Dan & I went on our real honeymoon to Southeast Asia earlier this year, and we spent a large portion of it on Langkawi Island in Malaysia. Like some of other trips, not many of our American friends knew about Langkawi Island, and we got a lot of questions about it! This post is to answer all of your questions about Langkawi Island, and to help you plan a trip there (which you totally should do)!
Langkawi is a group of around 100 Malaysian islands located off of the northern part of Malaysia (north of Penang) in the Andaman Sea. Langkawi is very close to southern Thailand, and its geography is very similar to that you see in pictures of Thailand, particularly the green water and the lush, green mountains. Seriously, Langkawi is really beautiful.
Langkawi Island, Langkawi, Malysia from the Langkawi Cable Car.
Before visiting Singapore, I read and read about “Gardens by the Bay” but, even after I arrived in Singapore, I was still confused as to what exactly they are (it is?) and why I needed to visit. Well, this post is here to tell you…
Welcome to Gardens by the Bay!
As you probably know, Dan and I got married in Portugal last summer and spent a lot of time researching restaurants and activities for our guests. After reading about Mar Das Latas in Ericeira, Portugal, we booked dinner here for 7 people the night before our rehearsal dinner. We all liked it so much that Dan and I went back and so did his sister with her Portuguese boyfriend’s family!
Cambodia, and Asia in general, is home of some great and delicious street food, for which some people travel far and wide. Cambodian food, however, and particularly street food, doesn’t really have quite the following as that of Thailand, Vietnam or Hong Kong. Nevertheless, Dan, and to a lesser extent me, love street food and were definitely going to eat a lot of it when we visited Cambodia in February!
Ah, the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore. Yep, this is THE hotel in Singapore – the one that has that famous infinity pool overlooking the city. Yes, THIS infinity pool:
View from the pool!
Thanks to Priority Pass (which we have through the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the American Express Platinum, the Citi Prestige, and the Hilton Honors American Express – yeah, we are really deep into the credit card game…), Dan and I have access to a lot of airport lounges throughout the world. Given the cost and the quality of airport food and drink, we always try to take advantage of these lounges, as the food and drink are typically free and usually at least the same quality (if not better)! We were very excited to visit Southeast Asia on our honeymoon, as Southeast Asia is rumored to have some of the best airport lounges on the planet!
The D’nana Lounge in Singapore Changi’s Terminal 1, was the first (and actually last) lounge that we visited on our trip, and its a good one! Lots of space, unlimited free booze, and a solid selection of food that should tied you over for even the longest of flights!
This D’nata Lounge is located in Changi’s Terminal 1, post-immigration, but not security (security is at each gate). And I note “this D’nata Lounge,” as the Changi airport is home to another D’nata Lounge in Terminal 3, which we did not visit on this trip. For those interested, D’nata is a Dubai company that supplies food and other products to airlines around the world, and we saw a lot of D’nata branded things at Changi.
In any case, to get to the D’nata Lounge in Changi’s Terminal 1, do not blindly follow the signs for “lounges.” Most of the lounges are located opposite the D’nata Lounge. Instead, upon completing immigration, take a right and proceed up the escalator to the second floor. When you reach the top of the escalator, turn around and and you will see the D’nata Lounge entrance!
For an international terminal, New York’s JFK Terminal 1 is a pretty crappy terminal. Its filled with a couple upscale stores and a lot of cheap shops, in additional to a handful of cheap food vendors. Its also home to the Air France Lounge, which is a surprisingly nice lounge with part-time Priority Pass access!
Entrance to the Air France Lounge!
Honestly, before arriving in Cambodia, I was a bit weary of the food. I had previously read an article detailing how Cambodian food is much less flavorful than Thai or Vietnamese food, and I was really just not looking forward to it… But Cambodia food really surprised me, and I find myself missing it more than the other foods that I enjoyed in my trip!
As you can probably tell from the title of this post, one of the most surprising and most delicious meals that I had in Cambodia (and also in Singapore and Malaysia) was at the Hut, and this was a complete surprise to me.
