Ubud city – Ubud Palace, Pura Saraswati and Museum Pura Lukisan

Our first day in Ubud we decided to take it easy and explore Ubud city, after all, we weren’t entirely sure how little Farah would hold up.

I purchased the Deuter Kid Carrier on an impulse and it was really very useful navigating the uneven and dangerous paths.

Located at the North of Ubud is a collection of temples some which have been incorporated into the grounds of the modern Ubud Palace and Ubud Museum.

Ubud Palace

The unsigned palace is a small section of the palace courtyard open to the public, exploring the grounds gave us a taste of Balinese architecture, multi tiered roofs with mythical creatures all wearing a traditional Sarong, which normally covers the temple  visitor’s bare legs.

Pura Saraswati

From the courtyard of Ubud Palace we continue to wander around the area, we stumbled into some unknown temples there were across the road which may have been the local village’s private temple, a sight we realised was quite common throughout Ubud.

We headed back to the main road and passed Pura Desa temple, which even though we couldn’t enter was very impressive from afar, with its meticulously kept gardens.

Next door to Pura Desa is the entrance to Pura Saraswati, an unusuality  is the Starbucks coffee at the entrance, which though it isn’t great to see at a temple, does a good job of blending in.

Pura Saraswait’s entrance is a central walkway past ponds of lotus flowers and made for some nice photos. Inside the upper temple’s level was many mini temples and shrines, some with mythical creates adorning them.

Ubud Museum

Ubud Museum’s entrance is another converted temple, Puri Lukisan, once past the entrance there is meticulous gardens with ponds and water features. We spent a while exploring the grounds and the small scattered buildings on the garden’s outskirts that housed artwork.

At the end we took a break with a complimentary cold drink.

Tehran – the capital of Iran

We caught a bus from Esfahan to Tehran (the Iranian public-transport system is beautiful), our main goal in Tehran were Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan visas, we arrived on Sizdah Bedar (Getting rid of the Thirteenth) which is the thirteenth day of Nowruz (new day) and is celebrated by families heading outdoors and enjoying picnics, this meant that everything was closed, or as we know it, a public holiday.

Sharhr Park and Darband

For Sizdah Bedar we decided to join the Persians outdoors and headed to Shahr Park. On the way we started to notice a further Sizdah Bedar tradition, cars and even motorbikes attached a clump of Sabzeh (green sprouts) which had been growing since the start of the new year, on the thirteenth day these plants are thrown-out, supposedly along with any bad karma collected when growing.

While relaxing on a park bench we decided to visit Darband neighbourhood to hike the popular Alborz mountain range. The hike was quite strange, the whole path up was littered with restaurants, all begging for business, there were small grocery shops that sold drinks and snacks, and many men selling fruit (strawberries, cherries, apricots, etc) in a red syrup that we had to try. About half way along the track, Sonya decided it was time to turn around and head back, we stopped for lunch of kebab and rice (very common Persian food) at one of the many restaurants.

The next day when everything was back to ‘normal’, we decided with the loss of one day, we now should extend our Iran visas just in case, little did we know we actually required a lot more time anyway.  To our dismay, at the visa extension office we found out this would take a further four days. During the next few days we visited the following;

Motorbike with clump of Sabzeh (green sprouts)Many fruits in syrupSonya and Travis at Alborz mountain range
Alborz mountain rangeAlborz mountain rangeRiver flowing through the Alborz mountain range
Restaurants located along the river and hiking trailDucks near the riverMeat kebab and rice (a popular Iranian dish)

Treasury of National Jewels

The national jewels museum houses Iran’s priceless jewels and gold artefacts, mostly from the Safavid Persian period. Largest jewellery collection in the world, highlights include the Darya-i-Noor Diamond, the largest cut pink diamond at 182 carats (the new largest uncut pink diamond was recently found in an Australian mine), Peacock Throne (Naderi Throne) covered in gold and encrusted with 26,733 jewels and the gemstone globe.

