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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Travel Tips & Tricks #2

In October Hendrik and I took our big vacation for the year.  We traveled to Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand; Bali, Indonesia and had long layovers in Dubai both coming and going.

In 2 weeks we traveled:

  • 25,853 miles flown (this is insane)
  • 3 different countries- UAE, Thailand, Indonesia
  • 7 flights
  • 2 extra bags bought
  • 1 proposal accepted
  • 13 hours ahead in time from our home time zone

This was our busiest trip to date and to get everything done and stay sane here are a few tips that I used this time and every other time we travel.
In 2016 I came across a travel website that I gave a chance and then I utilized it to the fullest!  Until our honeymoon (upcoming) I have never used any sort of travel agent other than myself and websites. I will review that process when we return next month but I won't be using a travel agent in the future unless I absolutely have to, not that it was a bad experience it's just unnecessary to me.  

  • Trip Masters

When deciding and trying to find itineraries for Caleb and I I stumbled across Tripmasters.com.  They have a ton of ready built itineraries that you can customize to meet your needs or you can just build your own from scratch.  I love the feature that allows you to change your dates and adjust pricing...see screen shot below.  

as you can see from above you can chose easily different dates around your initial date selection to see how the price may change! By waiting 2 days on this particular trip you can save over $500!!!
The overall website is so easy to use and makes researching your trip fun.  The booking process is seamless and easy!  Before booking me and Caleb's trip in the Summer I researched the website to make sure it was legit and had good reviews.  I only found people raving of the service.  I booked our trip and all the way up until our departure date received emails from Trip Masters letting me know steps I needed to take, documents I needed to have in order, and the overall itinerary.  On departure day I was a bit anxious but only in hopes that the travel experience was as seamless as the booking process had been.  But my worries were fruitless as all our flights and hotels were perfect they had all our information and nothing was wrong.  

I was so happy with Trip Masters that I used their website again when booking me and Hendrik's big trip in the Fall.  Again a seamless and painless experience from start to finish.  Oh and did I mention that the affordability is OUT OF THIS WORLD!  You will never be able to get all these flights, hotels, and other add-ons at the price that you can get them combined at Trip Masters...believe me I've tried.

Going forward I will continue to use Trip Masters for trips but not trips with Hendrik and I.  Trip Masters is really a website that I want to utilize to visit an array of cities/countries.  Both in my Summer and Fall vacations we traveled and moved around A LOT!  I don't mind that but when Hendrik and I travel together we do prefer a bit more down time and relaxation.  When I vacation with others I'm in it for all the experiences not so much the relaxation part.  

Long story now even longer...if you haven't yet then GO CHECK THEM OUT www.tripmasters.com 

  • Other websites that I've came across and love roaming around but have yet to actually use are Oyster.com and Jetsetter.com I can't wait to use these sites in the future.
  • Travel journaling is something that I've been doing for years.  At first it was really random by just grabbing the hotel note pad at the end of each day and jotting down quick notes of the day's events and what we did, ate, etc.  After several years I finally started using a plain green leather bound journal that had just been collecting dust on my desk for years.  Now I use that journal and take it on each trip.  At night I write down the entire day's details so when I'm home I can reflect and write AWESOME blog posts.  I encourage others to travel journal even if you don't have a blog so you can reflect on those entries as well as pictures and really relive that trip.
  • If you are new to travel or unsure of foreign hotels and such then chose hotels and airlines that you are comfortable with.  Years ago when I would travel alone I would stay only in Marriott's.  I would do this for the comfort level both emotionally and physically.  I trust the Marriott brand and they have hotels all over the world so your options are limitless.  The same thing for Delta.  If possible I always try to fly Delta so I can wrack up frequent flier miles on the same airline and I trust their service.  
  • Long layovers are something that I've never had a good opportunity to experience until this past Fall while traveling to Asia.  I knew that Emirates Airlines flew to Asia and that gave me a perfect excuse to hit up Dubai on the way through.  The layovers that I got on my flights through Dubai were the perfect amount of time.  A total of 36 hours 12 going and 24 coming home.  Check out THIS POST to see how we utilized our time on the layovers.  If you ever get the opportunity then set your flights up so you have a long layover.  It adds a whole other location to your vacation and is a perfect way to expand your adventures.  The only downside is the lack of rest but that's what flights are for LOL!  

