Real Honeymoon: Myanmar, Laos & Vietnam

Two years ago my friends Ben and Yoninah set the Peonies to Palm Trees record for the most flight legs during their honeymoon to Asia (12). But this week, a new couple takes the crown. Sarah and Dos took a total of 13 flights during their incredible trip to Southeast Asia this summer! Read all about their adventurous honeymoon in Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

Since we were fortunate enough to have an extended time for our honeymoon, we decided to venture to Southeast Asia. We spent a total of 3.5 weeks in Myanmar (formally known as Burma), Laos, and Vietnam. We left San Francisco June 19 [2015] and returned July 13.

Sarah and Dos in Halong Bay

Sarah and Dos in Halong Bay

Myanmar:
– Yangon (you will have to fly in and out of here. We stayed at the Chatrium Hotel as well as the Sule Shangri-La Hotel)
– *Bagan (stayed at Aureum Bagan Resort)
– Kalaw (stayed at Pine Hill Resort)
– *Inle Lake (stayed at the Inle Resort)

Laos:
– *Luang Prabang (stayed at Maison Souvannaphoum)

Vietnam:
– Hanoi (stayed at Movenpick Hanoi Hotel)
– *Halong Bay (stayed on the Emeraude)
– *Hoi An (stayed at Victoria Hoi An Resort)
– *Nha Trang (stayed at the Mia Resort)
– Ho Chi Minh City (stayed at Majestic Hotel)

I would be comfortable recommending any of the places we stayed. The ones with the stars were our favorites, city wise as well as accommodations wise.


How long was your trip?

3.5 weeks: eight days in Myanmar, three days in Laos (was supposed to be four but our flight was cancelled and we had to spend the night in Bangkok), and 12 days in Vietnam.

Victoria Hoi An Resort

Victoria Hoi An Resort

How did you decide on your honeymoon destinations?

We had originally thought of going to Bora Bora but were worried there wouldn’t be enough to do to the fill the amount of days we wanted to be gone. I had never been to Southeast Asia and Dos had been to Thailand and loved it. We have done a lot of traveling together and wanted to try some place new. Southeast Asia has a good combo of lazy beach life and sightseeing adventures so it was a good compromise. It also has DELICIOUS food!

Fortunately we had a family friend very familiar with that part of the world and planned our entire trip for us. He was adamant we go to Myanmar and connected us with a travel agency, Destination Asia. If going to Myanmar, I would recommend getting a guide. We were so happy to have guide/driver meet us in each city; I don’t think we would have seen half the stuff we did if we didn’t have a guide.

Monks in Luang Prabang

Monks in Luang Prabang

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Too many things! I think our highlights in Myanmar were Bagan and Inle Lake. Bagan feels like you’re on a different planet; everywhere you look are temples dating back to the 10th or 11th century. Our guide said there are about 3,000 or so temples remaining. Inle Lake was beautiful as well.

Bagan Temples

Bagan Temples

The only city we went to in Laos was Luang Prabang, which we loved. Highlights there included going to the Elephant Village to spend the day with elephants as well as getting up quite early to see the monks receiving alms. It also has a nightly market that they shut down the main street for.

Elephants in Laos

Elephants in Laos

Highlights in Vietnam were definitely spending a night on a boat in Halong Bay, Hoi An (you must get custom made clothes here!!), and our resort in Nha Trang. Since we went to all of these places towards the end of our trip it was nice to relax by the beach/pool and enjoy a cocktail or two.

Shopping in Hoi An

Shopping in Hoi An

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Real Honeymoon: Italy

Nearly one year after their beautiful Los Angeles wedding, my friends Grace and Victor recently went on an incredible honeymoon in Italy. I absolutely love everything about their trip! Hope you like Italian food because they have tons of great restaurant recommendations below.

When and where did you honeymoon?

Italy in April/May 2015. We started in Venice and worked our way down to Southern Italy. From Venice, we took a train to Bologna and from there, we rented a car! Victor drove us to Portofino, Florence, Tuscany (Montalcino), the Amalfi Coast (Ravello, Positano, and Capri), and Rome. He did great, especially driving through the windy roads in Portofino and Ravello.

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How long was your trip?

Three weeks.

