Bali

HAPPINESS. This one word sums up the general feeling of being in Bali. The island has been a popular destination for beach-goers, surfers and yogis since the 1980s. The west coast and its surrounding islands are more chill than other areas that draw crowds of tourists.

With many options, it can be difficult to choose a base-location in Bali. We planned our travels around culture, relaxation and surfing. The best time to visit is during the dry season from May to September.

Fly into Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar just south of Kuta. Take a private car or taxi (Blue Bird Taxis) to your base location. Note that traffic can be very congested!

JIMBARAN & Seminyak

EAT

Cuca Restaurant Tapas-style dining using local ingredients. Highly recommend.

Kayumanis Resto Modern, traditional Indonesian dishes.

Sea Circus Bali Go to brunch spot in Seminyak sporting a colorful, vibrant atmosphere.

DRINK

Finns Beach Club Trendy beach club in Canguu.

Rock Bar Bali Scenic sun-downers in Jimbaran.

PLAY

In both Nusa Lembongan and mainland, we recommend renting a scooter to check out the hidden beaches and restaurants. Our must-dos are below and other ideas pinned to the map:

Badung Beach

Bingin Beach Hidden swim and surf spot near Uluwatu.

For a little retail therapy, check out Jalan Petitenget street (From the W to Potato Head) or Jalan Kayu Ayu in Seminyak or several contemporary, beach wear boutiques selling unique prints.

Uluwatu Temple A Balinese Hindu temple on a steep cliff offering beautiful views of the Indian Ocean. Experienced surfers can catch a break here, but there are strong tides.

STAY

Kayumanis Jimbaran Private Villas & Spa this tucked away gem is five minutes from the beach and offers a five star experience. Think private pools, spacious (super comfy) rooms and outstanding service. It does not get any better! 

Blue Karma Seminyak A boutique resort and spa in the middle of Seminyak. Note: Seminyak is a bit more commercial than other locations.

NUSA LEMBONGAN

EAT

Hai Bar and Grill Dinner near Mushroom Bay.

Indiana Kenanga Restaurant For a change of taste from the local cuisine, this European, waterfront spot will not disappoint.

DRINK

Sandy Bay Beach Club Waterfront beach cafe.

The Deck The BEST views in Nusa Lembongan. We can promise no Sunday scaries here; the bar has live DJs and craft cocktail specials on the weekends.

PLAY

The island is best toured by scooter and offers surfing, swimming and beautiful beaches. It is a bit less crowded than mainland Bali.

Klungkung Beach

Dream Beach Swimming and relaxing.

Lacerations and Shipwreck For experienced surfers.

Manta Rays Hire a local boat and captain to explore the islands, snorkel and swim with these gentle giants.

Monkey Surfing Beginners can head to Monkey Surfing for lessons.

Mushroom Bay Another day, another white sandy beach.

STAY

This island is southeast from Bali and best reached via boat from Sanur (45 minutes). Our recommendation is to stay at the Batu Karang Lembongan Resort.

UBUD

EAT

Fair Warung Bale Casual restaurant in Ubud where 100% of the proceeds support the local community.

DRINK

Smiling Coffee Bali refreshing stop after a visit to the Tegalalang Rice Terraces.

PLAY

Mount Batur For some physical activity, opt for the sunrise hike. We organized this excursion through our villa.

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary It’s touristy but who doesn’t like monkeys? Go during non-peak hours to avoid the crowds and don’t feed the monkeys!

Tegalalang Rice Terrace Scenic views of rice paddies featuring traditional Balinese irrigation. Go early to beat the heat and crowds.

Ubud Palace Iconic landmark in Ubud and a lovely example of traditional, Balinese architecture

STAY

We highly recommend Purist Villa, a luxury boutique resort with a relaxing atmosphere, great food, and friendly staff.

Ho Chi Minh City

Saigon was the 19th and 20th century capital of French Indochina and a major outpost of the Vietnamese-American war. Today Vietnam’s southern metropolis, renamed Ho Chi Minh, reminds us of New York City with its grit and exhaust, blaring horns, bustling population and crumbling colonial infrastructure.

For visits up to 30 days, many nationalities can apply for an eVisa in advance of travel.

