Where would you go with 5k, one week and your sweetie?
March 30, 2007 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Help us find our honeymoon! If you had one week and 5k for two people, where would you go?

We are willing to go (almost) anywhere on planet earth and we want to see something really spectacular. All suggestions are welcome, but we have a few criteria that might influence your answer:

1. My Fiancé and I want to go somewhere we have never been to before. That knocks out most of Western Europe, Japan, Korea, North America, Thailand and Peru. However, I would be happy to go to Bangkok again.

2. We want to see some nature, and it doesn't have to be a beach or a tropical paradise. Bonus points if there are opportunities to frolic with animals.

3. We want to be safe. I've always wanted to drive around Lebanon and Jordan, but it will make my mother cry.

4. We like cool markets and bargain shopping. We have less fun when things are really expensive.

5. Though time is short, we would like a chance to visit multiple cities and/or countries, not a lot, but maybe two or three. I like passport stamps.

Don't let anything on this list stop you if you know about something really amazing. We are flexible travelers.

We really wanted to go to the Galapagos, but that is just barely beyond our budget. Our current favorite is a Hong Kong/Bali trip, but we are worried that Bali will be too touristy to be interesting.

Thanks, guys! We look forward to your suggestions.
posted by Alison to Travel & Transportation (32 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Costa Rica for the animals and nature, Guatemala and Panama for the passport stamps and markets.
posted by sweetkid at 8:46 AM on March 30, 2007

Not sure about the animals, and definitely not multiple countries but a trip to a couple of the Hawaiian islands certainly fits the rest of your ideas. And frankly if you pick the right islands and locations it can feel like different places alltogether.
posted by mmascolino at 8:48 AM on March 30, 2007

Safari in Kenya? Sand dune surfing in Namibia? Tropical rainforest in Sao Tome.
posted by markovich at 8:57 AM on March 30, 2007

Argentina? Lots of fun and very inexpensive. Spend some time in Buenos Aires (an excellent big city, great for markets and shopping) and pick one or two other cities. You'll need to fly as distances are great but domestic airfare is not expensive. Depending on where you go in Argentina you could also go to Chile. As an example my wife and I flew into Buenos Aires, spent 3-4 days there, flew to Mendoza (Wine country, rafting & outdoors) and spent a day or two there, and took a bus over the Andes to Valparaiso, Chile (beautiful port city built on a series of hills). If you did something like that you could fly out of Santiago, Chile so as to not retrace your steps and waste any time since you only had a week.
posted by true at 9:05 AM on March 30, 2007

Morocco? It's still just teetering on the edge of "cool place for the adventurous", and jam packed with interesting markets and history. It's reasonably easy to get around, but you certainly feel like you're in a foreign culture, without being threatened.
posted by wackybrit at 9:05 AM on March 30, 2007

Best answer: You know where you need to go??


Located at the Brazil-Argentine-Paraguay tri-border area, the area is a fantastic blend of nature, market, modern engineering, and local traditions.

For the honeymoon part, you stay in the Sheraton in the park itself, with a room facing the waterfall. Fall asleep every night to tons and tons of water crashing down. During the day, it's a bit of light hiking (not overly trampled, but not outrageously sanitized), rustic swimming (a 2 hour hike to a swimming hole under a little waterfall, a warmer but busier place to swim in front of the bigger falls), and lots of critters (though I wouldn't, obviously, recommend getting too personal with them, you have a lot of up-close time with lizards, coatis, butterflies, monkeys, birds, and bugs). The Brazilian side is, well, Brazilian. The park there is more rustic, if that's what you're into. Going into Paraguay is a great adventure if you do it by public bus. The markets are cheap, the people wonder what the hell you're doing there, and it's all a little bit chaotic in a pleasant way. Near the border at Ciudad del Este you can visit Itaipú, one of the world's largest hydroelectic power plants. This place is engineer porn, and should not be missed just on scale alone. Show up and ask for a tour. It's free. There are English ones, but if you speak some Spanish, you can learn a lot about the dam and the history of the area. Near Itaipú there are some ethnographic museums and indigenous itneresting things, but I did not get much chance to explore them.

