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New Spa Ceremony in Ubud, Bali

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

1st June was not just a day, it was an auspicious day, and it was not just an auspicious day, it was a triply auspicious day.

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

The Balinese believe in auspicious days. They are coincidence days, rather like Friday 13th.

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

So 1st June was a very good day to have the blessing for the opening of The Tamarind Spa at Murni’s Houses, Ubud, Bali.

The weather was glorious, which made it a quadruply auspicious day.

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

Early in the morning Murni and her family and friends prepared the numerous offerings of fruit and flowers, rice and spices, and I even noticed a cooked chicken.

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

On such days the priests are very busy carrying out ceremonies. We were lucky that he showed up around noon, which made it more challenging for photographs.

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

He brought his bell, which resonated throughout, and his mantras, and his mudras, which are sacred hand gestures.

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

The women sprinkled holy water over every corner of the spa, both inside and out. Balinese Hinduism is not called the holy water religion for nothing.

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

A piece of cloth with magical symbols for protection was attached to the eaves, never to be removed.

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

A bamboo pole was burnt over a small fire until it exploded frightening away any malevolent spirits that might have been lurking about.

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

Tamarind Spa at Murni's Houses

After a couple of hours of mantras, ringing bells, and prayers, the ceremony was over and the spa had received the blessing of the gods and was ready to welcome guests.

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

There are chapters on Balinese Hinduism, Balinese Calendars, Balinese Ceremonies and Offerings in Secrets of Bali.

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The Tarot Reader of Ubud

Novi, the Tarot Reader

Novi, the Tarot Reader

It’s not every day that you meet a tarot reader, and certainly not every day that you meet one  in Ubud, and especially not one who advises top government ministers.

Novi, the Tarot Reader

Novi, the Tarot Reader

It is not unusual in Asian countries for government decisions to be cleared first by people who have extraordinary powers.

Novi, the Tarot Reader

Novi, the Tarot Reader

It would be an interesting academic study to research their influence on world events.

Novi, the Tarot Reader

Novi, the Tarot Reader

We are extremely lucky to have met Novi, who is very down to earth, a teacher, mother and author (I think in that order).

Novi, the Tarot Reader

Novi, the Tarot Reader

She has agreed to take time out of her hyperactive schedule to give tarot readings to guests staying at Murni’s Houses and Murni’s Villas. She allowed me to pick up the camera as she revealed some extraordinary truths about myself.

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

The Barongs of Bali

Balinese Barong

Balinese Barong

The Barong is unique to Bali and every time you see one it’s exciting. As you can see, they look life-like. They have spirit and come in various forms, the most common one being the Barong Ket. They symbolize Bali. Murni’s Warung Shop was honored to be asked to commission and oversee the making of a Barong Ket for one of the best-known museums in New York. It gave me an opportunity to take these photos.

Balinese Barong

Balinese Barong

And writing a book Secrets of Bali gave me the opportunity to research them and now to quote a few sentences from it without asking anyone’s permission except my own.

Walter Spies and Beryl de Zoete observed that Barongs are ‘…at once the most familiar and the most obscure…’ figures in Balinese tradition. Barongs come in many forms, but the most common is like a baroque Chinese lion, the Barong Ket, with big eyes and clacking jaws. It is one of the most sacred masks in Bali and probably every village has at least one.  The Barong protects the village from harmful influences. It parades the streets during every Galungan festival, dancing in front of shops and houses, warding off evil.  The Balinese wait in front of their buildings and bow in reverence when it passes.

Balinese Barong

Balinese Barong

Barongs also parade just before Nyepi, at the time of the Balinese New Year. The Barong’s origins are obscure. Two men are inside; one operates the wooden head and lower movable jaw, and the other holds up the back and arched tail… they need to be very strong as the whole costume weighs about 187 pounds (85 kilos).  The beard of human hair from a pre-menstruating girl is the most powerful part. If it is dipped in water, it creates holy water and can cure. The hairy hide, made of palm fibres or the hair of a white horse, is covered with small bells, mirrors and decorations. It takes about three months to make a good quality Barong. When a Barong Ket is old and in shreds, it is ceremonially cremated.

Balinese Barong

Balinese Barong

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

Candi Dasa, East Bali

Candi Dasa, East Bali

Candi Dasa, East Bali

Even in Bali, it’s sometimes important to get away from it all and Candi Dasa is a pretty accessible place.

