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: Vietnam & Sri Lanka

I’m excited to share our first real honeymoon of 2015! There are several more in the pipeline, so make sure to come back to the blog in the next few weeks to read those as well. This week’s real honeymooners Gaya and Tim recently got back from an exciting honeymoon in Vietnam and Sri Lanka where they spent time with friends and family who live there. Read all about their trip and check out the gorgeous photos below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

Our honeymoon started on Dec 15th – Dec 22nd [2014] in Vietnam, then Dec 22nd [2014] – Jan 2nd [2015] in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Elephantride

Riding elephants in Sri Lanka

Friends in Sri Lanka

Honeymooning with friends in Sri Lanka

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 3 nights in Ho Chi Minh City (stayed with friends)
  • 1 night in the Mekong Delta (at a homestay)
  • 2 nights in Hoi An (at a homestay)
  • 3 nights in Jaffna (stayed with family)
  • 2 nights in Trincomalee
  • 1 night (but recommend 2) in Kandy
  • 1 night Nuwara Eliya (recommend staying here or here)
  • 1 night (but recommend 2) in Bentota
  • 3 nights in Colombo
Vietnam_Hoi An2

Vietnamese food… yummmm

Sri Lanka seafood

Sri Lanka seafood


How long was your trip?

Our trip was approximately 3 weeks.

Hanging out with friends in Vietnamese rice paddies

Just hanging out with friends in Vietnamese rice paddies

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

Tim and I are both Sri Lankan, but he has never visited and I haven’t been since I left, which was close to 25 years ago. We knew that Sri Lanka would always be our honeymoon destination.  Vietnam was nice as well. We have some friends that live there and we thought this would be a good opportunity to go and visit them.

Traveling around Sri Lanka with friends

On the road in Sri Lanka


The best part about our honeymoon was…

This is such a hard question to answer; there were sssoooo many great parts of our honeymoon. Vietnam is such a magical country, rich with culture and a heighten sense of movement. Sri Lanka is just absolutely beautiful, only 25,332 sq miles in total area, and every area, every mini city is so different from the last. We also were fortunate enough to travel with some friends for portions of our trip. But if I had to pick just one part, it would have been the history that I was able to discover in Sri Lanka.

Sigaria

Sigaria

Sri Lanka dancers

Sri Lanka dancers

Sri Lanka tea estates

Sri Lanka tea estates

Hot springs in Sri Lanka

Hot springs in Sri Lanka

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Cheap and Adventurous Honeymoon Ideas

Some friends of mine recently got married in Mexico (blog post coming soon!), and now they’ve asked me for recommendations on where to go on their honeymoon.   Their two biggest requirements?  Adventurous and inexpensive.

Since this couple lives in California, I immediately thought that they have two major options: Asia or Central America.  Here’s why:

1) SE Asia: The yes-the-flight-is-expensive-but-everything-else-is-cheap option.

If your honeymoon is 10+ days, I’d definitely recommend going to SE Asia, specifically certain parts of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia*, and Cambodia*.  Although your flights will most likely be $1000 or more per person, your money is going to go a very long way once you’re there.  You can stay at incredible resorts for less than $200 a night, domestic flights are super cheap, fancy dinners can be had for $30 or less, and spa splurges like massages are around $15.

Morning sunrise hike in Bali

Morning sunrise hike in Bali

SE Asia also offers a lot of cool options for adventure lovers.  You can trek with elephants in Thailand, go water rafting in Bali, hike mountains in Borneo – the list is endless (and pretty damn awesome).

Patara

Alexis and Andrew riding elephants in Thailand

If you want to stay on budget, just make sure that you avoid the most touristy areas and “name brand” hotels.  In other words, if you think that the Four Seasons in Koh Samui will be a steal just because it’s in Thailand, think again.  (Because the cheapest rooms are about $1000 USD a night!)

2) Central America: The flights-are-short-and-inexpensive-but-you’ll-pay-a-decent-amount-for-everything-else option.

