Julia Roberts cycles between lush green rice fields and an abandoned monkey forest in the movie Eat Pray Love. As with so many movies, things are a bit different in real-life. Ubud has become quite a busy hub, with tourists seeking the Eat Pray Love experience since the movie premiered. A typical non-touristy spiritual Bali experience can still be found though. You just have to know where to look.
CYCLE BETWEEN LUSH GREEN RICE FIELDS LIKE ELIZABETH GILBERT
Julia Roberts gracefully cycles between palm trees and past lush green rice fields in the movie. She truly makes it look so effortless. I thought I was being smart by renting a cheap crappy bicycle in order to avoid booking an expensive cycling tour. I’ll find that cycling trail myself, or so I thought. And yes, I did find it. But seen as Ubud is located in a mountainous region, a simple cycling trip soon became a real nightmare with temperatures above 30 degrees. No, really. Thankfully, a friendly local was prepared to bring us up to the starting point of the Kampung Ridge.
From there it’s a beautiful (and very doable) trip down, past rice fields, steep ravines and remote art shops. Tip: hire a mountain bike and not a cute little bike with basket. My father would make fun of, as always. How is this in any way practical? No, it wasn’t dad.
2. GET LOST BETWEEN THE ABANDONED RICEFIELDS OF TEGALALANG IN THE EARLY MORNING
Hiring a motorbike is the perfect way to explore the area without much of an effort. During one of those trips, I paid a visit to the Tegalalang ricefields in the early morning. The sun had just come up, as I strolled along the abandoned rice fields. Not a tourist in sight at this hour. You’ll see less and less tourists further land inwards, as you enjoy all the beautiful sceneries around Ubud with the cool wind in your hair. A motorbike ride like this is so refreshing during the mid-day heat.
I know, I know, it was Italy where she indulged in the amazing Italian cuisine. But eating out in Ubud is so good though! A lively expat community and growing tourism resulted in a long list of excellent restaurants. When it comes to different kind of cuisines and price ranges, there’s nothing this city doesn’t offer. I prefer the better quality Warungs (restaurants), where you can still enjoy the typical Balinese cuisine. But there’s much much more to explore. Take the Melting Pot for example. It doesn’t look like a top-rated Tripadvisor restaurant from the outside, but it’s fully booked in the afternoon and evening. After having one of their curries, you’ll totally understand.
4. VISIT HERBLADY WAYAN
I didn’t need to look very far. Straight across THE healthy hotspot of Ubud, Bali Buda, the newspaper headlines speak for itself. ‘Eat Pray Love Healer cured me from cancer’, is just one of the many headlines I see. I walk in and immediately recognize her from the pictures. She doesn’t seem all too interested as I walk in and her assistant promptly shows up with a brochure. A treatment costs around 400k and the vibe is anything but inviting. Not my thing. Her herb store however, is a lot more interesting. She has medicinal herbs for just about anything.
5. FALL IN LOVE WITH THE BALINESE CUISINE DURING A BALINESE COOKING CLASS
Bum Bum Bali sweet and sour chicken, spicy nasi goreng and a delicious sweet potato dessert. The mild tropical climate and the volcanic soul, have blessed Bali with a rich assortment of vegetables and fruits, and even more different kinds of rice. Learn all about the much-used Balinese spices and how to prepare them during a Balinese cooking class. And yes, you’ll fall in love with the Balinese cuisine, without a doubt.
6. STROLL ACROSS THE FARMERS MARKET
It’s a serious tourist trap in the afternoon, with shops filled to the brim with souvenirs and other cheap stuff. But pay a visit before 10 o’clock and you’ll see farmers selling their vegetables, fruits and self-made tempeh and tofu. It’s an interesting sight to watch. Local women load the baskets on their heads full with fresh fruits and greens and carry them to their restaurants. Combine this with a stroll through the back alleys of Ubud and it’ll be the perfect start of your day.
7. EAT, PRAY… AND EEHHH LOVE?
I can’t assure whether you’ll bump into a Brazilian businessman for a tumultuous romance in Bali. But there are definitely enough tourists and expats around here. Maybe you’ll be in more luck with dating apps like Tinder or Happn? Anyways, moving on.
8. TAKE A CLEANSING BATH IN THE TEMPLE PURA TIRTA EMPUL
When it comes to memorable experiences while traveling, a cleansing bath in the holy water of temple Pura Tirta Empul definitely qualifies. I follow the line of Hindu temple visitors, clothed in my sarong, past the line of springs. The friendly temple visitors smile at me, while they explain how to wash my hands, face and hair at every spring. Bali is home to dozens of temples, but Pura Tirta Empul is definitely one the most beautiful ones. Go early in the morning and avoid long lines of tourists for a real authentic experience. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your sarong. Those are obligatory during your visit to a temple.
9. FIND INNER PIECE DURING A YOGACLASS AT THE WORLDFAMOUS YOGABARN
I don’t know about you guys, but meditation (you know, sitting still and emptying your mind) is so not my thing. I’m all about a healthy lifestyle and everything that comes with that. But for some things, I’m just too down-to-earth. For the more active chicks like me, yoga is an excellent second option. And where to do this better, than at the world-famous Yogabarn. A small hidden pathway leads to Yogiheaven with five gorgeous studio’s, beautiful rooms and an Organic Café. The yoga classes take place in an open space out looking the lush green jungle. A much freeing experience.
10. VISIT A TRADITIONAL BALINESE BALIAN HEALER
Ketut is no more and was said to be quite commercial. Balinese healers have popped up everywhere since the movie. There seem to be two trustworthy ones in the area of Ubud though. Tjokode Rai is almost ancient, but his diagnoses are always on point. His treatment however, is a different story. While a long queue of patients awaits, he’ll pull some of your toes an does some kind of weird voodoo dance. Ok, I’m way to Dutch to be into any of this. Although, some really swear by it. Try it out yourself, if your curious. It’ll cost you 300k without transport.
Balian Pak Man’s approach is a world of difference, compared to the one of Tjokode Rai. Pain, is the word that describes his treatments. He’s practical and will look deep into your tissues for trigger points. You’ll feel like a different person when leaving his practice. A treatment costs around 400k and the average waiting list is around 1 to 2 weeks.
‘It’s never been my intent to make you want to follow in my footsteps in Bali or any of the other places I visited’, says Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the true story. With her book she wants to inspire you to go on a soul quest yourself. Thus a few of the previously mentioned tips cannot be found in the book. I just found they fit with the story and my personality. This may be totally different for you though! And that’s totally fine. Go with your gut. That’s what a soul quest is all about anyway.