Real Honeymoon: Thailand & Bali

I don’t think I know anyone more excited for their wedding than my friends Chris and Jason. After a gorgeous wedding at City Hall in San Francisco, they went back to work for a few days before leaving for their absolutely incredible honeymoon in Thailand and Bali. If you’re considering visiting either country anytime soon, you won’t want to miss out on Chris’ thorough recommendations below.

When and where did you honeymoon?

We went to Thailand and Bali for just over 2 weeks during the last 2 weeks of June into July 2015. Specifically we were in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ubud and Seminyak.

Thailand Honeymoon

I think it’s helpful to note that we got married on the 13th, we took off the following Monday from work which was a godsend. I maybe slept for 18 hours straight due to pure exhaustion from the wedding weekend festivities. Because we went back to work the week after the wedding and everyone was aware we were headed out for our honeymoon the following week the workload was lower than usual – no one is going to have you start on something when you’re leaving for 2+ weeks. It was really nice to come back into the office to retell the best parts of the wedding, catch up on emails from the week of the wedding, and then wrap things up before your honeymoon. If we ever renew our vows and decide to go all out with another honeymoon I would 100% do the same thing when it comes to the work schedule. Game changer.

Thailand honeymoon

How long was your trip?

17 days. We left San Francisco on Friday, June 19th and flew into Tokyo. We had a few hour layover which gave us enough time to have semi-authentic Japanese sushi at the airport, then we flew into Bangkok. We were in Bangkok for 3 nights and then went to Chiang Mai for 2 nights. From Chiang Mai we had to layover in Bangkok before heading to Bali and were in Seminyak for 4 nights, followed by Ubud for 4 nights. After Ubud we flew back to Bangkok for 2 more nights and then head back home via Tokyo again.

Bali honeymoon

How did you decide on your honeymoon destinations?

Between Jason and me, we have hit up almost every continent and most major countries. We wanted to spend our honeymoon somewhere where neither of us had ever been before. It was also important that there would be good sun for me to get a nice tan and for us to go to a place with a lot to do as Jason canNOT spend all day everyday laying out.

Bali honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

2+ unadulterated weeks away from work and responsibility! It’s the one time in your life that you’re encouraged to be fully obsessed with your partner and celebrate how much you love each other! The food was also ridiculous – some of the best I’ve ever had in my life! And the memories… I will never forget our honeymoon – Best. Trip. Ever.

bali honeymoon

We stayed at the Oberoi in Seminyak which was our favorite hotel for the whole honeymoon – everything from the rooms, the service, the pool, the food, everything was the best we’ve ever experienced. The hotel set us up with some concierge at the airport so that we got whisked away through customs where the diplomats go (no line) and he carried our bags and got us to cut every line. It was awesome. I’d recommend you call your hotel and say ‘YES’ to the car service and ask if they can hook you up with the airport concierge service so that your travels through the airport are seamless. It was a game changer! Continue reading

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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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Real Honeymoon: Bali

We’re back this week with a very awesome honeymoon in Bali! Jeanne and Kevin were lucky enough to get invited to a destination wedding in Bali earlier this year, so they decided to piggyback their honeymoon onto that. Instead of staying at a resort, a friend recommended that they rent a villa instead which they loved. (I wish I had thought of that for my own honeymoon)! Read all about their amazing trip and helpful Bali recommendations below:

When and where did you honeymoon? 

Bali, May 2014.

bali honeymoon

How long was your trip? 

Two weeks.

bali honeymoon

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination? 

One of my husband’s best friends was getting married in Bali and my husband was a groomsman, so we decided to go to the wedding and turn the rest of the time into our honeymoon!

Bali honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

The absolute natural beauty of Bali. It’s really incredible; very tropical with amazing wild life. Monkeys everywhere!  The beaches are so different depending on where you go. Some are filled with coral and some are just white sand and clear water.  But no matter what, it’s stunning!

bali

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

I don’t think I would change anything about our trip, but it is a very LONG trip to get to Bali. It was a total of 32 hours of travel to get there and a few more hours to get back. It’s exhausting, and I probably should have gotten a prescription sleep-aid to help with the time difference!

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How much planning did you do in advance? 

