9 Days in Japan: Part 1 – Osaka

The last country on the Amarvelous six-week honeymoon around the world was Japan, and probably some of our favorite moments of the trip happened on these nine days. Japan is this wonderful mixture of ancient and traditional culture, high-tech modern technology and architecture, plenty of opportunities to do soul searching while connecting with nature, thrilling theme parks, and kitschy opportunities for entertainment and adventure. Our time in Japan consisted of three cities – Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo – and these next few Amarvelous Honeymoon posts will be split up by city. This week’s post is on Osaka!

Of the three Japanese mainland cities, we spent the least amount of time in Osaka, because Hubby and I knew we wanted to prioritize Tokyo. We arrived in Osaka from Sanya, “the Hawaii of China” (read our blog post about this tropical paradise here), just in time to enjoy dinner and explore the nightlife. We also spent the next morning and afternoon in Osaka before leaving for Kyoto. This post will cover the currency, transportation, food, accommodations, and attractions of Osaka, plus a few things we researched but didn’t have time to do.

Currency

Generally speaking, Japan isn’t a cheap travel destination. Of the Asian nations we had been to on this trip (China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan), Japan was the most expensive. At the time of writing this post, the conversion is $1 (USD) to ¥108.66 (Japanese Yen). Don’t get sticker shock when almost everything you buy is sold by the thousands of yen. For example, a bowl of ramen can range from ¥600 to ¥2,000 (JPY), or $5.52 to $18.41 (USD). I wouldn’t say Japan is unaffordable though. We live in New York City, and I found the pricing in Japan to be similar to Manhattan. So perhaps some tourists won’t get as much bang for their buck as at home, but for us it was relatable.

Transportation

The flight from Sanya to Osaka was incredibly affordable, about $194 per ticket, with a layover in Guangzhou. Unfortunately, flying from Hainan, China, to Japan means that you lose one hour due to the timezone change. Upon arrival in the Kansai International Airport, which is on a peninsula and not on the Japanese mainland, you have two options to get into the city: train or taxi.

Hubby and I decided on taking the hour-long train ride to our accommodations in Osaka, which were located near the Nishi-Ohashi train station. For reference, the drive can be just as long, depending on the traffic! In general, our recommendation for mainland Japan is to travel by train, because the subway system is one of the best that we’ve seen in the world: it’s very efficient, clean, and on-time. The video below, created by JapanGuide.com, is an excellent breakdown of types of trains in Japan, some rail lines, and rider etiquette:

Traveling in Japan (and especially taxi rides with drivers who are not always fluent in English) was made more enjoyable since Hubby luckily speaks Japanese—but don’t fret, because most of the public transit signage is in English, and many people speak English too. It doesn’t hurt to learn some phrases ahead of time though. Take a look at this blog post before your trip to Japan: Enjoy traveling by trains and buses! Phrases for using transportation @ LiveJapan.com

Accommodations

First thing we did in Osaka was check into our cute but tiny Airbnb, probably the smallest room of our honeymoon. The room consisted of a small entryway, a petite kitchenette, a bathroom, and a bedroom on a soft linoleum floor. Something we hadn’t considered was that the rules of the house did not allow you to wear shoes or have bags on the linoleum floor, as it could dent and damage the flooring. This forced us to stack up our luggages at the front entry for them to fit in the room. Then when we needed to access our bags, hubby had to carry them over to the bed and open them on top of the bed.

Photo Credit: Airbnb Hidenori

In addition to the room being among the tiniest of our trip, so was the bathroom. Many bathtubs in Japan are deep soaker tubs, but the tub in this bathroom was the smallest we experienced, which didn’t bother us since we didn’t have the time to soak anyway.

The small size aside, the room was comfortable, had nice décor, included free wifi, and perfectly fit our needs for a single-night stay. The option to self check-in and check-out saved us some time. This is the exact Airbnb we stayed at, if you are interested in booking the same space. In the photo section, the host shares very useful information about nearby transportation, convenience stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and tourist spots. For $37 (USD) a night, it was a steal and an incredible savings compared to a regular hotel.

The main reason we selected this room was because it was close to public transit and in prime location to our nighttime and next-day activities. As soon as we settled in, we went out exploring by foot.

Attractions & Food

It was a cold night, and we had a craving for ramen, so we googled ramen restaurants in the area and walked about 15 minutes to a busy area of town named Dotonbori that had lots of restaurants. In fact, Dotonbori is the most famous food district in Japan, and Osaka is known as the “Nation’s Kitchen,” with exquisite restaurants, world-famous chefs, and delicious dishes aplenty.

Down a small side street, we found Ramen Makotoya Shinsaibashi. The restaurant was long and narrow with a bar-top down the length of the whole restaurant, seating on one side for guests, and a kitchen workspace on the other side for the cooks. The format meant you sat next to your companions versus across from them. We encountered many restaurants in this same style while in Japan. We ordered gyoza as a starter and two bowls of ramen: one with a chicken broth and the other with a beef bone broth. Both bowls had tender pork belly slices, soft boiled ramen eggs, bamboo shoots, scallions, and hand-made noodles, then mine also had cabbage, and hubby’s had mushrooms and nori (Japanese seaweed). Still to this day, this was the best ramen that we have ever had in our lives. For a first meal in Japan, we were over-the-moon excited for the rest of the food on our trip.

By the time we had finished eating, we left to explore some more, but many of the places that we passed were closed. We continued to walk around and noticed something interesting: In the country that created Godzilla and the mecha entertainment genre (think Power Rangers and Pacific Rim), it’s no wonder that restaurants and stores put these types of huge cartoon and robotic structures in front to attract customers. Definitely some photo-worthy opportunities.

Although some shops were closed, the area was still busy with open bars and clubs to experience. This area of town was hip with a lot of young people in their early-20s. After a long day of travel and a time change, though, Hubby and I didn’t partake in the nightlife but instead went with full bellies back to the Airbnb to sleep and get an early start the next morning.

Hubby and I woke up early to pack up and then go through the self-check-out procedures for the Airbnb. Once all done, we headed out with our luggages for our daytime activities. It wasn’t ideal to roll our bags around all day, but the area of town that we were headed to was on our way to our next city, Kyoto. So instead of requesting a late check-out, going to the next activity, going back to the Airbnb to pick up the bags, then continuing back to Kyoto, we just brought our bags along from the beginning. Figured this plan was smarter, faster, and cheaper than backtracking. Take a look at just how far our next destination (Expo City) is from the area of our hotel! Osaka is huge!

If you’ve read some of our other posts, you know that we usually dine at McDonald’s around the world because Hubby likes to order the McDouble and compare them in each country. Well, my favorite fast food is KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). We’ve passed KFCs in other countries and regrettably not had time to stop in. In preparing for this trip, when I learned that the first KFC buffet in the world was created in Osaka, I couldn’t miss the opportunity of having lunch here.

