Visions of lush rice paddies, old medicine men named Ketut and leisure bicycle trips among endless greenery come to mind when people hear of the island of Bali. The movie Eat, Pray, Love was released in 2010 and ever since then Bali has seen a boom in tourism. Specifically travelers seeking out serene retreats, hours of yoga and prayer and answers to questions that they didn’t even know they had.
Our trip takes us to Ubud for the next week, the city the author of the book stayed in while she was in Bali. I have to ask myself what should I expect? Will I see a drastically updated and quickly enhanced version of Ubud because of the movie? Most of the locals here reference the movie and always mention how much tourism it has driven here, as well as raised prices. Will Ubud be the bicycle riding, soul searching, peaceful town the movie depicts or will it be the fast paced motorbiking, hundreds of restaurants to choose from Bali that I am living in now (Seminyak/Kuta area).
The new “spiritual tourist circuit” through Bali intrigues me. I have always believed that your spiritual course is unique to you and creating group packages to seek out spirituality on a structured trip seems backwards. Ketut Liyer was the famous medicine man from the movie and now charges $25 per palm reading. This Time article states, “most days visitors to Ketut can expect the same reading, with minor variations, but few mind.” This seems insincere and misleading in my book. I do understand how a spiritual trip to focus on you, the peace and quiet and a detox from the stress of your home and work can be a positive experience. Adding in a busload of other people telling you to go here and do this and think this…to pray now or to eat certain foods feels forced and fake.
I arrive in Ubud tomorrow. I will be eating, praying and loving my way through the city regardless.