Walk or take taxis or Ubers to get around. A trip from the airport to the city centre should be around $10. Only use the green or white cabs from the Mai Linh and Vinasun companies. Make sure the driver is wearing a uniform, that his identification is clearly listed upfront and that the meter is on.

EAT

Make sure to try a bowl of beef pho, fresh and fried spring rolls, and a Vietnamese omelet.

Hoa Tuc Authentic, contemporary Vietnamese cuisine. The restaurant also offers cooking classes.

Quán Ngon 138 An airy, two-story restaurant with traditional fare.

DRINK

The Vietnamese do not mess around when it comes to coffee (and they make it strong!). Pop into one of the city’s many cafes for a sweet iced coffee.

Rex Hotel Garden Bar The Rex was made famous during the Vietnam War as the American military would hold a daily conference here. Today its rooftop bar has great views of the city and live music in the evenings.

PLAY

Cu Chi Tunnels A short trip outside the city, the tunnels were an underground network built and used by Viet Cong soliders. They played a critical role in the Viet Cong’s resistance against the Americans during the war. Book a half day trip through your hotel or a local tour shop.

Ben Thanh Market The city’s largest marketplace, stop by for local handicrafts, souvenirs and food. Make sure to haggle!

Independence Palace Also known as Reunification Palace, it was home to the President of South Vietnam during the war.

Mekong Delta if you have enough time, take a day trip to explore the delta and Vietnamese countryside. Book through your hotel or a local tour shop.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Saigon Central Post Office This colonial vestige is incredibly well-preserved.

STAY

District 1, also known as Bến Nghé, is the city centre and provides convenient access to most sites, restaurants and nightlife.

Phuket

A tropical island in southwestern Thailand on the Andaman Sea, Phuket is prized for its clear beaches, jungle trekking and high-end resorts. It is well positioned as a gateway to smaller, surrounding islands, with ferries leaving daily to the Phi Phi Islands, Similians and James Bond Island.

Winter is the best time of year to visit to avoid monsoon season. The water is calmer and clearer between November to January.

If you want the freedom and mobility to explore the island on your own, scooter rentals are popular. We recommend only renting through your hotel, versus a local shop in town, to guarantee a fair price and to avoid thievery.

Tuk tuks are another popular way to get around. Be prepared to negotiate price up front and never accept the first offer.

EAT

Kata Beach One of the more popular beaches on the island, Kata is a great for restaurants and nightlife, and has a handful of spots right on the beach. It is more sophisticated than its seedier cousin, Patong Beach.

Mama Seafood Casual little restaurant serving up fresh seafood and overlooking sleepy Nai Harn beach.

DRINK

Kata Beach As mentioned above, Kata has a good nightlife scene and beach bars.

Nai Harn Reggae Bar Chill, laid-back spot with live music.

PLAY

Karon Beach One of the larger beaches on the island, it has a long strip of sand and is more commercialized than Kata Noi and Nai Harn.

Karon View Point South of Kata Noi beach, this view point has lovely vistas of the jungle, ocean and sunset.

Kata Noi Beach A smaller, quieter beach south of Karon.

Nai Harn Beach A quiet beach at the tip of the island that is a bit off the tourist track. Consistently ranked one of the prettiest beaches in Phuket.

Phuket Weekend Night Market The largest market on the island, it runs Friday through Sunday evenings.

Promthep Cape Watch the sunset and snap a few photos.

Walking Street Located in Phuket Town, this old Sino-Portuguese has interesting architecture and is a popular shopping area.

STAY

Most of the luxury resorts are on the northern part of the island. These are a good bet for relaxing away from the hustle and bustle. Angsana Laguna Phuket is well known for its long pool that snakes throughout the resort.

If you care less about staying in a five star resort, we recommend staying near Nai Harn beach. Check out the four star All Seasons, an Accor hotel.

Siem Reap

Siem Reap is the sleepy gateway town to the Angkor “Temple City”, a complex of 9th to 15th century temples built during the Khmer Empire. Angkor is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the world famous Angkor Wat.

Apply for an e-Visa through the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in advance of travel.

Take the temples at your own pace over two to three days. Visit the temples first thing in the morning and spend the afternoons at the pool or exploring Siem Reap. Passes to Angkor Archaeological Park must be purchased on-site in cash, in either USD, Euro or Cambodian Riel. One, three and seven day passes can be purchased.

