It’s been more than two years since my last blog update, and though I don’t plan on resurrecting this old, embarrassingly dated platform of mine, I figured I would share two major life updates: two weeks ago, I got married after a nearly 1.5 year engagement, and we went on our honeymoon to Bali right after the big day. We chose Bali because we figured we would never get a chance to visit it again, and it offers so much by way of beauty, spirituality, and history. It’s hard to believe how much has happened in the last 17 days or so. We have felt overjoyed, relieved, and wiped out the whole experience. We have never had so much action packed into such a small time frame before.
As I’ve told a few close friends, I don’t know that having a 1.5 year engagement was the best move for my mental health. The first year, I was content with the planning process and always in the mood to talk about my engagement, but it really dragged on those last six months, and you start to feel like you’re putting your life on hold until after the wedding. Ian and I once joked that we needed to make an “After the Wedding” to-do list of all of the things we wanted to experience but couldn’t explore because our nuptials sucked up all our energy and free time. Hobbies, meetups with friends, interests all take a back seat to making sure you have everything in order for your wedding. On the day before my wedding, I went to the Dog Café with a few friends, and when they started telling strangers that I was getting married on Saturday, all I wanted to say was, “I came here to play with puppies, I don’t want to answer the same boring questions about my wedding right now.”
It’s what I’d like to call Wedding Conversation Fatigue, which I think stemmed from having such a long nuptials process. If I could do it over, I would have rather tied the knot within a year or nine months of getting engaged, but because our engagement was in December 2015 and almost all of our favorite LA venues were booked up for 2016 by then, it wouldn’t have been possible to have had the wedding we wanted within 12 months. Regardless, it was an unforgettable day, and we do think the effort we put into it was evident to our guests.
People are right, however, when they say your wedding goes by in a flash and that you don’t notice all of the details you’ve been visualizing for however long you’ve been engaged. For example, I didn’t really get to soak up the look of the decorations because I was busy with photos and talking to people from the moment I got to our venue, but that is exactly what our incredible photographers and videographers were there for! I can’t wait to see how they captured the day. All I know was that I was so relieved to see my husband Ian by the time we did our first look because I had been stressing about little things as usual prior to our big reveal. No one can calm me down like Ian can, and being with him right then was such a blessing. Believe it or not, Ian and I aren’t particularly comfortable with tons of eyes on us, so I think we were a little awkward at the beginning of the evening, but as the event progressed and we got in those signature His and Hers drinks, we were enjoying ourselves as we had always hoped to on this day.
I don’t want to come off as too negative, but I do have another significant regret to share, if nothing else so I can better prepare readers who might consider getting married someday. After we got engaged, people who had already gotten married told me not to rule out hiring a wedding planner. One woman said that no matter how much time I would have to dedicate to my big day, it would still be much easier to have a planner by my side. Additionally, planners may also pay for themselves in that they save you money on vendors, as they know so many through their work. I was closed minded about the idea of a planner because I thought I would ultimately overspend with one, and Ian and I also wanted the wedding to feel like ours and not what someone else thought our event should be like. Still, I think having a full-on planner as opposed to a month of coordinator could have spared me a lot of anxious mornings, rants to friends and colleagues, and wedding nightmares. I also think some of the stresses leading up to the day detracted from the joy of it all, and at certain points in our engagement, the wedding was all Ian and I ever talked about. Don’t do that. Never forget why you’re with the person in the first place. All I ever wanted was to be with Ian, and when I would remind myself of this when wedding details clouded my thoughts, everything seemed to make a little more sense.
Planning this day totally on our own entailed managing thousands of email exchanges and dozens of phone calls, and I would sometimes have to tell vendors to please not call me unannounced during work hours. Ian and I would sometimes get home from our jobs totally spent from our professional demands, only to have to look over our rentals list for the millionth time or mull over artists that should play during our cocktail hour.
In any case, everything worked out. On the Friday before our wedding, we were elated to see so many of our loved ones and family members in the same room. All of the stress melted away by the rehearsal dinner, which one of my hilarious young nephews posted about on social media. Seeing all my nieces and nephews interact, relatives talk, and best friends around one table put me in a great mood. I talked so much at that dinner that my voice was hoarse on the morning of our wedding, but that didn’t matter. We were surrounded by an abundance of love and support.