National Museum of Iran

The National Museum of Iran houses a collection of artefacts from archaeological sites in Iran, a large portion found in Persepolis.

Interesting items included intricate ceramic and metal animal sculptures, a marble bust statue,  stones bearing trilingual inscriptions and colourful mosaics and paintwork. The highlight was a large immaculate condition stone capital of two opposing bull heads removed from Persepolis.

Head of a statue (muza)Small metal statues, including that of Zeus, Hermes and AtenaSmall metal oil lamp of a goat like animal
Stone capital of two opposing bull heads removed from PersepolisStone capital of two opposing bull heads removed from PersepolisCeramic head with crown
Ceramic badge with Zoroastrian emblemPersian man holding lion removed from PersepolisHuman headed capital
Three lion forming some kind of holderEgyptian statue found in IranA ceramic bull figure oil lamp
Various metal animal figuresVarious metal arrow headsPainted animal figures on pottery

 Golestan Palace

Golestan Palace (originally the royal Qajar palace) is made up of a collection of several individual buildings, now all housing unique exhibitions.

Takht Marmar (Marble Throne) – a mirror-roomed terrace featuring an elaborate yellow-marble throne.

Hoze Khaneh – originally a summer room, now houses a number of European paintings.

Shams-ol-Emareh (Edifice of the Sun) – a four-tiered building designed to provide panoramic views from the upper storeys.

Negar Khaneh – originally designed as a museum hall, no houses a number of Iranian paintings.

Talar Berelian (Hall of Brilliance) – features an amazing use of mirrors and elaborate chandeliers.

Museum of Gifts – houses a large collection of gifts received by the Qajar kings, one of the highlights being a decorated ostrich egg.

Talar Salam (Reception Hall) – this large main hall, initially planned as a museum hall, was then converted to a reception hall for foreign guests and dignitaries.

Abyaze Palace – now houses an ethological display, I particularly liked the explanation of Khata, a micro-mosaic inlay work from wood which we had seen in the bazaars, and the dolls with traditional dress of different Persian ethnicities.

The Takht Marmar, the marble throne is visible in the distanceCarved marble demon part of the marble throneYellow-marble throne in the Takht Marmar
Mosaics of the Khalvat Karim Khani in Golestan PalaceThe Khalvat Karim Khani with relatively smaller marble throneCarved feline on one of the columns of the Khalvat Karim Khani
Beautiful mosaic ceiling of Khalvat Karim KhaniMosaic tiles and paintings in Khalvat Karim KhaniThe mosaic exterior wall of Negar Khaneh
One of a pair of lion statues at the entrance of the Talar SalamLooking away from the Talar Salam over the pond and gardensThe entrance to the Talar Salam
Meticulous, lush gardens of Golestan PalaceColourful painted tiles featuring a dragon and lion fightingBeautiful mosaics found on the walls in Golestan Palace
Sonya resting on a bench in Golestan Palace gardensMusicians painted on the tiles found in Golestan PalaceThe Emarat Badgir (Building of the Wind Towers) found in Golestan Palace
The Emarat Badgir (Building of the Wind Towers) found in Golestan PalaceThe Shams-ol-Emareh (Edifice of the Sun) found in Golestan PalaceThe Emarat Badgir (Building of the Wind Towers) found in Golestan Palace
Colourful pink and blue doors found in Golestan PalaceThe Talar Salam found in Golestan PalacePersian handicraft, intricate wooden mosaics

Niavaran Palace

The Niavaran Palace is where Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi spent the last years of his rule. Similar to the Golestan Palace, the Niavaran Palace is a collection of several buildings on the palace grounds;

Jahan-Nama Museum – housed a collection of local Iranian and foreign artwork, including pieces by Dali, Picasso and Warhol.

Sahebqraniyeh Palace – the oldest original building from the Qajar dynasty, last used as the Shah’s office. One of the interesting rooms was the personal dentist office, a room on the side of the main hall, had a dentist’s chair and all.

