My negative encounter with one of the Eat, Pray, Love characters didn’t lessen my desire to track down the other.  Soon after we left Wayan’s, Derek and I set off by motorcycle in search of Ketut Liyer.  Given the morning I’d just had, I wasn’t expecting much.  Happily, Ketut proved me wrong.
Ketut Liyer

We arrived at Ketut’s house in time to see him dashing across his doorway in his skivvies.  A friendly man who turned out to be Ketut’s son instructed us to wait on the front porch.  Soon, a half-dressed Ketut emerged and, with a broad smile that showed off his few remaining teeth, warmly welcomed us to his house.  As he robed himself in the traditional clothing of a medicine man, he invited us to accompany him to a marriage ceremony at which he was to bless the offerings made to the love gods on behalf of the newlyweds.  Clearly, we accepted his invitation.

Ketut performing wedding ceremonyA short walk later, we arrived at an altar piled high with sweets and baskets of fruit.  The bride and groom, who were seated in front of it, smiled at us warmly.  Someone handed us plates of wedding cake and bottles of warm Coke.  This is not how we would have treated tourists who barged into our wedding and started madly taking pictures.  We were amazed at everyone’s hospitality and at our own good fortune.
Derek and Ketut Liyer
After Ketut had finished his ceremonial duties, which largely seemed to involve chanting melodic prayers and ringing a hand-held, gold bell, he invited us back to his porch, where he proceeded to read our palms, our faces, our legs, our necks and our backs.  After this thorough inspection, I’m happy to report that Derek and I are going to live to be 102 and 101, respectively, that we’re blessed with both intelligence and good luck and that, someday, we’ll be very wealthy.  (I wish that I hadn’t read that he says this to everyone, but I choose to believe him, anyway.  Who am I to question a medicine man who may himself already have reached age 102?)

We declined Ketut’s pleasant offer to buy one of his paintings for $200 US (surely Eat, Pray, Love has allowed him to boost his prices a bit) and left his house with our faith restored.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” at the beginning of our trip.  For those of you who haven’t read the book, it tells of the author’s year of travels through Italy, India and Bali.  Like us, she spent most of her time in Bali in the city of Ubud, where she befriended both a traditional Balinese healer named Wayan and an old medicine man named Ketut Liyer.  Both Wayan and Ketut seemed to me to be of a Bali from long ago–one that I very much wanted to learn more about.  I arrived in Ubud determined to track down both of them and was happy to see that Ms. Gilbert had made the task significantly easier by posting their addresses on her website.
Wayan's Place from Eat, Pray, Love
Happily, Wayan’s shop was walking distance from our hotel.  We dropped by on Saturday afternoon and, within a few minutes, we were sitting with her at her shop’s only table drinking tumeric juice with honey (“for strength,” she said).  As a sort of preview of her services, she gave us a quick once-over and then listed a few of the things that ailed us.  I should have been suspicious when, after looking at Derek’s fingernails, she pronounced that he needed to eat fewer sweet things (the man loves food more than anyone I know, but he’s definitely not a dessert eater), but I was breathlessly excited to have met the woman who, in the book, had cured an infection normally remedied by a week’s worth of antibiotics using only some herbal compresses.  I made an appointment to meet with her for two hours on Monday.  Derek, who was more skeptical, particularly when he heard the price (more than double what the other “healing shops” charged), passed.
When Monday morning came around, I arrived in Wayan’s tiny shop expecting to be amazed at her abilities and newly convinced of the healing powers of herbal remedies.  When I left three and one-half hours later, I had received only a sobering illustration of the destructive powers of the popularity that came to her after the book’s publication.  (I’m sure the same fate has befallen countless vendors who find themselves listed in the Lonely Planet or other guidebooks and, therefore, on most Westerners’ short list of acceptable places to frequent).
Wayan - the Balinese Healing Woman
For fifteen minutes, Wayan provided me with a list of my ailments that was quite similar to the one she had given me two days before.  It reminded me of a horoscope, in that it was vague enough to avoid being inaccurate (“you sometimes have a busy mind”) and general enough to apply to just about anyone (“you need to drink more water”).  She supplied me with a bag full of pills, potions and powders, one of which promised to address everything from diabetes to “new and old paralyzed” to “finishing the nasty smell of mouth and nose,” as well as a schedule of when to take what.  She then directed me to go upstairs.

Wayan had explained earlier that the book’s popularity had caused her business to boom and had necessitated the hiring of two assistants, a woman who looked to be about 18 and a man in his 20s.  These two met me upstairs and proceeded to rub me with betel leaves, rice mixed with galangal root, aloe vera and, at one point, pieces of a cucumber.  The treatments weren’t accompanied by any explanation.  While I found myself wondering both whether Wayan was coming back (I’d understood my appointment to be with HER) and why someone was rubbing cucumber in my eye, the experience was not altogether unpleasant.

