Real Honeymoon: Thailand

If you’re looking for the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure, Thailand is one of the best possible honeymoon destinations out there. (Its absolutely delicious food, incredibly friendly people, and low price points don’t hurt either!) Read all about Elana and Adam’s amazing honeymoon in Thailand below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We went to Thailand in November of 2013: Bangkok for two days, Chiang Mai for four days, Phuket for five days, and Krabi for three days. We heard that was a good time of year to go because the rainy season was just ending. There was a little bit of rain on our trip but most of the time it was welcomed and it didn’t prevent us from doing anything we had planned.

thailand honeymoon

How long was your trip?

2 weeks, but we would have loved another week to travel to some other parts of Thailand and SE Asia.

thai honeymoon

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

We chose Thailand based on recommendations from friends who have travelled there, and also the fact that we needed a good mix of relaxation and adventure. We’re not really “sit-on-the-beach-for-a-week-and-do-absolutely-nothing” kind of people.

thai honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

I would say it’s a tie between Chiang Mai and Railay Beach. Chiang Mai has so much to offer; the city limits are only a little over a square mile but the province is enormous with so many little villages and hill tribes and so much culture. We picked coffee beans right off the tree and ate them, rode elephants, hiked through the jungle, and saw a Thai boxing match all in the same day.

thai honeymoon

 

muay thai

Railay Beach is so picturesque you feel like you’re in a movie. You can rent a kayak for a about $8 per day and take yourselves through these incredible caves on the Andaman Sea. Its got a relaxed island feel, monkeys hang out on your hotel balcony, and you can eat the freshest fish for dinner that was caught that day.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

The public bathroom situation is usually less than desirable, so I’d bring more of my own toilet paper. I’d also give myself an extra week to travel, and I would bypass Bangkok all together. People warned us that we wouldn’t really care for Bangkok, but we couldn’t go to Thailand and not stop there. Now that we’ve seen it, I don’t need to ever go back. It’s busy, dirty, touristy, etc. A few temples are cool, but how many temples do you need to visit on one trip?

bangkok honeymoon

How much planning did you do in advance?

Several months’ worth. It’s hard to figure out how to get where you need to go and make sure that you’re using your time efficiently. Thailand is big, and it could take a couple of days to get from one end to the other if you don’t plan it right.

thai honeymoon

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Real Honeymoon: Hong Kong & Thailand

Friends of last week’s couple who went on a honeymoon in Paris and the Maldives, Katie and Christopher also went on an incredible honeymoon recently. In search of delicious food and gorgeous beaches, they decided to split their time between Hong Kong and three different places in Thailand. Read all about their amazing multi-moon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We left bright and early Sunday, June 15th [2014], the morning after our wedding. We flew to Hong Kong where we spent a few days sightseeing, eating, and generally just enjoying the amazing city. From Hong Kong we flew to Chiang Rai, Thailand where we stayed at the Four Seasons Tented Camp. After a few days in Northern Thailand, we went to Bangkok for a couple of days and then to the lovely island of Koh Samui for five nights of relaxation. We ended the honeymoon with one more night in Hong Kong.

Katie and Christopher at Camp Peak

Katie and Christopher at Camp Peak

How long was your trip?

Two weeks.

   photo 5 (34)

How did you decide on your honeymoon destinations?

My husband Christopher picked our destination and did a large part of the planning (with a little help from a travel agent). Thailand has always been one of the top destinations on our travel bucket list and it seemed to have the perfect mix of everything we wanted for a honeymoon: adventure, wildlife, and beautiful beaches. We paid for flights with miles so it worked out best to fly in and out of Hong Kong, which turned out to be one of our favorite cities.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

The best part about our honeymoon was…

The Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle is heaven on earth and was by far our favorite part of the trip. We stayed in our own “tent” which was the most luxurious accommodation I’ve ever set foot in. It overlooked a beautiful river, low mountains, and all the wildlife you could take in.

