3 years ago
keshie
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Getting away from the 'Eat, Pray, Love' Ubud
Once in a while, a book comes along that changes the dynamic of a town, transforming it from a sleepy tourist haven to an overnight sensation, attracting hordes of visitors who hope that the essence of the story will rub off on them. In the 1990s and 2000s the book and subsequent film, The Beach, saw the sleepy island of Koh Phi Phi in Thailand transformed. Bali, specifically the town of Ubud, has recently started to get the same level of interest since the publication of Elizabeth Gilbert’s hugely popular book, Eat, Pray, Love, which was also adapted into a film. While the island was already a globally popular tourist attraction, the film and book have propelled its reputation to even greater heights, with readers flocking to Ubud, which is situated in the middle of the island, looking for magic and romance. As the saying goes "All publicity is good publicity", Eat, Pray, Love put Ubud on the romance-hungry travelers’ map after its publication in 2006. The book made it into Oprah's Book Club in the United States – prompting an interview with the author and inspiring many women across the globe to follow her quest. Needless to say, it has boosted Ubud’s business, but the luster is beginning to wane as many businesses and tourists are trying to escape the Eat, Pray, Love associations. The book has left imprints all over the town, with the most obvious being flyers and drivers offering an "Eat, Pray, Love" tour. This generally involves a visit to Ketut Liyer -the Balinese healer in the book, spa treatments, yoga, more healers, shopping and a class in Balinese praying. It can perhaps be described as pre-packaged, instant spiritualism that seems to appeal to those looking for a quick fix. The other lure of the book is, of course, romance and many people hope this path may lead to it. However, despite all this increased interest in Ubud, there is also a backlash. For instance, one famous establishment printed satirical T-shirts that read, "Eat, Pay, Leave". Also, Ketut Liyer was hospitalized due to exhaustion last year, and the prices among many healers have risen dramatically. Some tours take groups of non-Hindus to pray at holy sites, while it must be noted that Julia Roberts, who plays Gilbert in the film, is actually one of the few celebrities to actually convert to Hinduism. So, what can one do to experience the essence of the book or the movie, and just visit a healer without falling into the trap of being just another groupie? Ubud and Bali as a whole is an extremely spiritual place and one cannot help being drawn to that when visiting the island. The natural environment of rice paddies, the ceremonies and the people are intrinsic to the island's spirituality and there is no need to miss out on any of these elements if you look a little further than the people and places laid out in the book. Ubud itself is surrounded by a number of small beautiful villages that are undoubtedly more "authentic" than the center of town. Choices on places to stay can extend to areas such as Sayan, Mas or Londunth. There are plenty of homestays through five-star hotels and private villas to suit every taste and budget. Here, one can find serenity among the vistas of paddy fields and forests. Temples are the holiest places in Bali where the special Balinese Hinduism is practiced. Visitors are welcome to many of the temples and are permitted in most areas except from the inner sanctums. When visiting, tourists must wear sarongs and ensure that their shoulders and legs are covered. Easily accessible from Ubud is Goa Gajah, built in the 9th century as a sanctuary. It is known as the Elephant Cave and flanked by menacing demons carved on the outside. It was mentioned in the 14th century Javanese poem, Desawarnawa. This is a perfect place to appreciate the long history of Hinduism in Bali and the sacred space it occupies in daily life and within nature. A lot of the healers are overbooked and seeing Ketut Liyer has become increasingly difficult, but there are a lot of alternative healers. It is best to ask in the area where you are staying if there are any healers who will treat non–Balinese. Sometimes, the healers or balian become distracted if too many visitors arrive at once. One healer, Pak Wayan Tirtha whose practice is situated on the Tegalalang road heading out of Ubud, can be seen without an appointment. Down in the south near Berawa Beach is the famed Pak Sirkus who is happy to receive non-Balinese visitors. Many healers do not need you to tell them your ailments; they will simply assess you before making a diagnosis. Many people claim that the balian have healed their physical or mental afflictions. It is important to remember to cover your shoulders and knees when visiting a healer and also, women should never visit during menstruation. If the idea of a balian is a little too intense, then there are plenty of spa treatments to be had across Bali. On the outskirts of Ubud, there is a variety of spas to meet your desires and provide different therapies. One Balinese ritual that is widely available is the mandi lulur, which is cleansing in a relaxed spa environment. Lulur is a paste made from herbs to scrub and cleanse the body, and literally means "coating the skin". Yoga classes are available all over town and some are even free. There is no need to book a yoga course before you arrive in Ubud if you want to participate in a more informal manner. The Yoga Barn on Jl. Raya Pengosekan provides plenty of yoga as well as classes such as Qigong and meditation. It also organizes retreats and more intensive courses as well as providing alternative therapies. This is a great starting point for those wanting a more yoga-focused holiday. Ubud Market has become inundated with tourists as a result of the town's increasing popularity. Busloads of tourists arrive daily, although the presence of these buses is clogging up the town center. Due to the rise in tourists, however, the market has been completely renovated and the entire site is now enclosed, full of air-con units and completely lacking in charm from the chaotic cacophony of smells and sounds it possessed before. Denpasar and the closer Mambal Market are more authentic places when searching for local bargains. As for romance - well, that is also possible on the island but there is no magic formula to where or how to find it. Although the book has raised Bali’s profile, you may find that creating your own adventure on the island is more fulfilling than following the Eat, Pray, Love route. There is more than one story to be told in and around Ubud.
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4 comments
what is eat, pray, love?
3 years ago·Reply
@curtis I believe it's a movie!~ haha I heard my mum saying something about it while we were in Indonesia too ..I heard it was a pretty good movie :D
3 years ago·Reply
yup, it's a movie title and quite popular. julia roberts played in it :p
3 years ago·Reply
ohh right!! yes I remember my mum saying something about Julia Roberts @Keshie hahah
3 years ago·Reply