It is possible to use the Argentine part of the park as your "base" and wander out from there, doing day trips to and from the other areas.

If you can swing a little more than a week, I highly recommend starting this trip out with some time in Rio de Janeiro (because it's a wonderful place to visit with beautiful beaches and lots of great food), Montevideo (Uruguay's the best - the people, the food, the atmosphere, and so few tourists, and lots of beaches and rolling countryside), or Buenos Aires (I guess people think it's romantic, if you're into steak and tango)

If you choose this region at all, feel free to shoot me an email or look at old posts - I've spent a lot of time down here and am happy to encourage anyone else who wants to really explore the region. I've a lot of pictures from this region online if you want to see what it all looks like.

To recap: 3-4 countries, nature, cheap, locals.
posted by whatzit at 9:06 AM on March 30, 2007 [8 favorites]

Please go to the ice hotel and then tell me all about it.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:06 AM on March 30, 2007

Maldives would be lovely. Great marine life, for snorkling/diving, and easily the most romantic place I've ever been. Super luxury too.
posted by Touchstone at 9:15 AM on March 30, 2007

You've been to Korea and Japan but never to the good old PRC? The PRC is such a diverse country that some areas seem like different countries. Southern China, especially around Yunnan and Guangxi stand out to me in particular - spectacular scenery(think those ice cream cone shaped mountains you see in paintings), diverse culture, esp. with the large amounts of Dai(Thai) minority, and proximity to other countries(Vietnam, Cambodia). Or you could go to NE China for beautiful forests, see Paektusan(google it), and visit Russia while you're at it. Or what about the deserts of Xinjiang, which shares more in common with the culture of the Central Asian -stans than it does with China? There's proximity to Pakistan(through the spectacular Karakoram highway) and the other -stans. Or, you could ride the new high-altitude express train into Tibet...

Plus, you get the added benefit of the PRC's extremely low crime rate. I think China is one of the safest countries in the world for tourists. And there's plenty of bargaining to be had in markets/malls wherever you go.
posted by pravit at 9:19 AM on March 30, 2007

I would say Bali HANDS DOWN.

Except for the five days part. It takes so long to get to SE Asia that it seems criminal to spend less than two weeks. You need time to really relax and absorb the beauty of the place.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:22 AM on March 30, 2007

You absolutely have to take an antarctic cruise. It's like visiting another planet and can be done within your budget if you shop around.
I won't provide links here - just google Antarctic Cruise and shop around.

Seriously... kayaking around icebergs the size of city blocks, taking a raft out into a pod of humpback whales... watching seals on huge glaciers... plus the expeditions are typically pretty small - there's a limit to how many people can set foot on Antarctica at one time. Check the Russians - they have really fantastic cruise rates.

Barring this, check out Newfoundland. Also gives you that sense of "walking on another planet" and there are some absolutely wonderful B&Bs up there.

So... yeah. Antarctica or Newfoundland. Definitely definitely.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2007

(I meant one week -- don't know why I said 5 days.)
posted by miss lynnster at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2007

And, of course, there's always China proper(central, eastern coastal areas)! Tons of stuff to see and do in/around Beijing, and Shanghai is a terribly romantic place.
posted by pravit at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2007

oh... five days. Missed that. Don't go to antarctica for five days... in fact I don't think it's even possible. Go to Newfoundland or Labrador. Five days would be perfect.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:25 AM on March 30, 2007

If you really want to go to Egypt, I have a good friend who can set up an amazing tour for you & will make sure you're completely safe. Your mother won't have any need to cry. I swear. (I went last year & am going back in December.)
posted by miss lynnster at 9:26 AM on March 30, 2007

Ha! My little sister is here with me and she's like, "What'r ya doin?" And I'm like, "Tellin people to go to Labrador for their honeymoon." And she yelled at me! She goes, "Labrador?! Why are you so weird? Labrador sucks. It's just Scotland but not as cool, and the water's on the wrong side. Just tell them to go to Scotland. It's the coolest place in the world."

