Thursday, 31 January 2013

Book Review: BALILICIOUS by Becky Wicks

Becky Wicks
Harper Collins
Read: January 22-24, 2013


From visiting ancient healers with cellphone additions to leaving a shaking ashram intent on extracting her soul, Becky Wicks soon discovered that six months travelling round Bali wasn’t all going to be about finding inner peace and harmony. In fact, the perils of possessed teens, eating raw, yogic headstands, diving shipwrecks and dicing with black magic and demons all took their toll on the Island of the Gods.

And that was before the vaginal steaming.

Becky Wicks lifts the sarong on real life in Bali in a blur of locals, tourists, expats and the others with Julia Roberts Syndrome, who arrive… you know… not really knowing who they are.”

My thoughts:

I won a free copy of Balilicious from the Reading Room, and with perfect timing it arrived in my mailbox two days before I was due to board a plane -to Bali! What better opportunity than to read about Becky Wicks' Bali experiences "on location" so to speak. In fact, I am writing this review whilst gently swinging into a hammock on Gili T, where some of Becky Wicks' memoir is based.

Okay, enough of my travels and back to the book: Balilicious is in no way a travel guide a la Lonely Planet style, but rather reads like Becky's travel blog, complete with photos. Hence the subtitle "The Bali Diaries". Readers of Becky Wicks' earlier book "Burqualicious" will probably be familiar with the style - I haven't read it yet, but was granted a preview of a couple of chapters at the end of this book.

In Balilicious, Becky Wicks tells about her personal experiences and adventures whilst spending six months living on the small Indonesian island of Bali. Mainly based in the beautiful mountain town of Ubud, Wicks also explored other parts of the island (such as Kuta, Legian, Ahmed, Lovina and Padang Bai), as well as Sengiggi and the Gili Islands, which are part of Lombok but only a short two-hour fast boat trip away from Bali. Not being afraid to throw herself into new experiences, Wicks’ travel adventures feature activities most of us may never even contemplate – such as a “shaking workshop” in the mountains, a session of vaginal steaming (the mind boggles) and colonic irrigation (as you surely all do when on holidays?). As you can see, Wicks’ diary explores topics you will never find in your average travel guide, but some that may be very pertinent for the woman traveller – the problem of getting affordable tampax in Bali, for example, or where to find strong, good-looking male divers. For the more adventurous spirit, there is always the hunt for evil spirits on a moonlit night in a cemetery on Gili T – hmmmm, I thought about it, but decided to give it a miss. It was a spooky place even in daylight.

Wicks writes with the sort of wry, often self-deprecating humour which appeals to me immensely. Her observations are astute, her comments often laugh-out-loud funny, and she gives everything and everyone the benefit of the doubt. Wicks tends not to pass any judgment without backing it up with facts – she mentions her contempt for journalists who don’t do their homework and jump to misleading conclusions, and she obviously lives by her principles. A lot of the chapters are full of fascinating background information about Bali and its culture, so even if you’ve never been there yourself, you should get something out of reading this book. For me, of course, the best fun was to visit some of the places Wicks describes so vividly, although I passed on most of the activities she so eagerly participated in (call me a chicken).

By briefly touching on the clash between Western culture, tourism and Balinese spirituality and culture, Wicks shows that the popular tourist locations featured in the book do not typify the whole of Bali – although reading about some of the more extreme places, people and activities described in the book the reader may be lead to believe that Bali is a tourist mecca which has totally lost its way. One should therefore be careful to read this book for its entertainment value rather than viewing it as a travel guide.

All in all, I really enjoyed Wicks’ memoir and couldn’t help wondering which diveshop the “hot” diver belonged to as I casually cycled through the streets of Gili T. If, like myself, you have been to Bali before, you should get a few laughs out of Becky’s exploits and cries of: “Yes, exactly! I saw / felt / experienced that as well!” Such as Wicks’ Ubud Monkey Forest experience, which she introduces with:

“In the movie Eat, Pray, Love, Julia Roberts is shown cycling through a leafy jungle, smiling as the furry little monkeys sit quietly on the sidelines, looking cute. […] I hate to be the one to break the news but now that I’ve done it, I know for sure that Hollywood has lied to us.”

And ends with:

“[…] another group of monkeys had raced out of the forest and formed a threatening circle around me. As they stared at me their lips curled back en-masse to reveal razor sharp teeth. We stood there in a stand-off, like extras from Planet of the Apes.”

Yes, Becky, exactly! We too had to run for our lives, fending a rabid monkey off with our thongs (for the non-Australians, the footwear kind, not the underwear).

Balilicious is the ideal book for a light, fun read and a bit of girlie armchair travel. Better still, do as I did, book a ticket and read it over there – and see for yourself!

Namaste', Becky Wicks! :)

I read this book for the 2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge - category "Memoir".

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