Golden Triangle

Golden Triangle

The resort also partners with an elephant reserve where they rescue elephants and take care of them in their day-to-day life. We were able to feed the elephants every morning and even got to ride and help bathe them. They are such amazing and gentle creatures, and being so close to them was a once in a lifetime experience.

photo 4 (44)

Riding elephants

On top of the amazing scenery and wildlife, was the incredible food. Our first night there, we were served a traditional Thai meal and it was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. I will forever dream of the food at this resort.

photo 3 (45)

Traditional Thai dinner

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

Perhaps where we stayed in Koh Samui. We stayed on the northern tip of the island which was beautiful and secluded but the airport was only a few miles away so the planes flying in and out would go directly over our resort. The resort was amazing and well worth this small hiccup but I would be interested in seeing some of the other resorts. Also, Koh Samui the island was a little more developed and crowded than we had expected, although apparently significantly less so than Phuket. For a truly “remote” experience, we probably would have chosen a different beach destination. All of that being said, it was still an incredible island with beautiful views.

View from the deck at Six Senses, Koh Samui

View from the deck at Six Senses, Koh Samui

How much planning did you do in advance?

I’m a planner so I did LOTS of research before our trip. Christopher did most of the general planning (picking locations, hotels, flights, etc.), but I did a lot of research on the specifics of each city (restaurants, activities, etc.). I made must do/see lists for each city and we just checked things off as we went. We never had a set itinerary so we could do as little or as much as we wanted each day which was perfect.

photo 3 (43)   photo 4 (42)

Cooking class

Cooking class

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Real Honeymoon: Paris & The Maldives

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of multi-moons (i.e. combining two or more honeymoon destinations in one awesome trip), so it’s no surprise that I’m very excited about Cari and Chris’ honeymoon in Paris and the Maldives. Read all about their incredible honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

Paris, France & the Maldives. Our wedding was on December 7, 2013 so we left for our honeymoon on December 9th and returned on the 22nd.

paris honeymoon

Chris and Cari in Paris

How long was your trip?

It was 13 days: 4 days in Paris, 7 days in Maldives, 2 days of travel.

Maldives 2     Eiffel Tower day

How did you decide on your honeymoon destinations? 

Maldives: Chris and I lived in Malaysia and always wanted to go to the Maldives while we lived on that side of the world. We never made it there before we moved back to the States, so it stayed on our travel bucket list. We have traveled a lot separately and together, and wanted to go somewhere new to both of us and unique. Also, it is far away and a place we wouldn’t be likely to travel to at a later date.

maldives honeymoon

Paris: Chris travelled to Paris when we first started dating, and we traded emails throughout his trip where he shared how wonderful of a place it was. We got to know each other better throughout these emails and it was always a fond memory in our relationship. When he returned he brought me a souvenir Eiffel Tower and promised to be bring me back there someday. There was even a time during our wedding planning that we talked about getting married in Paris.

Paris love lock bridge

For the honeymoon, our initial plan was to go to Maldives, but when we realized the routes to Maldives required a layover in Paris, we seized the opportunity to have a two continent honeymoon. It was a wonderful way to visit two places that we had always wanted to go together. And it was fun to be in a cold city first and then end in a tropical place!

The best part about our honeymoon was… 

Paris: Finally exploring and experiencing the City of Love together.

Maldives: Relaxing on our private beautiful beach and doing absolutely nothing!

Paris 4     Maldives - private beach

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

Spend the extra money and upgrade for first class tickets!

Maldives - sea plane airport

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Real Honeymoon: Maui

This week’s Real Honeymoon features one of the happiest couples I know, Desa and Jared. With tropical relaxation as their number one honeymoon priority, they decided to make the (relatively) easy trip from California to Maui where they avoided the typical touristy activities and just enjoyed the beautiful island for what it is. Desa and Jared also really know what’s up when it comes to great food, so you won’t want to miss their list of awesome Maui restaurant recommendations toward the end of this post. Read all about their wonderfully relaxing Hawaiian honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

Maui, HI May 27 through June 5, 2014.

maui honeymoon     maui

How long was your trip?

9 nights.

maui sunset

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination?