Candi Dasa, East Bali

Candi Dasa, East Bali

Candi Dasa is a quiet, sleepy seaside town in eastern Bali that rests on the edge of a lagoon.

Candi Dasa, East Bali

Candi Dasa, East Bali

When we come back from Darmaji we like to go to an old-fashioned restaurant on the beach, which has been there forever, overlooking the beach, the shipping boats and huge rocks, where you can see Nusa Penida in the distance.

Candi Dasa, East Bali

Candi Dasa, East Bali

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

Darmaji School, East Bali

Darmaji School, East Bali

Darmaji School, East Bali

Every year we visit this wonderful school in East Bali with the founders of The Ganesha Foundation, a charity which supports the school under the auspices of the East Bali Poverty Project.

Darmaji School, East Bali

Darmaji School, East Bali

Its purpose is to help children receive a basic secular education.

Darmaji School, East Bali

Darmaji School, East Bali

The school is in one of the poorest parts, where tourists never visit, in the hamlet of Darmaji between Mount Agung and Mount Abang.

Darmaji School, East Bali

Darmaji School, East Bali

If you would like more information, or to make a donation, have a look at www.ganeshafoundation.org.

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand

Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand

Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand

Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand is probably the most exciting street in the world if like to have fun.

Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand

Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand

We went with our friends. We knew what to expect as we’d been there before.

Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand

Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand

There are all kinds of entertainment, bars, discos, gogo-dancing, cabaret, restaurants and shows – and many neon lights.

Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand

Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

The Lady-Boys of Pattaya, Thailand

The Lady-Boys of Pattaya, Thailand

The Lady-Boys of Pattaya, Thailand

Pattaya, Thailand has famous cabaret shows performed by lady-boys, and trans-gender dancers.

The Lady-Boys of Pattaya, Thailand

The Lady-Boys of Pattaya, Thailand

We are lucky to have friends who live in Pattaya and visited for 2 days. On the first night we went to the famous show.

The Lady-Boys of Pattaya, Thailand

The Lady-Boys of Pattaya, Thailand

It’s hard to believe your eyes. The dancers wear beautiful costumes and it’s difficult to tell that they are not girls.

The Lady-Boys of Pattaya, Thailand

The Lady-Boys of Pattaya, Thailand

They successfully blend the art of acting, stage design, costumes and sequencing.

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

Dancing in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai Dancer

Chiang Mai Dancer

In Chiang Mai, Thailand as part of the three-day Flower Festival held during the first weekend in February each year, there are dancing performances on a stage at Thappae Gate, the entrance to the old walled city of Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai Dancer

Chiang Mai Dancer

Our hotel was only 5 minutes’ walk away, so it was easy to stroll there and walk back home after a wonderful evening’s entertainment.

Chiang Mai Dancer

Chiang Mai Dancer

The singers are young, but their voices are strong, and at a young age are professionals.

Chiang Mai Dancer

Chiang Mai Dancer

Being in the open air, it was easy to join them back stage for some great shots. It was all very colourful but I decided to process these in black and white. We have so much colour in our lives, it can be so overwhelming we don’t even notice or remember it.

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

Chiang Mai Portraits, Thailand

Chiang Mai Portrait

Chiang Mai Portrait

There is something about Chiang Mai. It’s laid back, often literally.

Chiang Mai Portrait

Chiang Mai Portrait

People take their time and they have  time for you.

Chiang Mai Portrait

Chiang Mai Portrait

And they smile.

Chiang Mai Portrait
Chiang Mai Portrait

For me, it’s the ideal place for portraits and street photography, especially in the Chinatown area.

Chiang Mai Portrait

Chiang Mai Portrait

On my last morning in Chiang Mai my shoe broke and this wonderful lady fixed it and I’m still wearing it.

Flower Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Flower Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Flower Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand


In Chiang Mai, Thailand there’s a glorious three-day festival held during the first weekend in February each year, when Chiang Mai’s temperate and tropical flowers are in full bloom.

Flower Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Flower Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

We’ve been many times to Chiang Mai but this was the first time in February.

Flower Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Flower Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The festivities include floral floats, parades, traditional dancing shows, and a beauty contest, all of which are great subjects for a photographer.

Flower Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Flower Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

To Murni’s in Bali

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