Since the very beginning of our relationship, I’ve been hearing stories from John about magical Bali. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical. I’m not sure why–I guess I just imagined it being pretty touristy, overrun by ladies hoping to relive Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love experience. We flew in after dark and drove north about an hour and a half or so to Ubud, the cultural center of the island, where we checked into our beautiful hotel and scarfed down a couple of late night BLTs (yes, they tasted fantastic). When we woke up the next morning, we drew open the curtains to reveal a view of an infinity pool overlooking rice paddies. Then I started to get it. Bali was capturing me, too.
When we were planning our time in Bali, we were a little dismayed to find pretty much everything booked up. Later on we learned that Australian school holidays coincided with our visit. But as we scrambled to find a hotel, we stumbled upon a new place that had one room left. It was over our budget, but it seemed like an ideal honeymoon-type place, so we decided to splurge a bit. And it was pretty much everything we could have hoped for–intimate, romantic, and those breakfasts! Our first morning we were pleasantly surprised to discover that a HUGE breakfast was included in the price of the room. We were handed breakfast menus consisting of five courses, with choices to make for each course. After we ordered coffee (me), tea (John), juice (both), fruit platter (me), fruit salad (John), bread basket (both), muesli and yogurt (me), banana pancakes (both), poached eggs and hash browns (both), bacon (John), the waitress stood there expectantly until we ashamedly said, “That’s all.” Every morning in Ubud I ate like it was Thanksgiving day and then waddled out of the dining area vowing that the next day I wouldn’t gorge myself again. But they had homemade fruit jams (kiwi, mango, papaya, banana), fresh chocolate croissants, and the best poached eggs we’ve ever eaten. It was too much to resist!
We found it difficult to tear ourselves away from the hotel–it was so peaceful and relaxing–but we did wander into the heart of Ubud several times. Ubud is small and quaint and full of seemingly ancient, mossy, crumbling, Hindu temples. As we walked we had to be careful not to step on the floral offerings that were everywhere–the Balinese set out these beautiful, little offerings each morning to thank the good spirits and appease the evil ones.
In central Ubud we explored the Monkey Forest, where the feisty monkeys (yes, they look peaceful here!) got a little closer than I was comfortable with.
We also took a 25km bike tour, which we can’t call exercise since we coasted downhill the entire way, starting at the top of a mountain in Kintamani and ending back near Ubud. Along the way we stopped at a coffee farm to taste civet coffee.
Civets apparently love eating coffee berries, and they’re known for picking the very best of the berries, but the beans inside the berries pass through the civets’ digestive systems intact, although somewhat altered by their stomach enzymes. These beans are then collected and used to make coffee, which in Bali is generally considered to be the most flavorful, smoothest-tasting coffee. You can see I was a little more apprehensive about the experience than John was. I couldn’t help but think about the fact that we were drinking coffee that had been collected from civet droppings. It tasted good, but it was strong!
We also took a long walk one day to explore the rice paddies behind our hotel. I’m not quite sure why, but there’s something about rice paddies that is very romantic, which seems to conflict with the incredibly hard work it takes to farm rice, which in Bali is all tended and harvested by hand.
Ducks apparently love to paddle around in the rice paddies. We loved the cotton ball feathers on the top of the white duck’s head–we’ve never seen plumage like that before!
As John will write in his next post, after a blissful, real-honeymoon-like week we left Ubud to head north to Lovina, stopping along the way at a couple of temples. We were asked to wrap sarongs around our legs when entering the temple complexes as a sign of respect. At the first temple we visited, the Temple of the Fallen Moon, I snapped one of my absolute favorite pictures of the trip–when John and the man who drove us north, Bobi, took a moment to admire the temple. Those two became best buds, laughing together up front as they discovered their mutual love of rock music, while I snoozed in the backseat.