I hope these little tidbits helped y'all or will help in your future travels.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Our Engagement Story

July 4th of this year will make me and Hendrik's 4 year dating anniversary.  Back in the Summer of 2016 we had talked more serious about marriage. Nothing too heavy as I felt no pressure to be married I was perfectly happy with where we were.  I knew we were both committed to the relationship and the end result for both of us was marriage to each other so I was content to let it happen in it's own time.  Around August he blatantly came out and pretty much said well if we ever get engaged you're going to have to give me some ring ideas because I don't know anything about it.  I said well I'm not going to pick out my ring I think that should be something you make the decision on but I'll send you some ideas of what I like and you can take it from there.

Here are some of the ideas that I had pinned that I sent to Hendrik.

A few days later he said that he only like a couple of the ideas I sent him and I said ok well you do what you think.  Not too long after that over dinner he said...well you never even told me your ring size. So I told him 7!  I obviously knew at this point that he was thinking heavily on the idea but I didn't ask questions or push.  He then talked to me about a jewelry maker so I got him a contact of the jeweler that Elizabeth used.  I think....something might be in the works!  A few weeks before we were leaving on our trip Hendrik asked me the EXACT day we were leaving...I had already told a couple of my closest friends and my mom that I really hoped he proposed while we were on vacation.  I thought it would be so memorable especially since we were going to really exotic places.  I also wasn't getting my hopes up because if Hendrik is anything it is in HIS OWN TIME!  So I all but forgot about the proposal as the days slipped by.  

Before I knew it we were standing in the departure terminal with my purse and the one back that I had packed.  I didn't think he would be carrying a ring all over the world in his pants pocket and I knew nothing slipped in the suit case so I thought well not this trip and off we went.  We went through our trip and I thought maybe I had misread the situation we had a couple snorkel trips planned that fell through both in Phuket and in Bali.  We both love snorkeling and that would have been the best idea.  On the day we were going surfing and I was going to train at Tiger Muay Thai I was unpacking the backpack to pack with our gear for the day and came across a small box buried in the bottom of the back pack.  I grabbed it out and it was a small present box not necessarily a ring box...my mind didn't grasp what I had and I turned to ask Hendrik what it was...he snatched it up and by that time I had sort of gathered what it was but didn't think too much about it and I for sure didn't bring it up to him...LOL  

The rest of our trip carried on as planned and we got down to the last day in Bali, October 23, 2016.  I did my hair and dressed in what clothes that I had left that were clean and cute.  We set out on our cultural day...See about our entire trip HERE and the details of that day's adventures HERE.  I sort of figured that if it was going to happen that of course it would be today on our last day.  We went on through our day and we made it to the last stop... the rice terraces. I was most excited about this stop on our tour today and it was absolutely breathtaking.

We asked the tour guide to come along with us and at first he declined but Hendrik said yes, we will pay for you to come and you can take pictures...I didn't think much of it as he had taken pictures for us in the monkey forest as well.  We hiked up and around the terraces and made it to a look out point with a small bench. We took pictures there and then stood and took pictures at the point.  I was ready to ask for my camera back and Hendrik said lets get a few more...I was like dang..how many pictures do we need but when I turned back around he was down on one knee with the ring box and he asked me to marry him.  I said yes of course and all I remember is our driver yelling...OMG!! Engagement and ring, ring, and then he asked to see my ring. LOL I was so distracted by him that I forgot to even kiss Hendrik until after we took EVEN MORE pictures LOL.  I was on cloud nine.  Of course through our hike it was drizzling rain so my cute hair was ruined by the day's humidity and rain!

Not only were we touring the most breathtaking place in Bali but I just got proposed to on vacation.  It was the best proposal I could have imagined.  We talked on the car ride back to the hotel and the remainder of the trip about how he got the ring past me, who all knew about it, and his original plans to propose during our snorkel trip.  I think the plan worked out just the way it was supposed to and I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Not only did Hendrik pull off the perfect proposal but he also gave me the perfect ring that he had custom made at a local jeweler in Winnsboro.  It was designed off the second example from above.  He did a fantastic job on all fronts!  Not only did we have the most amazing trip traveling around two several different countries but it ended on the highest note possible... coming home engaged!  Now we are only 2 weeks away from our wedding and then off to our honeymoon!

