Spiritual-Vacation-BaliIn honor of the wonderful book Eat, Pray, Love and the movie (which is filming in Bali this month!) Spirit Quest Tours is hosting an “Eat, Pray, and Love Bali” trip in May, 2010.  And in honor of that trip, let’s take a little virtual tour of my favorite places in Bali…

Gulingen… about a half an hour outside of Ubud is the little Balinese village of Gulingen.  Our driver drops us off at a rice paddie and we walk, single file, through the rice fields, across a little ridge path.  In about five minutes we arrive, sitting under a thatched roof in an open pavilion.  The Balinese ladies give us a cooking demonstration, and show us how the lovely flower offerings typical in all the temples are made, then we feast on Babi Guling, the whole roast pig that is the signature dish of Bali.  Stuffed with herbs and spices, the skin golden brown and crackling, the pork is nothing like we eat in the States.  Vegetarians, take heart – the side dishes are all veggie and there are plenty of them, along with rice and noodles.  A delicious way to experience the rural charm of Bali!

The Spas… I have been lucky enough to enjoy the spas at three resorts in Bali: the Nusa Dua Spa (in Nusa Dua) and the spas of the Maya and Alila hotels, both in Ubud.  The Alila massage actually made me cry, it was so nurturing and wonderful, but all the spas are fabulous and thoroughly enjoyable.  A typical Balinese spa treatment will include aromatherapy oils, an outdoor shower, and tons of pampering along with your massage or facial.  There are a wide variety of flowers used in Bali, and while your spa treatment may also come with a flower petal bath, it will surely include plumeria and hibiscus scattered about the room, and in a bowl on the floor below the face cradle, so that you enjoy looking downward while receiving your massage.  I have heard that the beaches  even  have massage therapists, who charge you only a dollar or two for a half-hour or hour massage, and I have friends who live in Bali who get a massage every day.  It’s not to be missed while on your vacation!

Ubud… the artistic and “heart center” of Bali, which is really the most heart-centered place I’ve ever been to, Ubud features sweet little streets with lovely shops and restaurants, as well as large temples, a Balinese museum, and the main open market, which is tremendous fun to shop in – the vendors there are always happy to bargain with you, but will also offer you shelter should you get caught in an afternoon shower (depending on when you visit).  The artisan crafts are not to be believed – both the variety and the prices!  Here are just a few of the wonderful local pieces you can buy: silver and beaded jewelry, hand-made and hand-painted batik clothes, tablecloths, and pillows, intricately carved wood statues, wooden serving pieces, scarves, sarongs, masks, and Balinese weaponry!

Krismaster… this brings me to one of the unique features of our own tours – a visit with the most famous and important Krismaster in all Bali! This venerable old gentleman is Wayung Ritug, and he has been creating Balinese short daggers, called “Kris”, for many years in his family compound.   His work is exemplary;  you can pick from any of his handmade and hammered blades and any of his hand-carved handles – most wood, some ivory – and he will marry them together in a single dagger that will be the best souvenir you buy when you are there.  Starting at around $100, and going all the way up to thousands of dollars, these are a true touch of Bali.

Ketut Liyer… I can’t wait to see who plays him in the upcoming movie!  As anyone who has read Eat Pray Love probably recalls, Ketut is the Balinese shaman, medicine man, or “Balian” (as they are called) who helped Liz Gilbert on her epic journey.  He told her she should come to Bali and stay with him, so she spent four months on the island, experiencing the heart-opening people and culture, and eventually finding love.  We visit Ketut on his family compound, waiting to see him and enjoying his granddaughter’s remarkable paintings.  Then, hopping up onto one of the low pavilions that serve as many of the compound’s buildings, we have our palms read (and backs, some of us!) by Ketut.  He is as sweet and charming as you would think – we like taking pictures with him, but he keeps shaking his head when he sees them. “I am very ugly,” he tells us over and over in his rasping voice, grinning from a nearly toothless head.  We assure him he is beautiful to us!

Spirit Quest Tours goes to Bali next for the Eat, Pray, and Love Bali tour, May 20-27, 2010. https://www.spiritquesttours.com/bali