Photo: Offerings at Tirta Empul, Ubud.


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Since the 1920s the spin of Ubud has been that of a natural, cultural and artistic paradise, Bali at its most seductive, and although the dirt tracks and coconut groves have long given over to traffic-clogged streets and glass-fronted chain-stores, this Balinese global village still manages to retain the lure that first charmed the international glitterati.

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On first impression it’s hard to see past the rapid and (mostly) unplanned development that has resulted in a centre teeming with tourists, but the underlying conservative village social structure is fundamental to the essence of Ubud: just when you think it’s lost in a sea of commercialism, around the corner with a clash of gamelan, time (and traffic) is stopped as a temple procession of exquisitely dressed Balinese, heads piled high with offerings, weave their way along the street. The magic is restored.

One thousand shades of green. Photo taken in or around Ubud, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

One thousand shades of green. Photo: Sally Arnold

Lontar books tell the tale of the eighth-century wandering sage, Rsi Markendya being drawn to the confluence of two rivers at present-day Campuhan (literally river confluence, from campur “mix”). After meditating on this spiritually significant spot, Pura Gunung Lebah was established. The temple, and indeed the swirling waters beneath remain important for Balinese Hindus. Over time, the area became recognised as a source of healing herbs and plants, and came to be known as “Ubad” (obat), Balinese for medicine. Contemporary Ubud is touted as a centre where today’s ailing souls can be rejuvenated with all manner of curative offers from yoga and meditation circles to raw food restaurants and colonics, culminating with the annual Bali Spirt ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,500 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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