As you’ll read from my honeymoon notes below, Ian and I are very happy in any circumstance as long as we’re together. Whether we’re downing tropical beverages at a resort that feels like a world away from our home, or sharing an entire Meat Jesus pizza in our DTLA apartment, we’re happy as long as we’re both doing it as a pair. We seem to be happiest, however, when we are relaxing on our couch, so we enjoyed a lot of TV and food time the day after our wedding, eating whenever we felt like it and not following any sort of meal schedule. We caught up on “Silicon Valley” and re-watched John Mulaney’s Netflix special in which he discusses marriage. That special is one of the reasons Ian proposed to me when he did: Mulaney highlights the benefits of calling his significant other his wife versus his girlfriend. If it weren’t for that comedy show, Ian might have waited a little longer to pop the question.
Being married is incredible, and it’s such a relief for the both of us because we can just be ourselves again. Ian and I want to resume some of our favorite hobbies and activities now that we don’t have wedding on the brain anymore: seeing concerts at The Echo, working our way through Anthony Bourdain’s cookbooks again, going on runs together and doing muscle exercises in our apartment, hiking, hanging out in Palm Springs, playing Cribbage, seeing our favorite comedians, etc. We love our lives together and are thrilled the weekends don’t have to be eaten up by cake tastings, wedding dance lessons, and dress fittings ever again.
Ian and I scrambled to pack our bags, clean our apartment, open gifts, and write thank you notes before heading for Bali very early on the Tuesday after our wedding. Our trip was planned by my mom’s best friend in the world Debbie, who is truly the greatest travel agent in the business. When we started working with her, I asked if it would be an issue that my passport would be valid for just over six months during my trip to Bali. Debbie said that this still met Indonesia’s requirements for visitors and that all would be well. And it was.
But an Eva Airlines representative at LAX instilled some serious passport anxiety in me that didn’t ease up I was granted entrance into Bali at customs about 24 hours later. The airline rep in LA told me that I was cutting it way too close with my passport and that I should have renewed prior to planning my trip. I explained that this would have been expensive, time-consuming, and pointless since I would be changing my last name later on down the road and would prefer to renew my passport after going through that process. Suddenly I felt angry that the airline had been eager to take my money after reviewing my passport details at ticket purchase, but now felt the need to scare me. Was I at risk of flying all the way to Indonesia only to be turned away upon arrival? The stress and sleep deprivation from wedding week came rushing forward and I started to cry before we went through security at the Tom Bradley section of the airport. Ian, as usual, assured me that everything would be fine and that I still met Indonesia’s requirements for a trip, even if I was barely making the cut.
Getting to Bali required two substantial flights, the first of which was longer than the other. It took roughly 13 hours to fly to Taipei, Taiwan, which has the fanciest airport we had ever seen. The bathrooms actually have a screen that enables you to rank the cleanliness of the space using Facebook reactions. There are signs by the sink telling you to dry off your hands so you don’t get water on the floor. There are no stores with books, water bottles, and snacks in the international terminal, just high end stores, a fact that we found charming at the beginning of our trip but frustrating at the end (I’ll get to that later). You may as well be walking through a mall. We landed in Taipei at around 6:15 a.m., just in time for our morning coffee. Ian ordered his usual espresso and I got a latte. We were so entranced by the sparkling conditions of the airport that our exhaustion from the first flight didn’t bother us.
As we shared a bowl of noodles next to a Gloria Jean’s coffee shop, Ian, a fairly mild-mannered person, screamed “holy shit” in his seat.
“Trump fired Comey.”
This was a stunning development to the both of us, and we both continued following the U.S. news cycle throughout our honeymoon.
The trip to Denpasar was about six hours for us. When we stepped outside with the tour guide Debbie found for us, we were greeted by hot, muggy weather. I smiled instantly, thinking back on the humid summer days I spent in France for two years in my early twenties. Whenever we got into the tour guide’s car, we were given a cold, scented cloth to use on our faces, as well as fresh bottles of Oasis water. These weren’t just glamorous perks. They were crucial in cooling us down in really hot weather.
We spent the first three nights of our trip in Jimbaran Bay, which experienced a massive terrorist attack eleven years ago. When asked about Bali terrorism in the early 2000s, our tour guide said that it severely set the island back. He and many others were out of work for a year, as tourism creates so many jobs there. Though certain people warned us about terrorism in Bali when we booked our trip, we felt nothing but safe there. We were shown kindness and gratitude from everyone. You get the sense that people are thankful you chose their home for your holiday, as opposed to annoyed by your presence.
