Day 18: M&Ms love durian too!

Day 18: M&Ms love durian too!

Singapore, the last leg on our whirlwind trip through SEA (and Indonesia). When originally planning our trip, we were a bit over-zealous, and tried to squeeze in as many places as possible. Could’ve used the extra day in Bali, obviously, but, since our return flight was out of Singapore, we thought it might be cool to spend a bit of time in the city.

Drew likes to plan travel details (tickets, accommodations, etc) in advance–he gets excited over these things–whereas I tend to have a loose idea, a skeleton of a plan, if you will. I assume the details will just work themselves out as we go. There is value to both approaches, but also downfalls.

We had a hotel already booked in Singapore (as we did everywhere else we’d been). I found it on TripAdvisor, sent the link to Drew, and he booked it. Here’s where a system of checks and balances would’ve come in handy. The hotel was in Malaysia, ie: not the same country! Lucky for us, we caught the oversight before leaving Bali, and made new arrangements, with the guidance of TripAdvisor, once again. Only criteria: must be close-ish to airport, mass transit, cool neighborhoods, restaurants, downtown, under $100, and include breakfast. We are not at all hard-to-please.

Insert Kam Leng Hotel, along Jalan Besar (close to Little India). At first glance, it looked a little shabby on the outside–old, chipped paint, faded letters, and blinking lights around the sign.

There are no accidents though, I tell you. Such a cool hotel! Turns out, it was a highly-regarded place  in the late 1930’s, attracting international movers and shakers. It’s recently reopened as a boutique hotel, still maintaining its integrity and rustic, vintage charm. Shabby chic, for lack of a better term. Also, according to blogs and other “best-of” lists, the hotel’s diner, Suprette, is popular with the hipster crowd–if this resonates at all with you.  I imagine a place like this would be a big hit in Brooklyn, but probably come with snobbery and a much heftier price tag.  If Singapore is in your plans anytime soon, seriously check out Kam Leng Hotel. Don’t expect luxury, but if you have an eye for the offbeat, you’ll love it.

Another bonus, it was directly across the street from one of Singapore’s many 24 hour hawker centers–basically, a giant outdoor food court with various regional Asian cuisine. I’ve been on a bimbimbap kick of late, and was able to score some for a great price. Again, I guess you can compare this style of dining to the food truck craze back in the states. Less gourmet and innovative probably, but more authentic–no frills, generous portions, and completely satisfying. Why fix what ain’t broke?

Anyway, we explored Singapore in the best way we would, considering we only had a day, and sightseeing by foot isn’t exactly in Drew’s best interest right now. I knew I wanted to check out Tiong Bahru, a cool neighborhood in Singapore (also home of the city’s oldest public housing projects). Lots of good coffee to be had in this hood, along with a cool independent bookstore and many overpriced homegoods boutiques. (Hi, Park Slope). Scored a cool compilation of short stories by Singaporeans who’ve undergone neighborhood shifts–should be a good read.

Though the plan was to avoid walking as much as possible (the SMRT transit system helps), we probably clocked a few miles before we realized Drew should be resting. We found free Wifi, hung out at a coffee shop, then headed to Raffles Place, the area downtown within close proximity to the Marina Sands Bay resort, the Merlion statue, and one of the city’s many malls. When in Singapore in rainy weather with a gimp-footed husband: watch Guardians of the Galaxy (Drew) and kill lots of time in Muji (Lauren).

We were able to see some of the evening laser light show, but probably should’ve been on the other side of the bay near the Merlion for a better view. Anticlimactic, as Drew puts it. The skyline is pretty at night, albeit nondescript, in my opinion, save for the iconic Marina Sands.

After another trip to the food court, we made it safely to Changi Airport, home of the durian-eating M&Ms, and killed a good 5 1/2 hours before our 2:30 am flight back to the US.

Here is my parting thought as we left Singapore for the airport: It’s a cool, clean, and modern young city. I couldn’t shake the idea it seemed fictitious, like the city in the movie ‘Her’–it could be any big city anywhere in the world. Everywhere we went, we were surrounded with people, though very little noise. People talk in hushed-tones. Children are well-behaved. There are no dancers and idling crowds in the train stations. Portable electronics everywhere.

