I don't see chick flicks and I don't read chick lit...as much as I try to be a renaissance man, this genre simply doesn't appeal to me (nor is it designed to, obviously).  So normally, a book/movie like Eat, Pray, Love would never hit my radar.  Except that I love to eat in Italy.  I found my visit to India ten years ago, and places like the Taj Mahal, spiritual.  And I've met Wayan.

The book Eat, Pray, Love was released in February, 2006.  During 2007, as my bride-to-be and I planned our wedding and honeymoon, she read the book and was instantly drawn to Bali, Indonesia.  For me, a confirmed "Asianophile", the anecdotes that Deborah shared whilst reading the book only increased my interest in visiting the island paradise.  For a time, we even discussed eloping and getting married in Bali, until a) we realized this was somewhat complicated to achieve and b) our families pretty much insisted on being part of the nuptials.

Instead, we went to Bali for our honeymoon, except that we went on the trip before our wedding.  While non-traditional, I quite liked this approach -- we were both much more relaxed leading up to the big day.  Part of the reason mirrors part of Elizabeth Gilbert's experiences in Eat, Pray, Love -- Bali is a place like no other, and our time there helped solidify our love and our positive mental health.  The journey to Bali from Chicago was lengthy, flying first to Tokyo, overnighting there, then another seven hours to Denpasar.  This was all made somewhat easier by an accumulation of frequent flyer points that put us in business class, and some amazing service on Japan Airlines.

At the time, I had some personal reasons for not sharing the honeymoon with edbrill.com readers.  With the passage of time, and the release of the Eat, Pray, Love movie, it seems fitting to talk about the Balinese experience.  The first few days of our trip were basically beach vacation in the town of Sanur.  We stayed at Tandjung Sari, in a villa overlooking the beach.  In the mornings, we ate mee goreng, croissants, and local fresh fruit sea-side, and we passed the rest of these days more in the mode of a beach/spa relaxing vacation.  We visited Uluwatu Temple, meeting monkeys and watching the kecak dance, and ate prawns after dark on the beach in Seminyak.  We took our shoes off when we entered shops, and put sashes around our waists when we visited temples.  We could already tell Bali was someplace special, but we knew we had to dig in more.

A few days later, we moved inland to the town of Ubud, and the beautiful Kajane Mua villas.  There, we did some of the more touristy stuff like the monkey forest and eating roasted pig at Ibu Oka.  We also bought the buddha and visited other artists using many different media.  My wife also decided that if we were there, she needed to find Wayan.  Now, "Wayan" as a name is extremely common, as by Balinese custom it is often given to first-born children.  In this case, the Wayan my wife was seeking was the healer who played a central role in Elizabeth Gilbert's Balinese experience.  Through Eat, Pray, Love fan websites, we had a general idea of where Wayan's cafe and healing center was located.  It took a few inquiries, but eventually, Deborah found the place and settled in for an afternoon of relaxation.  This was more than a massage; Wayan's treatment included a whole bagful of lotions and potions for Deborah to take home for various aliments.  I was a little skeptical, but one result was clear -- Deborah was absolutely as relaxed as ever, for the remainder of our trip and well beyond.

The Internets are full of reports of similar pilgrimages, and that's likely only to intensify in the coming months now that the movie is out.  For us, it's certain to only increase our desire to return to Bali.  We hardly made it inland, never saw the mountains, didn't surf or scuba dive, and the buddha seems lonely.  We only briefly glimpsed the white heron birds returning to their nests in Petulu, only saw two temple festivals, and haven't been able to locate anyplace in the US that does mee goreng quite like the Balinese.  Plus it was cheap -- recognizing that you have to spend a lot of time and money to get there, beachfront luxurious hotels on the island cost the same or less than a night's stay in Manhattan.

Most importantly, we need to return to recapture the spiritual relaxation of Bali.  I'm on vacation this week, so the blog will be quiet.  Not headed to Bali, but hoping that reflecting on that experience will bring a little bit of it with us.  See you in a week.

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