On our second day in Jimbaran Bay, we decided to visit Padang Padang Beach, which Ian read about in the travel books from his family. The hotel set us up with a taxi, and we thought the driver would simply take us to our destination and part ways with us then. But he had other ideas. This guy said it would be tough for us to hitch a ride back to the hotel from the beach, so he vowed to wait for us for however long we wanted to spend at the water and then take us somewhere to get lunch. We agreed even though it seemed odd for us to have a driver wait around like that. The beach itself was hot and crowded with very tan, fit Europeans and Australians. Ian and I stayed underneath an umbrella with some Bintang beers the whole time. I didn’t want to get sunburned or squeeze past all the people to stick my feet in the water. Plus, I’m very pale and sunburn easily, so I have to be extra careful with my skin. By the end of the trip, our six bottles of sunscreen were pretty much totally empty.
After the beach trip, our driver took us to a restaurant that served fresh chicken and pork. He recommended the place, and because we had no other ideas in mind, we went there. Then we wanted to get back to the hotel, but he kept insisting that we do some other things along the way: visit this cool coffee shop and get a massage. We had zero interest in either of these suggestions. It’s hard to think about drinking coffee when you’re covered in a film of sweat thanks to 90 degree humid weather. I also can’t do massages because a previous one left me with muscle pains nearly six months afterward. We divulged this to the driver, who didn’t seem to want to hear it.
“You probably just didn’t get a good massage when you got hurt,” he said. “It would be nice if you both would support the location economy by going to these places, but if you don’t want to do that, I understand. It’s your holiday.”
By this point, I was seething because Ian had also mentioned to the driver that we wanted to eat at a restaurant called Sardines in Seminyak that night, and we had agreed to let him take us there.
“This is why we can’t tell people our plans,” I told Ian once we were back at the hotel. “Now we’re stuck with this guy for the rest of the day.”
Though the haggling got to be a bit much for us, we understood where the man was coming from. My friend Crystal’s fiancé Colin once told me that a lot of people in other countries sometimes work together to get business from tourists, so it’s likely that this driver knows people at the restaurant he recommended and the coffee shop and massage place. If we were more interested in massages and coffee shops, perhaps we would have visited them, but we really wanted to do this trip on our own terms.
It took more than an hour to get from Jimbaran Bay to Seminyak that night. Like LA, Bali has a traffic problem, but Bali has fewer roads. Many people there ride motorbikes to deal with the congestion, and the freeways don’t have lines on the ground to indicate different lanes. People don’t drive fast though, and you don’t see a lot of road rage. LA is a hostile traffic city, whereas everyone in Bali seems to want to work together to get through the clogged madness of the roads.
One thing I noticed as soon as we left the airport was that dogs seem to hang out near the street a lot. Sometimes, they’re sleeping right next to the road, and cars have to honk at them to wake up. I was told that many of these dogs can roam Bali like cats and know how to get home on their own at the end of each day. They’re nothing like the pups you see in the U.S. Many dogs here can’t be near the street without a leash on because they’ll bolt in front of cars. These canines coexist with our vehicles. Some Bali dogs have gimps, likely from getting hit from time to time.
You have to be really careful, however, around dogs in Bali. If they don’t have collars on, that means that they haven’t been vaccinated. This means they might have rabies. Dogs in Bali don’t really lick people as a sign of affection because of the fear of spreading diseases, and the government is allowed to shoot them in the street if they don’t have a collar around their necks. These dogs don’t really look like the ones we’re used to in the states, either. To me, many of them have the appearance of hyenas, and sometime you’ll see them walking around with tumors or bloated breasts from pregnancy. You can see their rib cages if they’re malnourished, and some are really dirty. Our guide told us that dogs are very important to people in Bali though, and that they can also keep the villages safe.
“If people love their dogs and don’t want them to get killed by authorities, why don’t they just inoculate them?” I asked Ian one day.
“Look around,” he said, noting that Bali has a lot of poverty. “Do you think they’re going to drive their dogs all the way to a clinic and get shots? They may not be able to afford this.”
Ian was spot on. Some of the villages in Bali don’t have running water. On our drives through the countryside, we saw a number of people bathing in little rivers and carrying heavy loads on their heads. It was quite a contrast for us to see so many impoverished villages throughout the day and then go back to our resorts. Like stray dogs, chickens and roosters are often slinking through the streets as well, and there are piles of trash in both the city and wilderness. We witnessed a few fires on our various drives. This is how some people dispose of their trash.
