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

Arthur would probably say that he would not drink that coconut juice directly out of the coconut. Beware of Bali Belly. It’s a thing, and it’s not nice. We would both probably spend more time in Ubud, which was our favorite part of the island.

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How much planning did you do in advance?

We did a fair amount of leg work before going to Bali, but it’s definitely worth it to note that Lonely Planet stressed that Bali is pretty easy for Westerners to travel to, and we found that to be very true. Bali is very open to and accommodating to tourists, while still be very true to itself. The locals that we hung out with were more than willing to share recommendations and were super friendly, but they’re not going to sugarcoat where they think you should go, what locale isn’t worth the trouble, or try to push touristy knick knacks on you to make a buck. You can definitely go and make plans on the fly while you’re there.

For us, beforehand, we read Lonely Planet on the plane flight over to HK, talked to some friends who have been to Bali before and got their recommendations, and read some travel blogs and sites on where to stay.

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What was your biggest honeymoon splurge?

Definitely the accommodations. We wanted to be able to spend this trip just relaxing and having as much fun as possible, so we found a resort that would cater and arrange for private outings, travel arrangements, tour guides, and lessons, so we wouldn’t need to worry about the logistics at all. Totally worth it!

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

The Mediterranean – we’re going to eat our way through France and Italy! Then Vietnam.. then Portugal..Greece, etc, etc…

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A few additional recs from Johanna are below.

Tour guide information:
  • Sang was one of our tour guides that we booked through our resort, Amandari. He is fantastic – knowledgeable, friendly, and speaks English exceptionally well. He also offers customizable private tours via bike, car, etc. through his own company, The Authentic Bali, which we really recommend, if you’re not staying at Amandari. You can reach him via his Facebook page. (His website is still under construction.
Restaurant recommendations:
  • Mozaic – Decent Western-style restaurant that uses local ingredients. The value is pretty good, and it’s a nice escape from eating nasi gorang and local food every day. The setting is really cool, too – you sit at outdoor tables under wooden roofs and overlook a rice paddy.
  • Bebek Bengil (a.k.a. dirty duck diner) – This is mentioned in a lot of guide books and is interesting to try, but it’s not a restaurant that is frequented by locals. (Locals tend to eat pork, not duck, as duck is an ingredient that is mostly reserved for priests.)
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