Southeast Asia

Bali Paradise

Bali, a name that is synonymous with Paradise, couldn’t possibly live up to that reputation.  Incorrect.  Bali is the single most relaxing place we’ve ever been.  Enough activities so you don’t get bored, cheap enough that you never feel stressed, easy enough so you never feel strained, and small enough that you never feel rushed.  We are HUGE Bali fans.

Of course, it’s also an incredibly romantic place, which was perfect because it was over our anniversary, and hilarious because Blakely’s little sister tagged along!  Thankfully, she’s the perfect travel partner who was up for anything and demanded nothing.

Bali sister trip

We started in the main city Semenyak.  Blakely booked our accommodations beforehand, and they were suspiciously underpriced for such good reviews.  The group was a little skeptical as we headed down a dirt driveway with cement walls and shacks on either side.  But then, the walls opening up to a gorgeous lawn and pool with a small boutique hotel and outside eating area.  We’d arrived at Kubu Cempaka and we were home.

Of course the first thing we needed to do was get our bearings and head to the beach. Thankfully, there are restaurants all along the beach so our dinner option was easy!  We soon found out that eating in Bali is spectacular because ex-pats from all over the world move to Bali because it is such a wonderful place to live. They set up restaurants from their native lands so the foreign fare is as authentic as it could be!  Add that to local delicious seafood and you’re set! 

Bali beach

Soon we formulated our plan. We decided to do a small loop which included Bali and neighboring island of Lombok.  After Seminyak we took a ferry to Lembogan, then to Gili Air and lastly Ubud.  Here are our highlights.

Yoga.  Bali is arguably the capital of modern yoga and you should take FULL advantage (while also paying attention to the types you don’t like. For example, we aren’t big Hatha fans. Too much breathing, too little action). By far, our favorite yoga place and a highlight from the ENTIRE world trip is the Yoga Barn in Ubud.  People travel to Bali solely for the opportunity to go to the Yoga Barn and we don’t blame them.  World-class teachers in a gorgeous open air studio, this place has a culture completely onto itself.  We started plotting our return before we left.

Photo from

While on the subject of activities, you should also find time to do some surfing and scuba diving. We surfed in Seminyak and loved it, but the opportunities are endless.  Talk to your hotel whenever you are near the ocean.  

Massages.  Take advantage of the incredibly inexpensive massages ($5 for 90 minutes.  Seriously.) on every block in every city.  Get a recommendation from your hotel or poke your head into a few to find your favorite.  Ryan is quoted as saying he wanted to be sick of massages before he left SE Asia, and in Bali he did his best!  In addition to full body, we recommend simply getting a foot massage every night, just because you can!

Bali Massage

Motor Bikes.  So fun.  We rented bikes in Lembogan and it was such a great way to spend the day and explore.  We went over to Le Pirate for pool time and fabulous drinks, and then Mamma Mia for delicious lunch!

Bali Motorbike

Beachside Drinks. Speaking of drinks, we absolutely loved the fresh fruit smoothies (we recommend the watermelon mint delight!) while looking out on the water.  For a more club-ish scene, we liked Ku de Ta in Semenyak, Le Piarate in Lembogan, and Deus ex Machina in Canggu.  One of our favorite tricks was to get everything mocktail.  We know it sounds lame, but this way you don’t have to limit yourself! And, as you can see, we didn’t limit ourselves!


Lastly, the Art in Ubud is some of the widest variety that we’ve ever seen in one place.  Take advantage of the vast array of artists on all mediums and of all subjects to pick some pieces that can transport you back to Bali when you get home. 

Bali was the perfect recovery for our wild ride around China, and we couldn’t recommend it more highly. The people, sights, activities, food, and energy facilitate an atmosphere that will be the greatest memory of your time there.  We can’t wait to go back.

Bali Paradise

Philippines = Paradise

The Philippines.  A group of 7,000+ islands of paradise in the South Pacific, and also one of the places we looked forward to the most. 

We started in the capital city of Manilla, which we mainly used it as a headquarters for launching our itinerary.  When there are 7,000+ islands to choose from, your itinerary in the Philippines can be the biggest challenge.  We decided to take the boats less traveled down the West side and thoroughly enjoyed it.  While in Manilla, we stayed at the Boutique Hostel, which was simple but really well located, and enjoyed a fabulous food market at night.  

This was our first stop in SE Asia proper so wow.  $5 beach massages, all the fresh juices you could drink, and warm people who take hosting visitors very seriously.

