So I entered. Besides signed photographs of Julia Roberts and Liz Gilbert, there were lots of dried leaves and sprigs on display and other things I couldn’t really place. I was offered a cup of ginger tea by one of the shop assistants and then Wayan came up to me and asked me what I was looking for in her shop. I didn’t want to say that I just wanted to do a bit of celeb spotting, so I told her that after a couple of weeks of travelling around Southeast Asia I was feeling somewhat exhausted and deflated, even though I was sleeping a good 10 hours every night. Wayan took my hand, felt my pulse and then my forehead while making weird gestures with her other hand and rolling her eyeballs. It was all very weird and wonderful. Then she mentioned all the things that were wrong with me, kidney failure, bad blood circulation, etc., etc. She filled up a bag with powders and pills and blessed it with incense before saying: That’ll be 25 USD please. What? I said. That’s a lot of money in Indonesia, but you have to admire her business sense. (She has been spotted driving a brand new SUV apparently.)
After haggling the price down to 15 USD, I paid her and started to make a move towards the exit when Wayan stopped me and commanded: “No, not finish. Go upstairs and take off clothes. “ I went upstairs and changed into a sarong. I was taken to a small shower room where I was invited to sit down on an uncomfortable plastic stool. Three people, two women and a man, came in and started rubbing wet leaves on me which left me smelling like a vegetable soup gone off. It was to enhance my blood circulation, Wayan said. I was glad when it was all over and couldn’t get out of there fast enough, leaving a trail of the foul soupy odour in my wake.
I continued my stroll around Ubud ignoring the people squeezing their noses to block my veggie odour, and turned into a quiet little street paved with slabs of concrete in which tourists had written their name. One slab in particular caught my attention. It said: Drink, Pray, Screw, A man’s quest for fulfillment. What an appropriate statement that was.