Our first stop of the day was to a shopping mall called Expo City so we could have all-you-can-eat brunch at KFC! It took a couple of trains to get from our Airbnb to Expo City, and the ride was just over an hour long. The trains were very clean and not busy. Expo City mall is located next to the 1970 World’s Fair/Expo Commemorative Park that includes gardens, museums, and a nature center. Expo City even has a ferris wheel called the Redhorse Osaka Wheel. Had we had more time in Osaka to make this a day-trip and not a stop in between cities, we wouldn’t have had our luggages and we would have explored the park after KFC. That may be an option for you if you have a day to spend in this area.

When we arrived at KFC, there was a short wait to sit. But eventually they sat us and even found a patio area where our large bags could fit next to our table. They allot you 90 minutes max to eat—that way you don’t just hang out all day, and they can get others inside. There were about 60 different menu options ranging from multiple types of fried chicken prepared in different seasonings and cooking methods, biscuits, pasta, vegetables, soup, salad, and ice cream.

We were absolutely stuffed in way less than 90 minutes, so the clock didn’t matter. Although they say the recipes are Colonel Sanders, I think the chicken and biscuits are a little different than America. I did expect some variation, so I wasn’t disappointed, and everything was really tasty. Prices vary based on day of the week and time of day. For example, weekday afternoons are the lowest price, and weekend evenings are the highest price. Adult prices range from ¥1,880 to ¥2,480 (JPY), or $17 to $22 (USD). Well worth the money being that we had one meal all day until a late dinner in Kyoto.

After lunch, we decided to walk around the mall to work off the full feeling. We shopped and bought some souvenirs from Osaka. Then when we were done, we walked back to the train platform.

Some Additional Attractions

Hubby’s and my time in Osaka was a mere 24 hours, so we unfortunately did not have time to see and eat everything that Osaka has to offer, and that’s a lot! If you’re planning a longer trip there, then make sure to add these options to your list:

  • Universal Studios Japan: Just like Orlando in Florida, this park now has a Wizarding World of Harry Potter section
Photo Credit: NeverEndingVoyage.com
  • Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan: The world’s largest aquarium!!
Photo Credit: Japan Rail Pass Blog
  • Tempozan Ferris Wheel and HEP Five Ferris Wheel
  • Jiggly Cheesecake at Uncle Rikuro’s Café: As made famous around the world by Buzzfeed
Photo Credit: Insider.com

Pro Tips

  • Hotels in Japan can be costly, so consider alternative accommodation website such as Airbnb where you can rent someone’s home. We utilized Airbnb for our Osaka and Kyoto stays but opted for a hotel in Tokyo because we found an affordable option (which was still one of the most expensive we paid for while in Asia).
  • Some traditional accommodations in Japan may have tatami flooring, which is a tightly woven straw mat flooring used in Japanese households. It’s hard to clean and generally more delicate than tile, which is why many people remove their shoes before entering their homes in Japan. Just like Osaka’s Airbnb linoleum, we couldn’t put our luggage on the flooring in Kyoto either, since it was tatami flooring.

Besides a two-day stop to the island of Okinawa, Japan, (which was a port of call on our cruise through Asia), Osaka was the first Japanese city (on the mainland) that we visited. These nine days and three cities in Japan were the final stops on our six-week honeymoon around the world. Though brief, Osaka was great so far, and we were excited to continue the journey to Kyoto and Tokyo.

If you are interested in reading more about our travels, then check out the Amarvelous Honeymoon Blog.

DISCLAIMER: Any brands listed above are not sponsors.

A Week in Sanya, Hainan, the “Hawaii of China”

Sanya is a city in the southern portion of China’s Hainan Island, known as the “Hawaii of China.” This was our eighth stop on our six-week honeymoon around the world. We were officially in the latter half of our trip and planned to spend a relaxing week in the south of China, soaking up the sun. Continue reading to learn about how we booked the trip, language, currency, transportation, our hotel, food, small town visits, downtown visits, and an excursion to a breathtaking park.

How We Booked

First, I’ll dive into a mini education for those couples reading this that are engaged…While you’re engaged, you have the opportunity to attend many events, such as wedding expos and venue expos. A wedding expo is a general expo probably hosted at a conference center in your town that will feature many different venues and vendors. A venue expo is hosted by a particular venue, and they usually showcase their preferred vendors. The latter is mostly for couples who are already booked or interested in booking that particular venue. These are free opportunities to learn more about venues and vendors. Often, there are door prizes that you can enter into just for attending the event or booth prizes that you can enter if you speak to the representative running that booth. My point in telling you about these events and prizes is that you should take advantage of all the wedding perks you can.

We happen to have won our week-long stay in Sanya as a door prize at a venue expo! Well, we particularly won a week-long hotel stay for a company that had properties all over the world. We knew we’d be in Asia, so we searched their website for an eligible Asia hotel during our dates and found our hotel in Sanya. You do still pay taxes and fees (and likely airfare) when you win trips like these, so it’s not totally free, but it’s significantly cheaper than if you paid the full price.

If you are looking into booking Sanya and aren’t limited by a prize trip (like we were), then you may consider booking closer to the downtown area. Although we were in a quiet resort-lined beach area, we did need to taxi about 23 minutes to get to the main hub on Jiefang Road.

Language

Overall, the main languages in Sanya are Hainanese, Putonghua, Cantonese and, believe it or not, Russian. We learned that a lot of people who live in Russia also vacation to this island, being that it’s a tropical paradise pretty close to home. We even saw signs in Russian when in town.

The first challenge we had experienced in Sanya was that no one working in our hotel spoke a lick of English. It was extreme culture shock, because everywhere that we had been thus far in Asia did speak some English, and Hubby speaks Japanese. It took some patience, and both the front desk receptionist and us using a translating app, but we eventually successfully communicated.

Don’t let lack of speaking the language deter you from traveling to new places. With technology these days, you can communicate easily enough. However, we do always recommend you learn a few pleasantries in the foreign language such as “please,” “thank you,” “hello,” and “goodbye.” We also recommend you learn emergency words such as “help” and “police” just in case. But hopefully you’ll never use those.

Currency

We forgot to use an ATM at the airport to take out Chinese Yuan (the primary currency on the island). We still had some Yuan leftover from our visit to Beijing, but we were running low. So we took a taxi into the downtown area to find an ATM. We stopped into several small banks, and our cards wouldn’t work in the machines. We recognized the Agricultural Bank of China, and that bank allowed us to withdraw. But for a hot second, we thought we were stranded in China with no money or even enough cash to taxi back to the hotel. Very stressful. Long story short, definitely pull out cash in the airport ATM where there is bound to be some English speaker who can answer questions if you experience problems. Not all stores will accept credit cards in China, so it’s essential to carry enough cash on you for your stay. For reference, at the time of writing this post, $1 USD is around ¥7.15 Chinese Yuan—a great exchange rate!

Transportation

The Sanya airport is very small. It’s actually two buildings: one for domestic and one for international flights. Arriving into Sanya was easy. We hopped into a taxi, and our hotel was only twelve minutes from the airport. Upon leaving Sanya a week later, however, we did have some confusion as to which building to be dropped off at. We figured that since we were heading to Japan we should go to the international terminal, so we got dropped off at the larger modern international building. But they made us change buildings, because our flight stopped briefly in Guangzhou, China, and they therefore treated our flight as domestic. Ensure extra time in case you too have to switch buildings. We had to schlep our luggages across the whole terminal, down a couple flights of steps, across a small street, and into the next building.