I went to The Hut for lunch on my Happy Angkor Tour; our tour guide choose the restaurant, and I was not that excited about it (especially after our lunch the previous day…). The Hut is located off a back road, not too far from the entrance to the Floating Village. Again, not excited.
Siem Reap, Cambodia. Not exactly a textbook honeymoon destination for most couples… But, as you may know from reading my blog, Dan & I went to Cambodia as part of our honeymoon and we stayed in Siem Reap – the gateway to the world famous Angkor temples! We loved Siem Reap, and we would recommend it to other honeymooners (although maybe not those who are not adventurous).
A modern wat in Siem Reap.
First, happy St. Patrick’s Day!! My favorite holiday! Since I’m not in Ireland (too bad!), I will be spending St. Patrick’s Day at my favorite bar, Morgan’s, in Tappan, New York! With lots of inexpensive flights to and from Ireland these days, St. Patrick’s Day is a great time to plan your next getaway to Ireland. Dan and I went most recently last Thanksgiving, and we had a lovely time!!
St. Patrick’s Day 2017 at Morgan’s!
Kuala Lumpur has no shortage of lodging for visitors. In fact, Kuala Lumpur is packed with multi-story chain hotels (from the West and the East), small hotels, hostels, apartments, AirBnB, you name it! As such, Dan and I were somewhat at a loss when picking our hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
We ended up staying at the Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur because we had points with SPG, and the Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur did not see any better or worse than any other hotel in Kuala Lumpur. For our stay, we used 3,500 SPG points/night and accessed the the Club Lounge via this blog’s very own SPG card!
Sheraton Club Lounge!
Yes, for all of you questioning the title, Dan and I spent our honeymoon in Singapore, Cambodia, and Malaysia! I get a lot of skeptical looks when I tell people this, but Dan and I like to explore destinations a bit “off the beaten path,” and, since we can rarely take full 2 week vacations, we really wanted to hit a bit Southeast Asia, an area that we had previously not visited!
Khmer buildings in Cambodia.
We planned our initial itinerary based on cheap, cheap mistake fare flights on Japan Airlines in and out of Singapore. We love a good flight deal, and this one was just too, too good to turn down! After booking flights in and out of Singapore, we decided that we had to add on Cambodia to visit Siem Reap. We have been wanting to visit Siem Reap forever and this was the closet we had ever been – just a 2 hour flight from Singapore.
Like its name, Queen of Tarts is an adorable coffee shop/bakery/lunch cafe in Dublin, Ireland. Located not too far from Dublin’s tourist highlights in Temple Bar, Dan and I went here for bunch on our first day in Ireland when we visited Ireland over Thanksgiving last year. It was raining the morning that we arrived, and a meal at Queen of Tarts was just right to warm us up!
All of the delicious tarts at Queen of Tarts.
Dan signed up for the United Airlines credit card last year to qualify for bonus points and free checked bags, and one of the perks associated with the United Airlines credit card are two United Club lounge passes for one time use give out each year. Since we love a good (or really even mediocre) airport lounge, we were pretty excited to try the United Club lounges! We also usually fly out of Newark, and Newark is home to three United Clubs! Well, not so fast. As it turns out, United is revamping all of its airport lounges and the main United lounge at Newark in Terminal C is closed for renovations and is currently not open to day passes until later in 2018…
Although Dan and I had been to Lisbon and Sintra before our wedding trip, we had never made it to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in continental Europe. Cabo da Roca was always on my “bucket list,” but its not the easiest place to get to, especially without a car or a guided tour group. For our wedding trip, we organized a day trip from Ericeira to Sintra for our guests, and were able to tack on a stop at Cabo da Roca in the late afternoon! As you can see, Cabo da Roca is gorgeous and an amazing way to end our day trip (and wedding week!).
Newly married at Cabo da Roca.
Funny enough, for all of my returning readers, the company “Wines of Portugal” originally interested Dan and me in visiting Portugal several years ago – Wines of Portugal did a wine dinner in Princeton, New Jersey and we attended! Little did we know that we would be returning in 2017 to get married in Portugal! Thanks Wines of Portugal!
Map of the wine regions of Portugal.
