Real Honeymoon: Anna & Akshay
in Bali

Honeymoons & Destination Weddings
Bali Honeymoon Photos - Munduk Waterfall

Photo: Courtesy of Anna Maltby

After our heavenly wedding at the Bronx Zoo on September 29, my new husband Akshay and I hopped a flight to Jakarta, Indonesia. (Wow, that makes it sound so easy—when in reality we spent 16 cramped hours flying to Hong Kong, then another I-don't-even-remember-how-long connecting to Jakarta. Exhausting!) We spent four nights in the beautiful Hotel Mulia in Jakarta, but we don't really consider that leg of he trip part of our "official" honeymoon; Akshay was there for a conference, and I spent most of that time reading and recovering from jet lag all by my lonesome. And I can't provide many Jakarta travel tips other than that the traffic is terrifying, and you definitely should not try to walk anywhere!

But then we took a short flight to the gorgeous island of Bali. Full disclosure: I honestly didn't know much about Bali before we decided to go there; Akshay's business trip to Jakarta came up at just the right time and we realized Bali was a logical honeymoon destination super-close to Jakarta, so we went for it! I worked with a wonderful travel agent, Diane Embree of Bali Barong Tours, who helped me plan the perfect itinerary, hassle-free. (And I'll admit it: I totally read Eat, Pray, Love to get ready for the trip!)

At the airport in Denpasar, we were met by our guide for the week, Oka (that's him below). He and our driver took us to our hotel in Ubud, a bustling village in the interior of the island (about an hour's drive from the beach at Denpasar) known for its skilled artists and craftsmen. We were a little surprised at how crowded the island was—the traffic wasn't at Jakarta levels, but it was still pretty nuts!—but when we pulled into the driveway for our hotel, we instantly felt better.

Bali Honeymoon Photos - Ubud Airport

Photo: Courtesy of Anna Maltby

We stayed at Komaneka Monkey Forest, one of the most beautiful, quiet, serene places I've ever been. It's part of a small chain of hotels in the area, and a shuttle provides transit between locations—guests are able to make use of the pools, restaurants and spas at any Komaneka location. That was pretty awesome because the pool at Komaneka Bisma was seriously the most incredible pool I've ever seen. I never wanted to leave!

Bali Honeymoon Photos - Komaneka Monkey Forest Bali Honeymoon Photos - Komaneka Bisma Pool

Photo: Courtesy of Anna Maltby

Our first full day in Bali, we went rafting on the Ayung River and took a one-hour elephant ride through the jungle at A True Balinese Experience. I have to say, I was pretty terrified to go rafting—I'd never done it!—but it turned out to be one of our absolute favorite parts of the trip. The river was gorgeous, and we got to see monkeys and jump out of the raft to go swimming in a waterfall.

Bali Honeymoon Photos - Elephant Ride with A True Balinese Experience Bali Honeymoon Photos - Elephant Ride with A True Balinese Experience Bali Honeymoon Photos - Kayaking Ayung River Bali Honeymoon Photos - Swimming in Waterfall

Photo: Courtesy of Anna Maltby

That night, we went to a performance of the traditional Balinese kecak dance. It's a pretty clearly only-for-tourists attraction at this point, but it was totally worth it. The dance, particularly the "trance dance" at the end, where a male dancer goes into a religious trance and the spirits supposedly protect him against the fire he's dancing inside (yes, that's right!), was very memorable.

Bali Honeymoon Photos - Kecak Coir Trance Dance

Photo: Courtesy of Anna Maltby

The next day, Oka picked us up and we drove out to the Munduk countryside, where we trekked through the breathtaking terraced rice fields, through orchards of clove trees, and around awe-inspiring waterfalls. Then, we went to Puri Lumbung Cottages, an adorable eco-tourism hotel, where we took a lesson in Balinese cooking—another of my favorite experiences from the trip. On our way home, we fed monkeys and visited a small factory where Balinese women make ikat and batik fabrics, and purchased a few garments for ourselves.

Bali Honeymoon Photos - Munduk Countryside Bali Honeymoon Photos - Making Corn Fritters Bali Honeymoon Photos - Meeting Monkeys

Photo: Courtesy of Anna Maltby

We donned those traditional Balinese clothes in the morning, and Oka took us to a beautiful temple called Pura Tirta Empul, where we participated in a Balinese Hindu purification ceremony. Later, we visited a Balinese healer (Eat, Pray, Love fans will be familiar with the concept), who performed some quite painful but extremely effective reflexology on us and Oka. I'd been feeling quite carsick after so much time traveling from place to place on the island, and after just a few minutes of the healer intensely poking, prodding and squeezing my feet and legs, I felt better immediately. (Though maybe the pain just distracted me!)