Jared and I are pretty good at waiting. We waited over ten years to get married and another eight months before we took our official honeymoon. I am very happy we did not try to plan a big trip after our August 2013 wedding, but my level of anticipation grew as the months went on and I could not decide where I wanted to go. I suggested Belize, St. Maarten, Japan… Jared wanted to go to Hawaii. I pulled up itineraries for Ireland, New Zealand, and the Tahitian Islands. But Jared wanted to go to Hawaii. Everyone goes to Hawaii, Jared. How about something new?! Also, I couldn’t shake that memory of the one time I went to Hawaii (Oahu) and got chased down the street by the 300 lb pepper spray wielding Samoan transvestite named Passion – not the honeymooniest image.

Jared’s sales pitch: tropical, uncomplicated, good food and drink (something other than rum).

The months went on and I ended up working through a long, mentally exhausting trial. So, when it was time to book the trip, EASY was the name of the game. Hawaii! And it was perfect. Good work, Jared.

maui     maui

The best part about our honeymoon was…

The level of relaxation. We slept in every day, then wandered down to the cabana by the ocean with our bottle of sparkling wine, guava juice, and bowl of ahi poke, and floated back and forth between the ocean and the lounge chairs. Maui let us revel in sun-soaked lazy hours, until we felt free enough to ignore every tourist guidebook and “must-see” recommendation.

Yep, these guys look relaxed alright

Yep, these guys look relaxed alright

Instead of hopping aboard an overrun snorkel tour boat, we self-explored around our beach with gear found in our condo, learning later that Black Rock just south of our cabana is one of the top five snorkel spots on the West side of Maui. Instead of a luau, we treated ourselves to decadent dinners of elevated island fare.

turtle

Instead of the early morning trek up the Haleakala volcano, we cruised up north for an easy walk down to the Nakalele Blowhole with its picturesque heart-shaped rock.

heart rock maui

One day we took a short trip to the Upcountry (central Maui) for a day cheese-tasting at a goat farm, exploring the deserted Enchanting Floral Gardens, and dinner at the Hali’imaile General Store for one of the best dinners I have had in my life.

surfing goat maui

Knowing Jared and I could always come back to Maui if there was anything we wished we would have tried was very liberating. It allowed us to focus on each other instead of our itinerary.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

I would book a hotel on the East side of the island for the last two nights of the trip. That way we could explore the Road to Hana without the daunting task of driving the long winding road twice in a day, which we opted to forego this trip.

Iphone May 2014 172

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Real Honeymoon: Italy & Spain

I’m so excited to share this week’s Real Honeymoon blog post written by my good friends Ashley and Tom. After their beautiful wedding weekend in Pebble Beach, they spend the first part of their honeymoon Italy and ended their trip with a few days in Barcelona. Read all about their honeymoon in Italy and Spain below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We went to Italy and Spain from May 26-June 7 [2014]. (Sestri Levante, Cinque Terre, Rome, Venice, and Barcelona)

italy honeymoon

How long was your trip?

Just about two weeks.

barcelona honeymoon

How did you decide on your honeymoon destinations?

We wanted to take the opportunity to go somewhere far away since we both took off a full two weeks from work. We had both been to Europe but to different places and back when we were in college. We wanted to have a combination of relaxing beach time and sightseeing, and obviously with good food and wine! I also really wanted to see Venice so we spent one day/night there in between Sestri Levante and Rome.

honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

We absolutely loved out time in Sestri Levante and Cinque Terra. We spent one afternoon hiking between Vernazza and Monterosso. It was about two hours, with lots of stairs and uneven paths through the mountains but it had absolutely breathtaking views of the coast. We both agree that if we could go back to one part of our honeymoon it would be to that day! I also have to mention the food, Italian pasta and the fixed course meals we had in Spain were among the best meals we’ve ever had.

italian food

italian food   italian food

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

… how much time we gave ourselves in Spain. We had Wednesday night through Saturday morning, but we would have liked another couple of days to explore other beaches and small towns. We really only had enough time to do one full beach day and one touristy day (the hop on hop off bus was great).

italy honeymoon

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Honeymoon Reading Recommendations: Part III

My honeymoon reading recommendation posts (Part 1 and Part 2) are still my post popular to date, so I thought it was time to publish a new list of great books to read during your honeymoon (or any other vacation).

books

Books! Books! Books!