As frustrating as the chaos can be in New York City, I appreciate the energy and vibrancy of it. I am sure Singapore has all of this–it’s incredibly diverse–I just didn’t get a good enough feel for the place in such a short amount of time, along with being limited in our activities.

As they say, everything good must come to an end. Or, on a more positive note, all’s well that ends well. The last and final stop on this train: Galveston, Texas, where we undergo wedding numero dos, city hall style, and celebrate with family.

Thanks for indulging us in our little blog experiment–we plan to expand it out further as we continue to travel and collect adventures and memories.

*Turns out, Sea Gypsy Village is at capacity. But rest-assured, I’ll keep looking for my ‘in.’

Day 16: Eat, Shop, Eat

Day 16: Eat, Shop, Eat

Ubud (pronounced oooobud), located in central Bali, was top of my list of must-sees. (Truthfully, not having much time here,the list isn’t as long as I would have liked). The “Eat, Pray, Love” epidemic has caused this town to blow up within the past several years, though it’s been more quietly popular amongst westerners and locals alike for decades. You’d think the Balinese might bemoan the likes of a place like this–much like we do the turning of neighborhoods in the United States, but, as seems to be the way here, they speak of Ubud and the rest of the island with great pride and reverence.

I wanted to know what all the hype was about. I pictured a more tropical Hudson Valley in my head–very zen, peaceful, and overwhelmingly natural. 

For those of you planning a holiday in Bali, actually come with a plan! Or, don’t, as we mostly didn’t. But, do be prepared to hire a personal driver to show you around for a day, as there really isn’t any other way to get around when you’re traveling further north. Before you think to yourself “Lauren and Drew are such diva stars,” it turns out or experience with our driver, Wayan Balik, was one of the best from our days here in Bali. 

Because we didn’t arrange a ride in advance, we stayed up the night before, mass-emailing companies with names like “SuperBaliDriver” and “BestBaliDriver,” willing to accept any ride that didn’t involve too extreme of price-gouging. As fate would have it, Wayan from Bali Ari Tour was quick to respond, available, and reasonably priced. He is from a small village in Ubud, and is familiar with the surrounding area.

Wayan arrived at our hotel at 8:00 am. I liked him right away, as he had a nice smile and happy laugh (pretty common here, I’ve noticed). We explained that we’d like to go to Monkey Forest, see some temples, and do some shopping, but had no real agenda otherwise. Apparently, westerners usually prepare a full itenerary, so I think Wayan was pleasantly surprised by our lack of structure (I’m a Key, and come by this honestly).

On the long-ish drive to Ubud, we chatted and compared cultural norms and societal issues. Seems here in Bali the government is kinda corrupt (where is it not). The natural, wild and exotic allure of Bali is rapidly being replaced by concrete and structure–think large upscale resorts and major coffee chains. Yes, this provides the locals with more job opportunities, but at what cost? Seems this is a universal dilemma with development. While the notion of progress is a good and hopeful one, how do we justify destroying pristine beaches and rice paddies, affordable housing, mom and pop shops, to make room for yet another Starbucks (designed to look like a temple, at that)?

OK, Key’s off her soapbox. I want to get back to our time with Wayan. One quality I admire most in people is the ability to make you feel special and unique, as though you are the exact person the other wants to be spending time with. This man was providing a service–one we were paying for–but somehow we still felt like being stuck in traffic with two tourists was EXACTLY how Wayan wanted to be spending his day. *It should be mentioned here that my dad is also very good at this, probably why he is so successful in his baseball lessons, but I digress.)

Because we were pretty flexible with time (we just needed to be back in time to see the sunset on the beach), Wayan took us on a detour to his family’s compound. Here, we saw his uncle’s pregnant pig, some carefree chickens, his mother roasting coffee beans (supposedly the best around), and Wayan’s wife doing daily chores. We chatted over coffee, and he explained things such as the division of houses in Hindu culture (head, body and legs). 

During this time, I felt truly happy–it’s great to catch yourself in the moment and realize nothing can be better than exactly what you’re doing. I’m thankful for this memory.

Wayan offered to let us stay the night (for free!) in the spare room, then extended the offer for a permanent residence! I didn’t let impulsivity get the best of me this time, but don’t think it didn’t cross my mind! 