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

Italy is known as one of the most romantic places in the world and we had never been! Plus, Italy offers picturesque villages, rich history and art, and amazing food and wine. Victor and I picked cities to satisfy both of our needs. I enjoy exploring cities while Victor appreciates a slow paced way of life to relax. Florence and Rome allowed me to marvel at inspiring art and architecture, while Tuscany allowed Victor to relax on the countryside after visiting bustling cities.

Italy Honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Portofino and Hotel Splendido are almost synonymous. Portofino is a pretty fishing village with pastel shaded villas on the coast of Liguria. The hotel is perched on a hillside overlooking the harbor below. From the moment we entered the reception area, we knew we were in for a treat. The views are incredible and you are surrounded by lush greens, hydrangeas, and pots of lemon trees. From the reception area, you walk past the Piano Bar and onto La Terrazza, where I had my favorite meal, Spaghetti alla Elizabeth Taylor, made with fresh tomatoes.

Italy Honeymoon

We also enjoyed breakfast each morning on the Terrace, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. We spent a lot of time on our balcony, enjoying mystic views of the Portofino bay beneath and dancing to distant music from the piano bar. We also took a day trip to Cinque Terre, which was unforgettable. We both hope to return to Portofino one day.

Italy Honeymoon

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If You’re Eating in San Francisco… (Part II)

It’s been more than one year since I compiled a list of my favorite places to eat in San Francisco, and although I still stand by every single place in that post, I thought it was time for me to share my latest recommendations. Below are some new additions that are in our current rotation.

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Cafés/Breakfast/Coffee:

  • Cafe St. Jorge – adorable cafe, out-of-this-world almond butter chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Healthy options, too :P
  • Stable Cafe – the coffee and food is great (for both breakfast and lunch), but the best part about this place is the gorgeous patio full of Lila B. succulent arrangements.
  • Fayes Video & Espresso Bar – when I don’t find the time to make my own coffee before work, I love stopping by this shop.
  • The Mill – the infamous toast is totally expensive worth it.

Lunch:

  • Yamo – Burmese/Chinese hole-in-the-wall with the best noodles in all of San Francisco. The counter is pretty small, so you can also order your food to-go if you can’t get seats. Don’t know how I’ve lived so long without this place!
  • Curry Up Now – absolutely delicious Indian burritos (make sure to get them “Punjabi style”).
  • La Palma Mexicatessen – this place will change the way you think about tortillas.
  • Mission Picnic – A+ sandwiches.

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Real Honeymoon: Greece

This week’s post comes from Jaclyn and Chris who recently traveled to Greece for their honeymoon. Despite the country’s major financial crisis, tourists have been reporting that their travels have not been majorly affected in a negative way. (Blogger Adventurous Kate wrote a great post about this a few weeks ago, and I highly recommend checking it out if you plan on visiting Greece soon.)

Unless you’re really into historical sightseeing, most tourists prefer to spend the majority of their time in Greece on the islands rather on the mainland. In fact, you can pack in a lot of the major Athens sites in just one day. Read all about Jaclyn and Chris’ Greek island hopping honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

June 25th, 2015 – July 6th, 2015 in Greece (specifically, Athens, Mykonos & Santorini).

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How long was your trip?

11 days/10 nights – we stayed in Athens for one night on each end and the two island for 4 nights each.

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

I love to relax by the pool/beach and my husband can’t sit still. We were looking for a place where we would have ample relaxation time but would have the latitude to be active when we wanted.

Additionally, we did not want to feel trapped at our hotel with nothing to do. Greece appeared to fit the bill as it has it all: pools, beaches, activities and nightlife.

