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

The Ubud Handbook « Lombok ~ A Line in the Sand

A LONG WEEKEND on Gili Air, Lombok. We take a morning stroll 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 splashing playfully 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.

Ten meters away and the young man finally looks up – an inane, animal-like grin taped across his face as his girlfriend grips his porcelain butt and grimaces toward the empty blue sky. They disengage like street dogs, utter an invective in Russian, and stare.

Ketut starts shaking. In Indonesia, even a public display of affection like holding hands between a married couple is seen as a disrespectful lack of self-discipline to the wider community. The Gili Islands, as you know, are strictly Muslim.

It takes her a couple of minutes before she can speak.

She stops, and turns slowly to me.

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


© 2021 John Storey. All Rights Reserved.


The Last Pic

Portrait of the Day

Portraits from Bali by Ubud High
Young female beggar from Muntigunung, Bali, on the streets of Ubud

A beggar from Muntigunung on the streets of Ubud in Bali, Indonesia.
Portrait by © Ubud High.


The Ubud Handbook by John Storey

© 2021 John Storey / Ubud High. All rights reserved.


Street art mural of a young topless 1930s Balinese girl using social media on a mobile cellphone painted by the street artist Wild Drawing in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

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Street Art, Urban Murals & Creative Graffiti on Bali

Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, depicted as a spray-can- and roller-wielding street artist in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

➤ Bali's Street Artists, Murals & Graffiti in the Wild ~ From Canggu to Ubud

Street art, graffiti and murals for the masses – the most public of Bali's urban art scene hidden in plain sight on the walls of Canggu, Ubud, Seminyak and Kuta.

Street art and graffiti murals at Batu Bolong beach in Canggu near Old Man's bar and restaurant, Bali, Indonesia

➤ AllCaps Park ~ Street Art, Graffiti and Mural Paradise in Canggu, Bali

Bali street art - Graffiti and Mural Heaven at the AllCaps Park in Canggu, Bali, Indonesia

➤ Taman Festival ~ Ghost Town Graffiti, Murals and Street Art on Bali

Urban art, murals and graffiti galore at the derelict and haunted Taman Festival Theme Park in Bali
The Ubud Handbook

The Ubud Handbook

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

Religion Matters

The Tale of Ganesha the Globetrotter ~ Bali's Elephant-Headed Hindu God

Street art graffiti of Lord Ganesha with his mouse or rat, on a mural wall in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

‘First stop on Shree Ganesha's round-Asia tour was a spell in Buddhist Tibet with its strong tantric leanings – a convenient spot to re-invent himself as Vinãyaka, and then as the dancing red Nritta Ganapati – before a full-blown alter-ego revamp as the scarlet, twelve-armed Maharakta Ganapati. Now, Maharakta Ganapati was unusually fond of skullcaps filled 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...’

.. ➤ ..


An American Calonarang ~ Trance & Possession on Bali

Graffiti street art of a Balinese Salvador Dali sipping on a cup of kopi luwak in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

‘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...’

.. ➤ ..


'Nyepi' ~ Bali's Hindu New Year, and the Day of Silence ~ Melasti, Ngerupuk, Ogoh-Ogoh & Manis Nyepi

Balinese-Hindu devotees pray as sacred temple objects are bathed and cleansed during a Melasti ceremony before Nyepi on Pantai Purnama in Bali, Indonesia

‘If previous New Years' Days have seen you waking up with a crippling hangover trying to remember what you did the night before, maybe it's time you headed to Bali in March. Nyepi – the Balinese Day of Silence, and the start of the Hindu Saka New Year – is a day, a night and a day you'll never forget....’

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'Kajeng Kliwon' ~ A Very Bad-Hair Day on Bali

Film poster for Indonesian horror film 'Kajeng Kliwon: Nightmare in Bali'

‘Kajeng Kliwon is the kind of day when anything that can happen will happen. It invariably does.

You have been seriously warned...’

.. ➤ ..


Personal Stories

Diary of a Market Girl

Photo-realistic urban art by an anonymous street artist of a 1930s market scene in Bali, Indonesia

“When I had my sixth and seventh babies at the hospital – my twin girls – the doctor ordered me to have a Caesarian. And without asking me, he tied my tubes off as well.

I think he thought I'd had enough babies...”

.. ➤ ..


Food Talk

Durian ~ The King of Stink

“On the third bite,” says one hater, “it was as though I'd just eaten a diseased, parasite-infested animal with a bad case of rabies. I prayed I wouldn't be sick because I really didn't want to taste it again on the way back up...”

.. ➤ ..


Culture Bites

Cinema Paradiso ~ Bali's Seat in the History of Indonesian Cinema

1932 Virgins of Bali Thirties nudie-cutie bare-native film poster 1930s Bali, Indonesia

‘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 film-stars like Charlie Chaplin – to visit its sultry, forbidden shores...’

.. ➤ ..