Stay tuned for wedding posts in the upcoming month!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Middle East & Southeast Asia Vacation: Part 4

Friday October 21, 2016 we woke up in Phuket, Thailand around 5:30 am to pack, have breakfast, and get a shuttle to the airport for the last leg of our trip...Bali, Indonesia.  We arrived in Bali late that same afternoon and took a taxi to our hotel which was in the heart of Kuta and Legian Beach area.  We got checked into our room at the Swiss-Belinn Legian and changed clothes before heading to a restaurant across the street to have dinner.  Hendrik had steak tips in a gravy sauce and I had a traditional Balinese dish...nasi!   

While enjoying this dinner and chatting about our new surroundings a thought dawned on me!

Insert Side story
Hendrik and his family are Dutch, his parents immigrated to the US in the 80's.  His mom makes nasi and it is so yummy.  When they come from Holland or when we have visited we always bring back spice packets to make it at home.  Also when we were visiting family in Holland in 2015 (see HERE)  we had "Chinese" food one night.  Its a great treat and the entire family joined together as we ate.  It was good but definitely not what I was expecting for Chinese food.  So a couple years have passed and I never thought any more of it until we were in Bali at this restaurant...Before our trip Hendrik's dad was giving us the history of Bali and how Indonesia was once a Dutch ruled nation, as were SO many other countries around the world. Now LIGHTBULB MOMENT... we were sitting in the restaurant and BING!!! What they have been calling Chinese food and what I thought was actually Dutch food (nasi) was in fact Indonesian food. Due to Indonesia being ruled for so long by the Dutch the people took back to Holland some of the flavors and recipes and have since evolved them to what is now referred to as Dutch Chinese food. I thought it was so funny and how it finally makes perfect sense and how everyone interprets things in their own way.  

After our fantastic dinner (the best on the entire trip) we browsed all the open shops and stalls and stopped in for some ice cream.  We really wasted our money on it as it wasn't that great or we really weren't that hungry.  We went back to the hotel and we both finally slept like rocks.  

Saturday October 22, 2016 was our first full day in Bali.  We had breakfast in the hotel and decided on our plans for the day.  We had looked at and talked about a snorkeling trip as we REALLY love it but given the area we were in and given how much time we had snorkeling would have filled an entire day, been pretty expensive, and not allowed for much else.  We still had other things that were high on the list so we opted to forgo the snorkel adventure this trip and decided on lounging at the beach and surfing all day instead.  Mainly a wing it lets relax day since we were only in Bali for 2 full days excluding our travel days!  

We were at the beach LITERALLY all day it was awesome!  After breakfast we headed down and found some chairs and rented surf boards for the day.  The first half of the day I sunned and Hendrik surfed. I got a beach mani and pedi...and I tell you it was the best 20 bucks I have spent on my nails in years.  That polish lasted for weeks after the trip and the sand never messed it up!  Around the time we were headed out to find lunch it started to cloud up and we got a little shower through lunch but  the sun came out and we headed back to our lounge chairs.  We took turns surfing through the afternoon and hanging out.  I had heard such good things about catching the sunset on Kuta Beach so we decided to trade our beach lounge chairs for a couple of bean bag chairs to enjoy the sunset.  We people watched and drank a beer as the sun went down!  

After the sunset we headed back to the hotel to shower and change for dinner.  We walked the streets looking for something that sounded appealing for dinner and decided on Romeos a nice restaurant with a lot of different types of food.  We sat at the patio facing the street and people watched and visited over our dinner.  Once dinner had finished we browsed more stalls and shops before heading back to the hotel to get a good nights sleep before our sightseeing day in Bali the next day!

Sunday October 23, 2016 was our last full day of Bali and of vacation in general before starting our  long journey back home!  I was so excited about today because we were going to be doing some things that I had only dreamed of.  We had set up a private car the day prior so after breakfast we met our driver outside our hotel to set out on a perfect Sunday of adventure and culture.  

view from our hotel room
We started out the day enjoying a traditional Balinese dance that had 5 acts.  Hendrik and I were a bit lost but thankfully we had a pamphlet that gave a synopsis of each act so we could halfway keep up.  I enjoyed the culture and the costumes, it was really neat to see.  