Ericeira, Portugal is a beach getaway town located about 30 miles outside of Lisbon. Ericeira hangs on the cliffs of the Atlantic and is relatively unknown to foreigners, with the exception of serious surfers. Dan and I have visited Ericeira a few times, as we got married not too far from Ericeira last year and stayed in Ericeira during our wedding!
Gorgeous flowers in Ericeira.
If you’ve read my blog at all in the last six months, you know that Dan & I married in Portugal last year! We got married in Gradil Portugal, but our closest friends and family spend a few days in Lisbon with us before our wedding! These few days were really fun and brought the group together, and it was really cool to share Lisbon – a LOVEY city – with those closest to us!
Pizza is almost certainly my favorite food, so when I noticed that the top restaurant in Galway is a pizza restaurant, I snuck it into Dan and my itinerary on our Thanksgiving trip to Ireland! Actually, it ended up being our Thanksgiving day lunch and despite being pizza in Ireland, it was excellent!
Sintra, Portugal. Billed as a fairy tale castle city outside of Lisbon that, while not a household name, must be on every traveler’s bucket list. I visited Sintra in 2014, and I definitely had my doubts. Sintra was rumored to be terribly grandiose and was compared to the likes of Neuschwanstein and Disney castles. Despite my doubts, Sintra totally won me over! So much so that I organized a day trip to Sintra for guests at my wedding in Portugal!
Casa do Alentejo is a gorgeous, albeit touristy, restaurant in central Lisbon, very close Rossio Square. Dan and I went here on a food tour years ago, and I remember thinking it was so, so beautiful! Casa do Alentejo is set an an old palace with Moorish feature, the most stunning tiling, and palm trees! So old school Portuguese, and just want you want to experience in Lisbon! So, when we were planning our pre-wedding weekend in Lisbon, we made a dinner reservation for 13 on our first night in Lisbon!
The foyer of Casa do Alentejo!
Ah, Galway! Its a perennial favorite of travelers and the city that every says is a “must visit” on any trip to Ireland. Dan and I have been twice, first in the Spring in 2012 and most recently, for Thanksgiving in 2017.
Galway streets in November.
I went to Paris last Summer (2016), but I never could bring myself to write about it. I love Paris so, so much and putting my trip into words seemed too daunting of a task (dramatic, I know!). But, so many people I know are traveling to Paris in the near future and I really want my pictures readily available to everyone on the internet…so I finally decided to memorialize my trip!
Ah, Paris! #swoon
Dan & I visited Ponta Delgada after a week on mainland Portugal for our wedding, where we ate all of the delicious Portuguese food (but no pizza)! When researching places to eat in the Azores, I came across Forneira São Dinis and its wood-fire pizzas, and I decided that we had to eat here! I mean, I really love pizza!
Wood oven pizza!
One of the very few things that I did not like about the Azores was its lack of modern, upscale restaurants. Everything seemed old and tired. Sooo, I was super excited when we walked into Big21 for dinner on our last night, which turned out to be one of my favorite meals of the week!
After Sete Cidades, Lagoa do Forgo is probably the most popular “bucket list” site on São Miguel Island. Like Sete Cidades, Lagoa do Fogo, or in English, Fire Lake, is a crater lake in the middle of another of São Miguel’s dormant volcanos. Lagoa do Fogo is located in the middle of the island high on a mountain – its the highest of São Miguel’s three crater lakes. Go to Lagoa do Fogo for stunning views and hiking if you are into that! Also, tourists should now that Lagoa do Fogo is protected by the Azorean government and swimming is NOT allowed.
One of the hiking trails to Lagoa do Fogo.
Since Dan and I spent a week on São Miguel, we visited Lagoa do Fogo twice. Once on a tour (the same tour that we took to Sete Cidades) and once on our own as a detour on en route to way to Furnas! As you know from my Sete Cidades post, São Miguel had horrible weather the day of our tour so we really did not get to see Lagoa do Fogo at all…
Ponta Delgada is, by far, the Azores’ largest and most populated city. Located on São Miguel Island, Ponta Delgada is the transportation hub of the Azores and a jumping off point for most travelers to the Azores. Dan & I spent a week here in September on our “mini-moon” (a/k/a the week after we got married in Portugal but definitely not our honeymoon!). We had a great week filled with city strolling, island exploring, and eating lots of Azorean specialities!