The domestic building seemed like it was the original airport building. Although smaller and older, it had a charming vibe with wood accents. Though small, it still had an airport lounge with some snacks and beverages, which we were grateful for. Beware that if flying domestic (or if you have a domestic layover like we had) through China, you will go back through a screening process when you land, and any foods and liquids (even purchased in the previous airport) must be discarded. We had packed a few snacks and waters from the Sanya airport lounge, and when we landed in Guangzhou they were confiscated.

Taxis were available easily at the airport. We recommend you print out all of your hotel/excursion paperwork so you can show the address to your drivers. Communication may not be easy, and having the printout will allow drivers to see the exact place you are trying to go. Once at the hotel, because it is located outside of downtown, taxis will need to be called by the front desk. Once you are in the downtown area, you can find taxis all over. Even at the park we visited, there was a taxi line at the exit.

Hotel

We stayed at the HNA @ International Asia Pacific Convention Center Sanya, located in the Sanya Bay Resort District. This area was resort after resort lining just across the street from the beach. When we booked the hotel online through the prize company, the photos looked great! And although the hotel ended up being very nice, it looked absolutely NOTHING like the photos online. So that was a minor shock upon arrival.

Our hotel looked nothing like these two photos that were on our final booking paperwork

They originally gave us a great room, with the exception of the two twin beds. For our honeymoon, that just wasn’t going to fly. So we went back downstairs and used the translation app to say that we wanted the beds together (hand motions and all). They gave us a new room with a king size bed, but now it was a small room with a partial wall and street view instead of the spectacular view that we had before, overlooking the large pool area. This second room should have been a utility closet or something. So we defeatedly went back downstairs and said we would just take the original room. Hubby was awesome and did some rearranging of the furniture, and boom, a king size honeymoon bed!

Our room was very nice! I believe this was the largest room of our six-week honeymoon. It had a separate desk and sitting area, spacious bathroom, closet, mini fridge, newly created king size bed, a balcony with chairs, and a great view. Had we been on a higher floor than the second, we probably could have seen the ocean view over the tree line. But even without an ocean view, our room was perfect because we had a pool view. It also became convenient when one of us went upstairs to grab something and we could talk to the person below to see if they needed anything before heading back down.

The lobby was spacious. We took the stairs most days instead of waiting for the elevator, because we were only on the second floor. The downstairs had a bar, a small convenience store, and a restaurant. The back area included the largest hotel pool I’ve ever seen in my life. It was so large that even with everyone swimming, you were never too close to anyone else. There was plenty of space for kids in shallow waters, exercise laps, and waders like myself getting carried around by the wind on my float. Lounge chairs lined the pool area. I do feel they could have supplied more chairs as only some had optimal sun vs shade ratio. We had to get downstairs early to claim our chairs, but after learning that on our first day, we were fine. There was also an outdoor portion of the restaurant and fountains leading to the beach across the street.

Once across the street, you are literally in the sand. The beach was never too busy. As the whole area has resorts lining the beach, it was private. I am an avid seashell finder, and when I am at any beach I am scoping the sand for pretty shells. We started to find a bunch of shells and were picking them all up. Then we realized there were small creatures living in them and dropped them back into the water. We found very few shells without small crabs and snails inside. So, although the beach in this region has nice shells, you will be hard-pressed to find something you can bring home. After seven days, we probably only had a sandwich bag full. There was definitely a noticeably higher level of waste in the water than we had experienced at any other beach around the world. But we saw lots of jelly fish in the water at the time of year we visited (May), so we didn’t go in anyway. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying daily sunset walks on the beach.

Food

On our first night at the hotel we ate dinner at the poolside restaurant. There was a talented singer who performed nightly, which created a nice ambiance. But we ordered a beef dish and literally got a plate full of small bones with no meat on it. We couldn’t even tell what part of the animal it was because it was in such small pieces. Beef at all? Questionable. We felt like we were being pranked. We tried to eat it, laughing the whole time at the scenario. Even in Beijing China, we hadn’t had difficulty ordering because all the menus had photos next to each dish. Here, too, there were photos, but nothing was in English so we weren’t even sure what we ordered! We left a bit hungry that night but with good laughs. Other nights that we ate dinner at our hotel, we took a cue from the Russian tourists and ordered meat kebabs. Those were great!

Super Skeptical about the kebabs after our first dining experience…but they ended up being great!

On the second night, we ventured to a neighboring hotel’s restaurant. Our goal in exploring the neighborhood had honestly been to find an ATM. The hotel was a Sheraton, so we figured maybe the American brand hotel would have an ATM that our cards would work in. It didn’t. However, we learned they had a buffet and decided to eat there for dinner. This buffet was about $30 USD per person. For China, that was expensive, but they had great food. Our favorite was the endless supply of grilled lamb chops. Nice ambiance again with live entertainment and outdoor seating under the moonlight. Ended up being our nicest and most romantic dinner.

The next day, we went to the front desk to ask about things to do in the area and grocery stores to buy snacks. We tried using the translating app again to communicate. Then a friendly pilot from an airline company came over and introduced himself. Apparently, his company puts the pilot and flight attendants up in the hotel overnight all the time, as it’s so close to the airport. He knew the area like the back of his hand. He explained that local small-town food shops and restaurants were in walking distance just a few blocks away. We were so excited to meet another English speaker and grateful that stores were so close we could just go out and explore.

We followed his directions exactly: walk out of the hotel to the main front road, turn right, walk down to the first stoplight, cross the street to the left, walk down a block, cross a small bridge, and then that upcoming strip of stores was our destination on Taoyuan Road. It was about a ten-minute walk and well worth it! We found many grocery stores. For beverages, we purchased large bottles of water and juice. For breakfast, we got fresh fruits like different varieties of mangoes and bananas, muffins, buns, and yogurt. For lunch, we got instant ramen bowls. There were so many flavors to choose from that each day it felt like we were eating something different. We also purchased a ton of snack foods like crazy flavored chips (the steak flavor was my ultimate favorite), cookies, candies, etc. All the food was extremely affordable, but the ramen was our best purchase. It was so hot outside in May that we also purchased ice creams and ate them as we continued our walk.

On our first trip to this strip of stores, we found a small family-owned local restaurant to stop in and eat lunch. They had pictures posted of all the food, so we felt confident when we ordered. We got a beef noodle dish and a chicken dish, and both were delicious! The gentleman who owned the shop literally hand-made the noodles in front of us, folding the dough over several times until it became many layers, stretching out the layers until they were thin strings, then cutting the long strings into delicious, fresh noodles. On another occasion, we ate at a Chinese fast food chicken and burger joint. We didn’t know the name, but they had a picture of a Ninja Burger as their logo. They sold fried chicken sandwiches that we really liked. We ended up visiting this restaurant a few times during our stay, as it was convenient, reliable (not a plate of bones!), and had a scene of young people our age eating there due to free Wi-Fi. We also saw on the map app on our cell phones that there was a dumpling joint nearby and tried to eat there, but it seemed to be closed permanently.