Niavaran Palace – the actual Niavaran Palace, a relatively modern plain building, has all original rooms, including private family bedrooms.

Ahmad-Shahi Pavilion – an attractive two-storey pink roofed building, houses an interesting collection of childhood possessions.

A piece by WarholA piece by DaliA piece by Picasso
A piece by DaliSahebqraniyeh Palace used as the last Shah's officeShah's private dentist room
Ahmad-Shahi PavilionAhmad-Shahi PavilionNiavaran Palace
Niavaran PalaceNiavaran PalaceStone sculpture outside Niavaran Palace

Azadi Tower (Borj-e Azadi)

Azadi Tower (Freedom Tower) situated to the west of the city is a well known symbol of Tehran and infamous as the site of many protests leading up to the Iranian Revolution. Based on elements of Sassanid and Islamic architecture, the forty-five metre structure is made from eight-thousand blocks of white marble stone.

Azadi Tower in Azadi SquareAzadi Tower visible on approaching TehranClose-up detail of Azadi Tower

US Den of Espionage (former United States Embassy)

The United States Embassy was the location where students held fifty-two American diplomats hostage for 444 days. After the incident the embassy closed down, but what remains along the main wall are anti-American murals, the American flag stripes painted as barbed-wire, the Statue of Liberty painted as a skull. The most memorable and in-your-face was a “Down with USA” painted sign visible as soon as you leave the metro towards the embassy.

Holy Shrine of Imam Khomeini

One of Iran’s holiest sites, the Holy Shrine is the resting place of His Holiness Imam Khomeini. We caught the metro to the most southern station to visit the shrine, a plain building with strict security, inside is quite a moving experience as we sat and watched Muslims pay their respects.

Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, Qatar

A few weeks ago we decided to visit the private museum of Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani, I made the booking on Thursday and we were all set for a Saturday visit.

Driving up to the museum we were presented with a beautiful fort-style building with towers at each corner. On entrance we signed the guest book and proceeded to the main and largest hall, full or various weapon and armour artefacts. It was a very interesting collection of guns, knives, daggers and plate armour. From the first hall, you could see that Sheikh loved collecting things.

Making a left turn was an eclectic collection of Islamic and Qatari items sprawled on the walls and shelfs with minimal labels. Further on was the Sheikh’s collection of paintings, some of people and many abstract. The last section had a small collection of vintage cars.

On the other side of the museum building were a number of smaller rooms with artefacts belonging to a common theme, rooms included;

Fabrics and Jewellery

An interesting room, consisting of embroidered fabric with Islamic designs and traditional jewellery. What I thought interesting was the large collection of drawings of females, scattered around the room, some quite erotic.

Literature and Manuscripts

A room consisting of very old Arabic writings and books. There were some interesting old maps.


One of my favourite rooms, here we found 400 million year old Trilobite fossils from Morocco, plus a large number other plant and animal fossils, including dinosaur bones.

Cars and Trucks

Leaving the main building we drove to a separate building which housed a huge amount of vintage cars and trucks, as well as a Piper PA-34 Seneca twin-engine plane. In some of the side rooms was a religion display, which had Islam, Christianity and even Judaism items in individual rooms. The last room had a collection of scientific equipment and bottles which I think was trying to portray Atheism.

Overall it was a fun visit.

Entrance hall, various weapons and armourVarious arrow headsGoat-antelope trophy head
Sonya in a room with various Arabic itemsWooden door with blue highlightsArabic ceramic lamps
Collection of paintingsCollection of early model carsCollection of old chairs
Travis in the museum courtyardIslamic embroidery on fabricFabrics collection, which had some interesting female artwork
Collection of literatureCollection of literatureCollection of fossils
Various Omnia Trilobite 400 million year old fossilsOmnia Trilobite 400 million year old fossilsWagons outside the museum
Large collection of carsCollection of guns as decorationEven a Piper PA-34 Seneca twin-engined light aircraft
Caribonum coloured inkSonyaThe rear of the museum