As always, I consulted with a group of friends who have great taste in books and cross-referenced their recommendations with my own recent reading list. The following is the list that we came up with, in no particular order. Enjoy!

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Real Honeymoon: Italy

Yep, it’s time for some more Italy honeymoon posts! This week we have Kristina and Sean, who got married in beautiful Napa Valley earlier this summer. Read all about their amazing Italian honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

On May 27th [2014] we left to begin our honeymoon in Positano, off the Amalfi Coast in Italy. We spent 5 relaxing days there, and then took a train up to Florence for the remaining 5 days. While staying in Florence, we wound up taking two spontaneous day trips to the Cinque Terre and a tour of Tuscany that included Siena, San Gimegnano, and Pisa.

florence honeymoon

How long was your trip?

12 days total. 10 days of fun, 2 days of travel.

Chianti Countryside

How did you decide on your honeymoon destinations?

I (Kristina) had always dreamed of going to Italy on my honeymoon—even more than I dreamed of my wedding. But my husband had always envisioned a “beachy” honeymoon destination, so we compromised that we would go to Italy but spend a good portion of our time in a coastal town.

positano honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Spending a day by the Mediterranean at Le Sirene restaurant at Spiaggia Laurito in Positano. This beach is known for the restaurant next door, Da Adolfo, but by happy accident we wound up on Le Sirene’s water taxi and were thrilled to lounge on the far less crowded side of the beach. The food was incredibly fresh, I’m talking they brought the live fish to our table before they cooked it fresh. You could rent chairs and towels for 7 Euros, the drinks were reasonably priced, and the service was great.

Le Sirene

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

Knowing what we know now, it would have been awesome to spend more time in either the Cinque Terre, or a small village in Tuscany like San Gimegnano, as opposed to staying in Florence for the full 5 days. We did day trips to these places and they were so beautiful and relaxing, we would have loved more time. Though we both loved Florence, 2 days there would have been more than enough for us, as we really didn’t have an interest in spending a lot of time in museums on our honeymoon.

Duomo lunch

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Fond Memories of Brazil 2009: Rio de Janeiro + Búzios (Part 2)

Yes, this is FINALLY the last Fond Memories of Brazil post! Last week’s post was about the first part of our stay in Rio de Janeiro, but this week focuses a bit more on Búzios, a fancy beach town that’s a three hour bus ride east of the city.

Bus from Rio to Búzios: map credit Rome2Rio

Bus from Rio to Búzios: map credit Rome2Rio

Despite some iffy weather and a bad case of food poisoning, we thought Búzios was pretty great. Just don’t try taking a late night bus there during a holiday weekend! Read why in Aaron’s email below:

Q: And Friday night you left for Búzios. Any mention of that word is going to unleash a linguistics rant, isn’t it?

A: Okay, here’s the thing about Portuguese as a language: it’s not fair if every character in your alphabet makes either the “h,” “ch,” or “sh” sound. That’s just cheating. For instance, here is a handy pronunciation guide for a few words.

  • Mate (the local drink, pronounced “mah-tay” anywhere else): “Mahhh-tchhh”
  • Lorraine (the name): “Lo-ha-ni”
  • Veinte (twenty): “Been-che”

And, in Rio, this lisping is incredibly strong. Ilana ordered a Sprite in a restaurant, and the waiter just laughed at her ignorant accent. “Oh, you mean a ‘Spree-tchhh.” No. No she does not mean that. Pretty sure there´s no “H” in that word.

Anyway, so we’re going to Búzios. As you will come to understand, Búzios is THE vacation destination for Rio citizens. It’s close by, easily accessible by bus, everyone goes there on holiday weekends. So, when people would ask us what we were doing for the weekend, we would tell them we were going to Búzios. We would pronounce it “Boo-zee-ohs,” as it looks. Blank stares. Nothing. Eventually, we would have to write it out, or describe where it was, or something, and finally they would get it.

“OHH!!! Booshhh-eee-ohhhssshhh!!!”

Now, first of all, there are no “H´s” in the name of the city. But secondly … and this is my bigger issue with the whole thing: Think of where you live. Now think of the biggest tourist/vacation spot near that place. Now think of how badly someone would have to mispronounce the name of that place before you would not be able to figure out what they were talking about? (Bergstrom Family: If someone told you they were going to “Dohh-Ahh” County, would you not realize they were talking about Door County?) What is your deal, population of Rio?