The Old City Gates of Ponta Delgada.
If you read my post on Furnas, you know that I was iffy about visiting (thanks, Anthony Bourdain!), but I totally loved it! One of the main reasons that I loved Furnas was our fabulous hotel – the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel, where we spent 24 glorious hours!
Pulling up to Terra Nostra Garden Hotel.
Dan and I almost didn’t stay at Terra Nostra, but we made a last minute decision to stay one night at the recommendation of a friend and the reviews of Terra Nostra online! Definitely a great move, it was fun to spend a night away from our digs in Ponta Delgada, and it allowed us to experience the lavish Terra Nostra Gardens without all of the crowds (see below!).
Dan and I found ourselves flying out of Ponta Delgada airport verrrry early in the morning in September – like 7:30 a.m. flight early – on our way home from our “mini-moon” after our wedding (terribly depressing). We knew that PDL had a SATA Lounge, and we are hopeful that it would be open before our flight. And, it was! We were able to enjoy about 45 minutes in the SATA Lounge before our flight due to our Priority Pass.
The Azores. We were real sad to be leaving.
Dan & I visited Furnas as part of our “mini-moon” in August. After watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations: Azores, we almost didn’t make it to Furnas, but I was so happy that we did, and it ended up being one of my favorite spots on São Miguel Island!
Furnas, as Bourdain saw it…
Furnas, as we saw it!!
Once again, when I was trying to plan out Dan and my Azores trip, I read about “the thermal springs of Ferraria,” but really could find nothing else to direct me to these “thermal springs.” This is really trend; there is nothing written about the Azores! Our tour guide to Sete Cidades also pointed them out, so I was pretty pumped about my decision to visit, even though I did not really know anything about them!
Dan and I at the thermal springs.
Dan and I spent the week after our wedding (which took place outside of Lisbon, Portugal in August!) on São Miguel Island in the Azores! One of the main sites in the Azores, if not the main site in all of the Azores, is an area called Sete Cidades, and it is even more gorgeous in person than the photographs portray!
The stunning Sete Cidades!!
Obviously trolling restaurant websites before my recent trip to Montreal, I continuously came upon a Syrian restaurant called Damas in Montreal’s Ourtremont neighborhood. The menu looked delicious and I was really intrigued by a Syrian restaurant, so I called and barely got a reservation about two weeks before my trip! Great success.
Happy October (and, even though its not in October, happy belated Oktoberfest)! Since a lot of Americas think Oktoberfest is in October and Oktoberfest just ended (sadddd but I am so looking forward to 2018!!) I decided to do a post on – what else – beer!!
Oktoberfest 2014…not Jester King!
Honestly, before I planned my trip to Austin, I had never even heard of the Jester King Brewery (well, maybe once). Seriously. I love beer, but I really had not made it into the Texas breweries. However, Dan had, and he really wanted to try to visit Jester King when we were around Austin. So, I decided that we had to make it happen!
Dan and I spent a long week in and around Austin, Texas earlier this year for Dan’s cousin Claire’s wedding! It was my first time in Austin, and Dan’s first time back in years. So of course, we had to hit all of the food spots on our one totally free day in Austin! Also, the wedding was super fun and totally worth the trip!! Congratulations, Claire and Talor!
South Congress Street. Austin, TX.
To start, Austin was awesome! We walked all over town and I really loved the small town feel of the city! We strolled though the State Capital grounds and shopped on South Congress Street, but the highlight was obviously the food and drinks! I had done some research in advance, and we had quite the itinerary when we started out Friday morning.
The beautiful Texas state capital
Dan & I traveled to the Azores – specifically São Miguel Island – after our wedding in Portugal (!!) for a weeklong mini-moon (our real honeymoon is early next year…you really have to stretch out the wedding vacations!). When I told people that we would be going to the Azores, I received a lot of questions but my favorite, and the perfect response to sum up all of the responses, was “what is an Azore?” Well, this is an Azores!
