Scott explains that planning any honeymoon (which of course must be perfect from start to finish with no fights) is no easy task anywhere in the world, let alone in a region so different from home that the chances of unexpected things happening is high. Isolating what you ‘really’ want to do, how you want to spend your time, what the budget is, hitting the ‘must see’ spots, while also experiencing a host of other things, and ensuring there’s a balance for both of you is no easy feat. This is your first trip as a married couple and you don’t want it to be anything less than perfect. So how do you do it? First off – it won’t be perfect.
Trevor agrees, suggesting that hopefully, since you’ve chosen to marry each other, you’ve already traveled together and understand some of the challenges that come along with going on the road together. Travel can often be challenging and there is always the risk of some disagreements arising and you certainly want to keep the bickering to a minimum: unless of course you’re really into passionate make-up sex.
Scott talks about how, in his former business, he’s helped many friends and customers in plan holidays and honeymoons in Southeast Asia, explaining that there are some very helpful things to keep in mind that can greatly improve your chances of success. He then thanks TTA listener Amy Hauke for suggested we do a honeymoon episode and hopes she enjoys it! Trevor explains that they will share some of their favorite spots, hotels, and activities a bit later, but before that, explains that there are some steps you can take, and enjoy, prior to booking it all, which will help you make the best decisions – together:
Planning Your Asian Honeymoon: Scott states that communication is key in all of this, right from the start. Agree on how you want to plan the trip. Sit somewhere you both feel relaxed and have free time and talk about how you both like and want to plan. Figure out if there’s some things that one person enjoys doing more, who will do what, and a rough timeline. He says that, while this sounds serious, it’s important to note that fights can arise from someone not doing what the other thought they would do, or expected, etc. Some ground rules and understanding at the start can help.
Trevor agrees: unless one of you clearly wears the pants (or skirt) in the family and the other is happy to follow along no matter where the other leads, you should really try to plan a trip that will suit the needs of the both of you. When brainstorming, think about the level of comfort you each expect, how well each of you deals with stress, and how well you each can handle third-world dining. For example, if you’re thinking of a beach holiday there are clearly more options for creature comforts and fine dining on a Thai island than a Cambodian one.
Budgeting Your Asian Honeymoon: Money is important, Scott declares. Figure out how much you have, how you can get it, by what date, be sure it’s realistic, will be fun, and will see you setting out on the road having fun, not worrying about you’re spending, not thinking about every purchase. Figure out the budget, then use it and forget about it. Agree on what amounts you will spend on what things: air tickets, hotels, food, fun, shopping, etc. The last thing you want to be arguing about on your honeymoon is money, he concludes.
Trevor again agrees with Scott that you should figure out a budget and then think of the ways you want to spend it: on dining, activities, shopping etc and then maybe throw in an extra 30%. You’re hopefully only going on a honeymoon once and you don’t want to bicker over the cost of things once you’re there.
Time: Scott suggests figuring out when you’re going and how long you have to travel. Longer isn’t necessarily better. The honeymoon literally can’t last forever, you want to enjoy yourself, but go home relishing in the time you had rather than feeling like it’s been a bit too long on the road.
Trevor explains that, if you’re traveling from overseas, you should take into consideration the time it takes to fly to Asia, including connecting flights if you’re getting off the beaten path a bit, and factor in a day or two on either end to adjust to time zones. He wouldn’t plan too much for the first days of a trip aside from getting to where you’re going and then enjoying the beach, spa, or you’re romantic room. He says, if you’re going to splash out on a fancy room for a few days and then rough it or explore a bit, go for the nice room first to settle in and relax a bit. After a few days you’ll be ready to start exploring.
Make Your Lists: Scott recommends making separate lists (or doing it together), of all the countries, spots, sites, that you know of that you think you want to see. Put them all out there, talk about them, have fun, then put it away for a while. Could be a day, could be a week, don’t wait too long, but then go back to this list, preferably after having done a bit of research, and start to decide which things you both really want to experience, which ones can go, and narrow the list down, gradually moulding it into a loose travel plan/wish list.
Trevor thinks the focus should be more on what level of relaxation vs adventure you want in a trip. If you’re both really active and want to see and do a lot or both really looking forward to some quiet relaxing time, then its easy. If you’re both into different things in your free time, then its going to take more brainstorming to find the right destination that allows you both to enjoy yourself without too much time apart.
