Luxury Trips Inspired by the Memoir By Khristy Choo
In 2006, Elizabeth Gilbert published Eat, Pray, Love, a memoir chronicling her life and travels as she grapples with the emotional roller-coaster of her divorce. Her journey of self-discovery through Italy, India, and Indonesia resonated with a wide audience, selling over 10 million copies and was adapted into a motion picture starring Julia Roberts. Here we delve into her travel experiences that inspired each category of her book, and reveal other Eat, Pray, Love-inspired trips you can go on your next vacation.
Gilbert sets off in search of gastronomic pleasures in a country renowned for its flavourful, unpretentious, taste bud tantalising cuisine: Italy. Readers are right next to her at a table at Pizzeria da Michele, as she savors each bite of melted mozzarella on a bed of thin, homemade crust baked to perfection, and declares her love for it. Her culinary adventures continue at Il Gelato di San Crispino, where she frequented up to three times a day, having discovered the pure bliss that may be found in a cone topped with the creamy frozen dessert. Throughout her time spent travelling in Italy, food was the central and prevalent theme, and in the process, she rediscovered her appetite and love for food and life.
If it’s a top-notch culinary experience you’re after, the Kyoto Kitcho Arashiyama in Japan is where you should be headed to next. Starting out with the opening of the first restaurant back in 1930, this family-run establishment is now a three-Michelin-star restaurant under the watchful eye of executive chef Tokuoka Kunio. Embodying everything we know and love about Japanese cuisine – the fresh, aromatic fusion of flavours, well-thought-out and meticulously prepared using carefully selected seasonal ingredients and plated to perfection, this famed restaurant is a haven for food enthusiasts. All courses are by advance reservation only, and they also offer a Chef’s “Omakase”’ Course, their finest personalised full-course menu showcasing ingredients recommended by the chef, and prepared to perfection in your room. Expect to pay from US$1,200 and above for two for an unparalleled dining experience (https://kyoto-kitcho.com).
The Amanemu Resort is located within the Ise-Shima National Park and sports remarkable views of the surrounding landscape, the perfect sanctuary for those who desire time away to reconnect with themselves and nature. Featuring a contemporary take on traditional Japanese ryokan style, the resort uses natural materials like woven textiles and large timber shutters to exude a sense of tranquility and classic elegance throughout. The two-bedroom Nagi Villa guarantees you a relaxing and nourishing stay, as you’ll wake up to panoramic views of Ago Bay’s verdant islets and pearl rafts, and enjoy private onsen facilities, drawing mineral-rich water from nearby hot springs. From over US$4,500 per night (www.aman.com/resorts/amanemu).
Next, Gilbert wanders in pursuit of enlightenment and meditation, and she lands in India, a country rooted in spirituality and tradition. She spends her time there living in an ashram, and encounters people along the way who inspire and encourage her journey of discovery and mindfulness. While she never reveals the exact place she lived at throughout the four months, this portion of the movie was filmed at the Ashram Harimandir Sanskrit Mahavidyalya in Haryana. Whether you intend on embarking on a journey similar to Gilbert’s, or if you are simply keen on discovering a little more of a country’s culture and religious history, Yangon, the spiritual heart of Myanmar, is a destination that should be added to your list. While there are many temples, pagodas, and monasteries all over the country, a testament to their strong religious influences, no visit is complete without a trip to the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, where eight of Buddha’s hairs are said to be enshrined. The magnificent structure itself will leave you in awe – the over 2,500-year-old building is 105 meters high, and its crown is tipped with over 5,000 diamonds and 2,000 rubies.
The historic Strand Hotel, which opened its doors in 1901, once hosted the likes of Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell, and is listed on the Yangon City Heritage List. The three-story mansion still remains true to its architectural past, with its Victorian influences evident in its design and furnishings. The snazzy Strand Suite features its own private sitting room and dining area with a personal butler service to ensure you have a smooth sailing and memorable stay. Depending on the season, rates per night can go from US$700 and above (www.hotelthestrand.com/).
If peace and tranquillity is what you are seeking, another exotic destination is the Maldives. Comprising a chain of 26 atolls, this tropical nation in the Indian Ocean never fails to captivate all travellers due to its unique elite-yet-humble identity. To create a truly memorable stay at Maldives, plan a visit to Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives. In 2018, this luxury Maldivian eco-resort introduced a revolutionary wellness programme featuring residencies by leading international wellness practitioners Jody Shield and Chloe Brotheridge.
Meditation guide, inspirational speaker, writer and intuitive mentor Jody Shield will be on the island from 22 August – 1 September 2018. Jody is fast becoming a household name amongst London’s high-fliers as the go-to healer to solve all manner of modern woes, as well as supporting people to process their past, present and to build a life they truly love. She will be helping Gili Lankanfushi’s guests to switch off, to clear emotional debt and to restore their energy abundance through meditation, mindfulness and her transformative LifeTonic classes. One-on-one private sessions will be offered exclusively to the island’s guests, whilst audio guided meditations in the villas will help them to make the most of the island’s serene surroundings.
Another featured international wellness residency of the year will be hypnotherapist, anxiety expert and bestselling author Chloe Brotheridge. Chloe will be leading hypnotherapy workshops on the island for guests from 10 – 17 November 2018, to help with issues including anxiety, confidence and sleep problems. Chloe will also be offering a talk on the Anxiety Solution, her practical guide for women suffering from anxiety, to allow them to achieve a calmer life with a quieter mind. Guests looking to explore hypnotherapy on a deeper level can book in for one-on-one sessions with Chloe to work through deep-rooted emotional issues and make positive changes to negative thoughts, habits and behaviours.
Gilbert finishes off her year abroad in Indonesia, looking for a sense of balance between her two previous and wildly different travel experiences. Ubud, Bali was the perfect setting for that, and she spent her time taking in the sights, sampling delectable Balinese cuisine, and practicing yoga. In the process, she made peace with her past, and even found love as well. She wrote extensively about Ketut Liyer, a Balinese medicine man she had encountered in a previous trip, and one of the main reasons for her return, and looked up to him as a spiritual master, prompting fans of both the book and movie to also travel there on their own journeys of self discovery.
Bali presents the best of both worlds, and is a destination worth visiting for a well-rounded vacation. It is known for its lively nightlife, but also offers a contrast with its laid back beaches where you can swim, surf, relax in the sun and live out the tropical island dream. Base yourself at the AYANA villa, where, priced from US$8,800 per night, you can look forward to having a private plunge pool, jacuzzi and garden terrace, enjoy sunset views from your sunbeds and Balinese pavilions, with indoor and outdoor showers and personalized butler service on hand (www.ayana.com/bali/the-villas-ayana). You could start off the day with a yoga or meditation session, take in the beautiful rice paddy scene at Tegalalang Rice Terraces before lunch, followed by trekking or sunbathing at Kubu Beach, a private beach exclusively for AYANA guests, and catch a breathtaking sunset at Tanah Lot towards the end of the day.
If, like Gilbert, you desire time away from the chaos of city and everyday life, consider going on a wellness retreat in Bali. Fivelements offers healing retreats, and their signature program, the Panca Mahabhuta (five elements) Retreat uses a holistic integrative approach incorporating traditional Balinese healing massages, reflexology treatments, yoga and meditation sessions, and gourmet healing cuisine designed to tune in on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels of the individual, making way for an organic healing process to naturally take place. Retreats are from three nights and above, with multiple options offered to suit your availability, and priced at over US$22,000 for two people for the longest package of 21 nights (www.fivelements.org/en/).