The 2010 hit movie Eat, Pray, Love made Bali look good – so much so that those gorgeous shots of Julia Roberts biking through Ubud rice fields and meditating in her Balinese villa might have you convinced it was all merely staged for the movie. Luckily, Bali is just as beautiful in person as it appears on screen!
Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir, the movie has inspired countless people to hop on a plane to Bali to follow in its heroine’s footsteps. If you’re dreaming about following suit, look no further! Consider this your cheat sheet for the ultimate Eat, Pray, Love experience in Ubud.
Enjoy dreamy walks through rice fields
Some of the most memorable scenes of the movie feature Julia Roberts riding her bike through picturesque rice fields. You can follow in her footsteps – or should we say bike tracks – by visiting the Tegallalang rice terraces where parts of the movie were actually filmed. Tegallalang is arguably the most famous rice terrace in Bali and due to its iconic stature, the area can get very crowded.
If you’re looking for a more serene setting, try visiting the Campuhan Ridge Walk during sunrise or just before sunset. This beautiful walk takes you through verdant rice fields and if you time your visit right, you might just have it all (almost) to yourself.
Go chasing waterfalls
Nature holds a special place in the Balinese culture. It’s only fitting then that Eat, Pray, Love displays Bali’s natural beauty to such a stunning effect, featuring sweeping shots of the island’s emerald green landscape.
A great way to (literally!) immerse yourself in Bali’s tropical scenery is by visiting one of the lush waterfalls hidden in Ubud’s surroundings. Tegenungan is perhaps the most famous and most visited waterfall in Bali. And with good reason! Tegenungan features a beautiful cascade of water streaming down the cliffs, surrounded by endless shades of tropical green. Less-known but equally beautiful waterfalls in the Ubud area include Sumampan, Blangsinga and Tibumana. Pick your favourite or visit all of them!
Image Courtesy: ArtHouse Studio
Image Courtesy: Daily Travel Pill
Discover your inner peace at Balinese temples and palaces
As Gilbert puts it in her book: “Religious ceremonies are of paramount importance in Bali.” As soon as you land on the island, you can’t help but be captivated by the unique beauty of the local traditions. From hand-made offerings which dot the pavements to colourful ceremonies which spill out into the streets, Balinese spirituality has a way of leaving you speechless.
Ubud in particular is known as the spiritual and cultural heart of Bali and you will find many ancient temples steeped in traditions in the local area. One of the most beautiful temples to visit is the Saraswati Temple with its serene lotus ponds. Located in central Ubud, the temple is dedicated to the goddess of art, wisdom and learning.
If you are looking for an immersive experience, consider joining a cleansing ceremony at Tirta Empul. The temple’s natural springs are considered sacred by the Balinese and the water is thought to have special cleansing powers.
Ubud Palace is another stunning place for experiencing Balinese culture. This regal home takes pride of place in the heart of town. Besides featuring beautiful Balinese architecture, the Palace is a wonderful place to enjoy Balinese performing arts. Every night, the Palace hosts a Balinese dance performance – a magical experience you won’t soon forget.
Be inspired by the art markets in Ubud
In a memorable scene of the movie, Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem explore a Balinese market while comparing the number of stamps each has collected on their passport. As the pair weave their way through the crowd, they pass by stalls selling exotic fruit, artful woodcarvings and beautiful batik fabrics. The scene is framed by Balinese penjor poles, with local women carrying offerings balanced on the top of their heads.
The market in question is Ubud Art Market, one of the most famous landmarks in the area. The scene is just as lively in real life, if not more so! The market offers a huge variety of clothes, accessories, jewellery, paintings, souvenirs and more. Enjoy the bustling ambiance and remember to bargain for your finds! Another interesting market to visit is the Sukawati Art Market which is located a bit further off.
Explore Sacred Monkey Forest
In her book, Elizabeth Gilbert gives a special mention to the delightful name of the street she stayed on during her time in Ubud: Monkey Forest Road. This bustling street takes its amusing name from an actual forest populated by monkeys. That forest also happens to be one of the most popular attractions and revered sites in Bali.
The Sacred Monkey Forest is a 12-hectare sanctuary home to ancient banyan trees, three sacred temples – and around 1,200 monkeys! This beautiful jungle-like setting has a unique energy that’s all its own, with monkeys casually lazing on ancient temple steps. The next time you’re streaming Eat, Pray, Love, keep your eyes peeled – the movie actually features a shot of Julia Roberts biking her way through Monkey Forest!
Discover the real Bali in quaint Ubud villages
Over the years, Ubud has grown into a bustling town – so much so that many visitors find themselves craving a more serene setting after exploring the busy town centre. To escape the crowds and experience the “real” Bali, do like Julia and hop on a bicycle to explore further afield. Once you leave behind the hustle and bustle of central Ubud, you will discover picturesque rice fields, peaceful coconut groves and quaint villages where life moves at a slower pace.
Of course, it can be tricky to discover the “real” Bali all on your own. For an immersive experience that’ll take you through rice fields and charming villages, consider joining a guided bicycle tour of the area. If you’re lucky, you might even meet a strapping Brazilian along the way!