Our tour guide aimed to give us the full portrait of Bali: the gorgeous views of beaches from the top of cliffs to the many poverty-striken villages. Towards the end of our trip, he took us to a very poor fisherman’s bay with black sand. There was trash along the beach, and we looked like we didn’t belong. Stupidly, I had on my pink heart-shaped sunglasses, which made a pudgy little boy point and laugh at me while I reluctantly posed for photo by a boat. He was playing with another kid wearing a red Coca Cola t-shirt. To ease some of the tension, I smiled and waved at the children.
“Hello!” the chubby one said. “Good morning!”
The bay was a steamy, bustling space where people prepared the fish for distribution. The air was a thick cocktail of smoke from the workers cooking and the unmistakable smell of seafood. Ian and I really did seem out of place among the tireless workers plugging away in the heat, many of them eyeing us suspiciously. Though our guide was well-intentioned in showing us all parts of Bali, I couldn’t help feeling in that moment that maybe he should have considered the fact that we weren’t wanted there. We were disturbing these people while they worked in non-tourist territory. We bought some salt from the ladies with sun-wrecked skin working outside the market, so that seemed to help. We also took pictures of the few cats we saw during our stay in Bali.
We came to a broken road on the way back from a village visit one afternoon (more on that later). Several roads were battered by a mudslide from more than six months ago, and they aren’t going to be fixed anytime soon. There is also some construction on a few of the dirt roads, and the maintenance can lead to a lot of backup on the roads. When we got stuck in traffic in a small village one day, I internalized the fear that our car would break down and we would be stranded in this ghost town with no running water. I held in a lot of panic, not wanting to alarm our guides or Ian with my nervous energy. We of course got out within an hour and a half, but the congestion that day actually made me long for LA traffic and realize how whiny I sound when I complain about all the construction in downtown LA. At least there, the city has alternative routes and a team of people managing the traffic. In Bali, you just have to wait it out.
For me and Ian, one of the most exciting parts of Bali was getting to see animals you can’t find in the U.S. outside of zoos. On day two of our trip, we went to a temple where a lot of macaques (monkeys) can be found.
Though adorable, these monkeys are aggressive and know exactly how to get what they want from humans. They are known to steal phones, sunglasses, hats, sandals, anything they can grab, so they can bargain with you to get your belongings back. This usually means that you have to give them food in order to get back your stuff, and when they return it to you, they don’t nicely hand it over. They throw it, meaning it could break in the process or reach another monkey who will repeat the bargaining cycle. What I learned from witnessing this behavior was that animals are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. People called the monkeys dumb while we were there, but they’ve figured out a way to work with us to benefit themselves and survive.
Our guide was adamant that I not take my phone out of my purse while we were around these monkeys, so I wasn’t robbed at any point. They were also eating bananas at the time, so they were pretty distracted. People at this temple are paid to keep the monkeys from harassing visitors, and they are also in charge of facilitating bargains in the event that the monkeys snatch things. One guy at the temple had no idea that a baby monkey grabbed his glasses from his pocket, and the guide had to give the monkey not one, but TWO Slim Jims to get the glasses back. Good thing the man caught his glasses quickly.
The Monkey Jungle in Ubud was much different. The monkeys there weren’t as fat from paid workers overfeeding them to prevent theft. The Monkey Jungle macaques are less mischievous but more dangerous. You aren’t supposed to look them in the eye, as that’s a sign of intimidation. You can’t touch them, and whatever you do, you don’t try to interact with the babies. It enrages the mother. If they climb on you or approach, you can’t freak out or run away. You have to let them be the animal, and perhaps they won’t bite you.
I’ll admit that I got really frightened when a monkey jumped on Ian. You can see in his face that he was a little uneasy as well, but he handled it better than I did. The guide told me to calm down so as not to provoke the monkey, at which point the monkey placed a hand on my head and twirled around my hair. He left us after finishing his banana, at which point we explored more of the jungle hoping not to get bitten by bugs and the Hep B-carrying macaques.
The next day, we went to a park with elephants and got to ride and spend time with several of them (we checked with our agent prior to booking this activity to make sure there is no abuse towards the elephants at this park). Despite their massive size, I was way more comfortable around the elephants than the monkeys. Elephants are very sweet and playful in nature. As Debbie put it, they’re like enormous puppies. Mona, the elephant we rode, has previously entertained both Lady Gaga and Tony Blair. It was crazy for us to be so high up during our ride with Mona. We touched the sides of trees and ducked a few times to avoid large spider webs. After hopping off the elephant, it felt strange to walk around on the pavement.
