Posts tagged travel
Valentine’s Weekend in San Diego

We spent our annual Valentine’s Day weekend in San Diego with the pups. It’s a tradition Alex and I have enjoyed since we started dating. Our plans stay generally the same, and it’s one of our favorite holidays to reflect on the year before.

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We drove down on Friday night after work and stopped for carne asada fries (as always) before checking into our Airbnb. This time, we discovered El Zarape after a quick Yelp search and it ended up being the best one we’ve had so far.

Our choices of Airbnbs are limited to dog-friendly locations, but we tend to stay around the Mission Bay area. This time, our Airbnb overlooked a canyon and we could even see the ocean in the distance.

Saturday morning was spent at Fiesta Island dog park. It’s kind of what I imagine heaven to look like. It’s 2.5 miles of gated dog park surrounded by the beach. The entire island itself is 5.4 miles. It’s clean, there’s plenty of parking, and this time it was super lush thanks to the rain lately. All the dogs stayed in their packs and literally bounced out of the tall grass and bushes. Shabu loved frolicking and zooming around the hills while Chef stayed close with us, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

Afterwards, we grabbed lunch at our go-to: El Pescador in La Jolla. We got there around 11:30 – no line and plenty of open tables. I always order the halibut sandwich and Alex got the seared ahi tuna sandwich.

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Within walking distance, there’s a popular bakery/brunch spot called Sugar & Scribe where we grab coffee. Coincidentally, my cousin’s husband just started as a baker there.


After a quick nap, we headed to the mall. It’s actually a special place for us that reminds us of when we were first dating. We once went to this mall together for a SD day trip to hunt down the Hello Kitty Cafe food truck. At that time, we also bought hoodies from American Apparel that I DIY’d into Sully and Boo hoodies for Alex’s birthday trip to Disneyland.

Dinner was spent at our usual spot: Cafe Coyote in Old Town. It was a quick 20-minute wait, and the best part are the handmade tortillas as you wait in line. For just a few dollars,you’ll get handed a couple fresh, piping hot tortillas. Everything on the menu is amazing and we always share a margarita.

We were also able to catch up with my cousin Jason at Extraordinary Desserts (who just moved to San Diego in September). The last time we saw them was when they were living in Tokyo.

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After one more trip to Fiesta Island on Sunday morning, it was time to head back to LA and prep for dinner. Alex’s family came over and we made another batch of kimchi jjigae (stew) with kimchi sent directly from Uncle Jae Joon in Korea. Full weekend, full hearts.

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Christmas in Tahoe: 2018

To celebrate our holidays as a newly married couple, this was the first year that Alex and I have ever spent Christmas together. I joined his family for a week on their annual trip to Lake Tahoe. Although it was a little strange to not make the trip home to Chicago like I have been for the past 10 years, this was a more relaxed celebration after our crazy busy year.

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We left on the Saturday before Christmas with a rental car full of snowboarding and skiing gear, the two dogs and their toys/food/bed, our duffel bags, the Instant Pot, and boxes full of groceries. The drive was long but relaxing, as both dogs fell asleep in our laps and enjoyed having our full attention.

Since we were staying at dog-prohibited area in the Hyatt, we had to keep the dogs at a pet hotel in Truckee. We missed them so much, but it was the best solution and we knew they were in good hands. The Truckee-Tahoe Pet Lodge was the nicest pet hotel we’ve ever booked for the dogs. It was cozy, the staff was super friendly and responsible, and Chef and Shabu were happy to be together in the same room. We even went to visit them for a day and took them out for a few hours, and they actually seemed eager to go back to their room.

We snowboarded a total of 3 days at Diamond Peak. I haven’t nailed carving yet, but I’m not giving up! I’ve still watching YouTube videos and am excited to try again on our next snowboarding trip. I am, however, able to consistently depart the ski lift without falling which is a BIG win for me. I’m not a pro yet, but I’m definitely improving.

On Christmas day, we even soaked in the jacuzzi after our snowboarding runs and then huddled around the fire with hot chocolate.

But for me, the highlight of the trip was Uncle Soo Hyun’s cooking. Over the years, I had heard so many stories of his creative and delicious meals — much like Thanksgiving — and I was so excited to enjoy it firsthand. Just a few of our meals:

  • Chile verde

  • Gumbo

  • Prime rib + crispy potatoes + homemade focaccia

  • Homemade pizza

  • Kimchi jjigae

  • Budae jjigae

  • Apple pie

We returned home a week later, eager to relax at home, clean, and eat veggies. The dogs were also VERY happy to be home and immediately tucked themselves into bed.

