When I was 16, back in 2007, I read Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert’s New York Times bestseller. And then I read it again. And again.
Needless to say, Eat, Pray, Love firmly put Bali on my map of dream destinations. And seven years later, I finally ventured to the island I had read so much about.*
And I’m not the only one entranced by Gilbert’s descriptions of the lush, mysterious island; Many tourists come to Ubud, Bali, seeking sunshine, spirituality and possibly a Brazilian lover. And Bali has cashed in on this craze. When strolling Ubud, one will see Eat, Pray, Love branding on everything from ice cream shops to vet clinics.
*(To be fair Eat Pray Love is definitely not the only reason I came to Bali. Also I reread Eat, Pray, Love this year and found her voice to be much more self-involved then I remembered… holy navel-gazing. Moving on.)
And I won’t lie- during my three weeks in Ubud I sought out many of the people and places I had read about in Gilbert’s memoir.
A Palm Reading at Ketut Liyer’s
In her memoir Elizabeth Gilbert writes extensively about Ketut Liyer, an elderly Balinese medicine man who lives in Ubud.
When I arrived at Ketut’s compound the family promptly asked me to pay 350,000 rupiah (about $30 USD) for a palm reading. Which felt a little… presumptuous and invasive, to be honest.
When I laid eyes on Ketut he was exactly as I had imagined; a small, wizened Balinese man with a broad smile and only a few teeth.
After a brief wait, Ketut held my palm in his hand as he predicted I would have two babies, enjoy much success in my career and someday get divorced.
He then gave my friend a nearly identical fortune. “You are beautiful. You lucky, much success.” (Though instead of a divorce he predicted she would lose all of her money for being too generous.)
I really hate to say this, but I do want to be frank with any of my readers- um, I wouldn’t advise getting a palm reading from Ketut. Ketut Liyer is a very sweet old man but is very advanced in age- and 350,000 rupiah is a steep price to learn you are very beautiful and will have two babies.
Next I visited Wayan’s shop. In Eat, Pray, Love Wayan is a kind-hearted divorced healer who runs a healing shop with her 9-year old daughter, Tutti.
The shop wasn’t what I had expected; I was shocked by its filthy and cluttered state. But soon Tutti came over and I couldn’t help but exclaim, “You’re so big!” when I saw a beautiful teenaged girl with black hair down her back instead of a little girl.
“The book came out nine years ago,” she said shyly.
Tutti then made us a turmeric tea by grating turmeric root and mixing it with water. As we sipped the tea Tutti said that someday she wanted to be a healer like her mother.
Then Tutti brought over some leaves that she instructed us to chew. “What are these leaves?” I asked.
“They are for overweight adults.”
Oh. Um, thanks. She also handed us a sheet explaining that normal adults should chew 7-10 leaves and overweight adults should chew 11-15. (For the record, she prescribed me 14. which is like practically off the charts.)
I almost returned to Wayan’s shop the next day for a body reading but backed out when I read on TripAdvisor that the reading is a total ripoff and that there are rats scurrying around the house. Sorry guys. Phobia.
The most worthwhile holistic pursuit I found in Bali was reflexology. On my last night in Ubud I headed to Sandat Bali, a guesthouse and reflexology center run by a Balinese couple everyone calls Mama and Papa.
Papa happens to be the resident reflexologist, and I eagerly asked him for a reflexology session.
It turns out reflexology involves having a wooden mallet pounded into the sole of your foot to identify your maladies. At times it was agonizing.
As Papa hit zones of my foot, he would observe, “Ah, you have bad neck.”
By the end, his diagnosis was scarily accurate- he had identified that I have problems with my neck, back and stomach. The only one I didn’t agree with was my stomach.*
Overall he reported that I haven’t undergone a lot of pain in my life. He told me this was clear to him because I wasn’t writhing and screaming on the table. (Apparently people who have endured intense traumas like car accidents will howl and cry in reflexology.)
*But then when I came back to Michigan and I discovered I have a gall bladder problem so the healer totally called that. How weird is that? He also examined my friend and correctly identified that she had no kidney on her right side, which is true- she donated it when she was a teenager. WTF?
And another thing that was weird?
One Saturday night I was walking around the streets of Ubud by myself with a bottle of Bintang. (Um… No comment.)
And up walks a handsome, tall, dark-haired Brazilian man named Elio. He invites me into a Cuban bar for a drink where we communicate via a hodgepodge of Spanish and Portuguese. Then I hop on the back of his motorcycle and we drive to another lively bar where we smoke hookah and dance salsa. And then we hit up a few more bars and at the end of the night he drives me back to my homestay. (Unfortunately I documented absolutely none of this with a camera but it totally happened.)
So what I’m trying to say is that despite a few disappointments, my Eat, Pray, Love fantasy totally came true.
Have you ever read Eat, Pray, Love?
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