In the downtown area that was a taxi ride away, we found a bunch of stores, restaurants, and fast food options. The day we were walking around that area, we found Pizza Hut and decided to stop in to eat. Even though that chain is somewhere we could eat in America, it was totally different than America, because they had very unique flavors for pizza. Hubby’s pie was actually a square cheese-stuffed crust segmented into four flavors: pineapple ham, pepperoni, vegetable, and Korean BBQ pork with eel sauce. I got a personal pan pineapple ham (my favorite). On another trip to the downtown area, we also got McDonald’s. I know, we kept choosing American fast food in China, but honestly after the plate of bones on the first day, a real meal was more than welcome. On the taxi ride to the downtown area, you will also pass some really cool buildings with some creative architecture. Pleasant surprises everywhere you look in Sanya!

Day-Trip Excursion

This honeymoon stop was totally supposed to be about relaxing and no excursions, and although Hubby would have been pleased to spend a full seven days tanning poolside, I was going stir crazy only a few days in. We did some impromptu online searches for things to do in the area and found the Yalong Bay Tropic Paradise Forest Park. We got ready for the day, took a taxi into town (Jiefang Road) to a large grocery store for snacks and water bottles. Then we hailed another taxi and drove about 35 minutes to the park. On the way there, we kept researching and learned that by the time we arrived we would only have two and a half hours to explore before they closed. Oh well, we were already on our way!

Upon arrival, you purchase the ¥158 CNY ($22.10 USD) ticket and then get ushered onto a small open-air bus that takes you for a ride up the mountain. When we got off, we went on a great hike up steep rock steps until we finally came to a large canyon with a rope footbridge. It was a breathtaking view. A bit crowded, but if you have patience, you can get some less obstructed shots. After the bridge, we continued on our hike to some treehouse lookouts. Although we had a great day, we wished we had known about the hours of operation prior to visiting, because we would have made an earlier start and had a full day there. The park definitely has a lot more to offer than we experienced. Plan your day accordingly. Even writing this post, I looked up the park again and realized they have a transparent-floor illusion bridge. Can’t believe we missed that!!

My Biggest Regret

Whether lounging poolside, walking along the beach, taking a taxi into town, or at the park, everywhere we looked we saw couples with professional photographers doing photoshoots. This was a popular activity in Hainan because of the tropical lush greenery and blue water vistas. I wholeheartedly regret not going over and trying to communicate with them to see if we could set up a photo shoot. They had been at our resort daily, so it would have been convenient, and with the exchange rate it probably wouldn’t have been too expensive. The photographer at our resort brought a see-through kayak, a surf board that said “engaged” on it, and some other props. Often, the photographer placed the couple, stepped back to get himself ready for the shot, and then his assistant did the final touch before the photo was snapped. This could have been something like drifting the kayak out into the pool to make them look like they were in the middle of the water or splashing water at just the right spot. The photos were completely staged, but I’m sure they looked beautiful in the end and would have been a unique souvenir of our time in China.

Pro Tips

  • Hainan is a tropical place, and small creatures may find their way into your room. Therefore, avoid leaving any open food out. There was a time we went out for dinner and came back in to find a small animal (of an unknown variety still to this day) scurry out of the way when we flipped the lights on. I screamed, and it was gone. Maybe a large mouse or shudder very large spider. I couldn’t even sleep in the room that night until Hubby completed a full inspection of the place and confirmed he couldn’t find it. I guess however it got in, it got back out. We never saw it again, because from that point on we wrapped up everything and put it into the fridge when we were done with it.
  • We found a store that sold general items, and I picked up a large donut pool float. Our resort had floats for rent, which were such a waste of money because they rented per hour! So I was extremely happy when we found these floats. It came deflated and they filled it with a machine when we purchased. After we got back to the hotel, we realized it was beginning to deflate—just our luck! But we are in China, so there was no option of returns. A hole in my new donut float! I was devastated. Haha We took the float to the pool to see where the bubbles of air were coming out, and then get crafty and covered the tiny hole with a sprinkle size piece or duct tape. In the end you can hardly tell that we did a repair because it blended in so perfectly with the design. We already had duct tape on hand because our brand-new luggage broke earlier in the trip, and we had to buy duct tape to tape it back together until we got back home to return it. The float was a total splurge, because the price was about what I would have paid in America, but I will say that it significantly increased my poolside enjoyment, and over a year later I still have it. So well worth the money! Don’t waste money on renting from your resort.
  • You will find the most unique purple seashells in Sanya. Beware that even when no animal seems to be living inside, if you take it from the beach, it will smell like something died in it. Purple is my favorite color and I was taken aback by the beauty of these shells in varying shades from lilac to plum. I took two back up to our hotel room and ended up relocating them to the balcony until I finally ditched them back on the beach. Stinky little things! Pictures below show the snail type animal that would normally live in this shell.

The island of Hainan, in China, and the city of Sanya specifically, was a complete surprise to us. We booked it on a whim, having never heard of it before. We planned on sun and relaxation and got so much more. Everything since even before wedding day had been a whirlwind, and this week of lounging poolside allowed us to reset. Staying off the beaten path allowed us to explore and dine like locals. We also learned some valuable travel lessons that we’ll keep with us forever. We highly recommend Sanya!

DISCLAIMER: Any brands listed above are not sponsors.

Two Days in Bangkok Thailand

Songs like Murray Head’s One Night In Bangkok and movies like The Hangover Part 2 showcase Bangkok as a crazy fun city that you don’t need to spend too much time in (because it could get you in trouble). So the perfect place to honeymoon, right? Next stop on our six-week honeymoon around the world is Bangkok! If you missed our other Thailand posts, click here for Chiang Mai Part 1 and Part 2 and Phuket Part 1 and Part 2. Bangkok is an enjoyable city full of culture and nightlife but small enough that you can experience most of what it has to offer in a short duration of time. In this post, we’ll be covering transportation, hotel, temples, and nighttime activities.

Day 1

We were flying domestic from Phuket Thailand to Bangkok Thailand and used Thai Air. The best part of the flight was the meal surprisingly. They served these hot-pocket style margherita calzones that were so tasty. For an hour-and-twenty-five-minute flight, we were surprised they fed us anything. Flights within Thailand are so cheap too! We only paid $37 USD per person. For that price, it’s absolutely worth it to see several cities, not to mention that it may be cheaper flying internationally out of Bangkok because it’s a larger airport hub than some other big cities in Thailand. Adding a few days’ stay in Bangkok may save you some dough in the long run on flights alone.

After the flight landed at 3:30pm, we took a train to our hotel. As always, it’s important to us that our hotel is close to public transit so we can avoid taxis. We booked the Hotel Solo Sukhumvit 2, which was walking distance from the train and sported a modern lobby and a spacious room.