So, now you have her opinion as well.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:29 AM on March 30, 2007

Malaysia! It's dirt cheap, has nature, is generally safe (possibly the worst thing you'd encounter is a dishonest taxi driver - just avoid them), and if you want, you can jump down to Singapore or up to Thailand.
posted by divabat at 10:09 AM on March 30, 2007

Best answer: Bali, no question. My GF and I spent 12 days there in January and it is precisely what you are looking for. Some tips:

(1) Bad news: Pretty much the entire area south of Denpasar is hugely touristy - these are some of the best beaches and surfing on the island. Good news: this is a very tiny portion of the island, and since most people never venture beyond this area, it leaves a lot of room for exploring.

(2) Its expensive and long to get there (~24 hours travel time through LA and Hong Kong; we flew from Cleveland, pretty much the same travel time as you), but incredibly cheap once you get there, so $5K will do you just fine. Also, you can stop over in HK for a day or two, since you'll likely fly through there.

(3) There is plenty of nature all over the island, including several volcanos to hike up, and a large national park in the Northwest that is easy to get to (though you generally need a guide to do hiking). If you like interacting with animals, there are several monkey forests where you have to make an effort not to interact with the monkeys. And, of course, there are spectacular beaches.

(4) Its a bargaining culture and markets abound. You can bargain for just about anything (including lodging) except food prices. The bargaining is infectious and even if you pay full price you generally are paying almost nothing at all.

(5) Recommendations: fly in to Denpasar and immediately head north. We spent several days in Ubud, a wonderful town about an hour north of Denpasar. If you are slightly adventurous, rent scooters and take off for the north and west of the island. Its, um, exciting to drive in Bali, but incredibly fun once you get the hang of it. Bali is small, so you can get just about anywhere in less than a day, even at scooter speeds. We did this and had a blast - we went to Amed in the east, and Permuteran in the North.

BTW, I disagree with miss lynster - i think a week is fine. You'll want to stay longer, but it will still be worth it. I'm happy to chat more, share pics, etc. Email is in my profile.
posted by googly at 10:16 AM on March 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

Googly, I'd like to point out that accomodation is in fact negotiable, as I discovered when I was there. The prices for foreigners are COMPLETELY different to the prices for locals. I was with an indonesian friend, and he'd go in and get a different and much cheaper price from the prices advertised.

Bali is a nice place, but it is safe nice. It's tourist nice, not wilderness nice.
posted by markovich at 10:49 AM on March 30, 2007

Hmmm. I'm not sure what part of "You can bargain for just about anything (including lodging) except food prices" made it seem like you couldn't bagain for lodging, but thanks for clearing that up markovich.

I was with a Balinese friend as well, who bargained for half-price lodging the first place we stayed. Thereafter, we bargained for reduced rates (not half price).

Also, I agree that Bali isn't a particularly wilderness-heavy locale. You won't find untrammelled forests or anything like that. But its still rather beautiful.
posted by googly at 11:08 AM on March 30, 2007

There's more to Southeast Asia than just Bali... while I did enjoy Bali a lot when I was there many years ago, it is a tad touristy. If you feel like avoiding the touristy areas, why not consider other parts of Indonesia, or countries like Malaysia or the Philippines. There are tons of cool places to visit in those countries, and its probably going to be pretty cheap.

Wilderness-wise, you might want to consider Sarawak (a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo). There are tours where they bring you (on a boat) into the jungles, and you can stay with the natives in their long-houses. The night sky in the middle of the jungle is absolutely breathtaking. Borneo also has many unique species of animals that can't be found elsewhere (e.g. hornbills).

It might be worthwhile paying Singapore a visit as well, since most flights to the region transit in Singapore. That could help you chalk up on them passport stamps, and the food is fantastic as well.

disclaimer: I'm from Singapore.
posted by destrius at 11:13 AM on March 30, 2007

Our current favorite is a Hong Kong/Bali trip, but we are worried that Bali will be too touristy to be interesting.