We did a LOT of planning but had the help of my husband’s friend who has vacationed a lot in Bali as they live in Singapore. Most of the research that we did was on where to stay, but the great part about Bali is that once you get there, it is pretty inexpensive. There are several large resorts on the main island, but we chose to stay in a private “villa,” which is just a fancy name for someone’s house that they rent out.

There are tons of options if you go the villa route; you can rent enormous ones for a big group to stay, or do what we did and rented a private 2 bedroom villa for ourselves. We stayed in the villa for eight nights on the main island.

The villa was great! It was mostly open-air except for the bedroom that had A/C. We had a private pool, cook, driver, and maid… all for a little over $100 USD/night!  So if you want to cut costs on a Bali vacation, where you stay really has a lot to do with it. If you stay at a resort, the cost per night is just like the average US hotel room, and it was just more private and romantic for us in the Villa.

We did a ton of stuff while on the main Island of Bali. Aside from the wedding, of course, we did a lot of sightseeing and was able to hit a few beach clubs at the recommendation of Kevin’s friend.

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Here is a list of a few places we went to including restaurants:

  • We stayed at Villa Lumba in Seminyak, owned by a really nice couple.
  • We visited Pura Luhur Uluwatu temple– known for the monkeys and the amazing sunset!
  • Finn’s Beach Club– this was an AMAZING beach club, by far one of my favorite parts about this vacation- cannot beat this!
  • PotatoHead Beach Club– another amazing beach club!
  • Wedding was at Villa Phalosa– absolutely incredible villa, blew me away and a PERFECT spot for a wedding…most amazing wedding I’ve ever been to
  • Naughty Nuri’s– very casual restaurant in Seminyak, known for meat! we went here the first night we were in Bali and visited with the bride/groom and the rest of their close friends- pretty good!
  • Villa Kaira– this was the villa that most of the family of the bride and groom stayed at, very very beautiful and perfect for a group to rent together.
  • Vue Beach Club at LV8 Resort– we hung out here the day after the wedding and had food and used the pool area, gorgeous! only 5.00 to use the pool and food was inexpensive! incredible view of the ocean.

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Looking Back On Our Honeymoon: One Year Later

I can’t believe that this Sunday marks my first wedding anniversary.  Seriously, where did the past twelve months go?  My husband and I still live in the same apartment, work at the same jobs, have the same dog… things just don’t feel too different, but now I guess we’ve transitioned from “newlyweds” to an “old married couple.”  Awesome.  I have confirmed this in a recent conversation with one of my sisters.  It went a little something like this:

Sister: “_____ is having a baby.”

Me: (gasp!) “Whoa, really?  Aren’t they a little young?”

Sister: “Yeah, they’re pretty young, but they act so old.”

Me: (sarcastically) “So, like as old as Aaron and me?”

Sister: “No, not that old.”

Thanks a lot, Nicole.

Since it’s been a year since the wedding, it has also been a year since our honeymoon and I’m feeling nostalgic.  In honor of our honeymooniversary, I’m going to reminisce about some of my favorite parts of our trip.

Kids in Bali

1) Indonesian kids love Aaron.  I don’t know if they thought he was an NBA player or what, but a photo similar to the one displayed above was taken many, many times during the eight days that we were in Bali.  I mean, this wouldn’t be unheard of if we were in a remote village or some other place where there weren’t tons of white tourists.  But this was Bali.  There are literally caucasian Australian tourists EVERYWHERE.  Why were they so obsessed with taking photos with Aaron?  Either it was just because he’s 6’6″, or perhaps they mistook him for a famous pop star we don’t know about in the U.S.  (I think Aaron’s hoping for the latter.)

Balinese Burrito

2) The burritos at Taco Casa in Ubud, Bali.  Like most brides, I watched my diet and worked out a lot before my wedding.  I didn’t do any juice cleanses or early morning bootcamp classes, but I did make myself give up burritos for a few months.  Burritos are one of my favorite foods, you see, and I live close to some of the best taquerias in San Francisco, so this was no easy feat.  But when we were on our way to our first hotel in Bali, I noticed a huge sign for burritos at Taco Casa.  I didn’t care that we were in Indonesia which is probably one of the last countries in the world that I’d expect to produce good burritos, I was going to have one damn it.  Despite having very low expectations, I thought my burrito was quite excellent.  Maybe I’m just too burrito-deprived, I thought, but Aaron also thought his burrito was shockingly delicious.  So coming from two San Franciscan burrito connoisseurs, we give Taco Casa two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Private Beach in Hoi An

