Bali has been home to Janet DeNeefe – ‘The Queen of Ubud’ as she is fondly nicknamed – for over 20 years. It’s hard not to fall in love with this one-woman-powerhouse and founder of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.
Janet is at once humble, inspiring, refreshingly witty, and has a quiet confidence drawn from her life’s experience that would render lesser mortals supremely arrogant. Author, artist, literary festival director, restaurateur, wife, mother, and practicing Hindu, Janet chats with us about her real-life Eat, Pray, Love story and teaches us that magic really can be achieved through persistence, passion, patience, a sense of humour, and an unwavering faith in the tenacity of the human spirit.
Originally from Melbourne, Janet says love is what made her want to stay in this emerald island. She met her husband after her second visit to Bali in 1984 and pretty well never left after that. Moreover, Janet fell in love with the food and the culture that make up the richness of her newfound home. Three decades later, she is in awe of the pleasure that comes with driving through the countryside of the island as she passes innumerable hills, rice fields and small villages along the road. In exchange, her unstoppable exploration has rewarded her with countless opportunities to try local food like she had never imagined before.
Although Janet acknowledges that sometimes is quite dangerous to drive through Bali’s roads, she claims that the island is a safe place. While living in Ubud, she has witnessed her community to be a source of safety as they look out for each other. In addition, the people surrounding her, along with the ceremonies and other local activities have led Janet to stop and meditate on the beauty of life. Such experience has made Janet come to understand that the people closest to her are the most precious and important.
The years have passed and Janet has absorbed the essence of Bali as a native. She has four children who are as obsessed about food as she is, which has taken them to explore new places around Ubud and Seminyak. Like any young people, Janet’s children like to go to the beach and to the movies. Janet says that joining community activities, and a friendly and generous personality are the key factors that will make life in Bali successful for anyone coming from outside.
Janet DeNeefe, the Founder & Director of Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, is a Melbourne-born artist, author and restaurateur who has lived in Bali for nearly three decades. Her memoir Fragrant Rice charts her love affair with Balinese food, culture and traditions. Her latest book is Bali: Food of My Island Home. Janet began the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival as a healing project in response to the first Bali bombing, with the aim of bringing Indonesian and international writers together on a world stage. She is also the owner of Casa Luna, Indus and Bar Luna restaurants in Ubud. DeNeefe is also the director of the new Ubud Food Festival.
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