Upon our return to Bali from the Gili Islands, we journeyed by bus to our last stop, the town of Ubud. I have never read or seen Eat, Pray, Love (and I never will), so I wasn't aware until arrival that the town was one of the key places visited. Suzanne had wanted to go, and wisely kept the above info to herself (she knows me too well...). Thus, I agreed that we could spend a couple of nights there during our honeymoon. Verdict - the town is overrated (think - an overly commercialized tourist trap, surrounded by verdant landscape), but the area isn't without its highlights.
If you're going to stay in Ubud, it'd be difficult to stay in a more central location than Puri Saraswati Bungalows, which I believe is owned by the royal family of Ubud. It's essentially next door or around the corner from the majority of Ubud proper's sights. Suzanne is posing in one of the major gateways within the hotel, connecting two different levels. We were on our way out to a top restaurant in Ubud, on our first night.
Mozaic is run by an American-born, French-raised chef, and just might be the most expensive restaurant in Bali, if not Indonesia. I was a bit under-dressed, obviously, but to my credit I hadn't counted on a $400 meal being part of my itinerary. ;-)
The lobby / lounge was exquisite, and their drinks were nice, albeit expensive.
You'll have to click on this photo to read the tasting menu that we chose (one of 4 offered).
Our table, extravagantly laid out.
One hallmark of a meal at Mozaic is that the principal ingredients used in each course are brought out before you dine. You're encouraged to pick them up to feel / smell / inspect.
This was our favorite course, which consisted of rabbit and foie gras. This would be my strongest lasting memory of the restaurant.
Let no one say the Balinese aren't hospitable.
The next day, we decided to dine much more cheaply... to the tune of US$3.00. Ibu Oka is a highly regarded suckling pig restaurant. All of the guidebooks will tell you to arrive early, since their supplies are limited, and the restaurant will close once the food runs out. Diners are seated on the floor, and the suckling pig isn't a whole pig (which I presumed would be the case, although the price seemed too good to be true - which it was).
A statue outside the royal palace.
This is Puri Saraswati, right next door to our hotel (hence the connected names). The lily pad pond is a great tourist come-on.
Suzanne wasn't as into Ubud as she thought she'd be, but liked this temple.
Next, we rested for a bit before going a few doors down to the Museum Puri Lukisan [Palace of Paintings]. The art here was primarily 20th century paintings, which greatly appealed to me, even if I lacked understanding of the finer points of Balinese Hindu legends, represented in such paintings as this.
This painting detail looks like an animation cell.
This painting is considered one of the premier highlights of the museum. It depicts a Balinese market. Unfortunately, it's faded due to light exposure. This painting and the one above are done by different artists, though the style is almost identical.
Suz (who's in the background) clued me in to this caterpillar's existence, just outside the museum.
The Dark Knight Rises came out in theaters a few days after we arrived, but it had already found its way to DVD on the streets of Ubud. Apropos = the shooting was front page news in Indonesia, due in part to the fact that some of the victims (who survived) were Indonesian. Small world.
On our last day in Indonesia, we had a few hours to kill before making our afternoon flight to Taiwan. We decided to visit the Bali Reptile Park. Unfortunately, to visit the Reptile Park, you also had to buy a ticket to the Bird Park next door. The Reptile Park was all I wanted to see, and used to be US$10, but now that they force you into buying the combination ticket, I had to shell out US$30 each. This irked me to no end, primarily because I had budgeted every last rupiah (local currency). ANYWAYS - I was surprised that the Reptile Park had saltwater crocodiles, but I was even MORE surprised that the holding pen fences were so low that a child could reach over and put himself in mortal danger... as I watched a group of French children do.
There are few animals on earth that I find truly scary, but the saltwater crocodile is most definitely one of them. I got this photo by lowering my camera into the holding pen, at an admittedly less-than-safe distance. Off topic - I'm pretty good about confronting my fears head on. ;-)
This is what we came to see: a Komodo dragon, which are obviously native to Komodo Island in Indonesia (east of Lombok, although tricky to get to). Unlike the crocs, this giant reptile was moving about pretty actively.
Since we had paid for it (grrrrr), we went inside the Bird Park as well.
There were birds from all over the world, obviously including Indonesia.
This giant specimen was a surprising sight. The sound of his flapping wings was rather loud.
Alas, all good things had to come to an end. This is one of my last photos from the honeymoon. If and when we return to Indonesia, we hope to visit other islands, such as Sumatra, Borneo, and Sulawesi. With over 16,000 islands, you're bound to find something you like in Indonesia.
Coming up next = odds and ends, plus the recovery of presumed-lost Athens photos (!!!). Stay tuned.