  • Although we were near transit, in hindsight, the biggest downfall was that we were too far from the attractions that we wanted to see. We had selected a hotel that was close to a train station, but if we had selected a hotel that was closer to the temples, then we wouldn’t have needed to go on trains at all. Our train rides didn’t take that long, but it was extra travel time that took away from us enjoying the city. So our major advice for Bangkok (or any city you stay in for about 48 hours) would be to stay in walking distance from your attractions, if affordable.
  • The second downfall is that our hotel included a nice rooftop pool and we didn’t even have time to go in it. We only searched for hotels with pools, so perhaps there would have been more availability, cheaper rates, or options closer to the temples had we not filtered by that amenity. If you are visiting a city for a brief stay, just skip the extra search filters. You’ll hardly spend much time in the hotel anyway.

By the time we checked in, unpacked, and got ready for the night, it was already starting to sunset. I had learned of a riverside market called Asiatique The Riverfront that had dining, shopping, and some rides. A night market sounded like the perfect activity for our first night. We took public transportation there, which included two above-ground trains followed by a brief ferry ride. The total trip was about 50 minutes. The trains seemed older than the trains in China and Hong Kong, but it was actually really nice arriving by ferry over to the attraction, because the route was more scenic than if we took a taxi.

We were ready for dinner, so we went straight to the BKK Food Fest area. There were many vendors with booths of varying options. We first walked around to see the options and create a game-plan, then we got to work ordering and eating our small bites. We ate so many different things! Lots of little deep-fried sea foods, so hubby was happy, but there were all sorts of choices. The food was tasty, we left full, and we did not get food poisoning. Hubby had just recovered from a bad bout of food poisoning from Phuket, so we were super grateful that the newly introduced food didn’t bring the illness back. There there were some adventurous scorpion and insect options too, though we didn’t partake.

After we ate, we walked around the rides area that included bumper cars, a ferris wheel, a carousel, and other smaller amusement rides. Then we headed indoors to check out the shopping. There are some storefront options of chain stores, and then there are booths like a real night market. They sold all types of goods, so we picked up some souvenirs as we walked around.

We finished shopping and decided to go back the exact way we arrived. Since Asiatique was soon closing, there was a long line for the ferry to leave. We figured we’d wait so we could experience the river at night. It moved pretty fast, and soon enough we were on the two trains and then walking to our hotel. It was close to midnight when we arrived back and we were waking for an early start, so we went straight to bed.

Funny art installation we saw while on the train

Day 2

Before our trip, I had done a lot of research on what there is to do in Bangkok. I read about the several main temples and attractions that, if timed out perfectly, you could see all in one day. So my mission became creating the most perfect one-day Bangkok temple itinerary!

Start your day with an early wakeup, and either eat breakfast at your hotel or on your walk to the attractions.

8:15am-10:30am:

The first stop will be the Grand Palace which opens at 8:30am daily. I recommend you arrive 15 minutes early to get in the queue to purchase tickets, which are free of charge for Thai natives and ฿500 TB ($16.30 USD) for foreigners. These tickets provide access to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Grand Palace, and Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles.

The site was very busy in the morning. Lots of tourists like ourselves trying to start their morning with the Grand Palace. But don’t let that scare you away though. I’m sure it’s just as busy all day long, because it was definitely worth the stop. The site is massive. There are many buildings and beautifully manicured garden areas to explore and take photos of. We first stopped at the Emerald Buddha, which is a large meditating Buddha made from a solid piece of green jade, clothed in gold and diamonds. This attraction was the most crowded. We took our shoes off, walked in, saw the buddha, and then exited. It was very unique from the rest of the buddha figures we had seen in Thailand though. Had it not been so crowded inside, we may have spent more time looking around.

Just after seeing the Emerald Buddha, it started to downpour, and the rain did not let up for a short while. We took refuge in one of the open structures and waited out the storm. The storm definitely helped to lessen the crowded morning rush, because after it stopped there were so many less people on site. We continued to walk around and explore the grounds. The Grand Palace that was once lived in by kings has fantastic architecture and garden courtyards. We didn’t go inside any of the Palace buildings, but it was still neat seeing them up close.

Next stop was the Queen’s Textile museum which showcased many outfits Queen Sirikit had worn, with photos of her at outings wearing them. I loved seeing all the vintage outfits, hats, and bags. While we were visiting, the Textile Museum had a special exhibit celebrating the 200-year-old friendship between the U.S. and Thailand. We hadn’t known what the exhibit was when we entered the museum, but it was cool we got to experience something so relatable! Not sure if they do this for all exhibits, but don’t miss the interactive area on the first floor left side. If all exhibits are as wonderfully done as the one we experienced, this museum is a must-see! It’s totally indoors and a nice air-conditioned break from the heat. We spent around an hour in the museum alone, but in total you could spend two to three hours at the Grand Palace. Had we not been rained out, we probably would have spent more time exploring the grounds.

10:30am-10:47am:

Next stop was to the Wat Pho Temple which was a 17-minute walk from the Grand Palace.

10:47am-12:50pm:

Wat Pho Temple or Temple of the Reclining Buddha opens daily at 8:00am. Upon arrival, you will wait at a ticket booth to purchase your ฿100 TB ($3.26 USD) ticket, then you are allowed entry into the large property. We first got in the queue for the large golden reclining Buddha. This was my favorite temple of the day, because the Buddha was so large: 160 feet long to be exact! It made for some really great photos. The line snaked us through the building, and along the way you had many opportunities to snag some sweet pics of every angle of the structure. Since you were always walking along the railing, you had unobstructed views for photos. The line brings you down the front then up the back of the long Buddha body.

Although the Reclining Buddha is probably what brings most people to this property, there is so much more to see. We walked around for another good bit of time taking pictures. There were other buildings, statues sprinkled throughout the gardens, and sweet sleepy kitty-cats everywhere (photos at the end)! We spent almost two hours at the property.

12:50pm-1:20pm:

Next, we walked right across the street about a minute’s walk to a restaurant called the Tha Tian Store City Lodge. It was a small place but was busy, so we figured they must have some good food. We found the food to be tasty and the service to be good and fast. We didn’t want to spend too much time at lunch, so it perfectly worked into our schedule. Looking at this restaurant’s reviews on Google, I see now that it has mixed reviews. We had a fine time, but if you wanted to check out other options, that whole street is lined with food options. Don’t veer too far, because the ferry is close by and also our next mode of transportation. I’ve read good things about these other options: Krisa Coffee Stop, Krua Khun Kung, and Old Town Café.

1:20pm-1:30pm:

This next stretch of time was spent walking from the restaurant down a side street to the ferry, purchasing our ฿4.00 TB ($0.13 USD) ticket, waiting for the boat, boarding, and riding directly across the Chao Phraya River to the next temple. With no waits, this trip is 10 minutes. I have some more notes in the transportation section below to help you speed up the process of finding the ferry.

1:30pm-2:30pm:

Our next stop was to the Wat Arun Temple or Temple of the Dawn, which opens daily at 8:30am. When you get off the ferry, you will need to purchase a ticket to enter the grounds for ฿50 TB ($1.63 USD). The way it was built in a tall, towering structure reminded me of the pyramids from Egypt. Unlike some of the other colorful Thai temples we had seen, Wat Arun from a distance looked very white, but as you got closer you began to realize the backdrop of the temple is white with a very intricate pattern of red, blue, green, and yellow mosaic tiles. I found this temple exterior to be the most beautiful. We spent about an hour walking around the grounds.

