Keeping it Simple in Bali with our Six Word Itinerary

As most of you probably know, we just got back from the trip of a lifetime to Bali, Indonesia. We were very quickly overwhelmed by the plethora (great word, huh?!) of picture-perfect resorts, world-class restaurants, and dream wanderlust destinations. In order to avoid extreme travel FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), we chose to partner with American Tourister and figure out a six-word itinerary to keep our trip focused. For Bali, it made most sense to have the following six-word itinerary…

 

SURF’S UP. RICE PADDIES. TROPICAL TREATS.  

 

Here we are going to share about how we lived it up with this simple, yet all-encompassing, itinerary. 

 

 

SURF’S UP

Being in Bali, it is not hard to find a spot where the surf’s up. Of the 10 days we were there, Bobby managed to surf EVERY day (even going out twice a few times)!! In Bobby's words, "the surf was big, the water was warm, and the froth level was high" (meaning Bobby never wanted to get out of the water). 

 

One of the best parts about surfing in Bali is that there are so many amazing spots with diverse scenery and waves. From surfing a reef while planes land over your head (Airport Rights), surfing a black sand beach in the jungle with nobody else in sight (Yeh Gangga), or surfing in front of the tiny Warung you slept in before (Balangan)... Bali surf can provide any backdrop. You can find world class barrels at Padang Padang on the Bukit Peninsula or slow rolling surf at Old Man's in Canggu. Bobby tried a little of everything, with his favorite spot being an incredible wave called Medewi. It's not as well-known as some of the other spots in Bali, so keep it hush-hush. Bobby was so excited when we got to our hotel that he was in his trunks with board-in-hand before he'd even taken his luggage to the room. Fortunately, he had the patience to settle into the room before heading out for a surf!

 

If you're thinking "Surf's Up", Bali may be your spot. If you want to explore all the island has to offer, the Z-Lite bag is compact (yet spacious) enough to toss in the car alongside your surf gear. You may find the perfect wave and want to stay awhile!

 

RICE PADDIES

Rice is one of the staples of the Balinese diet. So much so that in the 9th century, the Balinese found a way to fill their sloping landscapes with rice. The irrigation system of canals, tunnels, and temples allowed for all the rice terraces, or rice paddies, to flourish... and man, are they breathtaking! 

 

While there are rice fields everywhere you look in Bali, not all are created equal. The rice fields in Ubud are worth a day trip, as they are so picturesque and majestic (and there is a monkey forest nearby!). We spent hours wandering through the fields, meeting the local farmers, and even having a beer with them! The beauty of the rice terraces wowed us, it's unlike anything we've ever seen before!

 

TROPICAL TREATS

This may have been our favorite part of our itinerary. (And we're not talking just food... although the food BLEW us away!!) 

 

Speaking of which, we had some of the best food we've ever had while we were in Bali. If only we could have packed some of them up in our suitcases! ;) Everything we ate in Bali was so good, so healthy, and so cheap! One of our favorite spots was called Crate - and it was as visually stunning as it was delicious! They had everything from whimsical smoothies to savory egg dishes, and (Bobby's favorite) “The Barber” where they stack French toast, fried banana, scrambled egg, and bacon all together. AH!

Next up. Coconuts. We both had at least one EVERY day! Why not? When in paradise, and when they cost a dollar, why not rehydrate with some fresh coconut water with lime?! Definitely a rhythm we’d like to keep up at home!

 

A tropical treat that doesn’t feel like real life: Balinese massages. For less than $10 you can have an hour-long massage. We'll say it again in case that didn't sink in: For less than TEN dollars you can get an HOUR massage - on the beach!!! It sure is easy (and affordable!) to treat yourself when you're in Bali!

 

And our last tropical treat: the sun. For it’s tanning powers and the show it puts on at the end of each day. Both of us were able to bronze our bodies a few shades darker during our time under the Balinese sun. While we make sure to wear lots of sunscreen, we botha also appreciate a good tan. ;) And of course, the sunsets the sunsets in Bali are on a whole other level. The sun treated us well during our trip!

What made our six word itinerary unforgettable was that it was a solid guide, but also had some flexibility. We knew what we were looking for when it came to the surf and the rice paddies, but we had no idea what kinds of tropical treats we would discover. With such a perfect summer climate, we were able to pack our Z-Lite’s pretty light (who needs more than swimsuits, sandals, and a couple shirts) and have room for all our essentials (and some extra space for souvenirs!)

Thank you to American Tourister for sponsoring this post!

A Bali Hotel TUGU (too good...) to Be True

Let's be real. 12 days in Bali = not enough time in Bali. 

 

Our first trip to this magical island was SO much more than we both could’ve imagined. The people, the food, the surf... we were in heaven! For most of our trip, we stayed with some close friends and enjoyed exploring local spots that we never would’ve discovered. In the middle of our trip we gave them a little break from hosting us, and we spent two nights at Hotel Tugu in Canggu. Going into it, all we really knew about Tugu is that it had a traditional Balinese theme, and that it had some really cool art. Both were understatements.