Our Destination Wedding at Villa Taman Ahimsa in Bali

When we decided on Taman Ahimsa and all of our vendors, I scoured the internet for reviews and photographs. Now that it’s a year later, the villa is becoming a more popular wedding venue (they had 5 other weddings in September after ours). The trickiest part was communicating with the staff with day-of meals, transportation, and charges. Most of it was verbal and some was via e-mail so there were inevitably a couple mix-ups, like the masseuses who showed up on the wrong day.

However, Bali is home to the nicest, most hospitable people and the villa staff was so accommodating. They quickly remedied any mistakes without extra charges and graciously went above and beyond to help with bartending at our Welcome Lunch, constantly cleaning our rooms and common areas, and setting up a beachfront BBQ on our last night. We were so spoiled and it was the absolute best send-off.


OUR VENDORS

We chose the “By Your Side” package with Avavi Weddings. This meant that our coordinator Adria would help provide a list of recommended vendors within our budget, but it was our job to vet them out and choose who we wanted to work with. We started by interviewing photographers — and there were a lot. Ultimately, we resorted back to Adria’s recommendations and chose someone who had worked with her before, had experience shooting at Taman Ahimsa, and spoke English very well (in addition to having a beautiful style).

Afterwards, we chose vendors for hair and makeup, videography, caterers for the wedding and Welcome Lunch, decorations, and sound and lighting. Almost all of this was squared away within 2 months, even before we had bought our outfits or plane tickets. Also, we were simultaneously renovating the house so we wanted to get all of the wedding details wrapped up ASAP.

In our final stages of wedding planning, we almost didn’t have a cake because our catering menu already included four desserts. However, as much as sticking to our budget was important to us, we also didn’t want to pass up on parts that we might regret later. So we put down a deposit for a delicious, fluffy, creamy, semi-naked, two-tier Irish coffee cake and we’re SO glad we did. And like many of our vendors, it was so much more affordable in Bali than if we had done the ceremony in LA.

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The only vendors we decided to skip out on were an emcee and DJ. Our officiant Arya was more than capable of emceeing and graciously rose to the occasion. And since we were unsure if Balinese DJs would be familiar with American songs, we chose to customize our playlist. We personally selected all the songs, downloaded and edited them if they were too long, assembled the order of the playlist, and just asked our sound dude to press play!

We practiced our first dance routine every night for about 2 weeks. I choreographed it and frantically hemmed my dress a few days before we left so that I wouldn’t trip over it.

And right before we invited guests to the dance floor, we added a fire dance performance to the reception because Alex got really excited about more fire.

Here is the list of all the vendors we had the pleasure of working with. I’ll be writing Tripadvisor and Yelp reviews for each of them because we loved them all so much. It was the most pleasant, enjoyable experience and we’re so glad to have friends in Bali now. Having a destination wedding requires a lot of organizing and even more blind faith (more on that here), but everyone exceeded our expectations and flawlessly brought our vision to life.

Post-DestinationWedding Advice

We’re still glowing from our wedding and honeymoon in Bali! Everything went mostly according to plan, we received several cuts from our videographer, and we’re still waiting for the professional photos. We couldn’t be happier! Since my last post, we also learned a few things about the destination wedding planning process.

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#1. Expect to Play Host

Of course, the amount of your involvement is completely up to you. But since our guests had traveled so far and so long to be with us, we felt that it was the least we could do. The night before our wedding, I even sent out a spreadsheet to help arrange and coordinate shuttle rides home for our guests —a small extra gesture to show our appreciation. We also arranged massages by the beach for our family members who stayed with us at Villa Taman Ahimsa.

#2. The Unexpected is Inevitable

If you’re the type of person who dreams of their wedding going a certain way, I’m sorry to say that a destination wedding is not for you. We put in a ton of time and research to find an amazing coordinator to help minimize any surprises (big hugs to Adria Chew from Avavi Weddings!). But even then, there are some things that are just out of everyone’s control. Like waking up to a mosquito bite on my left eyelid just three days before the wedding (luckily, the swelling went down after I placed a cold water bottle on it for a couple hours). Or vomiting and having a fever just two days before the wedding (likely from a bit of food poisoning). And to top it all off, getting a little sunburnt on my face and sleeping with an ill-fitting eye mask that put a little too much pressure on my eyes the day before the wedding. There’s an expectation that everything needs to be perfect, but if you go into it with the right mindset, everything will be awesome no matter what happens.