2:30pm-3:15pm:

When we left Wat Arun, we took a ferry back across the river to where we had started, then we transferred to a different ferry line that would take us farther south toward our next destination. There were several stops along the way, so the ride took a little bit of time, but I’ll never complain about a nearly free boat ride!

3:15pm-7:00pm:

Next, we headed to the River City Shopping Complex, which is a huge mall that specializes in antiques. We weren’t really in the market for antiques, but our next activity was a dinner cruise that left from the waterfront of this shopping center, so we decided to head there a little early and hang out in the mall. We explored some of the stores which really did sell all types of antique items, and then we stopped at their pharmacy to pick up some essentials we had been running low on.

7:00pm-7:30pm:

Then we were ready to cap off the night with a Princess dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya River. They suggested you arrive 30 minutes early for the 7:30pm departure. We walked back downstairs pier side, and it was a sea of people! Apparently, our Princess dinner cruise wasn’t the only company leaving from this pier. It took us a few minutes to maneuver through the crowd and find our actual boat. There were these ornately dressed, overly-pleasant hosts that greeted us. They asked for our ticket and in exchange they provided us with a purple orchid and greenery corsage pin and an orange sticker. Each boat company did the same with a different color flower and sticker. Later as they would check everyone in, this would help make it easy to board: wrong flower and sticker, wrong boat! Next, the host took a picture of us. Then, we were welcomed to take a seat and wait for boarding.

7:30pm-9:30pm:

The website states that “The River Star Princess Cruise will take you to enjoy the beautiful night scenery on both sides of the Chao Praya River in our cruise seat. The captain of River Star Princess Cruise will be leading the boat up to Rama 8 Bridge and then, you will have an unique opportunity to get some snapshots of two most wonderful night spots in Bangkok, Wat Arun The Temple of Dawn and the Grand Palace & Wat Pra Kaew -The Temple of Emerald Buddha. Time for your dinner under the candle light with “Live Music” in a romantic atmosphere. Delight the Thai & International cuisine in a superb buffet. Enjoy the Thai classical dancing performance and disco on the cruise.”

I recommend you arrive early so you can guarantee a seat right on the water. Hubby and I were seated at a table with other people, but we arrived first, so we sat across from each other and took the river seats. This allowed us to get unobstructed photos without heads or the boat in them. For ฿1,400 TB ($45.66 USD), everything was pretty much included. We had drinks, a huge yummy international buffet spread, live entertainment, and the cruise itself, which allowed us to see all the temples we saw during the day all lit up at night and a great vantage point for photos. We really enjoyed ourselves. While we were eating dessert, the host delivered our framed photo in a cute red frame. While we were dining, they must have printed them and got them all ready as included souvenirs. This was very unexpected and a nice touch to end the evening.

9:30pm-10:30pm:

The only disadvantage of the cruise was waiting for a taxi to get back to our hotel. As you can imagine, all the cruises arrived back at the same time, so it was another madhouse on the pier. The taxi stand was an absolute wreck! It took us forever to find our car (hailed via a Thai version of Uber or Lyft) and leave. If I could do this over again, I’d either take a ferry back toward Wat Pho Temple or walk several blocks away from the mall to call a taxi on the street.

By the time our taxi found us, we were exhausted, and just wanting to go back to the hotel to crash. The ride back wasn’t too bad once we were in the car. In hindsight, this was our only night to go and enjoy the rooftop pool, but we were exhausted and just wanted to crash. Walking temples all day and eating a big meal will have that effect on you.

Alternatives for the Itinerary:

  • There is definitely a chunk of time between our temples and the dinner cruise—however, you really can’t plan down to the minute because you’ll want to have enough time to walk through each temple property without being rushed. You may take more or less time than we did. So leave some wiggle room and maybe have a backup activity to fill the gap and maximize time if your temples finish fast.
  • To fill the gap, you could add an activity such as a longer nice sit-down lunch, a short Thai cooking class, a massage parlor, the National Gallery Bangkok, or a Jim Thompson House tour.
  • Our hotel was too far to go there and back between temples and the dinner cruise. It would have been nice to get all dolled up for dinner. Perhaps if you select a hotel closer to the attractions, you can run back, relax poolside, or take a honeymoon siesta, then get freshened up before you head out.
  • Even though you may think 8:30am is too early to be at the first temple, and if you have room you can shift everything later, DON’T! It’s literally so hot, you guys – SO HOT IN THAILAND. The earlier in the morning you go, the cooler it will be. We arrived at the shopping mall at the peak of heat for the day, and the air conditioning was welcome.

Day 3

We woke up and packed up the room. The end of Bangkok was quickly approaching. The next stop on our honeymoon was to a city called Sanya, located on the island of Hainan in China. Due to us flying international, we wanted to be at the airport three hours in advance. Our flight departed at 4:00pm, so we arrived by 1:00pm.

Transportation Options

  • The Bangkok Skytrain (known as the BTS) and the Bangkok Subway (known as the MRT) are the two most convenient ways to travel around Bangkok. Trains were good, but in my opinion it’s not a large system with enough lines. In comparison, the BTS and MRT in Bangkok only jointly have 5 lines, whereas Beijing and New York City have 20+ lines.
  • Ferries were also a great option if traveling along the riverfront. They make multiple stops along the way, so it’s not that quick, but it was nice being on the water. The trickiest thing about the ferry is finding some of the entrance booths to purchase tickets and get on. It’s not as commercialized as you would think. There is not a lot of signage, and some of them sort of look like you are entering a tin shopping or food hut (like a night market booth), not a ferry terminal. We always pre-download maps of the cities we are visiting, so we used Google maps (which was surprisingly reliable and accurate!) to help us find the exact locations of the entrances. We took ferries to get to Asiatique and our dinner cruise.
Photo Credit: Travelvui.com
  • Taxis are expensive, but tuk-tuks are even more expensive. There is an Uber/Lyft-like app you can download called Grab. For us, it said “five minutes until pick up” but that easily turned into a 30-minute wait. Maybe it doesn’t take traffic into consideration? if you don’t mind waiting, the Grab app is the cheapest kind of car transit. I recommend you download it before your travels.
  • Walking in May just wasn’t an option for us. We tried to walk where we could, but it was so hot. If you visit Bangkok at a cooler time of year, then stay as close to your attractions as possible and walk. It will save you money as well as time waiting for transportation.