The assistants then directed me to lie face-down on a massage table.  (What? Language barriers prevented me from pressing them for more information.  I definitely had not signed up for a massage, but ok….)  I did as instructed, and then things got confusing.  I was left alone with the male assistant, who, in a nutshell, began acting inappropiately.  (Don’t worry, Mom, nothing criminal or even very serious happened.)  I left Wayan’s shop as soon as I could and hurried back to the hotel with the events of the morning replaying in my mind.  

After reflecting more fully on the experience, I returned to Wayan’s shop a few hours later with Derek in tow and confronted Wayan about what had happened.  To her credit, Wayan appeared to be both appalled and surprised at her employee’s behavior.  What she said by way of an explanation gave me an important insight into both the depths of her beliefs and the corrupting powers of the fame that had come to her.  According to her, the man’s actions had been caused by evil spirits born of the jealousy of other Balinese people over her good fortune.  Her popularity meant that she had too many clients to handle so, when she saw me that morning, she had been too drained to provide any healing and had instead needed to relegate me to her assistants.  She was sorry; she would deal with her assistant; she was so, so sorry.  Both Derek and I noticed, incidentally, that she never offered to refund my money.  I had come to her shop in search of an “authentic, Balinese experience” (perhaps this fact alone reveals my naivete).  I left disillusioned. 

Ubud is known as the cultural center of Bali.  When I visited here in 1996, it was a fairly quiet town with a few restaurants and shops.  Since then, it has grown dramatically.  However, it hasn’t lost its charm – dozens of art galleries and woodworking shops are scattered thrroughout the town and rice paddies are less than a mile away. 

We decided to stay in the city instead of at one of the many hotels built directly in the rice fields. 
This has allowed us to explore the city, but hasn’t allowed us to see much of the surrounding area.  So, yesterday we rented a motorcycle (ok, it was more like a moped, but no one wants to admit to riding one of those).

Within a few minutes, we were in incredibly green rice fields where the local farmers were harvesting the rice.  I haven’t been able to properly photograph the “greenness” of the fields, and I’m not sure any cameras are out there that can really capture it.  It is striking.  If there are any photographers reading this, any advice would be greatly appreciated.

While driving through a small village, we came upon a large group of men and women in the middle of a Balinese ceremony.  They were wearing traditional dress and playing music as they walked along the village street.  We never did find out what the ceremony was all about.  It was a little awkward photographing their ceremony, but they didn’t seem to mind. 

Next, we came upon the Sacred Forest Monkey Sanctuary. 
Sacred Monkey Forest Ubud
My first thought was – tourist trap.  You’d walk in the forest and maybe see 1 or 2 monkeys.  Wow – was I wrong!  Within a few seconds, we were virtually being attacked by scores of the dirty animals.  Many of the tourists buy bananas and other fruit to feed the monkeys, so they assume that all the visitors have something to give them. Thus, each of them runs up to you, gives you a once-over and decides if you’re worthy of their attention.  We had no food, but we did have a camera which one aggressive monkey took a shining to.  As he approached my leg to start climbing up to grab the camera, I gave a quick kick in his direction, barely missing his chin.  He quickly realized that this big American man wasn’t going to give in easy.  Then, I ran away…  So much for bravery.

From Brunei, we headed (via two long ferry trips and one rescheduled Air Asia flight…this seems to be the norm with Air Asia) to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital city.  I miss big cities when I’m away from them for too long, so I was happy to see that KL, as it’s called, is a busy metropolis whose night markets were still bustling at 11:30 p.m. on a Monday night. We spent Tuesday morning exploring the city and, thanks to my new arch nemesis, Air Asia, passed Tuesday afternoon in the KL airport. 

It was near midnight when we finally got to Bali, but we still found time for dinner and drinks in Kuta, a busy, beachside town popula
Sufer at Sunset
ted predominantly by Australian surfers and 20-something backpackers.  Kuta was the site of the 2002 terrorist bombings that took 300 lives and decimiated, for awhile, this island’s tourist industry.  We visited the memorial to the victims, which listed their names in long, stately columns.  It stood in sharp contrast to all of the debauchery taking place just next door, where partiers danced the night away in rebuilt versions of the clubs that had been bombed.

We spent the night in a very nice bungalow in Kuta.  And then we checked into paradise (which is, as it turns out, technically called Sesari Villas) in the nearby beach town of Seminyak. 
I think that all I need to say by way of a description is this: as i write this, I’m sitting on a lounge chair next to our private pool.  I can hear a Jack Johnson song over the gentle sounds of the waterfall that trickles into the pool.  In front of me is an outdoor room composed entirely of marble, carved, wooden furniture, Balinese art and, oh yeah, our private kitchen (where 2 chefs come to make us breakfast in the morning). 
I’ll cut myself off here so that I don’t draw the ire of everyone reading this, but suffice to say that, if anyone’s in need of a romantic vacation (that is shockingly affordable, thanks to the strength of the US dollar against the Indonesian rupiah and the fact that this is Bali’s low season), this is the place for you!

Our days have been spent on the gorgeous beach a few minutes away from our villa watching the surfers ride (or, in many cases, attempt to ride) the big waves here.  After watching the incredible sunsets, we’ve been sampling the fare at the many restaurants in the area.  Not a bad way to spend a few days…