Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Age: Quiet paradise

Ubud medicine man Ketut Liyer is reading my palm. He tells me I will be rich, fabulous and live till I am 100. My joy at this verdict is somewhat leavened by the over hearing of a similar prognosis for the American girls who preceded me.

I suspect the European girls who lounge quietly behind me in the spacious compound of Bali's most famous medicine man, immortalised in Elizabeth Gilbert's bestselling travelogue Eat Pray Love, may also get similarly encouraging predictions.

We Eat Pray Love fans seem to be strong in number and have no doubt been a great boon for the frail, elderly Balinese medicine man.

Ketut shows me his guest book, scrawled with the names of thousands of fellow pilgrims around the world no doubt led by EPL curiosity. He tells me his English is not so good and passes me a copy of the book, pointing out sections where his name is highlighted and asking me to read what it means.

I attempt unsuccessfully to explain the passages, hand over 250, 000 rupiah (about A$40) and thank Ketut for his trouble. Somebody tells me Julia Roberts is in town filming the screen version of the book. I wander through Monkey Forest Road where Elizabeth stayed, revelling in my fan girl/stalker status.

Ubud is about an hour's drive from the beaches of Kuta and Legian and is considered the cultural and spiritual heart of Bali. Littered with art, paintings, regular dance and play performances and host to a lively annual writer's festival, Ubud attracts a more discerning traveller than the hot coastal beaches and is perfect for those seeking to supplement a tropical holiday with some culture.

I meet a man who considers himself a shaman, see a healer who offers to clear my negative energies and get myself a massage every day. This is interspersed with dedicated lazing in the balmy weather drinking tropical juices at the many restaurants.

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