Bali has become almost synonymous with paradise. When I dream of paradise, it is rarely 90 degrees with 100 percent humidity, but apparently I am unique that way. What do people do in Bali? Not sure, but they seem to like it. I guess it is one of those beachy places where you lay around doing very little and eating. I really love the eating part, but I go out of my mind without anything to do for more than a day. So, here are some pictures of how we entertained ourselves.
Entrance gates to almost everything in Bali, including the beaches, look like this. They are much more impressive than a doorway. And they keep tons of craftsmen employed.
Bali does have a good selection of really big spiders. Tara got scared of each and every one.
We spent most of our time in Bali in the city of Ubud. Nearby is the Elephant Cave, a cave that has been carved and used as a place of worship for Buddhists and Hindus. The inside is much less impressive (with a small elephant god, Ganesh), but the outside is nice. Bali artists love the little details.
Shorts are not acceptable for temples for men or women. So, I got to wear this nice sarong. Am I naked underneath? Wouldn't you like to know.
This lizard was too yellow-bellied to fight me. I'm sure that at least my siblings will laugh at that. Ubud has a lot of these cute little guys.
Bali really likes to give its statues skirts. Even in the middle of the forest, we came upon these carved statues that had an old skirt on them. We checked--nothing obscene is hidden under the skirt.
Bali is also famous for its rice paddies. Rice paddies are amazingly green from afar, but are essentially swamps up close. Working in a rice paddy current ranks very low for me on the list of possible employment.
Garuda is a mythical bird that is a bit like a giant eagle. The Hindu gods of Bali can ride Garuda (in India, Garuda does not get ridden, I don't think, though the gods are the same). Garuda is also the national airline of Indonesia, which flies like a giant eagle except when it crashes, which seems to happen more often than an eagle crashes.
One of the temples near Ubud has one of the world's largest drums. It is made of tin, and is said to have come crashing down from heaven. So, it falls from the sky and is fine, but then it fell about 10 feet during an earthquake and cracked in two. Makes it sound a bit less divine to me.
All the temples have guardians, normally right next to the temple as well as at the outside gates. Many are ogre-like or crazy animals. I was fond of these giant, moss-covered elephant-pig things.
Look, another spider! He looks so friendly!
Bali seems to have somewhat of a contest among towns to produce the most ridiculously large Hindu-inspired statue. This is the one outside Ubud, which is perhaps 70 feet tall. Even small, poor villages will have a massive statue like this. Big towns have them everywhere.
We couldn't take pictures inside the big art museum, but they had some nice flowers in their lake.
Hey, look at that, we did take a picture in the museum where we couldn't take pictures! This one tells the story of a monkey who is trying to escape a tiger and asks a turtle to ride on its back to escape. The turtle kindly agrees to help the monkey, at which point the monkey and the tiger barbecue the turtle and turn it into satay. You might be able to see the monkey eating little sticks of turtle meat.
From Bali, we flew to Flores, where we made the town Labuan Bajo our base. It is a terrible town with only awful hotels and many people out to rip you off. The activities and natural beauty, however, are really magnificent. Indonesia has about 13,000 islands. We have seen about 20 of them, but the vast majority are tiny and look a lot like this one.
The main attraction in this part of the world is Komodo dragons, the giant, ancient lizards that have a ferocious reputation. The dragons actually live on two islands: Komodo (shocking, I know) and Rinca. We visited Rinca, which is a bit less touristy. Though the island has 1000 dragons, they are solitary creatures, so you don't normally see huge crowds of them.
Unless they smell food. The ranger camp has a kitchen that attracts many dragons most days. They have a no feeding policy, but the dragons still come to the smell of food. They tolerate other dragons well as long as they are about the same size--too much smaller and they will eat the other dragon.
It looks so cute when resting, but the mouth is filled with deadly bacteria. One bite and you will almost certainly die from the bacterial infection. Our guide knew a guide who was bitten by a baby and lived with the help of lots of IV antibiotics because the bacteria was not yet as potent in the baby.
Run, you coward, run! I ran after this one trying to get a good picture, but he was afraid of me. Sure, the guide guessed that he smelled food in the direction he was running, but I know he was just scared of me.
Komodo dragons hunt buffalo, among other things. They will try to bite the buffalo, then it takes a few weeks for the bacterial infection to kill it, then they eat it. Most animals they can kill outright, but the buffalo has skin that is too thick. I asked how often they attack buffaloes, and the guide replied that an adult dragon will try to get one almost every day, but it rarely works.
Those dragons have some nice views!
This is probably as close as we will ever be to a Komodo dragon. This was in mid afternoon when they were sleeping in the sun, but I still look a bit worried.
Long-tailed macaques are also common, and a tasty snack for Komodos. The monkeys forage in the open so that they can see any dragons coming.
Baby Komodo dragons immediately climb a tree so that they are not eaten by other dragons. They spend most of their first three of four years of life there before becoming too heavy to climb. This one was on the ground, but actually was scared of us and ran up a tree when we came towards it.
We did a lot of scuba diving in Komodo National Park waters, and it was really terrific. However, we have no pictures of it. Probably the best were the dozens of giant manta rays swimming in the waters, which feel like small airplanes going overhead. The coral is also some of the best in the world. We leave you with some dolphins, which we never saw diving, but saw from the dive boat a few times.
Just kidding about leaving you with dolphins. Here's the sun setting on our time in Flores.
More Indonesia to come!