Pro Tips:

  • Women must cover up shoulders and knees while visiting sacred temples. It was so hot in May that I decided to wear a sleeveless, below-the-knee dress and then brought a t-shirt along with us that I threw on whenever we were going inside a temple. I just couldn’t bear the heat, being so covered the entire day, so adding the t-shirt layer worked perfectly.
  • Sticky mango rice is life. We didn’t eat it nearly enough times in Thailand, and you can hardly find it of the same quality back in America; when you find it, it tastes totally different. I don’t even eat coconut, but I LOVED this dish.
  • To avoid illness, don’t drink the tap water in Thailand. Only take ice when it has the hole in the center. This is a sign that it may have been processed and purified. If you have access to airport lounges, stock up on a few water bottles that will tide you over until you can purchase bottles at a convenience store.
  • The largest market in the world, called Chatuchak Weekend Market, exists in Bangkok, but it’s only open on weekends. We missed it since we visited on a Thursday and Friday and didn’t have a full weekend day to explore. If you visit on a weekend, then maybe add in a day just for shopping and exploring this area of town.
Photo Credit: Tripsavvy.com
  • Bangkok is also known for having fun full-moon rooftop parties. Unfortunately, we weren’t visiting during a full moon, but if you are then definitely look into if your hotel or a local bar is having a party you can attend.
  • Be cautious if wanting to purchase Buddha memorabilia. You will see it sold everywhere you turn, but Buddha is a sacred symbol and there are fines or jail time if you are seen to be disgracing the symbol or not following the strict exportation of Buddha rules.

Bangkok is a great stopover if you are headed to a destination in Asia and want to spend a few days in an additional city. We were able to experience multiple iconic temples, enjoy an exhibit on Thailand and American friendship, and have two nights out on the town. Although short-lived, we enjoyed our jam-packed 48 hours in Bangkok.

…Ending on some temple animals for your viewing pleasure…

DISCLAIMER: Any brands listed above are not sponsors.

3 Day Phuket Thailand Itinerary – Part 2

Welcome back to our Phuket, Thailand, three-day itinerary! If you haven’t yet read Part One, where we cover our wonderful resort and the Patong Beach city center, then click here. This week’s post will cover the most spectacular beach with the clearest water, fewest people, and best snorkeling in Phuket, Thailand (and maybe the world?)!

My biggest fear is being eaten by a shark in the ocean. As irrational as it sounds, I even hesitate to dip my toe into the water, or a shark is going to just open its mouth and eat me whole. I don’t have severe phobias such as Galeophobia (fear of sharks) or Thalassophobia (fear of the ocean or deep dark water), but I won’t go in water if I can’t clearly see my toes. Knowing this, my hubby knew it was essential that we find the clearest water if I was going to enjoy snorkeling with him. He just didn’t want to be in a super touristy area and surrounded by people.

Just the day before, we had been in town near Patong Beach at the Jungceylon Shopping Center, and we stopped at a travel agent booth to book our tour:

  • Travel agent recommended: Based on our guidelines of clear water, few people, and great snorkeling, the SeaStar Andaman company is the only option that is willing to go the extra distance and take guests out to the middle-of-nowhere paradise. This tour literally takes you to the farthest south island of Phuket, meaning that it has to be an all-day tour because it is a long distance to cover.
  • What our travel agent said to avoid: She said most people ask for the famous Phi Phi Islands or James Bond Islands of Phuket. Although those are the most photographed, the water is brown because of the quantity of boats and people visiting daily. The fish avoid those areas because the water is so murky, and therefore there isn’t good snorkeling. The other companies jam multiple tours in a day by completing half-day excursions to these nearby mainland attractions.

I was wavering booking at first because I don’t like to make quick decisions, and it seemed so expensive at ฿ 2,315 Thai Baht. Hubby on the other hand can make more impulsive buys with the facts, so he quickly ran the conversion numbers for me. ฿ 2,315 Thai Baht equals $75 USD. That was a more palatable number for me, and with the conversion and travel agent recommendations in hand, we decided to book.

Day 3

I began my day at the resort’s beachfront restaurant breakfast buffet by downing my breakfast as quickly as possible as to not be late for our early shuttle pick-up. Hubby stayed in the room and didn’t eat breakfast, because he had a violent case of food poisoning the night before and his body was still in the process of rejecting the white seafood pizza that he had for dinner the night before. It was really unfortunate that he had to be sick on a day we were leaving the hotel, as opposed to a day that we were lounging around, but when you book a tour in a foreign country, it’s not easily possible to cancel for refunds, so we were going to make the most of our day.

The shuttle van picked us up first and we headed off-property to pick up more guests. The ride was about an hour and we stopped at one other hotel to pick up an English-speaking couple, then we rode to Panwa Pier by the Chom Thong Village.

Credit: SeaStar Andaman

Upon arrival, we were ushered into a holding room with many other guests where there were light refreshments being served and gear for purchase. We began our check-in process in that large room. We figured that everyone there was for the same tour as us, but receptionists began to come in and call guests out for two other excursions. Before we knew it, there were only four people left in the room: us and the other couple we had picked up in our shuttle van. We began to joke that they must have forgotten about us. We thought it couldn’t be possible that the whole excursion was going to be for just the four of us.

We got called next. The receptionist said that it was our lucky day because only four people reserved today’s excursion. Say what?!?! She explained that the day before they had 40 people on the boat, and today it would only be the four of us! We all got super giddy because we knew that besides the fact that we chose the farthest away and most remote beach possible, this was going to be SUPER exclusive because we would basically be THE ONLY PEOPLE THERE. Talk about a deserted island! It was seriously lucky. Had we picked just a day earlier, it still would have been paradise, but not the private beach type of day that we experienced.

They gave us our goggles and flippers, and we headed to our boat. Along the walk down the dock, they stopped and took a photo of us before we boarded. Besides us, there was a captain and three other staff members on the boat. We began to depart the marina and head out to the open waters.

I felt so bad for my poor hubby. As we rode, he just felt sicker and sicker. Poor thing was laying across a bench in the back of the boat with a towel over his head. He had hardly slept the night before, and he was still queasy. Not a great mix for a day at sea. While he tried to recover from the last hours of food poisoning, I took as many photos as I could. I knew he would appreciate looking through them later.

Thailand is the most gorgeous tropical place I have ever been to. Mountains and rock formations that blend perfectly into the ocean. Many islands, some inhabited by locals, some developed by resorts, and some totally pristine and undeveloped. The bluest teal and turquoise water I have ever seen. Like literally the stuff I had only ever seen in movies which I figured was photo-shopped.

I grew up on the east coast of southern Florida. I thought the water there was clear and perfect, but once I saw southern Thailand’s waters, there is no comparison. As we went farther and farther from the mainland, the water became more clear and more blue. As we rode through the ocean past each island, we got farther and farther away from civilization. The final island we came to, Raya Noi Island, was totally uninhabited. It was a good distance from land, which may be why it wasn’t developed. As we rode in closer to land, it became more and more impressive. It was a culmination of the most unbelievable sights: mountains and rocks going straight into the ocean, a lush jungle, white sand, the bluest blue water I had ever seen in my life, and not a person in sight for miles. In the moments before we got off the boat, I knew we made the right choice booking this excursion.

There was no dock, so they turned the engine off, opened the back door, and we walked down right into a foot deep of water and onto the beach. The white sandy beach looked small enough that it may only be exposed in low tide and totally submerged in high tide. The sand at Raya Noi Island is so white that the shallow water is crystal clear pale blue. The medium water is crystal clear teal, and the deep water is royal blue. Clear light blue water is my kind of water!