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The best part about our honeymoon was…

Kayaking in Mykonos. We found a family-owned business called “Mykonos Kayak Tours & Trails.” They took us into the Aegean on two person kayaks in a group of about 16. They were so knowledgeable and helpful and we got a great workout while having fun. Also, at the end of the trip, they provided a lunch which was made of all locally sourced products: bread from a local bakery, feta from a local cheese shop, produce grown on the island and olive oil from Greece. It made for a simple sandwich, but my husband and I both called it the “best sandwich we’ve ever had.” Continue reading

Real Honeymoon: Italy

That’s right, two weeks of new Real Honeymoon posts in a row! This week’s post comes from Caroline and Jeff who honeymooned in Italy earlier this summer. It’s no wonder that Italy is the most popular honeymoon destination on this blog — it has something for everyone! Whether you want your honeymoon to be all about great food and wine, sightseeing, shopping, or just soaking up some sun, you can do it all in Italy. Read all about Caroline and Jeff’s amazing trip below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We went to Italy from June 30-July 17 [2015]. We flew non-stop from Los Angeles to Rome and spent our first few days there. Then we took a train to Florence, where we also did a day trip to Tuscany to visit some wineries. From Florence, we traveled to Venice, where we took a day trip to the Murano and Burano islands. From Venice, we travelled to Bologna. After Bologna, we spent 5 days and nights in Positano, which included a day trip to Capri. We then returned to Rome for another day and night before flying home.

italy honeymoon

italy honeymoon

How long was your trip?

2.5 weeks

italy honeymoon

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

Neither of us had ever been to Italy and wanted to experience something new together so we picked Italy! Plus, there is so much history there and we wanted to see it all in person.

italy honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Relaxing with my new hubby, eating and drinking our way through Italy, and not having to think about wedding planning or work for almost 3 weeks! We also received some proofs of our wedding photos while on the trip and it was so much fun reliving our wedding day while sharing a bottle of delicious wine.

italy honeymoon

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Real Honeymoon: Ireland, France & Italy

Get excited because this week we finally have a great new Real Honeymoon post to share! This week’s post was sent from Caitlyn and Jason who recently honeymooned across three countries in Europe. Read all about their wonderful trip below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

Jason and I adventured through Europe for our two-week honeymoon, visiting Dublin, Bordeaux, Paris, and Venice and taking many day trips from each city. We left June 19 and returned July 4. Small piece of advice: avoid the middle of the summer. It. Was. HOT.

How long was your trip?

Two weeks – Saturday to Saturday. We highly recommend returning on a Saturday – everyone can use a Sunday to unpack, do laundry, and brace yourself for Monday morning work emails.

How did you decide on your honeymoon destinations?

Jason and I took a long time to decide where to spend our honeymoon – when else do you get to take two weeks off work?! We definitely don’t consider ourselves “beach people” so a tropical location was quickly ruled out. Other places we considered were Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, but ultimately decided that we wanted our honeymoon to be a little more romantic than how we envisioned those destinations. What can I say? We’re newlyweds! Jason had never been to Europe and I knew the atmosphere was perfect for a romantic, semi-adventurous (but also relaxing!) trip. So, off to Europe we went.

We chose Dublin because Jason is a huge whiskey and beer enthusiast. From the Irish Whiskey Museum and the Jameson Factory to the endless amounts of ice cold Guinness (please note, my husband would like to specify the Guinness was not actually ice cold – I disagree…#marriage), we definitely had our fair share of cocktails. We stayed at The Arlington – located the perfect distance from pretty much anything you’d want to do – just a short walk to pubs, museums and everything else. If you don’t mind a slightly older hotel, we highly recommend The Arlington.

Ireland honeymoon

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While we were there, we took a day trip to the other side of the country to experience the insane beauty that is the Cliffs of Moher – and I mean INSANE. The most breathtaking scenery you can imagine. From the moment we hopped on the bus, we were hooked. Every nook and cranny of that country is a shade of green you’ve never seen … and never want to unsee.

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Our next stop was Bordeaux, a small town in the south of France known for its red wine and gorgeous châteaux. Jason and I love wine and absolutely couldn’t wait to get here. Every day we took a trip to a different region to learn about (read: drink) Bordeaux wines. While visiting château after château is definitely recommended during the day (our favorite regions were Saint-Émilion and Médoc), take some time to walk along the river and enjoy the view. The river walk was renovated from parking spots to beautiful gardens and bike paths – a great spot to enjoy an after dinner treat. This was my favorite hotel of the trip – La Maison du Lierre – a small bed and breakfast that was straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog. If you stay here, make sure to have breakfast on the patio – it’s so quaint you almost forget you’re in the middle of a city.

