot Pedra Do Telegrafo, tourists snap photos that show them seemingly risking their lives hanging off the edge of a cliff.

Of course, it’s just an illusion. They’re actually hanging off a rock that’s barely off the ground.

Another similar spot is the Yangzhou Zhongshuge library and bookstore in China. The floor is basically a huge black mirror that reflects the curved bookshelves, making it look like the subject of the photo is floating in a massive… book tunnel.

Better yet, here’s another reminder: when traveling, seek out the experience, not something to show off on social media.

This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.