Tuk tuks are an easy way to get around Siem Reap and Angkor. Ask your hotel to help confirm a driver for the duration of your visit, or negotiate directly with a tuk tuk driver in town.

USD is near universally accepted across Cambodia, and most payments must be made in cash. Always, always negotiate! Cambodians haggle and initial prices quoted to tourists will be nearly double the actual value.

Cambodia experienced a brutal civil war in the 1960s-70s at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime. During the war two million Cambodians were killed by execution, starvation or disease, and millions more fled the country to resettle abroad. Before visiting, consider reading Loung Ung’s memoir, First They Killed My Father, to better understand what the country has been through and how far it has come today.

EAT

Haven Gorgeous little restaurant. Haven is a social enterprise that hires and trains disadvantaged youth and orphans as wait staff in the restaurant.

Marum Marum has a similar concept to Haven and is run by an NGO that works with street children. The restaurant features a handicrafts shop on site. Recommended by a friend.

Viva Mexican Restaurant Tasty Mexican and super cheap margaritas near Pub Street.

DRINK

Angkor What? Visit this infamous dive on Pub Street for $2 Singha beers, and then move along.

Asana Bar A cocktail bar housed within a traditional, Khmer-style wooden building. Recommended by a friend.

Miss Wong Old World, Shanghai-style cocktail bar. Recommended by a friend.

PLAY

Angkor Archaeological Park Do not miss temples include Ankor Wat (arrive before dawn to watch the sunrise), Ta Prohm (featured in Tomb Raider), Bayon and Banteay Srei (carved with pink stone, it is several miles north of the others and known as the lady temple).

Cambodian massage or reflexology Check out the local spas in Siem Reap as the services are very affordable!

Quad Adventure Cambodia A fun way to see the countryside and surrounding villages by ATV.

Siem Reap Night Market Haggle for your wares!

STAY

We recommend staying in the city center or within walking distance, as Siem Reap is quite small.

Singapore

Singapore has long been a melting pot of cultures from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Great Britain and the Arab world. Today this tropical city-state is the beating heart of Asia’s commercial and financial empire.

There are plenty of bus and train options to access the city from Singapore Changi Airport, but taking a taxi is also fairly easy, quick and cheap ($20-30).

EAT

Singapore is a foodie’s dream. You won’t go wrong popping by hawker food stalls (with Michelin stars) in mall basements and restaurants within the Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street neighborhoods.

PS Cafe A homegrown Singapore cafe chain with several locations. Go for brunch!

Wild Honey Classic dishes from international menus. Great for brunch and has locations on Orchard Road and Scott’s Square.

DRINK

Clarke Quay Bunch of eclectic bars and a fun night out.

Long Bar at The Raffles Hotel Home of the gin-based Singapore Sling.

Marina Bay Sands A must for happy hour drinks at sunset.

Shangri-La Hotel Singapore An Asian take on the traditional, British “high tea”. Try their savory treats!

PLAY

Gardens by the Bay A waterfront garden park with greenhouses and “super trees” with solar cells.

Jurong Bird Park Asia’s largest bird park with thousands of colorful and exotic birds.

MacRitchie Reservoir A nature preserve for hiking, biking and monkey viewing. Check out the TreeTop walk.

The Merlion Singapore’s mascot and main landmark.

Night Safari A nocturnal zoo with native critters. Touristy and slightly pricy but fun and educational.

Orchard Road malls This labyrinth of malls is connected by underground passages pumped with air-conditioning. Orchard Road pays homage to commercialism and is especially fascinating around Christmas.

Sentosa Island A man-made, resort island south of the city that makes for a fun day trip. Check out Palawan Beach.

Singapore Botanical Gardens

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple A beautifully intricate Hindu temple dedicated to the Goddess Kali.

Sultan Mosque While in the Arab quarter make time to visit this hub of the local Muslim community.

STAY

The Orchard Road area road, while bustling, is central or easily accessible to everything. It’s a good choice if you want to be close to good food and shopping.

Go Crazy Rich Asians and stay at the Marina Bay Sands to swim in the famous infinity pool overlooking the city.