Tugu hotels are a small, privately owned and designed luxury art hotels created from the founder’s passion for Indonesia’s romantic history. They're better classified as boutique museum hotels, all housing incredible art and antiques, and each designed with traditional Indonesian culture in mind. When we walked into our hotel, we were blown away by the massive statue in the lobby and all of the ornate decorations. But that was only the BEGINNING. 

Welcome drinks!

Heading to our room through the greenery!

We continued to be wowed by our room (coolest hotel bathroom we have ever had), the food (can we take our smoothie bowls back to America?!), and the overall vibe that forced us to unwind and relax during our time at Tugu. Read on for details…

 

Our Dedari Suite at Tugu was one of our favorite rooms ever. EVER. When you enter in the first door, you are in a small courtyard with a Koi pond and pathway up to the second door, which leads to your room. The room features a massive, oversized King bed (truly fit for a king), a private pool, a bathroom that ranks #1 all-time by the Traveling Newlyweds, and views of private gardens. It's like your own private sanctuary!

When perusing the room, as we always do when we first arrive, it was a bit confusing to see another locked door on one end of the room. We unlocked to find a bathroom PARADISE! An open-air bathroom with a lounging area, a sunken bathtub, amazing incense burning, and Koi fish swimming around you! We were here for 2 days, and Alli took 5 baths! How could you not?!

As for food, we hardly had time to enjoy all the Tugu had to offer. We started each morning with amazing smoothie bowls, as well as egg dishes and other small treats. Since we only had two nights here, we were mostly out on the town exploring cuisine options. Prior to going out, we would enjoy the complimentary afternoon tea and treats! Next time we will be sure to dine in Tugu’s famous dining room that is housed inside a 300-year-old Chinese temple. At the end of each evening we indulged in a nightcap on the rooftop of Ji, their Japanese Fusion & Sake Bar. Bobby loved the Kublai cocktail, and Alli the Coco Sexo. We CAN’T wait to be back here for the warm nights, the views, and these cocktails!

The overall Tugu vibe is what we will miss most, and what will bring us back quickly. As soon as you arrive at Tugu, the dim lights, the smell of incense, and the calming music instantly allow you to unwind and relax. Add the complimentary welcome massage (that's right - complimentary welcome massage - just in case you missed that the first time) and you will be in vacation mode in no time! 

Whether it was the daily tea time, the spa treatments, or just relaxing in our room, Tugu has a feel the yields relaxation. We left feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, and we CAN'T WAIT to return!

How We Spent a 26 Hour Layover in Guangzhou, China… and LOVED it!

So if you are like us and you like to see the world as much as possible, you have to save money wherever you can (see our blog on traveling luxuriously without breaking the bank). If you are going by air, then plane tickets are normally a big chunk of your budget. When planning for our recent trip to Bali, Indonesia, we expected to pay around $1200 for a reasonable ticket. When skyscanning, we stumbled upon tickets for $840!!! The catch was that the trip took 51 hours. That may seem daunting, but the trip only had one stop… a 26 hours stop in Guangzhou, China. Guang-where? That’s what we said. But Guangzhou happens to be China’s third largest city, behind only Beijing and Shanghai. Whattttttt!?!?! We embraced this exciting adventure and had long layovers both to and from Bali. Here we are going to share how we spent our time, and a a few things you will need on your next trip that has a long layover. 

You Need Enough Time

This is first because it is important. If you are flying somewhere, let’s say Thailand, and you have a 7 hour layover in Tokyo, it’s pretty risky to plan on sightseeing in Tokyo. If you are leaving the airport, through customs, and have to re-enter through security, we would recommend you have at least 8 hours to quickly explore a layover destination. Along with how much time you have, it matters what time it is. If you have a shorter amount of time, it’s ideal that your layover is during the day. If you have a stop closer to our length (26 hours), ideally you arrive at night, get to sleep, and then have part of the day to explore. It will be helpful if you have an idea of what you want to do so you can plan efficiently too. We used Visit China’s Instagram to guide our planning in Guangzhou, and it help us use our time effectively! Overall, just know that your time is limited… and use it wisely!

 

 

You Need to Sleep… Preferably Comfortably (SPLURGE)

If your layover is somewhere that your currency is strong, this may be a place to splurge! Splurge or not, if you have a really long layover, it is SUPER important that you get some good sleep. Most likely you are coming off of a long plane flight where sleeping is rough, and you will be getting on another, so you need to take any opportunity to get some uninterrupted shut-eye. 

During our time in Guangzhou, we stayed at the Park Hyatt. This five-star gem is located in one of the most beautiful parts of Guangzhou, and has incredible views of the Canton Tower. Our room had amazing views with floor-to-ceiling windows, and our bed was so comfortable it was hard to ever get out. We had breakfast in the hotel and indulged in their buffet, which had traditional Cantonese food, healthy granola and fruit options, and even waffles! Consistent with the Park Hyatt brand, the food was phenomenal. Throughout the hotel was beautiful art, specifically wooden sculptures by world-renowned artist Tadashi Kawamata. The wooden pieces were inspired by Kawamata’s conception of the building as a dragon flying into the sky.  Within the hotel you can find the dragon’s legs, body, nest, and other wooden interpretations. 