The four crew members exited the boat and immediately started setting up a picnic of snacks. The tour included a full lunch (to be served later) as well as bottled drinks, fresh fruits, and packaged goods like chips and cookies on the boat and on land. We were able to go back to the picnic blanket and help ourselves as much as we wanted while at this island.

The tour also included all the snorkeling gear we needed. We put on our gear and immediately jumped into the water. I initially stayed right at the water’s edge, and hubby swam out a bit. Even though the water was super clear, I was still terrified because I hadn’t snorkeled since I was a child. I didn’t see many fish in that shallow water, so I swam out a bit farther and saw some. Eventually, I decided to take off my gear and walk on a nearby rock formation and look for shells. We ate some snacks and went back to continue snorkeling. Hubby was way braver than I was and went out deep and found vibrant coral. I could have honestly stayed at this beach all day and been 100% happy with what we paid for the excursion, but this was only stop one of four! So after maybe an hour and a half, the crew packed up and we boarded the boat to move along to the next spot.

The island north of us was Raya Island. This time, there was no beach, so they stopped the boat about 20 feet from the rocky cliff going into the water, and we were expected to hop into the middle of the sea to snorkel. Now I was really terrified! I probably would have been more comfortable if there were more people in the water with me (you don’t have to out-swim the shark—just the other people with you haha!), but it was just the four of us and another neighboring boat with a few people in the water snorkeling. From this spot, you had to jump off the back of the boat into about 20-feet-deep water. I only did it because the water was so crystal clear that I could see the bottom. Otherwise, I’d have been sitting back taking pictures of my husband enjoying himself. The area had large coral reefs and lots of colored fish swimming around. There was also a lobster in the reef. Hubby used his flippers to swim deep and capture the coral and fish with our GoPro camera. The underwater photos are awesome! I recommend anyone who does a water excursion to either have a GoPro or other underwater camera so you can cherish the memories forever! We didn’t stay in this spot as long as the first beach, because you had to swim the entire time and it does become exhaustive after a bit. So about 45 minutes later, we boarded the boat and moved along.

The next stop was for lunch being served at Siam Bay. We had worked up a mighty appetite snorkeling, and I was looking forward to a proper meal. This time, we pulled up to a more developed island called Ko Racha Yai. It had a restaurant right on the water, as well as several other buildings and resorts. There was no dock, so we pulled up the boat as close as we could to the sand and hopped into the water to walk to shore. They sat us at a four-top and paired us up with the other couple for a family-style lunch. By this point on our six-week honeymoon, hubby and I didn’t mind the company. Of course, we would have also enjoyed eating privately, but the company was welcome! We ended up having a lovely time connecting with them while we ate.

My hubby was still feeling unwell from his food poisoning, so he didn’t eat anything, but boy did he miss out! The food was delicious. This ended up being my second-favorite meal in Thailand (first being a cooking school in Chiang Mai where they let you customize your dishes). They served Thai classics—a lot of the same dishes we cooked at the cooking school—and the portions were plentiful.

After we ate, we had some time left on the island. We used the restrooms then separated from the other couple so we could explore a bit. We made our way to the water and took some time strolling down the beach and taking a few more pictures. Even though the island was more developed, it still felt like our own personal paradise and not too over-commercialized.

We were heading back north towards the marina and made our last stop at Maiton Island, a spot notorious for spotting wild dolphins. When they cut the engine, there was another boat nearby. Both captains began to blow a high pitch whistle to capture the dolphins’ attention. Soon enough, we were audience to a small school of dolphins that swam by to visit. I think we were really lucky that they happened to be around that day. The guides do say that dolphin-spottings are not guaranteed, so we felt even luckier about our already perfect day.

After the dolphins, we made the final leg of the trip back to mainland. After docking, we departed the boat and were handed a small framed photo as a parting gift. They had printed the photo we took at the beginning of the day and put it into a branded SeaStar frame. What a nice, unexpected touch! It was rare on the honeymoon we got a photo of the two of us that wasn’t a selfie, so this photo is really special! We boarded the van and made our way back to the two hotels for drop off.

When we arrived back to the Tri Trang Beach Resort, we were exhausted. The long day of swimming, saltwater, and sun had taken a lot out of us. We went downstairs to the resort’s beach-side restaurant and enjoyed our last dinner in Phuket as we listened to the sounds of live music and waves.

Day 4

We began our day with a final breakfast buffet at the resort’s beachfront restaurant. We savored every bite as we enjoyed the final ocean views. We went back upstairs and packed up our massive hotel room. This task actually took longer in Phuket than other cities, because the room was so spacious that we had really spread out and unpacked.

We schlepped all our bags down several flights of elevators and stairs leading to the front desk. The only thing worse than carrying our bags down all that way was actually leaving Phuket. We had really come to fall in love with this city. The front desk called us a taxi, and we made the hour-long drive to Phuket International Airport arriving at 11:30am. Next stop on our trip was Bangkok, Thailand, which is a domestic flight. We allotted ourselves two hours to go through security for our 1:25pm flight. Ends up, security at Phuket International is very fast. There was a quick curbside bag scanner and magnetometer walk-through, then we were inside the airport.

We are Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card holders, which gives us access to Priority Pass airport lounges around the world. Normally, most airports only have lounges in the international terminals, but Phuket had both domestic and international lounges available, so since we still had almost two hours to spare, we headed to the Coral Executive Lounge. We noshed on snacks and beverages and utilized the WiFi to get a little work done and FaceTime our families. Soon after that, we boarded the flight and were on our way to Bangkok.


Environmental Damage

In recent years, the Thai government has decided to close certain beaches and public waterfronts due to environmental damage. I remind everyone to be respectful of the places you travel to. Never litter, do not anchor boats to coral reefs, and do not disturb the wildlife. I recommend before you travel to Thailand that you look up the beaches and islands that are restricted. This may affect the location you pick to stay. Below you can read articles about the closure of Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh island (as of August 2019):

Upcoming Development

Though it may seem backwards, with the closure of beaches for environmental remediation and recovery, the country has approved plans for a new Phuket airport that would open in 2025 and bring in an additional 10 million tourists a year. Having experienced the original airport, I will say that an upgrade would be nice. It would definitely make visiting a tad easier if the airport was located more centrally or in the southern area, which would cut down on travel time from the north to the bulk of the southern hotels. Location has not been announced yet, but keep your eyes open for the opening of this airport if you plan to travel to Phuket after 2025.


Our beachfront resort was more than we could have hoped for. Our excursion to a private beach in the middle of the ocean was literally paradise and our favorite day of the six-week honeymoon around the world. Sometimes I look at my husband and just groan, “Ahhhhhhh… Take me back to Phuket!” We love to visit new countries before we revisit others, so it may be a little bit before we visit Thailand again. But the beauty of Phuket’s water is something I will never forget. To me, it really can’t come back soon enough. Stay tuned for our next Amarvelous Honeymoon post that will cover our final city in Thailand – BANGKOK!