Eat, dive, love: 4 days in Bali

Rachel Alejandro

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Count me in as one of thousands of people from all over the world inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s 'Eat Pray Love'

MUCH-NEEDED GETAWAY. Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Eat Pray Love,' Rachel and husband Carlos Santamaria go on a 4-day trip to Ubud. All photos courtesy of Rachel Alejandro

MANILA, Philippines – I admit I’m not very original. 

Count me in as one of thousands of people from all over the world inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel-turned-Hollywood-film “Eat Pray Love” to take a trip to Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. It took me a few years since the movie but finally, early this August, my husband and I took time off our busy schedules and flew to the romantic island.

The impact of Gilbert’s book on this formerly quiet, little town was palpable the minute we arrived. Seriously, at times I felt like the only brown girl lost in a sea of white people. Curiously, the tourists there were not the usual backpackers but mostly families and single women “of a certain age” hoping to find love just like in the book.

Many of the quaint shops and cafes that lined the streets were so Westernized that they evoked the vibe of chic beach towns in the US like the Hamptons, more than Southeast Asia. Yet the smattering of Hindu temples and traditional Balinese architecture gave it just the right amount of authenticity. No other place blended different cultures so effortlessly and tastefully.

Just being there made even dorky me feel like I’m super cool!

But that’s jumping ahead in this short travel log.

Day 1:

We took the red eye flight to Denpasar and arrived in time for breakfast. We deliberately made no plans for the day; we just slept and lounged around the pool of our beachfront hotel in Sanur.

BABI GULING. The delectable suckling pig friends told us not to miss in Ubud

Dinner that night was a delectable Indonesian buffet that starred the one dish friends told us not to miss: Babi Guling or suckling pig. What gave it a distinct flavor was the infusion of herbs and spices like turmeric, lemongrass, garlic and coriander seeds before roasting. Yum!

Day 2: 

It took us less than an hour by boat to one of the world’s best dive spots, Nusa Penida, but the water was so choppy I had a mini panic attack. [I occasionally get so horribly seasick, a huge inconvenience for someone married to Mr. Ocean Adventure himself.]

SAVED BY MANTA RAYS. When the Mola-Mola did not show up, manta rays did

The star of Nusa Penida diving is the Mola-Mola or ocean sunfish, a huge fish that can easily weigh more than 2,000 pounds. I guess the Mola-Mola didn’t get their call slip that day that’s why they didn’t show up. We weren’t super disappointed because, at Manta Point, we spotted close to 10 manta rays!

Day 3:

It was a rainy morning, so we just hung out at our small boutique resort located amidst the serenity of rice fields, 15 minutes outside of Ubud town. Again, it was one of those places where I imagined only cool people stayed.

NASI GORENG. Ubud's filling rice dish

We walked around the town, looked at art galleries and ate more local food like Nasi Goreng, a rice dish with chicken, veggies and egg; and Mie Kari, a curry seafood noodle soup.

Day 4:

It was another day of cloudy skies and a cool temperature similar to what we Pinoys like call “Baguio weather.” We strolled around the temples and took pictures of the monkeys that inhabited the Sacred Monkey Forest.

CALM HOST. A resident of Ubud's monkey forest

For me, this was truly the highlight of our trip. I was just in awe of the sculptures of Balinese Hindu deities and demons all around the place. I felt a tinge of envy, too, that we Filipinos did not manage to preserve the culture of our ancestors like the Indonesians did.

PRESERVED CULTURE. One of Ubud's temple sculptures

At sunset, we had drinks at a café in the middle of the rice fields, something very Ubud, post-“Eat Pray Love.” I captured my favorite shot of the trip — a farmer tending to his field with the water surrounding him reflecting the darkening sky.

PICTURE PERFECT. Earth meets sky in this beautiful photo

Before heading to the airport, I sent a quick email to my family in New York with the subject: “Loved Bali!” With so much love and gratitude in my heart for a truly magical 4 days, I told them that we have to visit the place as a family. –

Rachel Alejandro is a singer-actress and co-owner of The Sexy Chef, OBC 5 Star Inc (@SexyChefRachelA on Twitter), a health food delivery company. Her upcoming projects include a yoga and weight loss retreat, Eat Clean Love Detox Weekend, on Oct 4 to 6 at Hamilo Coast, Batangas. 

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