We spent a good amount of time at the Park Hyatt in our amazing room, and the rest at the pool. We've stayed at a few Park Hyatt's in the past (TOKYO!), and they know how to design a pool. The pool in Guangzhou is overlooking the skyline, and the designs above the pool are similar to the architecture of the Canton Tower (which you see while you swim).  

The Park Hyatt allowed us to feel refreshed and replenished, giving us the energy to explore Guangzhou and be ready for our next flight. We hope to stay here again soon!

You Need to Rally When You Get Tired

Since you are in between flights and your internal clock is out-of-whack, you’re just going to need to suck-it-up when you get tired. Your time is short, so drink a cappuccino and keep going. For us, this happened when we were perusing the Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street. It is a long road of fun shopping, and right when we got there we both got a little sleepy. We shared a coffee, got a little snack, and pushed through. Shortly after that we saw some locals doing some really entertaining dancing and we visited the Chen Clan Academic Hall (a really cool temple), so it was definitely worth it!

You Need to Embrace the Culture

This really comes down to where you go, and what you eat. Don’t just do the most touristy things… try to find some locals and see what they are up to. After spending the night at the Park Hyatt, we got up early (to beat the other tourists) and headed to Shamian Island. This is a really popular tourist spot, but we heard that locals gather here in the mornings to exercise. Do they ever! Something really neat about the culture here is that tons of people workout together daily. Not what we imagine – at a 24-Hour Fitness, in nice workout clothes, wearing headphones and pumping iron. The locals here are dressed casual and are hanging out while practicing various exercises. It looked fun, refreshing, and healthy!

As for food, we really try to eat and experience as much as possible during our layover. We had some yummy dim sum, some delicious dumplings, delightful Cantonese fried rice, and some scary street food (we don’t even know what it was). Sadly, we did not have time for some of the truly Chinese delicacies, like shark fin soup or roasted duck. Next time!

If your travel plans allow it, we would highly recommend the long layover! Plan it efficiently, embrace the culture of wherever you are, and prepare to blitz through a destination. The goal is to see, do, and eat enough that it gives you a feel for the destination, and hopefully makes you want to come back. Thanks for the (quick) memories, Guangzhou! We’ll be back soon!

Dude, We Survived a Dude Ranch!

One of our favorite things about traveling is the random bucket-list experiences we get to share together. Sometimes we don't even know how bucket-list they are until we actually experience them!!

Anyway, a dude ranch is one of those experiences. We didn't really know what to expect or what we were in for, and man... was it epic. Have you seen the show, "Hey Dude" on Nickelodeon? It's pretty on point... 

 

Ghost Canyon Ranch is in the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota, minutes from Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Crazy Horse Memorial. The ranch was established in 1878, and recently was taken over by Trevor and Laura Bryan and their family. They are passionate about family, nature, and horses and will definitely show you a great time. Ghost Canyon Ranch is a PERFECT place for a group gathering (family reunions!), as it has a capacity for 20 and offers an all-inclusive Western experience. You'll enjoy refreshing mountain air, gorgeous evenings, horseback riding, fishing, and relaxing. All this to say, or stay at Ghost Canyon Ranch was far to short. We basically got a taste of what a vacation on the ranch could be, and we can't wait to be back. 

We arrived in the afternoon and were greeted warmly by Trevor and Laura. We had a pretty long day of travel and we were tired, hungry, and pretty wiped out from the drive. They welcomed us with a big hug, showed us our room (more like a house!), and led us to the dining room where they had a full steak dinner waiting for us. And it was SO GOOD! 

 

We shared stories of our travels, learned about how they met, and got the scoop on what a "Dude Ranch" really is - a working ranch that accepts guests. So you can come to relax, or get to work! These past few years since they took over Ghost Canyon Ranch has been really busy for them, as word has traveled about how amazing their ranch really is. We went to bed feeling full, excited, and really honored for the opportunity to be there.

 

The next morning we woke up to picture-perfect views of the ranch, and the smells of breakfast calling us to the dining room. Laura greeted us with another home cooked meal, and told us to get our sneakers on. It was time to feed the horses!!

Laura and Trevor told us all about each horse, where they came from, their temperament, and how they daily care for each of their animals - they even let us help brush them! Odie the goat was the highlight of our morning, as he followed us around and ate from our hands - of course we HAD to get a picture with him!

As we said above, our time at Ghost Canyon Ranch was too short. We had some amazing home cooked meals, got to enjoy a beautiful evening, a lazy morning, and the peaceful silence you can only find in nature. We didn't have time to go on a horseback riding trip through the mountains, watch the sunset from their jacuzzi, or get get to work as a couple of ranch-hands... but we'll be back. 

 

We'll definitely be back.

Thank you to South Dakota Tourism for sponsoring this post!