A collection of short stories, essays, blog-posts and photographs from Ubud, Bali.

The Ubud Handbook

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

The Ubud Handbook by John Storey

Full chapters from 'The Ubud Handbook' by John Storey © 2020

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...

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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? Then you're late to the Conscious Party.

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 luck and polish it off with some tantalising Manifesting And Abundance.

You know you're worth it...

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Religion Matters ~ 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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Food Talk ~ The King of Stink

SOFT, SUCCULENT, SPIKY and stinky, the durian fruit is canonised by some and demonised by many, many more. Known to its fans as the 'King of Fruits', it's heavily rich in minerals and vitamins and a sworn enemy of free radicals.

The thing is, not everyone's on the same page – and its critics don't pull any punches when it comes to the pong.


"Like a three-week-old dead cow in custard..."

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Religion Matters ~ The Tale of Ganesha the Globetrotter

The Indian Lord Ganesha certainly got around. First stop on his round-Asia tour was a spell in Buddhist Tibet with its strong tantric leanings – a convenient spot to re-invent himself as Vinayaka and then as the dancing red Nritta Ganapati, before a full-blown alter-ego revamp as the scarlet, twelve-armed Maha Rakta Ganapati. Now, Maha Rakta Ganapati was unusually fond of skullcaps filled to the brim with human flesh and blood, and this we might charitably put down to a bad trip.

After all, what happens in Tibet stays in Tibet...

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Tourism & Self-Enrichment ~ From Ubud With Love

I'M STAYING AT A CUTE, family-run bed-and-breakfast – a homestay – on Ubud's trendy Jalan Goutama. A young member of the homestay's family tours her compound, blessing it with incense and rice and jepun-flower offerings in little hand-made palm-leaf boxes.

All is well in Bali's spiritual capital...

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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...

[ ... » Read on... » ]

© 2020 John Storey.

The Ubud Handbook by John Storey

The Last Word

Portrait of the Day

Portraits from Bali by Ubud High

© 2020 Ubud High.

The Ubud Handbook by John Storey

© 2020 John Storey. All rights reserved.

The Ubud Handbook

The Ubud Handbook

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

Chapters and Extracts

The Ubud Handbook will be published as a paperback, iBook and e-book on November 11, 2020.

Feel free to enjoy 12 of the 40 chapters. Have fun, and keep reading.

Culture Bites

Cinema Paradiso

The Writing's on the Wall

Ubud 'Art Attack

Reading's a Beach

Religion Matters

An American Calonarang

Road Test

The Tale of Ganesha the Globetrotter

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

Bali Tell-Tale

Dinosaur Talk

A Journey to Deer Island

Food Talk

The King of Stink

Divine Rice

Tourism & Self-Enrichment

Eat, Pray, Self-Love

The Eternal Wash Cycle

The Land of Self-Healing and Snake Oil

Odd Man Out

Throwing a Sickie

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

Getting Ratty

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

In Sickness and in Death

Photographing Bali

Dengue Fever Roolz

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

Dead or Alive ~ Snakes on Bali

Once Bitten Twice Shy ~ The Story of Rabies on Bali

Monkey Talk

Holidays from the Jungle

The Heads of Trunyan

The White Herons of Petulu

A Line in the Sand

The Ubud Handbook

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

The Ubud Handbook

And finally, the weather

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