3) The beautiful beaches in Hoi An, Vietnam – man, they were nice.  The photo above was taken on the private beach of our hotel – Boutique Hoi An Resort.  We stayed for four nights and absolutely loved it, so I’d totally recommend it to anyone who’s thinking about going to Vietnam.  The hotel was pretty busy because a German girl and Australian guy were having a destination wedding there.  Since we were still totally in all-things-wedding mode, we chatted with the groom’s parents who told us that the couple met at a hostel while backpacking in London.  (That’s the story that Aaron and I are going to use from now on whenever we get asked about how we first met.)  It was fun to (respectfully) spy on their intimate beach wedding.

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Quick Tip(s) #7: How to Handle Your Money When Traveling Abroad

One of the last things you’ll want to worry about during your honeymoon is whether you’re handling your money properly.  Follow these quick tips to make sure that you get the most bang for your buck when traveling abroad:

Cash money

Mo money, no problems

1) As I mentioned in a previous post, make sure that you tell your credit card company in advance that you’ll be traveling abroad!

2) Don’t bother with travelers checks – you may have a hard time finding people who’ll accept them, and the exchange rate isn’t always the best.

3) When possible, use credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees.

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Don’t Let Travel Scams Bum Out Your Honeymoon

Lonely Planet’s blog just published a great piece on 10 Common Travel Scams, including the ever-so-popular bird shit and fake police scams that trick far too many travelers.  Fortunately, I haven’t encountered many scams myself during my travels abroad, but my husband and I did have one little “incident” during our honeymoon.  Here’s the story of our “You look tired, do you want to stop for some coffee?” scam:

While my husband and I were honeymooning in Bali, a prearranged driver was supposed to take us from our first hotel in Ubud to our next one in Nusa Dua.  During the drive, Aaron let out a yawn and the driver made some sort of joke about how honeymooners never get enough sleep.  He asked if Aaron would like some coffee because he knew of a wonderful coffee plantation nearby.  We don’t really remember saying yes to the driver, but the next thing we knew we were in a parking lot full of other taxis.

Balinese Coffee Tasting

Balinese Coffee Tasting

We were quickly shuffled to a table where trays of different coffees were set before us, and a young woman recited her memorized shpiel about the different blends.  We tried them all, and Aaron even paid an extra $10 to try the coffee made from luwak droppings.  (I passed on that.)

At the end of our tasting, we were given a quick tour of the plantation and our guide explained to us how poor the workers were.  Right on cue, we arrived at the gift shop where we were told that every purchase makes a big difference in the workers’ lives.  We decided to buy two little bags of flavored coffees and were shocked by the humungous price tag.

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Real Honeymoon: Bali & Lombok

One of the reasons why my husband and I chose to visit Bali during our honeymoon was because our friends Ashley and James had such a great time there.  Read all about their awesome Balinese honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

July 2010 – Bali and Lombok, Indonesia

River rafting in Bali

How long was your trip?

10 days

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

A friend’s father owns Bali Island Villas, which is beautiful AND reasonably priced.  We decided to splurge on the exotic location because you only live once, and it was definitely worth it.

Balinese rice paddies

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Exploring the different areas in Bali. While it is a small island, each region has a completely different flavor. We enjoyed staying in Seminyak the most, because it offered great beaches and amazing restaurants. Taxis are ridiculously cheap so it was easy to explore and go on spontaneous adventures.

Balinese beach

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

Going to the neighboring island Lombok. We spent 2 nights in Lombok at the end of our trip. It was incredibly unfriendly, the downtown area is sparse, and my husband got food poisoning.

How much planning did you do in advance?

Probably a few months. We mostly just booked our flight, and I would highly recommend booking your flight in advance. It’s not a cheap flight and the more notice you have the better. I would also be sure to do your research on where to stay. I would definitely recommend finding a hotel in a good location that is walking distance to restaurants and the beach.

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Who Hires a Travel Agent These Days?

