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In Ubud: not much to eat, lots of prayer, no love

Once bursting with tourists, Bali's spiritual capital looks like a ghost town

Fifteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and 15 years after his first visit, writer and photographer Ian Lloyd Neubauer returned to the Balinese tourist town of Ubud to see how it has fared.  

UBUD, Indonesia -- My first visit to Ubud, in 2006, coincided with the launch of "Eat, Pray, Love," the bestselling memoir of an American traveler, Elizabeth Gilbert, who finds inner peace and love in this idyllic temple town set in the river valleys of central Bali. A place of moss-grown Hindu temples, winding alleys, lush green rice paddies and hidden waterfalls, Ubud was as enchanting as the book suggested.

Coupled with a Hollywood blockbuster ("Eat Pray Love," 2010), the story helped turn Ubud, long known to locals as the spiritual capital of Bali, into one of the world's wellness travel capitals. Backpackers, yogis, hippies, foodies, travel writers, billionaires, movie stars, rock stars, presidents -- they all came to Ubud.

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