A Tale of Two Islands

John stanmeyer / VII for TIME

Bless this land: A shaman prays at the site of the author's unbuilt villa in Bali

The shaman inhaled the incense smoke and flicked flower petals into the tropical air. My husband and I were sitting on a patch of earth on the Indonesian island of Bali as the local priest, Ida Bagus Putu Wija, communed with the resident spirits about our vague plans to build a holiday home there. Eventually, the Balinese wise man gave us the news that would literally determine the shape of our future villa. In the parallel spirit world of this devoutly Hindu island, our peaceful stretch of riverbank was actually a bustling spirit town, far bigger than the nearby...

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