I know, I know, the trip to Southeast Asia involves a really long flight, the locals don’t speak English, they drive on the other side of the road, the culture and food are so different… Well, having just returned from Bali and Thailand, I say those are all reasons you SHOULD visit! I’ve just returned from a trip to Bali and Thailand. Southeast Asia was certainly unlike anywhere else I’ve been, and it offered a brand new adventure full of natural beauty and rich cultural traditions.
Bali is truly a magical place. I spent time in Seminyak, Jimbaran Bay, Uluwatu, Nusa Dua, and the Ubud. Most of these are beach destinations (with the exception of the Ubud), but each offers something a bit different.
Sunset in Seminyak, Bali
If you want lots of nightlife and shopping, Seminyak is for you. While it has a huge beach, the beach is quite dirty, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for that. If you’re really looking to stick your toes in the sand, Nusa Dua is the right spot, with plenty of clean, sandy beaches. This is where you’ll find many of the luxury resorts. I stayed at the St. Regis for a nice, relaxing getaway on the beach. I felt so spoiled with pink macarons and chilled chardonnay waiting in my room!
Relaxing at St. Regis Bali
Jimbaran Bay and Uluwatu will give you even more beach and beautiful sunsets. These are much smaller areas and offer a bit more in the way of cultural experiences. I spent a day immersing myself in the Balinese culture; I visited a traditional Balinese home, helped cook a meal, visited a temple, received a blessing, visited a village center open market, and had a meal in the traditional style.
A day of traditional Balinese culture experiences
My favorite destination in Bali was the Ubud. I finally made it here after dreaming about it for years! The Ubud is not the place to go for beaches, but it is quite a spiritual destination with lots of spas, hiking, and beautiful green rainforests. I stayed at the Viceroy and just relaxed for 2 days in my beautiful villa—though I did use a local guide to tour some of the Hindu temples and understand the local way of life.
The Ubud, Bali
I was then on to Thailand, where the cultures are very different in different parts of the country: most people in the north and middle of Thailand are Buddhist, while the south of Thailand is Muslim. Starting in Bangkok, we visited the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. These are very ornate, beautiful gold temples.
From there, we traveled north to Chiang Mai, which is nestled in the mountains. This is the place where elephant safari and trekking became very popular. I am very happy to report that many companies have discontinued the practice of elephant-back rides. At Down Under Endeavours, we support the ethical treatment of elephants and happen to adore Elephant Nature Park, where you spend the day feeding, petting, and bathing rescued elephants—truly a highlight of my trip!
Pampering the elephants at Elephant Nature Park, Thailand
To end in Thailand, we traveled south to Phuket and the small island of Koh Yao Noi. The Six Senses property here has unbelievable views to the tiny islands in Phang Nga Bay. The diving in the area is amazing; I saw 3 lion fish, a giant clam, and an enormous lobster! I happened to be in Thailand during the full moon on Nov. 3, so I had the opportunity to take part in the Loy Krathong ceremony. In southern Thailand, you decorate a krathong (woven basket) to float in the ocean as you ask for blessings for the next year.
The views from Six Senses Koh Yao Noi
Loy Krathong ceremony in Thailand
Want to learn more about Bali and Thailand? Call me at (312) 951-8517 to chat about my trip! These destinations are certainly great for beaches and natural beauty, but meeting the people, understanding their culture, and eating the amazing food will make your experience absolutely magical.