Remember when I was deciding whether to go to Belize, Nicaragua, or Panama last Memorial Day weekend?  Well, the flights from SFO to all three countries were basically the same price: $600.  And compared to flights to Asia, they’re really short which makes them perfect for honeymoons that are less than 10 days.

panama snorkeling

Snorkeling in Panama

While Costa Rica is great for honeymooners, it will certainly not be your cheapest bet.  Belize*, on the other hand, has great “beach + jungle” resort combo packages at all different price points, and our neighbors raved about the amazing diving resorts in Honduras.*  Panama is a major up-and-coming surf destination, as well.

Belize horseback riding

Agnes and Matt horseback riding in Belize

Again, you may save money if you stay away from the big name hotel chains and choose boutique hotels instead.

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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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Honeymoon Destination Recommendations For… Serious Beach Bums

You know how the surfers in the Endless Summer movies spent their days searching for the perfect wave?  Well, I wish I had more time to travel the globe in search of the perfect beach.

Fortunately, I’ve already visited some pretty spectacular beaches over the past 28 years, so I am going to share with you a list of some of my favorites*.  Hopefully the list will help the beach bums out there decide where to go on your honeymoon:

1) Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach via Damien Dempsey

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Whitehaven Beach.  Located in the Whitsunday Islands (which is FULL of incredible beaches), Whitehaven is quite aptly named because it has the softest, whitest sand that I’ve ever seen in the world.  My friends and I were told that brushing our teeth with the sand acts as a whitener, but in retrospect that probably wasn’t the best idea for us to do.  That aside, it is the most spectacular beach I’ve ever seen.

2) Cap Juluca, Anguilla

Cap Juluca

Cap Juluca via Tiarescott

Popular with celebrities like Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston, the pristine beach at the Cap Juluca resort makes it a quintessential honeymoon destination.  It’s also just a short boat ride away from nearby St. Maarten, so you can just check it out for a day if you don’t want to stay at the resort.  Okay, okay, I know we all WANT to stay there, but it’s just really expensive, that’s all.

3) Playa Cristal, Colombia

I was blown away by Playa Cristal because of the clearness of the water and the beautiful backdrop of the lush jungle.  You can hire a boat in Taganga to take you to the beach.  Unfortunately I couldn’t bring a camera with me to the beach because our next stop was Playa Brava where we actually swam to shore, slept on the beach overnight, then hiked out of Parque Tayrona the next day and hitched a ride back to Santa Marta, so bringing electronics along was a no-no.  You’ll just have to trust me that the beach was so wonderful that it made my list of top 3 beaches in the world.

4) Playa Blanca, Colombia

Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca, land of magical beagle puppies

Yes, yes, another Colombian beach.  I don’t know if I’ve expressed how much my husband and I love Colombia yet on the blog, but we highly recommend going there if you love beaches, friendly people, and good food.  You can reach Playa Blanca from Cartagena in one of two ways: hire a private boat down by the fish market (just hold your nose while you’re there – it really stinks), or sign up for an “organized” day tour.  It seems like the organized day tour is less than ideal though because it only brings you to the crowded part of the beach, so go with the private boat for a more relaxing experience.

For honeymooners who want to rough it, you can spend the night in hammocks at Hugo’s.  My husband and I thought it was the greatest place ever because 1) it was BEAUTIFUL, 2) it was the first time we slept in hammocks during that trip so the novelty made it fun and not back-breaking yet, and 3) we woke up in the morning to a litter of beagle puppies that were born overnight.  Beagle.  Puppies.  In.  Paradise.  Probably one of the best days of my life.

5) Lake Mckenzie, Fraser Island, Australia

Lake Mckenzie Beach via Sensenmann

The colors of Lake Mckenzie look totally fake, but I assure you, this is really, really what the lake looks like.

6) Lanikai, Oahu, Hawaii

Lanikai

Lanikai Beach via Cristo Vlahos

A friend of mine who was living in Honolulu at the time took my husband and me to Lanikai, a beautiful beach that isn’t terribly overcrowded with tourists.  Do yourself a favor and pick up some Leonard’s malasadas to eat when you get to the beach.  A perfect combination.

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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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