Also, much more hilariously, Brazilians add “E”s to the ends of American words, so it´s “Hippy-Hoppy,” “Pingy-pongy,” and “Biggie Mackie.” This never gets old.

buzios

We made it! Emily and me in beautiful Búzios

Q: Okay, let´s cut the rant short here. Impossible to pronounce or not, Búzios was one of your first “Places We Absolutely Have to Go in South America” places, first proposed as a destination by Ilana’s friend Emily, a University of Michigan grad now living in São Paulo. So Emily came up to Rio, and you all took the bus to Búzios. That sentence sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

A: Deceptively, deceptively simple. First of all, rain shuts down Rio de Janeiro worse than hail shuts down the Inner Richmond (though less hilariously). Second of all, “it’s a holiday weekend” can be used as an excuse for anything, and every weekend is a holiday weekend (Emily: “I don’t know, it’s probably some guy’s birthday … I gave up on keeping track of all of them). Let’s practice.

Q: Why did the cab ride to the bus station, which normally takes 12 minutes, take 87 (yes, 87)?

A: It’s a holiday weekend.

Q: Why was the bus station packed with so many people that it was literally difficult to find a place to put our bags down?

A: It’s a holiday weekend.

And so on and so forth. So, while we were supposed to get in to Búzios at around 10 PM, we got there at 3:45 AM.

Q: So explain how, even though you now had the advantage of traveling with a Portuguese speaker, you managed to get ripped off on a cab ride worse than anywhere else in South America.

A: Well, when you add people to your travel plans, you start to assume that someone else will take care of things like “finding out where you hostel is located.” So we got to the last bus stop in Búzios, got in a cab, watched him make a U-turn and stop, pretty literally across the street, and charge us R$12 ($6 US). We later learned that he was fully within his rights to do this, that in fact the minimum cab fare in Búzios was R$12, but wow … it sure seemed like a slap in the face at 4 AM.

Q: Everything seems like a slap in the face at 4 AM. Anyway, the next morning, you woke up to more gray skies in a beach town. So what did you do?

A: Well, we learned how to make our own caipirinhas, of course. We weren’t about to pay $4 for them in bars, so we bought all the ingredients to make about 25 of them, and it came to … about $4. And learning to make a tropical drink is a wonderful experience. Even if you don’t get any better at it, each one is tastier than the last. We experimented with different fruits (though traditional lime is the best), and suddenly the bad weather wasn’t such a problem.

buzios   buzios

We walked around town a little bit, met a girl carrying a very young puppy who claimed to have found it in the street (Ilana’s mind was BLOWN), tossed around the idea of renting a buggy for the next day (it was obvious we couldn’t afford taxis), and decided to give rodizio pizza another try.

street puppy   buzios

Rodizio pizza … what is there to say? David Foster Wallace´s thousand-page novel Infinite Jest is about, in part, a video so enjoyable that anyone who sees it only wants to watch it over and over again, and forgets about all necessary life processes, and eventually dies of too much pleasure. Rodizio pizza is kind of like that. Pizza is wonderful. And people just keep bringing it to you. More and more fresh slices, in wonderful new topping combinations. And … and you tell yourself you’ll stop when you’re full. But you can’t. Somehow, though, you make it back to your hostel. And you sleep for sixteen hours, with very few interruptions.

Q: Sunday, though, you woke up to sun. This gives you a chance to explain Búzios again, when seen the way it should be.

A: You know, when you see travel-channel video clips of Brazil, and there’s some kind of voice-over going, “Fabulous Rio de Janeiro, home of beautiful beaches … and even more beautiful people”? That’s Búzios. Once a quiet fishing village, someone found out that it has seventeen distinct incredible beaches nearby, and it became THE spot for the rich and pretty of Brazil. Until Búzios, I had thought the whole beautiful-people-of-Brazil thing was a myth, and I would have told you there were prettier girls in Colombia. Not anymore.

buzios

Holiday weekend in Búzios

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Real Honeymoon: Greece & Turkey

This week’s real honeymooners are my college friend Mike and his wife Jennifer. I backpacked around Europe with Mike* and a couple of other friends eight years ago, and I think it’s safe to say that this trip was much, much nicer. Read all about their amazing honeymoon in Greece and Turkey below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We started off with Greece – first in Santorini, then Crete, and Athens.  We ended the trip in Istanbul, Turkey.**  We began our trip two days after our wedding, in late May [2014].