Ubud was cool and special in the way I expected it to be. Lots of unique shops, galleries, and restaurants, tucked amongst lush vegetation and ancient temples. We were surprised by the pace though–New York City on a smaller scale, as Drew puts it. Monkey Forest was indeed full of monkeys, as to be expected. Some were cute, some nasty, and many FEARLESS. I quite enjoyed when a baby outstretched his hand, but not so much when one bit my finger and another scaled my back. In short, they were great to see, but I’m still on the fence about wild monkeys. Quick aside: when monkeys are given fruit with peels, they take the time to peel it and discard the peel. Pretty incredible!

After more shopping and temple-peeping, we made the drive back south towards Nusa Dua. Because we didn’t get the chance to try suckling pig, or,  babi guling, Wayan took us to his personal favorite– a local spot with great prices. In other words, a second lunch happened (the first being at Cafe Lotus overlooking the lotus pond and Pura Taram Saraswati). So worth it!

Though we expected to watch the sunset on Kuta Beach, Wayan promised Jimbaran was a better spot, and the man wasn’t lying. We sat and watched life unfold–throngs of football players, kite fliers, surfers, and families enjoying the last of the afternoon sun. It was one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Leaving Bali is going to be hard. It’s special. You can see it in the people and feel it in the air. When we were leaving Kula Lumpur, both the AirAsia attendants and immigration gave us a knowing smile when they learned of our next destination. “Ahhh, Bali,” one said.

Maybe it’s the islander in me, but the vibe here is comforting and familiar. It’s easy to see why people stay forever.

Day 12: Another reason to not eat at Burger King… in case you needed one

Day 12: Another reason to not eat at Burger King… in case you needed one

Hi hi, it’s me, your friend, Sea Gypsy. Not much to report on, but we realized that we didn’t write a post relaying yesterday’s events. The ENTIRE day was dedicated to traveling, so not much COOL AND EXITING NEWS. Though, there were moments when I almost unleashed the beast on a few unsuspecting joes, but lemme get there.

We were informed by the lovely folks at Zeavola that the speedboat we’d booked back to Phuket would not be coming to pick us up after all, as the sea was too rough. My first reaction was “No! No! Unaceptable!” (only to Drew), but it helps to be reminded of all the rough rides on the rickety boat we’d experienced prior. This means we’d have to take the ferry. Before you feel too sorry for the pitiful travelers, the ferry was leaving at 7:00, and breakfast starts at 6:30!

I need to mention, I was under a heightened state of anxiety and stress, which, let me tell you, is HARD to do in paradise, but this is my specialty! You see, we still had not received the wedding pictures, and we were LEAVING THE COUNTRY in a few hours. Our highly reputable “wedding planner” I referenced in a previous post, would not return my countless emails. but, when he finally did, it was to tell me he had just returned from Phi Phi Island, which is where we were staying. Almost like, haha, I could’ve just dropped them off for you, but didn’t! So, begrudgingly, we decided to meet him at Burger King in the Phuket airport before our flight to KL. Shady, right?!

We took another ROUGH ferry ride that lasted about four hours (this time on a real boat with an upper deck and all). We did make a stop in godforsaken Phi Phi Town, but didn’t have to get off the boat. Drew did some napping and reading; Lauren did some podcasting and involuntary sun deck surfing. When I joined my husband (!) in the measly lower deck, my hair was everywhere, my face terror-stricken, and clothes soaking wet! The upper deck was like a water ride I didn’t get in line for. 

We made it to Rassada Pier, all limbs intact. Things went smoothly, and we managed an easy and cheap ride to the Phuket airport, where we were meeting Wedding Planner in an hour. Two hours later, I am plotting the man’s murder, and trying to figure out how to get money back on PayPal for a service that was not delivered. The man was not returning my emails, nor Drew’s INTERNATIONAL phone call. Just when I was about to commit myself to a lifetime in a Thai prison, a breathless and dishevelled looking young fella rushed over to us, murmuring “Sorry, sorry!” and bowing profusely (as is custom–one time–in Thailand). He basically tossed the album at us, and dashed out. Never saw the guy before, will never see him again, but, why ask questions, right? The album had some nice photos included in it, some downright comical ones, and one with me and my notorious scowl. What there is to scowl about on your wedding day on a private beach in Thailand, I’m not so sure. Anyway, whatev. Happy ending, and happy story AFTER THE FACT. Adventures can be both good and bad, and in a foreign country with language barriers, they’re pretty much guaranteed. 