#3. Pack Light

I stuffed my wedding dress, reception skirt, tea ceremony dress, and wedding shoes into my carry on. We checked in two bags: one which had Alex’s suit and miscellaneous wedding things (signs, welcome bags, hand fans) and another with our clothes and toiletries. The less you have to bring, the more you can focus on enjoying your big day instead of trying to manage a million little things and inevitably forgetting to repack something.

4. Make Time to Hang Out with Everyone after the Wedding

We made sure to grab our guests’ itineraries so we could be aware of everyone’s travel plans. We were able to squeeze in one more meal with some of our friends after the wedding, and they were some of the highlights of our trip!

5. Hire a Videographer

This was actually a point of debate between Alex and me. However, we were able to meet in the middle and create a custom package with our videographer for 5 hours (plus add-on hours if needed) instead of the usual 8 hours minimum. This allowed us to capture the parts that really mattered to us: moments before the first look, the vows, speeches, and dances. Our videographer Adi from Filomena/Aki Photograph was phenomenal, and we’re so happy with the results. The day flew by so fast! Within two weeks, Adi sent us a 5-minute wedding highlights reel and a one-hour wedding documentation video. We’re so happy that we can also share the video with friends and family who could not attend, and we’ll treasure the captured memories forever.

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How to Plan a Destination Wedding — in Bali!

Growing up, I was never the type of person who fantasized about my perfect wedding day. I knew I would have a pretty dress that would make me feel like a princess. I knew the photos and decor would be beautiful. And I always knew I would plan it with my future husband so that it would be special to us.

We got engaged in Paris almost immediately after our friend's wedding in Italy. Paul and Marisa booked an 8-bedroom villa in Florence for their family to stay with them, and we loved the idea of having a central location for both relaxation and the ceremony/reception.

We tossed around the idea of having it somewhere near the ocean like the Maldives or Santorini. But we decided on Bali for a few important reasons. We've heard great things from friends who've traveled there multiple times. The cost of having our wedding there is also significantly more affordable than if we were to have it in Los Angeles. And it's a 4-hour flight from Bangkok so Alex's grandma can comfortably attend. Of course that means for the rest of us, it's a minimum 19-hour trip. But it's a small price to pay for paradise. :)

If you're planning a destination wedding or are curious how we're planning ours, here are my biggest tips.

#1. Hire a Coordinator

You're going to want someone who knows the language and the lay of the land by your side. After we picked the location and venue, I spent a few weeks scouring the internet for wedding planners in Bali (who also had to meet the villa's certification requirements). I made a huge spreadsheet to track who I emailed, who responded, who I liked, and who I scheduled Skype interviews with. Ultimately, we chose Adria from Avavi Weddings and the By Your Side package. This meant that Adria would help refer vendors, but it was up to us to interview them, choose one, schedule everything, and keep track of when to pay them. 

#2. Get Used to Foreign Money and Time Zones

For me, this was the hardest part. There was always a bit of extra coordination needed to communicate, and we mentally prepared ourselves for sticker shock (keep in mind that 14,250 Indonesian rupees equals about $1 USD). So we got used to seeing lots of zeros and holding our breaths before realizing that things weren't as expensive as we initially thought. We also got used to wiring money from our bank and erred on the side of overpaying to account for bank transfer fees. 

#3. Send E-Mails to Your Guests

They'll appreciate it! Since many of our guests have never been to Bali, Alex and I took a short trip at the end of May to meet with our coordinator and get a feel for the culture. Afterwards, we sent an email out to share our experience with our guests and set expectations. We also sent a reminder RSVP email and plan to send one more final email with a packing checklist, important addresses, and phone numbers.

#4. Account for Worst Case Scenario

We're going to pack our suit and dress in our carry-on in the event that our luggage gets lost. We also recommend asking your coordinator to locate the nearest doctor and hospital, just in case.

#5. Make Pinterest Boards

Live your best Pinterest life and make a board (or five) to send to florists, decorators, cake designers, etc. It's tricky to plan a wedding that's far away especially with language barriers, so try to communicate with visuals as much as possible. Here is one of mine

#6. Get There Early

We're leaving on Aug. 29 to prepare for the wedding on Sept. 4. That gives us enough time to adjust to the jetlag, greet our guests at our Welcome Lunch on Sept. 3, and settle in with our friends and family.

#7. Keep It Simple

You're already in a beautiful location so not much else is needed. We also decided to not have bridesmaids or groomsmen and omit DIY projects. The simpler, the better.

 

Now go enjoy your wedding!