Santorini Honeymoon

How long was your trip?

Our trip was two weeks long.

greece honeymoon

How did you decide on your honeymoon destinations?

We had heard that Santorini really had the honeymoon thing down pat so we were very excited about that – we were focused on starting the trip with some rest and relaxation.  But we also wanted to mix in some adventure and culture, which is where Athens and Istanbul came in.  Crete provided us with another island experience and we chose it over Mykonos because we heard that Mykonos was very similar to Santorini except had more of a party vibe – which we were not looking for on our honeymoon.

Santorini honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Exploring Santorini on foot and the walking tours of Istanbul.

Santorini honeymoon

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

We splurged for a private pool in Crete however the weather was too cold in early June for us to use it.  The pool water in Santorini and Crete were both too cold to swim in, if unheated, so I would consider that when booking.  In hindsight, I should have booked a room with a private jacuzzi instead of pool.

santorini honeymoon

How much planning did you do in advance?

Very little.  We honed in on the locations that we thought we wanted to hit, and then consulted with and used a travel agent.

Santorini honeymoon

What was your biggest honeymoon splurge?

The room with its own private pool.

santorini sunset

Where do you want to go on your next big trip?

Groom (Ireland); Bride (Thailand). So, Thailand it is.***

_____________________

* Funny story from Mike’s and my 2006 Eurotrip: Our other friends had just left us to go back home, and Mike and I were alone on a train in the south of France headed to Spain. We were tired, dressed like typical backpackers, and were holding our noses because someone in our train car was eating the stinkiest cheese known to man. Another traveler smiled at us and asked in French if we were “on the vacation after the wedding.” I looked and Mike and shouted “NON!” I’m so relieved that both of our honeymoons turned out much better than that.

** Below are some extra recommendations from Mike:

  • I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED our hotel, Astra Suites in Santorini. It was in a perfect middle location and the service was the best I have ever received anywhere in the world. There are only 24 rooms so it is quaint and every employee knows who you are; it makes you feel special. If you are on your honeymoon they give you a free, private tour in their spa, so you and your spouse can use the steam room, jacuzzi, etc.
  • In Crete we stayed at Blue Palace which is a Starwood resort. It was very nice; however, it’s a big resort nevertheless so you never really felt too special.
  • Athens we stayed at Electra Palace. It was in a perfect location near the Acropolis and Plaka (the neighborhood for good shopping). Great guest experience and location – I would recommend it.
  • In Istanbul we stayed at the Marti Istanbul Hotel. Excellent hotel and amenities. Very close to Taksim Square which was nice. There are multiple other points in town to stay at and visit which required us to take cabs, but I would stay here again.
  • In Istanbul we had a wonderful dinner at the Turkish restaurant within Reina which is a multi-restaurant/club on the Bosphorus. Great for people-watching but very, very expensive. It’s fun to get dolled up and get “Euro” at least once, and I’m glad we did it at this place.

*** Smart move, Mike!

Fond Memories of Brazil 2009: Rio de Janeiro + Búzios (Part 1)

This is the second to the last post of my “Fond Memories of Brazil 2009″ series. I wish I could say that we saved the best of our Brazil experience for last, but as you can probably guess from my overly enthusiastic posts about Jericoacoara and Salvador, those two places were the ones that really stole our hearts. But to be fair to Rio, we would’ve enjoyed our time there a lot more had Mother Nature played nice. All we wanted to do in Rio was go hang gliding and lay out on its world famous beaches, but, spoiler alert, we did neither.