Where to Go on Your Asian Honeymoon: Scott says, now that you have the above list, start to make an itinerary, day by day, taking in to account time to get to/from airports, check in to hotels, ride boats, etc. Fit your activities in to this list, and see how it looks. It will likely be over-stuffed. Find time when you both have time, realize it’s okay not to see it all in this trip (you have your whole lives together) and then pull some things out. Now look at the schedule again, figure out if it’s realistic, then take a few things out, leaving some buffer there for the unexpected. It’s the often the best part of travel!
Poll Friends and Enlist and Expert: Trevor warns not to put all your stock in your friends, though he says it’s worth running some of your spots by people you know, like and value their opinion. See what they recommend, perhaps they’ve heard good/bad things about what you’re planning, will offer other suggestions. Re-work your itinerary again based on what you learn. Scott suggests that, if there’s an activity or outing that must be perfect and is your dream, you hire a local expert. They’re there for a reason. Put a price on every hour of your time, just as you’d do when hiring a lawyer, interior decorator, and employ their services.
Must See vs Like to See: Scott says that it’s now time for the beginning of the potentially tough stuff. You’re likely finding there are things she wants to do that you don’t and vice versa. Marriage is about compromise and here’s your first time to try it. Give the other a bit more than you want to do, agree on the things you must do, some others that would be nice, cut some out, and get that plan near the finalized product.
Set Expectations: You’re heading somewhere new – expect the unexpected – and figure out/agree upon on what you’ll do when you encounter it. Things won’t be like home – good – and talk about how you’ll handle such things. You likely have pictures in your mind of what riding an elephant in Laos should look like, but also be willing to be ready and happy when it doesn’t look like that. Ensure you don’t over-build things up, resulting in disappointment. Also – if one person in the couple has more experience in adventuresome travel or this part of the world, take a step back and be ready to give this person some slack, time to decompress, etc. It’s fun to relive your first time there/doing that by watching them experience it.
How to Handle Stress: Scott talks about how you should handle stress, including when the plane is late, someone falls ill, you get ripped off, or you don’t know where to go, agree beforehand on how you’ll handle such situations. Perhaps you agree to sit down, have a cool drink, let the stress ease, then figure out the next step. Agree never to be pressured into taking a ride to get somewhere. Whatever your technique is, agree on how you will handle pressure situations.
Most Romantic Beach: Scott picks Railay Bay, Krabi – Tubkaak Beach. Scott love’s Krabi’s Railay Bay, suggesting that those who want to be off the beaten path a bit, but still near some dining and nightlife options, Tubkaak Beach offers spectacular scenery just a short drive from Ao Nang, Krabi’s more touristy area. It’s a very romantic destination. He should know, he had his wedding ceremony performed in Krabi.
Trevor thinks that there are two factors to consider on the beach recommendation. One is what level of touristy vs off the beaten path you are looking for. The other is what your expectations of a beautiful beach are. A good analogy, he states, is that some people love Hawaii’s Waikiki beach and some people hate it. If it’s your first trip to Asia, you might be unhappy with a beautiful but remote island if you have difficulty eating local food.
For more touristy, Trevor agrees with Scott’s Krabi suggestion, picking Railay Beach (he’s a big fan of the Railay Beach Club) and stating that he’d choose Koh Samui over Phuket because the island is easier to get around. And there is a great variety of restaurants and bars in Samui’s Chaweng Beach for those who are looking for a nice beach with lots of drinking and dining options in walking distance from your hotel. If you’re looking for some place more off the beaten path, then Trevor suggests the beaches of Ranong, Thailand: Koh Phayam or Koh Phra Tong. But there are far more limited nightlife attractions in those places.
Naturally, Trevor explains, the more remote beaches are less developed and therefore more beautiful. The landscape around Railay beach is beautiful but the beach itself and the water are far from pristine. If you’re into scuba diving and choosing between the Maldives and Thailand, you might be disappointed with Railay or Koh Phi Phi. If you want to dive, you’re better off going to Thailand’s Similan or Surin Islands on a live-aboard boat than going to crazy crowded Phi Phi or Koh Tao, Trevor Explains.
Most Romantic Mountain/Country Area: Scott, always a fan of Thailand’s Chiang Rai province selects the Phu Chaisai Resort as his most romantic mountain/country honeymoon destination. Reminded of a top luxury resort in Chiang Rai, Trevor says that some people should consider planning to stay at a fancy, destination resort for an easy honeymoon strategy, saying that, if you’re going to splurge on your honeymoon, choosing a place like Four Seasons Tented Camp in Chiang Rai is a great upcountry option. Scott agrees with the pick, saying that you can learn to be an elephant mahout there and of course the food is going to be great. The nearby Anantara Golden Triangle also has a great mahout program, pioneered by our friend John Roberts who was a guest on Episode 4: The Plight of Asia’s Elephants.