Our first of MANY tuk tuk rides in SE Asia

We took a short flight south to the biggest city on the island of Palawan called Puerto Princesa.  Besides being a great city full of awesome restaurants, it is the perfect hub to start off exploring the island.  We started big.

A short drive from the city is a magnificent natural wonder of the world called Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.  This name does NOT do it justice.  Into a limestone mountain, there is a cave that stretches for 15 miles (!!!) with a river winding through it.  And yes, you can take a boat into this massive cave.  So yes, we did.

A few of the shuttle boats to get to the cave.

On the boat, headed into the cave.

The National Park is extremely well done and preserving the cave’s natural structure is top priority.  The only boats allowed are registered rowboats, so the fumes of an engine wouldn’t disrupt the air quality or sound waves of the cave.  The boat tour has an exceptional audio guide, with headphones so as to not disrupt the cave’s natural environment.  While the guide does have a light, it is used minimally during the 30-minute tour.  All of these restrictions keep us from disturbing the cave or its living inhabitants.

Yes.  Living.  There are a whopping 9 different species of bats found in the cave, among other reptiles (Oh don’t worry—just some lizards and casual pythons) and birds found in the park.  Luckily, as you glide through this cave, the massive structures and chambers distract you from all of that.  The largest chamber is about 2.5 million square meters in volume.  So crazy. 

The entrance to the cave is minuscule compared to the gigantic caverns inside.

VERY skeptical...

On our way out-- VERY grateful to see the sun!

The next day we moved from Puerto Princesa to another highlight:  A teensy island town called Port Barton.  This is the place that SE Asia dreams are made of.  We stayed for 3 nights, and operated on a strict schedule.  Yoga.  Brunch.  Relax.  Massage.  Dinner.  Sleep.  Repeat.

Blakely's favorite reading hammock.

Blakely had one of the best days of her life in Port Barton.  In addition to the above, her first Huffington Post article was published while here.  As if being published wasn’t enough, floods of congratulations and love came to us from across the world.  Not too bad.

We also got out for a kayak trip to our very own island (something there are PLENTY of here!).  So fun to get out on the water.

We moved on from Port Barton up to El Nido, which is one of the better known destinations in the Philippines.  Instead of staying right in El Nido, we got the recommendation to stay a cove over at Corong Corong Beach.  Very good call.  This beach is charm in itself—somehow a community of French ex-pats have moved in and created a sub world for themselves.  We ate delicious food, rented a sailboat from our new friend Thierry, and took an island-hopping excursion to find hidden beaches and private islands.  All musts.

Next was another must:  the small town of Coron on Busuanga Island. 

To get there we took a very memorable ferry, of which we only have these two misleading pictures.  It was 7 hours of the biggest waves we've ever seen.  The compartment where the passengers sat was plastic chairs and benches.  For most of the ride, the huge waves meant we were letting on water so they had to close the wooden slabs that should be opened to let air flow in.  7 hours of being locked in a wooden box, rocking and tumbling.  It was awful.  

On the plus side, we met two people who were on the shuttle the next day. Their same shuttle took on so much water that their boat had 3-feet of sitting water in their compartment.  It's vital to check weather before taking these boats.

Smiles of two people who have no idea what they're in for...

The main reason for going to Coron is a good one:  Scuba diving World War II wrecks.  It is listed by Forbes as one of the top 10 scuba diving sites in the world, and with good reason.  The Japanese occupied the Philippines during the war, and a dozen sunken Japanese warships of all different depths and difficulty make a gorgeous backdrop for diving.  We chose Neptune Dive Center and were thoroughly impressed (which is hard to do after our diving in Palau)—for a super reasonable rate, we got a private boat, guide, cook and boat driver.  We love SE Asia.

Ryan’s grandfather served in the Navy during the war, so we were able to talk to him about the wrecks we dove and he looked back in his journal to compare where he was when they sank.  It was fascinating and a bit bizarre to dive through war wrecks—a stark reminder that the violence of one generation can give way to peace in the next, or vice versa.

Neptune Dive Center took us to the Morazan Maru, Olympia Maru, and Teru Kaze Maru wrecks.  You’re able to see where the blasts occurred, and admire gorgeous coral and fish surrounding the wreckage.  All were absolutely amazing.

Coron Wreck Diving

So ended our time in the Philippines.  From mile-long-caves, to yoga on the beach, to underwater wrecks and as many massages as we could handle, it was a fantastic introduction into SE Asia.