I've been to Bali - and Ubud in particular - three years in a row. It's no understatement to say I love it. And yes, perhaps (cough) I was slightly influenced to make that first trip by Elizabeth Gilbert's 2006 memoir, Eat Pray Love.
But it's not quite as the book (and indeed, the movie with Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem) would have you believe. These five things, for example.
1. Bali is not peaceful
Or rather, it is not quiet. It's plenty serene, but the life of the island starts early - and noisily - with the roosters crowing in the dawn. And sometimes the dusk. And also every hour of the day. The roosters were a real shock the first time I went to Bali - they featured heavily in this article I wrote.
But it's easy to remember the place - Ubud especially - as being very quiet and still, because it's got such a laid-back vibe. I always come home from Bali super chilled out.
2. It's less of a love place, more of an eat place
Let's be honest, ladies and gents. It's just not that likely you are going to meet your Javier Bardem. I mean, it MIGHT happen. And if it does, you better discuss with your partner how they want to handle that... but for now, let's just appreciate the amazingness that is the food of Ubud, shall we?
3. There's not really any place to meditate in the buff
In the book, Liz Gilbert slips out of her lover's bed, still naked, to blissfully meditate first thing in the morning. Yes, you could do that too. Except: first you have to find the lover with the perfectly remote house (and possibly you have to dispatch of the roosters).
But who has time, with all the food that needs eating, the cocktails that need drinking, and the massages that need having? Not to mention the morning and evening yoga.
4. You won't be stuck with just the one black dress
Given that she's just spent the best part of a year travelling, our heroine doesn't have much for formal wear, so she just wears her one black dress every night to go on dates with her hot latin lover.
She really didn't need to do that, because: shopping. Ubud is a mecca for fabulous quirky designer wear, usually ethically made. You just have to stroll down Monkey Forest Road one afternoon and you are likely to end up with three new pairs of yoga pants, some art, jewellery, and an amazing new frock. All for less than half what you'd pay in Australia.
5. Healers probably won't give you a portend that comes true. But you will probably find healing
In the book, GIlbert visits a healer who tells her she will be coming back. That turned out to be true - because she made it true, of course.
Like this Time article says:
Today, the ladies all are "very lucky." They will each live to be one hundred and ten. In fact, most days visitors to Ketut can expect the same reading, with minor variations, but few mind. Ketut Liyer is not just a healer famed among locals, but a leading character in American author Elizabeth Gilbert's 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love, and his bamboo mat is an almost necessary stop on Bali's increasingly popular spiritual tourist circuit.
Doesn't matter though. Ubud's people are among the friendliest I've ever encountered, and after just a few days, you will feel like family. Add that to the morning offerings to the gods, the daily yoga, and the warmth and ease of the place, and you are likely to find you didn't need a healer to be healed.
PS: Early bird pricing for our July retreat ends 31 May - book now!