If you read my previous post about my own honeymoon, you may have stopped halfway through and asked yourself “Wait, what?” when I mentioned that we used a travel agent.  Why would I, an overly enthusiastic and experienced world traveler, need to hire a travel agent?  I’m just as shocked as you are, I assure you, but hear me out.

Ulu Watu, Bali

1.  Wedding planning is stressful, and you’re going to get “decisioned-out” eventually.

I’m usually great at making decisions quickly and confidently, I swear.  However, after months of approving wedding invitation fonts, various shades of blue bridesmaid dresses, and the all-important wedding band playlist, my decision-making skills were worn down considerably.  My then-fiancé and I couldn’t even decide what country we wanted to go to for our honeymoon, let alone what cities, hotels, etc.  To be blunt: we just needed professional back-up.

2.  It’s probably cheaper than you expected it would be.

The way it worked with our travel agent was that she charged us a $100 flat fee per person – that’s it.  The only caveat was that we couldn’t have her spend weeks planning a perfect African safari and then ask her at the last minute to cancel that and plan a whole new Caribbean itinerary instead.  But for just $200, we received unlimited phone calls, emails, and revised itineraries from our agent.  Pretty darn awesome.

3.  The pros may have some suggestions that you never would have thought of yourself.

This was certainly true for us in two respects.  My husband and I love beaches, so we told the travel agent to find us the best hotels within our price range on the most gorgeous beaches in Southeast Asia.  Unexpected suggestion #1: Vietnam.*  This was a surprise for us, but  it turns out that she was right.**  Not only were the Vietnamese beaches beautiful, but the local food was excellent and the prices were very reasonable since many resorts were not too popular with Western tourists yet.

Unexpected suggestion #2 came along when I noticed that the first Balinese resort on our itinerary was nowhere near the beach.  I thought, “Was the travel agent even listening to me?  I told her that beaches were a major priority!”  Yeah, she heard me, and she also just knew better.  While some of the beaches in Bali are pretty great, the inner part of the island had a lot more to offer.  We’re so glad that we listened to her.

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Real Honeymoon: Bali & Vietnam

Well, what better way to start off my honeymoon travel blog with answering (my own) questions about my honeymoon?

When and where did you honeymoon?

Our honeymoon was in May 2012, and we went to Bali and Vietnam.  Specifically, we stayed in four different locations: Ubud and Nusa Dua in Bali, then in Hoi An and on an island off of Nha Trang in Vietnam.

Pertiwi Resort – Ubud, Bali

How long was your trip?

16 nights: 4 nights at each resort.

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

Oh my god, it was difficult.  Our biggest priorities were: 1) a place neither of us had already been to, 2) gorgeous beaches, 3) a little bit of culture (i.e. no Sandals Resorts, thankyouverymuch), and 4) far, far away.

After buying Lonely Planet books for a half dozen countries (including Venezuela, Mauritius, and Belize), we finally narrowed it down to Southeast Asia.  Why?  Because we hadn’t been there together before (although I’d been to Thailand already), our money would go a lot further, and it was the right time of year to travel there.

I was pretty set on Bali from the get-go (and no, I have neither seen the movie nor read the book Eat, Pray, Love), but we wanted to go somewhere else, too.  This is where our travel agent helped us out the most.  After asking her about combining Bali with the Philippines or Malaysia, the agent recommended Vietnam, which hadn’t even crossed our minds as a honeymoon destination.  I had no idea that their beaches were some of the best in all of Asia.

The private beach at Hon Tam Resort – Nha Trang, Vietnam

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Okay, two things.  1) Having all of the transportation arranged in advance.  We had drivers who met us promptly at every airport and every hotel, and just not having to think twice about getting anywhere felt like a luxury in and of itself.

2) Staying at Hoi An Boutique Resort in Hoi An, Vietnam.  The grounds were gorgeous, our villa was spacious, the food was delicious, the pool was clean, it had a private beach… I could go on and on.  The resort also had a shuttle service to and from the main town of Hoi An so we took advantage of that every night for dinner.  Our favorite restaurant was called Morning Glory, and it was so much better than any fancy Vietnamese food that San Francisco has to offer.  (And SF has some pretty incredible Vietnamese food.  I’m looking at you, Slanted Door.)  Not to mention, a full dinner with multiple drinks only set us back $25.

Boutique Hoi An Resort – Hoi An, Vietnam

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