The following day, we visited a small village and hung out with the locals, who taught us how to make religious offerings with coconut leaves and cook everyday food. With a brick stove and old school grill, we made chicken and tuna, using our hands to crush and mix the ingredients together. Our favorite dish was the papaya soup, which was the spiciest thing we had in Bali. We also enjoyed the banana fritters as dessert.
We went to a big temple one day and were set to get a blessing in a fountain. For reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, I said I didn’t want to do the blessing and our guide looked kind of disappointed. Ian said he would do it though, so the guide photographed him using our new camera during the whole process. Our guide does photography as a side hobby, so his shots were really good. He photographed Ian getting a blessing from all thirteen fountains, and it was somewhat of an amusing sight because here Ian was doing this really spiritual thing in a sacred space and he was being asked to pose with his hands in the prayer position underneath a bursting fountain. It was a little awkward in the moment, but Ian and I shared a good laugh about it later.
When we weren’t destroying our clothes with sweat from walking long distances and up many flights of stairs in 90 degree humidity, we were imbibing multiple Bintang beers by the water at our various hotels. We swam a ton, applied sunscreen every hour, and enjoyed fruit drinks that would be too sweet for us back at home. In sweltering Bali, though, they were perfect.
Jimbaran Bay was good for the beach and Ubud had a fun, jungle city vibe about it. But our favorite stop of the whole trip was the place at which we spent our final three nights: Manggis, another cliff area overlooking the beach. We stayed at Amakila, the nicest resort we will probably ever visit. The pools were gorgeous and the setting is so intimate that you feel like you’re the only guests in the entire resort. There are no clocks or TVs in the suite, although you can get a TV set upon request. No need. The views were enough.
Our last days in Bali, however, made us miss our usual routine, including watching our favorite shows together. We caught up on “Master of None” season two on our last night, and we also discussed the many things we missed about home: the broad range of cuisine, the incomparable Mexican food, the ability to buy Cheez-Its (not found in Indonesia), coffee creamer, clean tap water. We missed walking around aimlessly and seeing dogs without fear of being bitten. We missed our friends and going to work everyday. When you’re traveling, you can feel really helpless and out of control because you’re not in your own space. Living out of a suitcase and collecting dirty clothes gets old. Finding a host of different bugs and lizards in your hotel room is also startling for someone like me. We took many pictures at the beginning of our stay, but we had Picture Fatigue after about a week, and we also hesitated to take photos because we looked so puffy, sweaty, and all around unattractive after full days outdoors. Ian and I sit at computers for a living. We exercise on our own time, but in dry heat. Not in humidity. We also don’t wear sarongs and layers of clothing to protect from sunburns in our everyday lives.
We were ready to get home by the end of our trip, but unfortunately Ian was under the weather on our 24-hour travel day. He was uncomfortable for the 6 hour flight to Taipei, and once we landed, we were upset that there were no convenience stores in sight for him to buy a bottle of water. All we could find were duty free and designer clothing stores. I got angry on his behalf and started to swear in public, a habit I have been trying to break.
“People don’t need to buy fucking Coach bags before an 11-hour flight,” I said. “They need water!”
Luckily, no one claimed the third seat on our 11-hour flight from Taipei to LA, so Ian was able to lie down and get some good rest. By the time we arrived home, I was still on Bali time, so it took me a little while to get to sleep. I think I’m still kind of on Bali time now. I woke up at 5 on the dot this morning, and I have work tomorrow, so I better not be exhausted!
The last two weeks have been the most insane of our lives, and though we will never forget the amazing times we have had during our wedding and honeymoon, we are the most thrilled about the fact that we’re married and can get back to being our dull selves again. This time, we’re married doing it. Being back in reality never felt so good.
Now that the wedding isn’t consuming my thoughts and time, I am trying to get back into regular writing. Some if it will be private and only for me, but I also want to try and freelance a little here and there. I’m considering starting a newsletter as well. I’m not sure blogging is the right platform for me anymore, but a newsletter feels like it could be more of my pace and style at this point in my writing life. I’m thinking that this would be a solid way to keep me accountable for writing, as I’m so clearly out of practice. Forgive me for that, I’ve been busy. But I won’t neglect writing ever again. That I can promise.