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Weekend in Austin

My husband and I spent last weekend eating, walking, and (at least for Aaron) running through Austin, Texas. It was my third visit to Texas’ capitol but Aaron’s first, so we wanted to make sure that we hit the city’s best highlights during our short stay.

Greetings, y'all!

Greetings, y’all!

We didn’t do a lot of planning in advance for this trip; just some “Best Austin BBQ” Google searches and one Facebook post:

Austin recs

We received tons of great recommendations from friends who recently visited on lived in Austin, so we consolidated those notes and made a tentative game-plan. While we are in no way claiming to be Austin experts, below is a list of the places we checked out and would recommend to other visitors.

Friday:

– We arrived in Austin around 9:30 pm and asked our taxi driver to make a pit stop at Torchy’s Tacos on our way downtown. Even though one friend told us to skip tacos altogether and just focus on BBQ while in Austin, that friend was DEAD WRONG because Torchy’s tacos are not to be missed. They have an excellent secret menu, too.

torchy's

– Once we had secured our tacos, we checked into InterContinental Stephen F. Austin. The hotel was in a perfect location for the Austin Marathon (our whole reason for this particular Austin visit), but the downsides were the extra charge for in-room wifi and the lack of an outdoor pool.*

Saturday:

– We wanted to start the day with a breakfast for champions: the “Don Juan” breakfast taco from Juan in a Million. Holy moly that thing was good, and just one of them can easily feed two people. (Pro tip: ask for extra tortillas.) Don’t be discouraged by the crowd waiting outside the restaurant; the line moved quite quickly and we were seated in under 15 minutes.

juan in a million

– After breakfast we took a cab to the South Congress neighborhood (ask to get dropped off at Doc’s then walk south.) We grabbed iced coffees at Jo’s then wandered around the eclectic shops. It was especially fun ducking into Allens Boots and ByGeorge — those two stores couldn’t have been more different, but both were awesome! Our only regret was being too full from breakfast to try any of the cafes or bars in the neighborhood.

Had too much fun at Allens Boots. They even had U of M ones!

Had too much fun at Allens Boots. They even had U of M ones!

– The marathon expo was on our way back downtown, so by the time we walked over there and got Aaron checked in he had worked up enough of an appetite to justify a root beer float from Sandy’s. The perfect treat on a hot day.

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– We lucked out with gorgeous weather, so we walked all the way through downtown to the Capitol Building, then continued north to check out the University of Texas at Austin campus. I love seeing new college campuses, but man they can make you feel old! Also, it didn’t feel right being surrounded by so much burnt orange.

My best "Eyes of Texas" impression

My best “Eyes of Texas” impression

– From campus we took a taxi back downtown so we could walk through 6th Street before the evening’s debauchery began. We walked through the Red River district over to Rainey Street which used to be one of my favorite spots in town. Now, sadly, there are new condo buildings being constructed all around the quaint old houses and food trucks, killing the easy-going vibe. Nevertheless we still enjoyed a beer and some snacks at the Banger’s beer garden.

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– After Rainey Street we made our first bad decision of the trip: BBQ at Stubb’s. Fine music venue, not great BBQ.

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Real Honeymoon: The Maldives

My friends Cara and Eric went on a quintessential tropical honeymoon in the Maldives last year. While the Maldives can certainly be one of the world’s most expensive vacation destinations, Cara and Eric were smart about splitting up their trip between two differently priced resorts, and the result was perfection! Read all about their incredibly gorgeous Maldives honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

Eric and I decided to honeymoon in the Maldives, which is a grouping of 26 atolls in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  The Maldives is basically as far away from San Francisco as you can possibly get.  We went for two weeks directly following our labor day weekend wedding [September 2014].  We stayed at two resorts, to break up the trip (and the second hotel allowed us to not break our bank account).

Maldives honeymoon

Tennis in the Maldives

yoga in paradiseResort #1: Anantara – Dhigu
Amazing customer service.  Over water bungalow is a must.  We went with the half board, which consisted of a fantastic breakfast buffet (could not get enough of the local  fresh fruit) and  a 3 course dinner at all restaurants on the island.  Water surrounding hotel is a like a lagoon, so there are no waves and allows for a safe haven for baby sea life – including friendly reef sharks!  The resort supplies you bikes you can take around the island and had they had a fantastic spa that we would highly recommend.  Not as much of a water activity focus here, but there are islands you can swim or kayak to within the resort that allows for great snorkeling.