Gorgeous Rio de Janeiro: photo credit Rodrigo Soldon

Gorgeous Rio de Janeiro: photo credit Rodrigo Soldon

We did, however, still get to watch a soccer match at Maracanã and visit Búzios, a posh nearby beach town, with one of my friends from college who was living in São Paulo at the time. I know that most of these “Fond Memories of Brazil 2009″ post have little to do with honeymooning, which is admittedly a bit confusing as this is a honeymoon blog, but Búzios was definitely a worthy honeymoon destination. Part 1 has more to do with Rio, but come back next week for Part 2 to read why Búzios is great for honeymoons in Brazil.

Two hour flight from Salvador to Rio: map credit Rome2Rio

Two hour flight from Salvador to Rio: map credit Rome2Rio

In lieu of a 27+ hour bus ride from Salvador to Rio, we opted for a two hour flight, then took a taxi to our hostel in the Catete neighborhood (pronounced “kah-tetch”). Aaron’s email is below:

Q:  Before this trip, you told your parents that you wouldn’t go to Colombia and that you wouldn’t go to the favelas in Rio.  And you’ve broken both of those promises now, haven’t you?

A:  Well … yeah.  But when I said those things, I didn´t know that there were safe, well-organized, fascinating favela tours.

The favelas (again trying not to sound like a Wikipedia entry) are these huge shantytowns built into the hills, areas the government has basically given up on, areas with no infrastructure, areas controlled by drug dealers (our favela was run by a gang with the very un-gangsta sounding name “Friends of Friends,” which I guess does sound a little Mafia-like).  It sounds horrible and lawles, but really there is less petty crime in the favelas because the drug dealers won´t allow any non-drug-related crime (they don´t want the police to have an excuse to raid the favelas.

Since this kind of area is obviously fascinating, tours have sprung up recently, all of which work with the communities they visit, and give a lot of money back.  As a result, we felt very welcome the whole time we were there.  And safe.  Our guide even made fun of our disposable camera, thinking we considered it too dangerous to bring a digital one.  Of course, our digital was still broken, which is too bad, since every view in the favela has enough texture to be an award-winning photograph.

Anyway, our favela, Rocinha, was the largest in the city, with over 200,000 people, all of whom appeared to be siphoning electricity from one mid-sized generator at the top of the hill.  Since the favela is surrounded by rocky cliffs on one side and a national park on the other, there is no room to build but up.  As a result, there are no roads in the favela, just an endless series of tunnels and catacombs leading in all directions.

Favela da Rocinha: photo credit Scott Hadfield

Favela da Rocinha: photo credit Scott Hadfield

Q:  And, after months of bashing your head on pretty much every hanging thing in South America, were you finally able to use your freakish height for good in the favela?

A:  Surprisingly, yes.  Our tour spent a fair amount of time in the day care that the tour sponsors, where we played with the kids and generally smiled at everyone.  While there, I was able to reach a ball that was stuck between some wires.  So, y´know, I guess I wasn´t TOTALLY imposing on South American culture the ENTIRE time I was there.  Now someone bring me a caipirinha.

Q:  Um … there’s no one here.  Anyway, what’s up with the hang gliding?

A:  Soon, hopefully.  The cliffs around the city make for excellent hang gliding, with a view of the city, the ocean, and the jungles all at once.  We were supposed to go yesterday, but there was no wind, so we went to Copacabana Beach instead.  We rescheduled for this morning, but the clouds were too low, so we went up to the Christ the Redeemer statue instead.  Now, we hope to go tomorrow.

Q:  Copacabana?  Christ the Redeemer?  Those are some pretty solid backup plans.  Want to talk about them?

A:  Copacabana, despite being one of the most famous beaches in the world, was only average in terms of beach quality, though there were a series of incredibly complex sand sculptures commemorating the 2016 Olympics.  It was like Old Yankee Stadium … you go for the mystique, not the actual experience.  And, since we´re staying only three Metro stops away in the Catete neighborhood (first time on a South American subway … yeah!), it´s easy to stop by for an afternoon.

The Christ statue is probably even more famous, and you can tell by the dozens of camera-waving tourists all trying to pose for the exact same picture in front of it.  Still … huge statue on a cliff overlooking the city = cool thing to see.  Not much more to say about it, really.

We actually have a photo from this! (Taken on a disposable camera, ha!)

We actually have a photo from this! (Taken on a disposable camera, ha!)

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