Our next stop was to visit a sarong factory where they demonstrated how each one was handcrafted, spun, and designed with paint not colored thread.  It was very interesting!  I purchases a scarf and then we were on our way to the kopi lusaka coffee plantation.  I had heard about this certain type of coffee and tea that is made from the passing of the kopi berries... essentially coffee and tea made from berry poop! LOL  We like touring the plantation and seeing the animals. We did a tea and coffee tasting but didn't try the kopi luwak coffee.  I did find a really nice flavored tea called Rosela that I bought a bag of.

On our way to have lunch we stopped to visit a traditional Balinese temple.  We had to have our legs covered so Hendrik and I both got sarongs and went on a self guided tour.  The temple was ancient and beautiful!  It amazes me that with the lack of technology someone can make something so beautiful and big!   I also learned a fun fact from our driver that over 80% of Indonesia is actually Islamic not Hindu!  I asked him about it because I had notice while traveling around the city and through the airport the amount of women I saw in hijab. I was surprised by his info but it was nice to know for sure.  

We ate lunch at an Indonesian restaurant on our way through to the Monkey Forest.  Neither of us were crazy about our food but did love the setting!

more nasi

The afternoon was my favorite part of the day.  After lunch we headed to the Monkey Forest in Ubud.    It is a reserve for the long tailed macaque monkeys and there isn't a fence or anything.  The monkeys know this is their home and they are safe so they stay.  Once buying our tickets our driver came with us into the forest to help navigate and take pictures and enjoy it with us.  We bought two bundles of bananas to take though the forest and treat the monkeys.  As soon as we bought the bananas we had to hide them fully in the backpack because they were literally jumping on us and climbing up to get the food.  It was so cute.  

We weren't allowed to touch them but they were allowed to climb and feel all over us and they had the softest fingers.  They were really friendly and sweet but we were warned they could be a bit cheeky.  We were instructed to take off sunglasses and other things they could take as they would take them and run!  

talking big business!

Besides the experience with the monkeys the forest itself is beautiful with carvings and really pretty vegetation.  

We had one more stop planned in our day and that was the rice terraces!  OMG this was the part I had been so excited about. I had seen other blogger's pictures and pictures while researching our destination and I just couldn't imagine how green and beautiful and picturesque the rice terraces were/are!  We parked the car and Hendrik insisted the driver come along too so he could take pictures plus we enjoyed talking to him about Bali and what we were experiencing.  

first view of the rice terraces and it is already post card perfect

We hiked all up and around the terraces and I could have used all the space on my SD card snapping pictures of the same thing trying to capture this beauty.  

This is also the spot where Hendrik chose to PROPOSE to me!  I have a whole post coming on this so more later!  

After the proposal we were about halfway done with our hike so we finished on an engaged high!

We headed back to the hotel after the rice terrace adventure and decided on the way back that we would use our same driver to have one last dinner in Bali at a romantic ocean side seafood restaurant to celebrate our engagement.  We were flying out at midnight that night so had to get back, pack, and get ready to head directly from the restaurant to the airport.  It started to rain on our beach side table so everyone had to get moved inside but we enjoyed a family style meal which was good before heading to the airport.  

Peace out Bali you've been so good
Bali was incredible for so many reasons...of course we got engaged at a scenic location and it couldn't have been more perfect but also because the entire time in the country we just couldn't get enough. The food was amazing, there was a variety of activities that we loved to do and the culture is awesome to learn about. The people are helpful and friendly and it was very inexpensive...even more inexpensive than Thailand.  Our days in Bali weren't near long enough and I'm really against visiting the same place twice because there is so much of the world to see but we are not done with Bali.  We will be going back in the next couple years for sure to finish with this beautiful Indonesian island!

This was a jam packed vacation where it was relaxing yet exhausting and exciting all in the same breath. We can't wait for more adventures...as husband and wife! 

After Bali we stayed on a long layover in Dubai at The Palm you can read all about that HERE!

If you missed the previous posts about our Southeast Asia vacation see the links below




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