Real Vacation: India, Singapore, Bali, Australia, and South Korea

I had the pleasure of helping Natalia plan her 7.5 weeks sabbatical. She went to Asia and Australia, and needed help with hotel accommodations for some of her stay. I worked with her to make sure the options given would fit her need, and also sent her a couple recommendations on things to do and eat at each place.

Here’s what Natalia had to say about her trip:

Where did you go on your trip?

I went to India (New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and Mumbai), Singapore, Bali, Australia (Sydney and Melbourne), and South Korea during my 7.5 weeks sabbatical.

Taj Mahal blog

Taj Mahal in India

How did you decide on those destinations?

I took my sabbatical towards the end of the year (November-December) partly because one of my girlfriend was getting married in Bali around that time. So I knew I would be making a stop in Bali.  Singapore to Bali is only a 2.5 hour plane ride so why not? Plus I was already familiar with the country. I’ve traveled to South Korea a couple of years before and loved the country- it’s a fun gastronomical shopping heaven- and I knew my sister, who I was traveling with, would love it too.

Bali Picture Collage

Bali Picture Collage

As for why I decided to go to India, well…I’ve always wanted to go after seeing a picture online of the colorful and vibrant country and people. As I did more research on India, I learned about its rich history and the amazing amazing monuments which made me even more excited to go. But I’ve also always been scared to go and would rather go elsewhere to relax or vacation. India is not necessarily a “vacation spot” but it is the spot to go if you want to go off the beaten path. So glad I went!

I had time to go to another country but wanted to go somewhere in the region to make flying more convenient. I’ve been to pretty much all the other countries in SE Asia and I wanted to somewhere new so, Australia it is! It was easier (and cheaper) to get to from Bali than from the US. I also had friends that I haven’t seen in forever in both of the cities we went to in Australia which gave all the more reason to go!

What activities did you do?

India was a lot of sight seeing and taking in all the culture and history. The monuments was, again, AMAZING! I was already impressed by the ones we saw but after seeing the Taj Mahal, I was b-l-o-w-n away. There is none like it in the world. The feeling you get when you are in front of the Taj and just admiring its beauty and its surrounding…it was indescribable. I kinda sorta wished it was my house! =P I loved the Taj and it made my trip out to India so worth it. The shopping in India was also great! We got a lot of cute, colorful, and cheap accessories, jewelry boxes, beautiful padmini scarves, rhinestones sandals, and a silk Alibaba pants that I hope I can pull off wearing in the States once summer is here.

Singapore was pretty much eating. We were in Singapore during Thanksgiving so we had a 14 course feast at Newton for about $20 per person. Food in Singapore is super affordable and very tasty! I was in Singapore with some friends who were there for their first time and who are big time Anthony Bourdain fans, so he wanted to eat everything Anthony Bourdain ate when Anthony Bourdain filmed the “Layover in Singapore” episode. We ate about 4 times a day! It was horrible but the temptation was too much and we blamed it on the mouth-watering food and our weak belly who just couldn’t resist.

Singaporean Chili Crab

Singaporean Chili Crab

The main reason for our Bali trip this time around was for my friend’s wedding. So it was all about spending time with friends, eating spicy Balinese food, going to the spa, hanging out at the beach and swimming in our villa. If you are ever in Bali, you need to definitely get a spa at least (at least!!) once. We were there for a total of 6 days and we went to the spa every other day. My favorite was the 4 hour spa we had which included a 2 hour full body massage and scrub, a facial, and a milk bath for $30. We also got our mani and pedi done at the beach for $2! Beat that!

tanah lot bali

In Australia, we saw so many animals we haven’t seen before- Koala bears, Kangaroos, Wallaby, Wombat, Emu, Tasmanian Devil, and an albino peacock among many others. We also saw the Twelve Apostles and the Three Sisters, drove along the beeeautiful Great Ocean Road just as the sun was setting in and made a trip to Phillip Island to see the tiny penguins coming back to shore- it was so adorable! I also tried ‘roo meat and let’s just say I still prefer cows.

Koala bears, wallaby, kangaroos, and wombats

Koala bears, wallaby, kangaroos, and wombats!

I’m glad Korea was our last stop since all we did was wake up late, eat, shop, do some sight seeing, more shopping and more eating until the wee hours. It was a fantastic way to end our trip.

What was the highlight of your trip?

See above. Everything I did in those counties had a highlight in them. It was the best sabbatical ever! But the most memorable part of the whole trip was seeing the Taj Mahal and celebrating with my friends at the wedding- and that amazing villa she put us in! My gosh, staying at Alila itself was a major highlight within a highlight!

Any advice for anyone thinking of going on a long vacation such as yours?

Do your research to save money. I knew the countries I wanted to go to and decided to search for an airline that had the same route. We flew Singapore Airlines which took us to India, Singapore, South Korea and back to SF for less than $1,500! The tickets to Bali ($100) and Australia ($600) was separate since Singapore Airlines did not connect to those countries using our route but we still got a pretty good deal on the flights in my opinion.

Plan ahead. Booking the flight was the easy part, but planning where to stay and what to do was harder and took a lot more time. Thankfully I have Marcela who loves to plan! She helped us research on hotels in each cities we were in, provided options, and even booked the hotels for us. It was definitely helpful since I was busy at work closing all the loops before I had to leave for 1.5 months. I trusted Marcela’s judgement and I think she knows me well enough to know which hotels I would/ wouldn’t mind staying in. She also knew what type of traveler I am so she provided a list of interesting things for us to see, do, and eat  based on my style of traveling at each destination. TripAdvisor was another great source for planning as was travel blogs, online articles and books.

A lot of basic things can be lost when you’re planning for such a big trip. So make sure you are aware of the country’s basic 411 like visa, currency, voltage, and take all the necessary medical shots. We weren’t aware that we had to take our shots at least a month before our trip so we went to India without any immunization! Thank God we didn’t get sick or had any problems.

Lastly, don’t over pack. If you are traveling to countries with different climates, make sure to bring some clothes that you can layer and are versatile for both weathers. Bring at least one comfortable shoes that you can wear both in the hot/ cold weather. It was a challenge for me especially since we had to bring a couple of dresses for the wedding. But It’s okay if you don’t look cute everyday =) Comfort over cuteness when traveling! Of course looking cute while being comfortable is always ideal haha but then again, you can always shop when you are there!

Korean Food

Korean Food

Any parting words?

Don’t freak out! Just ask Marcela to help you =)  Or even if you have a simple question, you can always reach Marcela. She is knowledgeable and is always there to help. So glad I asked for help…she made planning for my sabbatical stress and hassle free and a lot of fun! Thanks again La!

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