TRAVEL DIARIES 38
Two months after their unique and personal nuptials in Chicago, Illinois, Brittanie Ahrens and Alex Navarro jetted off to Southeast Asia for two weeks of relaxation, cultural sightseeing, and of course, a dash of romance. For their first trip together as husband and wife, they decided to explore faraway lands they had never visited: Bangkok, Thailand and the areas of Seminyak and Ubud on the Indonesian island of Bali.
After an eight-hour layover in Dubai where they visited the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa, and enjoyed a sunset dinner, the newlyweds arrived in Bangkok. “We wanted to explore a busy, large city before relaxing in Bali,” explains Brittanie. They checked into The Peninsula Bangkok, right on the edge of the Chao Phraya river, for four nights. “The hotel is located on the ‘wrong’ side of the river, so we had a stunning view of the downtown skyline,” she divulges. The couple appreciated the vista from a large pool located on the beautiful grounds of the hotel. Taking advantage of the hotel’s free water taxi service, Brittanie and Alex enjoyed a relaxing boat ride en route to the downtown neighborhood. “We spent most days discovering Bangkok and what the city has to offer,” she adds. They found a favorite spa, Enjoy Massage, where the pair treated themselves to hand and foot treatments each evening for only a few US dollars per hour.
The sweethearts spent a few hours exploring the Buddhist temple complex of Wat Pho. “It’s a wonderful cultural experience with stunning views,” gushes Brittanie. “The world’s largest reclining Buddha is housed there, and it is enormous!” Conveniently, the flower markets of Bangkok are located right next to the complex, which were of particular interest to Brittanie, who works as an event designer for HMR Designs in Chicago. “Some of our product comes directly from Bangkok,” she notes. The couple’s last full day in the city provided another chance for Brittanie to see the gorgeous florals of Thailand, as their private guided tour of the Damnoen Saduak floating markets included a stop at an orchid farm. “Once we arrived at the markets, the vibrant vendors were a sight to see!” Brittanie exclaims. “Each stall – some in boats and some on the bank of the river – offered various goods such as clothing, plants, toys, and souvenirs.”
Discover travel and honeymoon tips from one recently married couple.
Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia
Following their exploration of Bangkok, the newlyweds switched gears to relax in Bali. First stop: four nights in Seminyak, a region online reviews said would be less touristy than nearby Kuta, which is known for a party atmosphere. Forgoing a traditional resort, Brittanie and Alex stayed at an Airbnb property called Bora Villa. The two-bedroom home featured a private pool in the beautifully landscaped yard. “We really enjoyed breaking up our hotel stay with a more relaxed Airbnb,” Brittanie says. “It challenged us to explore on our own.”
Spending a day at the Potato Head beach club offered access to “three restaurants, two bars, a massive pool, and the best place to watch the sunset in town,” reveals Brittanie. The stylish couple also enjoyed the quirky and unique architecture of the club. They discovered an unusual deal at a trendy dinner spot, Deus Ex Machina’s Temple of Enthusiasm: a free tattoo with the purchase of tacos. “We decided to forgo the needle,” she laughs, “but the culture and surroundings were plenty to take in.” It was clearly the place to be for hip locals and vacationers, as the stand-alone building not only features a restaurant, but also a backyard hangout with a barber shop, an art gallery, and a combined motorcycle-and-clothing store. “Every restaurant and shop we went to in Seminyak was terrific,” Brittanie asserts.
“Every restaurant and shop we went to in Seminyak was terrific.”
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
For the final stretch of their travels, the newlyweds decided to embrace luxury with four days at the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan for their visit to Ubud. “We splurged on a private villa on the beautiful property that overlooked the jungle,” Brittanie confides. They took part in many of the resort-offered activities, including a traditional Balinese dance show, a yoga class in the middle of a rice paddy, and of course, the spa. Breathtaking views greeted the travelers as they enjoyed the variety of pools available on-site. “The service was unmatched and the property was perfection,” raves Brittanie.
The newlyweds took advantage of the jungle location by paying a visit to the famed Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, a nature preserve and Hindu temple complex in Ubud. Visitors walk through and interact with hundreds of primates of all sizes. “It was amazing to see all these non-domesticated monkeys up close and just coexisting in this environment where they see tourists day in and day out,” Alex notes of his favorite part of the trip. Another day was spent hiking the Campuhan Ridge Walk, a two-hour trek to a small village. Once there, the lovebirds enjoyed a meal at the Karsa Kafe, located on a working rice terrace. The new Mr. and Mrs. agree that, while they enjoyed all of their honeymoon, Ubud was by far their favorite location. In fact, in retrospect, they would have preferred an extra day in the Balinese jungle, giving up their fourth day in Bangkok in its stead. “The relaxing time spent here reminiscing with Alex about our wedding and dreaming about our future was something I will never forget,” Brittanie muses.
Daring tuk-tuk rides. “They are a great way to get from one location to another, but be careful! They speed through the city and dart in and out of traffic: it can be nerve-racking.”
Touring the floating markets. “The way the long boats sped through the winding canals offering colorful and exotic views was truly breathtaking.”
Expanding their palates. “We highly recommend stepping out of your comfort zone to taste the local cuisine. Everything was delicious!”
Sipping delicious smoothies. “Nalu Bowls offers freshly made smoothie bowls topped with fruits, veggies, and homemade vanilla granola served out of a coconut. We tried to reproduce them at home, but nothing is quite like them!” Lounging at a beach club. “We rented a cabana and enjoyed taking dips in the ocean and visiting the swim-up pool bar.”
Meeting the locals. “The sense of community and their pure happiness for people visiting their area is immediately felt.”
Relaxing at the resort. “The hotel was such a luxury, we struggled with wanting to spend time just exploring the property and going into the town.”
Taking part in the customs. “We also stopped at a local temple that offered a traditional community bath where the women and men bathe separately.”
Visiting with the monkeys. “They are not scared of humans!”
TRAVEL TIPS FROM BRITTANIE AND ALEX:
• “Bring comfortable, breathable clothes and very sensible shoes.”
• “Remember: haggling is part of their selling process, so don’t be afraid to negotiate!”
• “Be sure to research the conversion rates beforehand. Thailand’s currency was easy to figure out, but Bali’s was much more difficult.”
• “We used several travel blogs to find recommendations for more local-friendly spots.”