Getting Around ~ Bali 'Biking

Surviving Bali on a 'Bike

Motorbike accident victim being treated for a leg-injury in an Ubud clinic in Bali, Indonesia

“For me, some of the most dangerous people on the road are white people. I avoid them like the plague. You can tell the ones who are going to hurt others – the fixed grins, the hunched over the handle-bars, the wobbling around corners and shouts of indignation when they finally hit someone – because they have absolutely no idea how life and the road works around here...”

.. ➤ ..


It's Silly Season Again ~ Renting a Scooter, and Crashing it, on Bali

A monkey tourist crashes his scooter in a road accident in Bali, Indonesia

‘She tears into the traffic. She can't stop. She narrowly misses hitting a car head-on, swerves past a mum on a 'bike and slaloms across the road. Before she hits anyone – it's a miracle she doesn't – she falls in a bad-sounding heap of bent metal and smashing plastic. A group of Balinese rush to pick her up before the cops see her...’

.. ➤ ..


The Other Side of the Coin ~ Just Another Motorbike Accident on Bali

Mural by an anonymous street-artist of a crashed, burned-out Honda 70 scooter on a wall near Badung market in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

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

She's shy; I press...’

.. ➤ ..


Health Matters

Let's Get Wet ~ The Rainy Season on Bali

Blue sky pokes from behind a gathering of stormy monsoon clouds over Bali, Indonesia

‘Rule number one on a monsoon day? Don't get wet.

You may not realise that getting caught in a cloudburst or shower on Bali – particularly if you're on a motorbike – is the tropical equivalent of walking naked outside during a Prague Winter after a lukewarm bath.

It'll really slow you down. The shivers, hot-and-cold flushes, a chesty cough, diarrhoea, sneezing, stomach pains, a belting headache and aching bones are all at the top of the list...’

.. ➤ ..


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

Bali hornet or Tabuhan, a dark brown, stinging, flying, wasp-like insect that may cause anaphylactic shock

‘Nowhere is free from the tax of life. We all have to pay for our slice of Bali paradise – and this often comes in the shape of our biting, stinging, crawling, flying insect-cousins.

It's the downside of environment-sharing...’

.. ➤ ..


Holidays from the Jungle

The Heads of Trunyan

Human skulls in the open, outdoor cemetery in Trunyan village, near Batur in Bali, Indonesia

‘Agricultural, and unpractised in the dark art of handling international tourists, the aristocratic farmer-people of Trunyan have acquired a damaging reputation for aggression. Their unique tourist draw – a jungle-cemetery where bodies are left in the open to disintegrate underneath a magical banyan tree – is regularly shunned by travellers on the time-sensitive tourist circuit...’

.. ➤ ..


Lombok ~ A Line in the Sand

‘Ten meters away and the young man finally looks up – an inane, animal-like grin taped across his face as his girlfriend grips his porcelain butt and grimaces towards the empty blue sky. They disengage like street dogs, utter an invective in Russian, and stare...’

.. ➤ ..


Tourism & Self-Enrichment

Eat, Pray, Self-Love

I love-heart Ubud, Canggu, Seminya, Sanur and Kuta in Bali, Indonesia

‘My concentration's shot to pieces. The spaghetti keeps falling off my fork. She's on her third large beer now. She starts to say 'facking' even more, and is speaking so loudly that people passing on the street have begun to look her way, and she's spitting bits of ciabatta bread and tomato and fish into her friend's dinner...’

.. ➤ ..


From Ubud With Love

Will you marry? in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

‘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 flower-petal offerings in little hand-made palm-leaf boxes.

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

.. ➤ ..


A Dutchman Goes to a Gypsy Fortune-Teller

Wooden cock bottle openers, Ubud Market, Bali

‘A Dutch boy in Holland goes to a gypsy fortune-teller who tells him that he is, in fact, Balinese. Afterwards, his uncle visits the Island of the Gods and brings him back a wooden carving of a bare-breasted lady.

Lucky for him it wasn't one of those funny-shaped wooden bottle-openers that looks like a cock...’

.. ➤ ..


The Land of Self-Healing and Snake Oil

Yoga-wear for an Ubud yogini manifesting her abundance, exploring her Divine Feminine and inserting a Jade Egg at The Womb Temple near The Yoga Barn in Bali

‘Shake out those Kundalini Awakenings with some HoopYogini™ and Bhakti Boogie® 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 for luck at The Womb Temple™ and polish it off with some tantalising Manifesting And Abundance.

You know you're worth it...’

.. ➤ ..


Graffiti street art of a young 1930s Balinese girl looking at social media on her mobile cellphone in a mural near Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

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Earthquakes and Volcanic Eruptions in Bali & Indonesia Today

The volcano Anak Krakatau erupting in the Sunda Strait, Indonesia

Gunung Anak Krakatau – the infamous 'Child of Krakatoa' volcano – erupting in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, Indonesia.


And finally, the weather

Fake styrofoam clouds over the main 'Cloud' stage at the 'Plastic-Free Gili Air Music Festival' near Lombok, Indonesia

Today's weather forecast for Ubud, Bali, Indonesia ⇨