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Resort #2: Kuredu Island Resort 
This was more of a party resort – which we later discovered when we arrived.  We did the all inclusive option, which allowed us access to 3 buffets per day and all the drinks we wanted!  The water there was rougher, so we spent more time in the resort pools.  The activities were plentiful, giving options for diving, snorkeling, tours and tennis.  They also throw a white party every Friday, which I judged at first, but ended up closing the place down.

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

I had some big dreams for our honeymoon and one requirement: I wanted to stay in an over-water bungalow.  Surprisingly, there are not many places in the world where these villas exist, so this limited our selection right off the bat.   We created a short list of destinations and compared average hotels costs and airline costs.

10355441_10100339553493944_3809910131736898347_oUltimately, we decided to splurge on a “once in a lifetime experience.”  Our close friends did their honeymoon there the previous year and raved about the location, so we also felt comfortable staying in a resort that someone was able to vouch for – because who wants a bad honeymoon experience?

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The best part about our honeymoon was…

The water.  It was crystal clear, allowing us to see all of the baby sharks, fish and sting rays that swam by.  At night the hotels would put lights on in the water, which would attract all types of fish and allow for viewing at dinner.  The snorkeling was amazing, I have never seen so many different types of fish in one place.

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

Nothing really.  One thing to keep in mind is when you are booking your travel is account for travel back to the airport from your resort.  We had to take a seaplane from Kuredu and the last one the resort had out was at 4pm, while our flight was at 10pm out of the Maldives airport.  Spending 6 hours at an airport where alcohol is illegal and the fine dining was Burger King left more to be desired.

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Real Honeymoon: Bali

High school sweethearts Johanna and Arthur were married at one of my favorite places in wine country, then jetted off to Asia for additional wedding celebrations with their families. To cap off the festivities, they went on a spectacular honeymoon in Bali. I have a particular fondness for Bali honeymoons (ahem), but I think you’ll love reading about their trip, too:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We both have quite a lot of family who live overseas, so shortly after our wedding in the fall, we planned to also do dinner banquets in Hong Kong and Taipei during the holidays for our families who couldn’t come to the wedding.

Since we were “in the area” for our families, we wanted to go someplace close by in Asia for our honeymoon. We wanted to go somewhere that would be a good mix of tropical, relaxing (but not boring!), fun to explore, and lastly, someplace new for us. After running through a bunch of location ideas, Bali was definitely our top choice! Our itinerary was a bit different from what most people do, since we didn’t go to the southern part of the island where a lot of the water sports are in Seminyak and the party area of Kuta. We spend most of our time in the cultural center of Ubud, which is in the middle of the island, and also in the more remote western coast, in Manggis.

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In Ubud, we stayed at Amandari, and at Amankila in Manggis. They are part of a larger hospitality group called the Aman Resorts. We loved the properties and the hospitality at Aman, it’s very warm, welcoming, and well run. The properties themselves were gorgeous. Amandari was built to resemble a Balinese village, and Amankila was built in homage to one of the water palaces in that part of the area, so it was a really unique experience.

How long was your trip?

We were in Hong Kong and Taipei for 2 weeks (or, as Johanna’s coworkers called it, the second and third weddings!), and in Bali for a little under a week.

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

We’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to travel throughout East Asia quite a lot, so we both really wanted to go somewhere new in Southeast Asia. We wanted to go somewhere that had a good mix of culture, exploring, and relaxation, and we really found Bali to be that perfect fit. The history of the island, religion, art, and plethora of outdoor activities just made for a super fun and well rounded trip for us.

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The best part about our honeymoon was …

This was definitely was biking through the terraced rice fields that Bali is known for (the island is 20% rice fields!), jungle, and villages, and somehow ending up a coffee shop; and taking a Balinese cooking class. We were able to go to the street market to learn about/buy all of the ingredients for the day, try our hand at bargaining down the prices at the market, and then go to our guide’s family home to cook in his courtyard underneath a mango tree, and eating our meal in the middle of the jungle overlooking a river. And now I can make Balinese curry at home!

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