I agree. Don't miss Hong Kong however. I'd say it meets all of your requirements (as extremely urban as it is, some of the surrounding islands feel like you're alone in a jungle)

From Hong Kong, you could also have time to hop over to Vietnam or Laos. If you enjoyed Thailand I'd highly recommend this. Luang Prabang in Laos, in particular, is a place I visited once and still long to go back to.
posted by vacapinta at 12:29 PM on March 30, 2007

On a completely different note, I went through something similar as you did last summer and we decided on Croatia! Amazing place. It was full of European tourists (mostly Italians, Spaniards and Brits) but no Americans in sight (I'm sure they'll be there soon enough...)

Zagreb, in the interior is a beautiful old town. But the coastline is where the action is. The Adriatic is filled with small and large islands with lots of nature and beauty.

Also, the water is crystal clear since its all rocks and no sand. I mean really crystal clear.
posted by vacapinta at 12:45 PM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd go back to Verana.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:59 PM on March 30, 2007

Response by poster: Iguazu and Morrocco! That's the kind of stuff we're looking for, and I never would have come up with either of those exotic locations.

Googly, that was just the kind of information we needed about Bali.

My fiance isn't too interested in the Middle East or Antartica, so I'll be going with my travel buddy, who just happens to be one of my bridesmaids.

Great suggestions! Keep it coming!
posted by Alison at 4:59 PM on March 30, 2007

hawaii. it's expensive but worth every penny. you can visit several of the islands, each having its own flavor. nature, shopping, beaches, volcanoes, dining, sun, surf, relaxation. btw, iguazu is fantastic but hawaii has more variety.
posted by brandz at 7:49 PM on March 30, 2007

Morocco can be exotic, but it can also be really touristy. It took me some effort to get out of the tourist friendly spots (being flat broke and having local friends helped that a lot for me). A lot of Europeans go there for their holiday, so it's not nearly as exotic as it could be/used to be. But for markets, it's hard to beat, and the locals market with food (dates and the most wonderful fruit smoothies and live chickens and soup sold on the street corner out of bowls they reuse without washing) is usually right around the corner from the touristy souvenir market.

As far as different biomes, there is the Sahara in the south and the Mediterranean in the North and the High Atlas Mountains in the middle, and all of it not much more than an overnight bus ride away from the other. Pretty safe, too. Yes, make sure the taxi runs a meter and don't set your purse down in weird spots, but I don't think you have to worry much about violent crime.

As for honeymooning, because of the European touristyness there are lots of great luxury (at least by my standards) B&Bs, hotels, and great restaurants, so you can always indulge in those. Or, of course, you can also venture into the Atlas and stay in a hostel that has no running water and no electricity (because the village of 2000 has none). But there you could go rock climbing.

Have you ever been to Spain, though? Southern Spain reminds me very much of Morocco (though perhaps with less dust and more central heating and less shabby stores). The medinas, like the Barri Gothic in Barcelona, will be familiar to you. It's like the rawer version of some of Southern Spain, which could be good or bad depending on the mix of familiar/exotic you're looking for. Also, like in places such as Barcelona, there are many different languages being spoken. Most Moroccans I met (and this included people outside of the tourist trade) spoke at least five languages because of all the foreigners constantly passing through. It's hard to get away from that, but most of them are not USian, so at least you'd be unique. The good thing is, though, even if you don't speak Arabic, almost everyone in major cities and many people in smaller towns speak fluent French, so if you have any of that language you'll be golden.

I was there over a year ago now, but if you're interested in Morocco (which I don't really consider the Middle East) please e-mail me (in profile). The flight I got was really reasonable (Cleveland to Casablanca for US$700) and with 5k you could do some serious damage at the nice hotels and nice restaurants, which are still really reasonably priced compared to Western standards. I remember one really super fabulous meal I ate at one of the best restaurants in Fes, The Blue Door I think it was called, and it had multiple courses and we sat and ate delicious perfectly cooked and interesting food for hours, and it set me back maybe $50. The was the top top top end in the city; there was fabulous food to be had for way less, and decent food to be had for pennies.
posted by mosessis at 10:38 PM on March 30, 2007

Well, I don't like traveling for less than 2 weeks in general. I'm funny that way.

