Life, News, Photography and Reviews from Ubud: The Apple of Bali's Eye

The Big Read – Features from Bali, Java and Lombok

Bali Stories

Tales from Indonesia's Island of the Gods.

Cinema Paradiso: The Story of Indonesian Cinema on Bali ➨

Boobs and political censorship have never been far from the silver screen. In Indonesia, they're its bedrock.

From 1930's Nudie Cuties to the Academy Awards, Ubud High takes a front-row seat to peer at Bali's place in the history of Indonesian Cinema... ➨

'Goona Goona (Love Powder)', 1932, nudie-cutie film poster 1930s Bali

'Goona Goona (Love Powder)' 1930's 'Nudie Cutie' film poster, Bali.

West Meets East: The Faces of Trunyan ➨

Like their counterparts in a handful of other remote Balinese villages, the Bali Mula – or Bali Aga – of Trunyan are said to be the 'original' Balinese. Staunchly isolationist for more than a thousand years, Trunyan is best known for its open-air cemetery where corpses are left to decompose under a mystical banyan tree.

But as Ubud High discovers, Trunyan Village offers a lot more than just skulls and surly guides... ➨

Portrait of female farm-worker, Trunyan, Kintamani, Bali, Indonesia

Portrait of a young female farm-worker, Trunyan, Kintamani, Bali, Indonesia.

© 2017 Ubud High.

The Story of Ganesha – Bali's Hindu Elephant God ➨

On the little Indonesian island of Bali, Lord Ganesha is everywhere. One of the most recognisable Hindu gods outside of India, he's easy to spot: the benign elephant head on top of a chubby, boyish body protects houses and adorns Bali's temples from north to south... ➨

The Hindu Elephant God Ganesha guards a Balinese-Hindu home in Bali, Indonesia

The Hindu elephant god Ganesha guards a Balinese-Hindu home in Bali, Indonesia.

© 2017 Ubud High.

How to Survive Bali on your Rental Scooter ➨

Imagine a school of fish swimming together. Go with it.

Anyone outside that flow is the one who's going to cause an accident. Stick to an imaginary lane – and drive defensively. Keep an eye on who's overtaking or undertaking you, and don't make any sudden moves unless you're about to hit something.

Tips and tricks for keeping the rubber on the road... ➨

Motorbike accident victim, Ubud, Bali

A scooter-accident victim is treated for a serious leg injury at Toya Medika Clinic in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

© 2017 Ubud High.

Hornets, Scorpions, Mosquitoes, Poisonous Caterpillars... And Other Strange Bali Tails ➨

We all have to pay for our slice of Bali Paradise. And this often comes in the shape of our stinging, biting, crawling, flying cousins. It's the downside of environment-sharing.

Find out what to do when you come up against a scorpion, an angry Balinese hornet or an unstoppable army of hungry marching ants... ➨

Java Tales

Trip over to Java, Bali's Big Auntie.

Java Oil Well Pollution ➨

The executive producers of this environmental tragedy – ExxonMobil and Indonesia's oil giant, Pertamina – have long since abandoned this pocket of primary forest, the wells sucked almost dry, the tar-coated throats of the pits now squeezed by gangs of Sisyphean bit-players milking an extra 125 barrels a day from the expired earth... ➨

Freelance oil-worker's hand covered in carcinogenic crude oil at an illegal oil-field in East Java, Indonesia

Freelance oil-worker's hand covered in carcinogenic crude oil at an illegal oil-field in East Java, Indonesia.

© 2017 Ubud High.

Monkey Business: 'Topeng Monyet', or the Masked Monkeys of Jakarta ➨

It's not surprising when some city residents shut their doors when topeng monyet – masked monkeys – threaten to come their way.

Despite being a Jakartan tradition once played out with dogs and snakes and originating from the masked dances of Cirebon, not everybody's happy with the exploitative status quo of the game... ➨

Performing masked monkey, Jakarta, Java, Indonesia

A chained masked monkey – topeng monyet – performs on the streets of Jakarta, Indonesia.

© 2017 Ubud High.

Slow Burning in Chinese Indonesia: The History of the Tionghoa ➨

Jakarta, Indonesia: May 1998. More anti-Chinese riots.

The forty year-old engineer is standing behind a barricade. To his right, a petrol station. To his left, a row of gutted shops. In front of Andreas are four handguns, laid out on a neighbour's kitchen table. An off-duty naval officer urges him to take his pick of the weapons before the mob returns.

"Today," the officer says to Andreas, "you can kill. Shoot anyone who comes over the barricade..." ➨

Chinese-Indonesian tomb at a Confucian cemetery in Jakarta, Indonesia

Chinese-Indonesian tomb with offerings of candles, cakes, incense and fruit at a Confucian cemetery in Jakarta, Indonesia.

© 2017 Ubud High.

The Rise and Fall of the Ciliwung: Jakarta's Most Polluted River ➨

The air's terrible here, and the river stinks. We get massacred by mosquitoes in the dry season. The best thing about the river is we can throw our rubbish into it. When it rains it's even better because the nappies get washed away much quicker."

The story of the Ciliwung: Jakarta's longest, most flood-prone – and most polluted river... ➨

Children pass the time in their shanty-house overlooking the highly polluted and flood-prone Ciliwung river in Jakarta, Java, Indonesia

Children pass the time outside their shanty-house overlooking the highly polluted and flood-prone Ciliwung river in Jakarta, Java, Indonesia.