Bali Honeymoon Photos - Balinese Hindu Purification Ceremony Bali Honeymoon Photos - Traditional Garb

Photo: Courtesy of Anna Maltby

On our last full day in Ubud, we went on a cycling excursion starting around the Kintamani/Batur area of Bali (again, via A True Balinese Experience). We got to see a few small villages, including a traditional Balinese family compound—where, I kid you not, we met a monkey and a puppy who were best friends—and lots of up-close farmland.

Bali Honeymoon Photos - Biking in Kintamani/Batur Bali Honeymoon Photos - Monkey and Puppy Best Friends Bali Honeymoon Photos - Farmland

Photo: Courtesy of Anna Maltby

The next day, we packed up and hit the road with Oka and our driver. On our way to the beach in Seminyak, we visited the Badung market in Denpasar. This place was crazy! It's a four-story complex filled to the brim with vendors selling fresh fish, meats, vegetables, fruits, spices, clothing, jewelry, housewares, and pretty much anything else you could ever want. It actually reminded me of a more rustic version of the Whole Foods in New York City's Union Square—a place so overwhelmingly bustling and crowded that I almost never actually make it out of there having made a successful purchase. Still, Badung was interesting, and I stuck it out even with the crowds and the pungent fish smell.

Later, we visited a famous temple called Pura Tanah Lot. It's an absolute must-see—the temple sits on a giant rock just off the shore, and during low tide you can walk from the beach to the rock, but during high tide the rock becomes a tiny island. It's very popular to visit the temple during sunset, but even in the middle of the day, the setting and view were gorgeous.

Bali Honeymoon Photos - Pura Tanah Temple

Photo: Courtesy of Anna Maltby

That afternoon, we checked in at our private villa (!) with a private pool (!!!) at The Elysian in Seminyak. Ok, if I'm being totally forthright, I have to say that Seminyak wasn't my favorite place in the world. People say you don't go to Bali for the beach, and now I get what they mean—it's not that the beach isn't beautiful (it definitely is!); it's just that it generally feels like a beach anywhere else in the world, and the interior of Bali is so incredible that it seems like a bit of a waste to be there without making the most of it. However, our time in Ubud had been so active that it definitely was nice to spend a few days just lounging and eating and drinking.

Bali Honeymoon Photos - Elysian Pool

Photo: Courtesy of Anna Maltby

Seminyak is a fairly fancy resort town (lots of high-end boutiques and luxury hotels), and we found ourselves a little bit put off by the see-and-be-seen crowd at some of the well-known beach clubs, like Ku De Ta and Potato Head. Still, those were amazing places to watch the sunset over the ocean, something you definitely can't do at home in NYC. And we discovered what might be one of our favorite restaurants in the entire world, La Lucciola, an open-air Italian restaurant overlooking the beach. We actually ditched our reservations at another restaurant one night just so we could go back to La Lucciola! (If you go, definitely get the risotto. It feels a little weird to chow down on something so rich and carby when it's hot and you're at the beach, but just go with it.)

Bali Honeymoon Photos - Sunset from Potato Head

Photo: Courtesy of Anna Maltby

By the time we left, I think it's safe to say that we'd drunk the Bali Kool-Aid—I came to be fascinated by and enamored of the people, the culture and the customs. I actually miss the food to this day! Speaking of which, a few enthusiastic restaurant recommendations:

UBUD

Cafe Wayan: A wonderful place to get all the traditional dishes—including my favorite, nasi goreng (fried rice). We also discovered the magic of their banana daiquiris. I think we may have worn out the bartender's blender.

Babi Guling Ibu Oka: Though it's part of a Muslim nation, Bali itself is Hindu—and their signature dish is roast suckling pig (AKA babi guling). They start cooking the meat in tasty spices in the morning, so the best time to eat it is at lunch, when it's still hot and fresh. This was one of our favorite meals the entire trip!

Three Monkeys: If you get sick of Indonesian food, the pizza here is tasty!

SEMINYAK

Ku De Ta: It's right on the beach, and if you get there at the right time you can even snag a comfy lounge to recline on. The drinks are a little pricey (they tend to be that way throughout Bali, though), but the food is delicious. Great for lunch and for watching the sunset.

La Lucciola: I'm still dreaming of the risotto here, but everything we had was delicious (especially the soft-shell crab appetizer we ordered at the bar while waiting for a table!). Frolicking in the ocean together after sharing a bottle of wine wasn't too shabby, either.

—Anna Maltby

Read more about Anna's wedding planning and inspiration here.

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