Bali can be touristy, but there are also areas that are FAR less so. Ubud is, but it's beautiful We stayed in Seminyak which is just outside of Kuta. More crowded than I'd recommend, but we rented a 3 bedroom house for about $1500 a month or something. It's just crazy cheap there if you don't try to do things in the touristy areas. I got a 3 hour massage & yogurt/mud rub treatment that cost me... are you ready? THIRTEEN DOLLARS. I want to go back to Bali again just for that.

We drove over to Lovina Beach and did snorkeling/scuba diving. We bungee jumped over a 166 foot waterfall in Gianyar. We saw ALL sorts of cultural shows. We learned all about the local handicrafts. We went whitewater rafting. We hiked a volcano. Some of us went surfing. LOTS of stuff to do there besides buying carved wooden frogs in Kuta.

BTW, if you go there... if you go swimming in the local water, don't put your head under. I didn't and I was the only person who didn't bring a parasite home with them.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:44 PM on March 30, 2007

Revisiting my comment about Iguazu... How did I manage to NOT MENTION that it's a GIANT WATERFALL??? Or rather, many many giant waterfalls?? But at least the rather crap comment was still intriguing... It would certainly be a f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c place to honeymoon.

One thing South America definitely has over Morocco is the warm Latin culture. Especially on a honeymoon (but how would I know...) I'd anticipate plenty of moments when you have a "wow, I'm totally in love" feeling and would want to express that, wherever you are. In Argentina? Brazil? A-OK, don't hold back. I wouldn't expect the same in Morocco, especially heading out for less-touristy areas.

Best of luck in making a tough decision ;-)
posted by whatzit at 1:16 PM on March 31, 2007

the "other side" of Santorini, Greece
posted by peace_love_hope at 9:24 AM on April 1, 2007

Response by poster: I talked to my sweetie and it looks like we will be going with Hong Kong/Bali. We will try to work in a layover in Tokyo or Nagoya because we miss Japan. Googly, you had me sold at 'Volcano'. We will probably hire a car and try to get out of the tourist areas. We're also looking for a chance to have some clothes made. I designed a coat and had it made in Thailand; it is one of my favorite clothing items.

Whatzit, we knew that Iguazu is a giant waterfall, so no worries! From your description it sounds amazing. It will definitely be on our list for our next international trip.
posted by Alison at 8:45 PM on April 1, 2007

Excellent! A couple more things:

- My impression is that renting a car makes you more vulnerable to stopping at the tourist traps along the way to wherever you are going. (Its only an impression, because we didn't hire any cars. But we made the mistake of stopping at one restaurant on our drive north that had a bunch of rented cars in the parking lot and it was terrible - and finding terrible food on Bali is a feat). I'm not sure how to avoid this, but I just thought I'd let you know.

- One popular thing to do is to hike up Gunung Agung (the largest volcano) to see sunrise, starting at 2am! We didn't do it because of schedule, but have heard that its spectacular, though enough people do it to make it somewhat crowded at the top.

- About the 'nature' part, just to clarify things. Bali is beautiful, in that the island is green and lush and still dominated by small-scale rice-farming. This means lovely, picturesque terraced rice paddies all over. It does not mean lot of park-like areas to go for a walk or hike on a trail through a park or forest or jungle. I'm an experienced hiker and was a bit disappointed by this. We took a lot of walks through said rice paddies, which was wonderful in its own way, but not quite the same. The only exception is the Barat Taman Nasional Bali Barat, but you need to do a bit of planning to take advantage.

- Finally, I want to emphasize the following: there are a lot of tourists on Bali, and a lot of the country is geared towards tourism. Like I said, they're heavily concentrated south of Denpasar, but that doesn't mean that the rest of the country is unspoiled wilderness. You will still see tourists on other parts of the island, just not nearly as many. (I'm fairly tourist-phobic when I'm being a tourist, but I felt just fine while I was there). And a lot depends on what time of year you go (we went in January, which is not the high season).

- I think you can definitely get clothes made. We saw a lot of places that did so in Ubud.

That said, have a wonderful time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by googly at 5:53 AM on April 2, 2007

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