For either upscale resorts or something like a yoga retreat, Trevor says that there are also great options around Ubud, Bali. The town itself is quite touristy, but the surrounding countryside is spectacular. and there are hotels for every budget and plenty of cultural attractions. Scott chips in that Qunci Villas on neighbouring Lombok is nice too. Trevor then suggests that Sapa in Vietnam could be an option as he’s heard that it is gorgeous, though he’s never been there himself.
Best Couple’s Sports: Scott quickly repeats the suggestion just mentioned, learning to become an elephant mahout. He also thinks doing a cycling trip together could be fun, if you’re both into it. Trevor reminds Scott that he mentioned taking Muay Thai lessons in the show outline. Instead of recommending something for this category, Trevor warns that he might shy away from learning to scuba dive together unless you’re both pretty comfortable in and around water. He’s seen people have problems equalizing or feeling comfortable underwater and those people sometimes end up crying or ruining the experience for their buddy. It’s clearly not someone’s fault if they can’t handle it, but he just sees it as a bit risky in regards to having a smooth, seamless experience. Scott adds that the multi-day diving courses can also be a bit tedious, asking if people would really want to sit in classrooms and do homework during their honeymoon.
Best Couple’s Activities: Scott: Cooking course or paddling – Trevor: Cooking classes are great.
Favorite Couple’s Hotels: Scott goes with Song Saa (if you have a stack of money), or Dwarika’s in Kathmandu, for something a bit different. Trevor says thats a tough one. He mentioned the Four Seasons Tented Camp, Chiang Rai earlier but he generally shies away from big chains in Asia as he thinks there is less opportunity for cultural immersion. He will mention a couple, he says, in his specific two week itinerary below.
Your Two Country Asian Honeymoon Trip:
Scott picks Thailand & Cambodia. Trevor also likes the Thai – Cambodia combo because its so easy to fly from one country to the other. It’s so easy to tack on a few days at the Angkor temples from Thailand, as there are direct flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap. A lot of North Americans are interested in Vietnam, but few people realize what a relatively large country it is and how long is required to get around. One thing to consider is, if you’re going to add Vietnam to a two country trip you have to have your dates nailed down beforehand as you need to prearrange a visa to Vietnam. Cambodia and Thailand you can get visa on arrival so those two countries allow for a bit more flexibility if you’re planning your trip as you go.
Your Quick Honeymoon Dream Trip (Note: 2 weeks in Southeast Asia)
Scott suggests three nights in Bangkok to get over jet lag: get a massage, see the key temples, and take a cooking or boxing course; then Chiang Rai for three nights, Siem Reap, Cambodia for four nights: and then
the Cambodian island resort of Song Saa – or, if not blowing the budget, then perhaps Indigo Pearl resort in Phuket. Trevor says that would probably use his honeymoon to go someplace he’s never been before. And he’s a bit more of the ‘wing it’ kinda guy. If he had to give advice to someone else, he likes Bali as a honeymoon destination because of the options in regards to touristy vs less developed. The Seminyak & Canngu coasts have a lot of nice resorts, restaurants, and bars. You can rent a small villa for a reasonable price or stay in a nice resort by the beach: Hotel Tugu for upscale and Villa Serenity for yoga-types. And then you can stay up around Ubud to get some Balinese culture (the Hanging Gardens Resort is a great romantic retreat), take a day or two to go up to the volcanos to do some hiking, biking, or rafting, if you’re more sporty. And then for snorkeling/diving head up to Amed or if you want to do some surfing AND snorkeling/diving, go over to Nusa Lembongan for a few days.
Greg’s Bangkok is an iPhone app that takes you on GPS-guided walking tours of some of Bangkok’s most interesting, dynamic, and strange neighborhoods. As you walk, audio commentary gives you the inside scoop on the places, stories, and hidden details of the area you’re in. Best of all, there are no dodgy tuk-tuk’s to deal with, no taxi drivers to refuse your fare, and no schedule to stick to. Explore at your own pace!
Links to places discussed on this episode:
- Tubkaak Resort, Krabi, Thailand
- Railey Beach Club, Krabi, Thailand
- Four Seasons Tented Camp, Chiang Rai, Thailand
- Anantara Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai, Thailand
- Phu Chaisai Resort, Chiang Rai, Thailand
- Song Saa Resort, Sihanoukville, Cambodia
- Qunci Villas, Sengigi, Lombok
- Indigo Pearl Resort, Phuket, Thailand
- Dwarika’s, Kathmandu, Nepal
Learn more about Scott & Trevor: