A feel of culture at holiest temple

INDONESIA - The day started very early for the 129 contestants of the Miss World pageant on Wednesday, the third day after the annual competition officially kicked off.

As the early morning sun hit Nusa Dua, they departed from The Westin Resort Nusa Dua on the southern coast of Bali and travelled for two hours, heading to Besakih Temple in Karangasem, the island's eastern regency.

The contestants had the chance to get a glimpse of Balinese's Hindu culture during their visit to the island's mother temple located on the slopes of Mount Agung.

Upon their arrival at the temple, they were welcomed by regency officials and later joined a simple prayer ritual on the stairs leading up to the temple's main spire.

Visiting the largest and holiest temple on the island was surely a memorable experience for them, especially for Navneet Dhillon from India.

"There are many differences between Hinduism in Bali and India, like in the way we perform worship, and in terms of culture. But I believe God is everywhere," the Hindu devotee said.

Dhillon shared that she was very excited to have this valuable experience. She even said a special prayer in the temple.

"This is my first time to visit this temple. It's very beautiful. I pray for the best for everyone," she said.

Even for Vania Larissa, the contestant from Indonesia, this was the first time to visit Besakih Temple.

"I'm very excited about this visit. This is my first time here. I had only seen this temple in photos," Vania said.

After spending some time in Besakih, half of the contestants continued their trip to Rudana art museum in Ubud to see some of the best works of Balinese artists.

The arrival of Miss World contestants was enthusiastically welcomed by local people living nearby and those who happened to visit the temple that day.

They did not miss the rare chance to take photos with the contestants as soon as they saw them going down the temple's stairs.

This visit was also warmly welcomed by local Hindu figures.

Komang Suparta, deputy chairman of the Bali chapter of Indonesia's Hindu Youths Union, said the visit by Miss World contestants would absolutely bring about a positive impact on the temple as a holy site and tourist spot.

"The visit will make Besakih more well-known worldwide and will improve its image, especially at this time when tourism in this area is not very good, due to the bad image of our local guides," he said.

He ensured that all the contestants followed all the rules during their time in the holy place, especially in terms of ethics and dress.

A high level of tolerance and unique culture were two of the many reasons that the organising committee decided to hold the event in Bali.

"We chose Bali as the centre of activities for Miss World, because Bali has a lot of positive things that support this event. In addition to being a famous destination for domestic and foreign tourists, Bali also has abundant unique cultures that are well preserved," said Liliana Tanoesoedibjo, chairwoman of Miss Indonesia Organisation, who organised the event.

Earlier this week, the contestants had participated in two of the six fast-track events in the competition: the Sports Challenge and Beach Fashion.

During the final of the Sports Challenge, the contestants filed down to the pure white sands of Nusa Dua Beach. Finalists from each of the four teams took part in series of traditional Indonesian sports games perfect for the beach setting.

They were selected through an elimination process held the previous day, with the winners from the fitness challenge selected to play in the series of sports challenges.

The contestants also had the chance to experience a Balinese style barbeque. In the grounds of The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, they attended a party with a huge array of local cuisine on offer, from satay to grilled fish.

The atmosphere was relaxed and casual, giving the contestants time to mingle with each other and sample more of the Indonesian lifestyle. The mood became more animated when the announcements from the day's events were made and they found out who had made it through to the next stages of Beach Fashion and the Sports Challenge.

In Beach Fashion, the contestants wear a Balinese-style sarong. Vania made it to the top 11 in Beach Fashion, along with the contestants from France, Jamaica, Spain, the Philippines, China, Ghana, Ukraine, Italy, Brazil and Moldova. These top 11 will go on a special photo shoot to compete to be Beach Fashion winner.