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

The Ubud Handbook

THE UBUD HANDBOOK ~ Your guide to living in Ubud and Bali in a nutshell.


Getting Around ~ It's Silly Season Again

I'M WAITING for a friend on Jalan Suweta in Central Ubud. Three young Scandinavian women are at the side of the road clinching a deal on their new scooter rentals. They mount, and look non-plussed as they hunt for the ignition. The rental lady demonstrates how to switch their motorbikes on.

It really doesn't bode well.

Two of them seem to get the hang of it and disappear into the main road. The third pauses at the junction with Jalan Raya Ubud, looks to the right and left, and forgets one crucial thing: if you give an automatic some gas and don't hold onto the brake with your left hand, your body flies backwards and your right hand turns the throttle up even more.

It's a G-force thing.

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Tourism & Self-Enrichment ~ Eat, Pray, Self-Love

I'M SITTING IN Ubud's Black Beach Italian restaurant on Jalan Hanuman waiting for my spaghetti bolognese. A tattooed Australian woman in her thirties – all swinging-tits-in-the-salad and no bra – picks the table in front of me. Her obedient female friend, all frumpy and over-forty and painfully low on self-esteem, takes the opposite chair.

The Tattooed Lady kicks off with a beer.

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Culture Bites ~ Cinema Paradiso

BOOBS AND POLITICAL CENSORSHIP have never been far from the Silver Screen. In Indonesia, they're its bedrock.

The silent flicks of Thirties' Bali sucked hungrily on the island's bare-breasted cabinet-postcard image that encouraged so many gilded tourists – and dodgy stars like Charlie Chaplin – to visit its sultry, forbidden shores.

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Holidays from the Jungle ~ The Heads of Trunyan

MAYBE I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN Lonely Planet's guide to Bali and Lombok more seriously. Three times they warn the unwary: 'Don't go'. I'm stopped at this remote village's edge by a tough-looking man in his twenties who wants me to change an Australian twenty-dollar bill for Indonesian rupiah. 'And don't worry about the exchange rate'. On his black T-shirt are near-foot-high, white letters that read:


Welcome to Trunyan, one of the oldest villages in Bali.

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Tourism & Self-Enrichment ~ The Land of Self-Healing and Snake Oil

MAN-BUNS, CAMEL-TOES, hipster beards and Buddha tattoos flood the downtown Ubud scene. Not enlightened yet? You're late to the Conscious Party, kid.

Shake out those kundalini awakenings with some HoopYogini™ and Bhakti BoogieŽ at the Yoga Barn. Celebrate The Divine Feminine with a splash of Shakti Dance. Puff up your lungs in a Sacred Breathwork Immersion Workshop, insert a Jade Egg at The Womb Temple for good luck and polish it off with some tantalising Manifesting and Abundance.

You know you're worth it.

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Culture Bites ~ An American Calonarang

NOW YOU KNOW how Jim Carrey felt. Several nights ago, to celebrate the grand opening of the newly-renovated, Disney-style temple in Campuhan, there was a Calonarang – a spiritually-charged ceremony where sacred masks are donned, souls are possessed by the unseen and deep trance ensues.

But this one was a little different.

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Getting Around ~ Surviving Bali on a 'Bike

CHRISTINA IS A SAVVY 60-year-old American who's come to Ubud to set up nest. She's never ridden a motorbike before and has already fallen off twice in two weeks.

– "I've just learned how to turn left," she says, "without feeling as if I'm going to tip over."

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Getting Around ~ The Other Side of the Coin

IBU KETUT'S LATE. She's normally at my house by 10 in the morning: I'm the second job of the day. After me, she'll spend another eight hours cooking in the kitchen of a five-star Ubud hotel to support her seven children.

It's a great life if you don't weaken.

She starts sweeping, and I notice she's limping. There's a spreading bruise and an angry graze running past her knee and onto her calf. She wants to carry on cleaning: I sit her down and ask her what happened.

She's shy; I press.

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Personal Stories ~ Diary of a Market Girl

"I DON'T KNOW how old I am. I was born on Pagerwesi Day – a Balinese ceremonial day where we put offerings out for our Gods to protect our homes and compounds from evil. Pagerwesi means 'iron wall' in Balinese. That's how I remember my birthday. We didn't use Western calendars back then.

I think I'm about 49 years old.

I left school when I was nine. My parents had ten children, although two of them died – my younger sister when she was still learning to speak, and my older brother when he was about ten. We don't know why they died – they just didn't wake up in the morning.

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Holidays from the Jungle ~ A Line in the Sand

GILI AIR, LOMBOK. We take a morning walk along the pristine beach, past the new dive centres and manicured lawns where the dry jungle and coconut groves and lazy, grazing cows used to be. Two sun-bathing white men sit in a little home-made nest in the virgin sand. One has balanced a camera on his knees and is pointing it steadily at the edge of the shallow sea.

There's a strange thrashing on the shore – like a fat fish fighting to be landed. We're twenty meters away now, and we spot a young white couple playing in the nearby water in a tropical, in-love kind of way. Ten steps closer and we watch as the young man's naked, moon-white backside pounds into his girlfriend's barely submerged pelvis.

[ ... » Read on... » ]

The Ubud Handbook

The Ubud Handbook

THE UBUD HANDBOOK ~ Your guide to living in Ubud and Bali in an online nutshell.


Culture Bites

An American Calonarang

Cinema Paradiso

Ubud 'Art Attack

Reading Matters

Dinosaur Talk

Getting Around

It's Silly Season Again

The Other Side of the Coin

Surviving Bali on a 'Bike

A Walk in the Park

Personal Stories

Diary of a Market Girl

A Trip to Deer Island

Tourism & Self-Enrichment

Eat, Pray, Self-Love

The Land of Self-Healing and Snake Oil

The Eternal Wash Cycle

Odd Man Out

A Dutchman Goes to a Gypsy Fortune-Teller

From Ubud With Love

Hints & Tips

Let's Get Wet: The Rainy Season on Bali

A Lot of Hot Air

No Butt-Cheeks Please, We're Balinese

It Wasn't Me, Guv... Crime and Punishment on Bali

In Sickness and in Death

Soul Feet

Photographing Bali

The King of Stink

Dengue Fever Roolz

Things that Bite and Sting: The Insect Kingdom vs. You

Snakes Alive!

Once Bitten Twice Shy: Dogs on Bali

Monkey Talk

Holidays from the Jungle

The Heads of Trunyan

A Beggar's Banquet

The White Herons of Petulu

A Line in the Sand