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

The Ubud Handbook « 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 ceremony – a spiritually-charged ritual drama where sacred masks are donned, souls are possessed by the unseen and deep trance ensues.

But this one was a little different.

Some years ago, an American tourist managed to talk his way into buying a temple mask – of Celuluk, the evil right-hand monkey servant to Rangda, the Witch – from the Campuhan Temple in Ubud.

The American brought the mask home to the States and hung it on his wall. But every time he looked at it he felt a deeply discomforting stare thrown back at him. He began to sleep less. And then not at all.

When he came back to Bali, he brought the mask with him and gave it back to the temple where he'd bought it from. His sleep returned. The mask from then on became known as the Topeng Amerika – the 'American Mask'.

The next bit is harder to explain.

To cut an all-night story short, the mask was donned by a dancer who fell into a deep trance. But instead of staying in the temple, he began to run.

And run.

He became violent and uncontrollable. He ran for four kilometers down the road; the crowd scrambled after him. He ended up in a cemetery just past my house, and in the dead of night began to do frenzied battle with unseen foes.

Priests who had chased him on their motorbikes eventually caught up, doused him in holy water and managed to prise the monkey-mask from his face.

The man returned to normal; the crowd filed back to the temple; and the ceremony was brought to a satisfactory close in the still hours of the morning.

There are some things best steered clear of on Bali.

And if you've never seen the unseen – the niskala – here before, you're probably better off leaving it to the experts.

© 2020 John Storey.


The Ubud Handbook by John Storey

Religion Matters ~ More tales from The Ubud Handbook

The Tale of Ganesha the Globetrotter (Extract)

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 with human flesh and blood, and this we might charitably put down to a bad trip...

[ ... » 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 & 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 42 chapters. Have fun, and keep reading.


Culture Bites

Cinema Paradiso


Religion Matters

An American Calonarang

The Tale of Ganesha the Globetrotter (Excerpt)


Getting Around

It's Silly Season Again

The Other Side of the Coin

Surviving Bali on a 'Bike


Personal Stories

Diary of a Market Girl


Food Talk

The King of Stink


Tourism & Self-Enrichment

Eat, Pray, Self-Love

The Land of Self-Healing and Snake Oil

From Ubud With Love


Holidays from the Jungle

The Heads of Trunyan

A Line in the Sand (Excerpt)


The Ubud Handbook

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

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

And finally, the weather

Today's forecast for Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

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