One of the many volcanic lakes on Sao Miguel Island!
Dan and I went to London over Memorial Day weekend this year. It was Dan’s first trip to London and my first time in London in 13 years, so clearly we had to take a food tour! Of the many options available in London, we choose a food tour that went through East London, a somewhat sketchy part of town that I spent some time in those 13 years ago… The food tour ended up being awesome and East London has changed SO MUCH!
The Duomo Complex is home to one of Florence’s star attractions – its massive cathedral , the Duomo, and its surrounding buildings! Also called the Duomo (duomo means cathedral in Italian), the Duomo Complex includes the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, the Baptistery, the Campanile, the Dome, a crypt, and a museum!
Every visitor to Florence, whether religious or not, should spend some time at the Duomo. However, planning a trip to the Duomo Complex can be a bit daunting, especially on a first trip to Europe or when traveling with a large group! So, here’s my suggestions on visiting the Duomo!
The Duomo Complex, in black and white.
The Duomo is located right in the heart of Florence and is home to six attractions – (1) The Duomo; (2) The Baptistery; (3) the Bell Tower; (4) the Museum; (5) the Dome; and (6) the Crypt. I recommend seeing each attraction but if you are short on time, I would prioritize the Baptistery, the exterior of the complex, and the Bell Tower, in that order!
Ceiling of the Baptistery
London’s Heathrow Airport was the first ever international airport that I flew into, and my main (and really only) memory of Heathrow Airport is that it was huge with so many shops and so many restaurants! Well, I’ve been back twice this year and my memory holds true! With five terminals, Heathrow is London’s largest airport and home to many flights between the US and London.
A lot of travelers coming thorough Heathrow will have a long layover and want to venture into London, which is doable only if you have at least a six hour layover (read about it here!) If you cannot make the trip out of Heathrow, do not be concerned – Heathrow has a lot of shops, restaurants, and amenities to keep travelers busy,! Its also home to a number of lounges, many of which are accessible via Priority Pass! Terminal 5 is the most popular terminal for long-haul international flights, including those to and from the US, and its home to one lounge that is covered by Priority Pass – The Aspire Lounge and Spa (it used to have another Priority Pass Lounge, but that seems to have closed down).
High tea is on many traveler’s bucket list when visiting London! However, the abundance of places offering “high tea” in London can be overwhelming. I mean everyone offers tea – from clothing stores (hello, Oasis), to every single fancy hotel in town. The choice can be daunting, especially for us Americans who are not even familiar with the concept of “high tea.”
To sum up this post before I even get started, I loved Bao! So much that I returned twice on a four day visit to London! That is saying a lot, and I recommend putting Bao on your London restaurant shortlist!!
London, England is a traveler’s dream and a bucket-list destination on most traveler’s wish list. However, many tourists, especially those flying in from the US with a connection in London, try (often unsuccessfully) to squeeze London in on a layover between the US and another destination. I have heard this story a lot: you get a great flight deal but have hours to kill at Heathrow Airport and you are considering going into London…is it doable? Well, yes and no, depending on time and travel style.
Beautiful London from Westminster Bridge!
The Stuttgart Beer Fest, formally known as the Cannstatter Volksfest. I have wanted to attend the Cannstatter Volksfest ever since I heard of this beer festival, i.e., the second best beer fest in all of the World (or best, depending on who you are talking to…)! And I finally made it last year, in 2016 (oddly enough…on the same trip where Dan and I got engaged…). Dan and I paired our weekend at Cannstatter Volksfest with a few days at Oktoberfest (and a few days in the Alsace), so it was a great opportunity to drink a lot of beer and compare the two festivals!
Stuttgart Cannstatter Volksfest!
The first thing I noticed in planning my trip to the Cannstatter Volksfest is that a visit can be downright difficult to plan. There is not an abundance of English information online, and few travel bloggers have covered the Cannstatter Volksfest (at least in English). As such, here is all of the information that I wish I had known in planning my trip!