Bali: Pre-trip reading and viewing suggestions

Textile Reading

Indonesian Textiles by Michael Hitchcock

Traditional Indonesian Textiles by John Gillow and (photographer) Barry Dawson

Textiles of Indonesia (at the Tropenmuseum) by I C Van Hout

Five Centuries of Indonesian Textiles by Ruth Barnes.  Edited by Mary Hunt Kahlenberg.

Batik, Traditional Textiles of Indonesia – Rudolph Smend

Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago by Peter Ten Hoopen

To Speak with Cloth: Studies in Indonesian Textiles.  Edited by Mattiebelle Gittinger

Thread and Fire: Textiles and Jewellery from the Isles of Indonesia and Timor by Linda S McIntosh

General Reading

‘A Little Bit One O’Clock’ by William Ingram. William and Jean Ingram are the co-founders of Threads of Life.  This delightful memoir tells of their years living with a Balinese family, several of whom you will also meet as they work at TOL

Fragrant Rice – a memoir’ and ‘Bali: The food of my Island Home’ both by Janet de Neefe. Janet is a Melburnian who married an Ubud man. She is a fabulous cook, the founder of the hugely successful Ubud Writers Festival and owner of Casa Luna, Indus Restaurant and the Honeymoon Guesthouse.

Twin Flower – A Story of Bali (1934) – G.E.P. Collins. Detailed and accurate information on Balinese culture  presented via a semi-autobiographical work of fiction.

A House in Bali (1944) – Colin McPhee – classic book by the Canadian musician that was part of the Ubud art crowd of the 1930’s. A must for anyone interested in Balinese gamelan. He spent almost a decade living in Sayan. His wife was the anthropologist Jane Belo.

‘Love and Death in Bali’ by Vicki Baum. The chilling account of the Dutch military intervention in Bali, this novel interweaves several different stories detailing the lives of various actors in colonial life, from casteless peasants, feudal lords, impulsive youths, slaves, mystics to bureaucrats. Their stories tragically culminated in the infamous puputan (mass suicides of Balinese royalty that has come to symbolize resistance to foreign aggression). It is a novel about love, death, and also rebirth.

‘Under the Volcano: A Story of Bali’ by Cameron Forbes. Australian foreign correspondent Cameron Forbes combines life stories of native Balinese and foreign settlers (of various backgrounds) with historical accounts covering the suicides, massacres and bombings, before moving on to a geographical narrative that covers the jihadist network and drug trade in Southeast Asia.

‘Bali – A Paradise Created’ by Adrian Vickers.  An accessible history of this fascinating island and an anthropological study not only of the Balinese, but of the paradise–seekers from all parts of the world who have travelled to Bali in ever–increasing numbers over the decades.   An exploration of what makes Bali so special, and how it has managed to preserve its identity despite a century of intense pressure from the outside world. 

‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Needs no introduction! The final third of the book is set in Ubud. The book has also been made into a movie starring Julia Roberts.

‘Bali Conspiracy Most Foul: Investor Singh Investigates’ by Shamini Flint. A bomb has exploded and Singh has been sent to help with anti-terrorism efforts. But there’s a slight problem: he knows squat about hunting terrorists. He’s much better suited to solving murder! So when a body is discovered in the wreckage, killed by a bullet before the bomb went off, Singh should be the one to find the answers – especially with the help of a wily Australian policeman by his side. But simple murders are never as simple as they seem – and this one has far-reaching global consequences . . .

Balilicious by Becky Wicks. Wicks set out to the island of the gods to accomplish what Liz Gilbert claimed to have done when she went to Bali, finding her inner peace and harmony. However, in the six months that she spent in Bali, her quest for enlightenment was met with the unexpected horrors of encountering teenage boys possessed by monkeys, attempting yogic headstands, undergoing colonic irrigation as well as experiencing vaginal steaming. Somewhere along the way, she realizes that the quest to “find herself” apparently involves losing the plot from time to time.


Bali Is My Life (2012) : A documentary produced by the people of Bali, motivated by their respect and care for the island’s culture and ecosystems. The best of Bali is portrayed from an insider’s perspective and covers picturesque scenery, aspects of spiritual, social and cultural life, the friendliness of its people and the impact of tourism. 

Bali Indonesia: Tourism Impacts Rural Life Water and Rice (Pro Doco 2016) : Looks at the benefits and negative effects of tourism, especially inappropriate development, traffic, poor waste disposal practices, air, water and visual pollution. The rest of the program focuses on those working outside the tourism industry and includes the cooperative, sustainable community kubak water management system. Religion and rituals are shown as they are interwoven with traditional rural ways of life.

Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey (1999) : The five-part documentary captures the Indonesian archipelago perfectly, including Bali and the islands around it, which are featured in the second film, ‘Dance of the Warriors’. The creators, Lorne and Lawrence Blair, are two daring filmmakers who went to great lengths to immerse themselves in the lives of Indonesians. The brothers arrived in 1972 and traveled around the country for a full decade. The films grant us the sights and insight they accumulated over time.

Note: The above list is by no means exhaustive.  If you’d like to recommend a book or movie that you’ve enjoyed or found informative and inspiring, please email us at