© 2017 Ubud High.

Dede Koswara and the Association of Strange People (Part 1) ➨

Meeting Dede Koswara – the so-called 'Tree Man of Indonesia' – and friends for the first time in 2007... ➨

Dede Koswara, the Treeman of Indonesia, walking near his home in Bandung, Java, Indonesia

Dede Koswara, the 'Treeman' of Indonesia, walking near his home in Bandung, Java, Indonesia.

© 2017 Ubud High.

Dede Koswara: The 'Tree Man' of Indonesia (Part 2) ➨

Ryan the giant has already confided that if he had Dede's condition, he would have killed himself by now. None of us know how Dede keeps sane.

Dede puts it down to acceptance, patience and prayer. He also believes that he's going to be cured one day – in a country where free healthcare for the poor does not, in reality, exist... ➨

Dede Koswara, the Tree Man of Indonesia, at a freakshow in West Java, Indonesia

Dede Koswara, the so-called 'Tree Man of Indonesia', at a freakshow in West Java, Indonesia.

© 2017 Ubud High.

Stories from Indonesia

Tales from Indonesia – always dangerously beautiful.

The Clouded Leopard and the Bornean Orangutan: Threatened Twins of Borneo

Two Borneo icons destined for the history of ecology.

The Critically Endangered Bornean Orangutan in Indonesia ➨

LOOK DEEP INTO THE EYES OF AN ORANGUTAN, and you might find a very old soul gazing back at you.

Endangered Orangutan skulls carved by Dayak tribe in Borneo, Indonesia

Endangered ornagutan skulls carved by Dayak tribespeople in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.

Indonesia: The Vulnerable Clouded Leopard of Borneo ➨

SOME SAY A LEOPARD CAN'T CHANGE ITS SPOTS – but the Clouded Leopard did. Its uniquely long sabre teeth and gaping jaws just gave the game away...

The pronounced occipital crest, typical of a large feline predator, on the skull of a Clouded Leopard from Dayak Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo

The pronounced sagittal crest, typical of a large feline predator, on the skull of an endangered Sunda Clouded Leopard from Dayak Borneo, Indonesia.

Coming soon:
The Sun Bear of Borneo ➨

ALSO KNOWN AS 'THE HONEY BEAR' FOR ITS LOVE OF HONEY, the vulnerable Malayan Sun Bear is the smallest of the bear species.

It is also one of the least-well-known, and rarest of bears.

Lombok Tales

Stories from the Island of a Thousand Mosques.

Coming Soon ~ The Sounds of Gili Air: Island of a Thousand Festival Loudspeakers ➨

Ten meters away, and the boy finally looks up – an inane, animal-like grin taped across his face as his girlfriend grips his butt and grimaces at the empty blue sky. They disengage like street dogs and stare. Ketut starts shaking. In Indonesia, even a public display of affection like holding hands is seen as a disrespectful lack of self-discipline. It takes her two or three minutes before she can speak.

She stops, and turns to me.

– "You know, up until now, I've never seen two fish fuck in the sea."

Young white couple having public sex on the beach in Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia

A Western tourist checks his video of a young white couple having morning sex on the beach during the plastic-free New Age 'Air Festival' on the Muslim island of Gili Air in Lombok, Indonesia.

© 2017 Ubud High.

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The Big Picture

PHOTOGRAPHS FROM BALI – The Soul of Indonesia.

Bali Portraits ➨

Balinese housewife with rice-paste facial, Ubud, Bali

PORTRAITS from Bali's female side.

Balinese-Hindu Melasti Water-Purification Ceremony Before Nyepi, the Day of Silence ➨

Balinese-Hindu faithful de-camp from trucks at Masceti Beach for the annual Melasti ceremony, Bali, Indonesia

BEACH-SIDE water purification ceremonies in the lead-up to Nyepi, Bali's Hindu Saka New Year and Day of Silence.

Ogoh-Ogoh Parades and Festivals on the Eve of Nyepi in Bali ➨

A toothy, topless ogoh-ogoh monster sports a necklace of poisonous snakes in Singakerta, Ubud, the day before Nyepi

OGOH-OGOH PARADES of papier-mâché monsters in Ubud, Sanur, Renon and Kuta on the eve of Nyepi – Bali's Hindu Day of Silence.

'Kerauhan' – Trance and Mass Possession at a Hindu Village Temple Ceremony in Bali, Indonesia ➨

Possessed Balinese-Hindu women dance and pray during a mass-possession ceremony at an annual village temple festival in North Bali, Indonesia

TRANCE AND MASS POSSESSION at an annual Hindu village temple festival in Buleleng, North Bali.

Yoga, Dance, Music and Therapy at the Bali Spirit Festival in Ubud, Indonesia ➨

A Watsu water-therapy session is conducted in a swimming pool during the Bali Spirit Festival in Ubud

A WEEK-LONG FESTIVAL of yoga, therapy, music and dance at Ubud's annual Bali Spirit Festival.

Coastal Beach Erosion and Climate Change in Bali, Indonesia ➨

Sandbags support the foundations of a beachside Hindu temple damaged by coastal erosion and freak waves in Canggu, South Bali

CLIMATE CHANGE and coastal erosion washes up on the shores of Bali.