Stay tuned for a Kuala Lumpur update from DA MASTA BLOGGA Drew. Also, wedding pics aplenty!

Sea Gypsy’s gotta find a new moniker…

Day 9 Part Deux: Same Same, but Different

Day 9 Part Deux: Same Same, but Different

Lauren here. Sorry I’ve been off the grid for some days. I think I’m of the mindset live now, reflect later. Drew’s been doing a great job updating folks on our happenings, so mad props to him. I, on the other hand, have been soaking up the sun on the Phi Phi Islands (pronounced pee-pee, but, as the sign in Phuket points out, Don’t Pee, so you make your own call on that one). I’ll dedicate a post to our days in Yangon, Myanmar, because they definitely deserve one from my perspective, but for now…I’ll share our day of 1/2 matrimony (the other 1/2 will take place in Galveston with family) and big adventures.

We opted for blessing ceremony on the beach at sunrise on a private beach here in the Phi Phi Islands. Seems we got *some* of what we bargained for. The “wedding planner” appeared to be somewhat of a con artist–he was dripping in gems, and took the opportunity to smoke a cigarette with his shirt wide open while we waited for the monks to finish praying. From what I’ve observed, the Thai are modest people, so this didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but SO MANY things don’t when I travel (and that’s a good thing). 

The ceremony itself was nice. It involved monk blessings, holy water, head slings, and wish lanterns. I will share a private moment with you: During the PLACING OF THE THREE DOTS CEREMONY (everything we did was explained in a very procedural way), we were instructed to put three dots (to symbolize the 3 jewels of Buddhism, which I later had to research myself) on each other’s foreheads and exchange some words. Apparently, we were supposed to have the words already planned out. Who knew?! Drew’s were sweet, thanking me for being the compassionate person that I am, and for my adventurous spirit. Now, ladies, here’s “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”: Picture me placing 3 dots on Drew’s forehead. 1) I can’t wait 2) to go 3) to Monkey Island! 


Overall, it was a very unique and special event, plus, it enabled us to be back in time for breakfast, or as Drew called it, our reception 🙂

We enjoyed some down time this side of paradise, then had a very nice massage (perhaps the fifth or so since we’ve been in Thailand!) at the resort. Side note: I like feeling like I’ve been beat up when my massage is over. Sometimes bruises are involved. Thai massages are so very good for this! I was a bit concerned my hair wouldn’t hold up from the massage, but the very kind lady re-braided it for me! What a treat!

Drew returned to the bungalow to take a nap (from his nap) while I sought out to maximize sun exposure. This will be relevant to later events, I promise!

Next adventure of the evening: a sunset picnic on a deserted island–I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried! Anyhow, we took a longboat to a beautiful little beach on Bamboo Island, where wine and tapas were laid out for us. I did some hard-core shell-searching, while Drew played with a hermit crab. Out of nowhere, we experienced a downpour, as is one to happen during monsoon season. I sought shelter under some trees. Thankfully, it was short-lived. We watched a sunset, and got more of the same (“same same, but different,” as they say over here) photos. Little did we know the real adventure was about to begin!

The boat ride back was death-defying! The water was incredibly choppy, and our little wooden boat not the sturdiest. Even the crew seemed a little caught off guard. Now, I love open-water. I find it fascinating, humbling– but capsizing in it, not so much. I put the death grip on Drew, the whole time rehearsing rescue procedures in my head,  until we reached the twinkling lights of Zeavola, our resort. 

Since our picnic was rained on, we were of course, hungry (when am I not?) for dinner. Here’s where this afternoon’s sun-bathing shenanigans come into play. I went to change–as my clothes were soaking wet from the ride–into my clothes from earlier in the day, only, I lost them. It takes a special person to lose the clothes you were at one point wearing. They definitely weren’t in our room. After a quick cheek with reception, it seems I had left them on the beach! Don’t worry–it wasn’t a nude beach, I’m just that careless. Only in paradise…

If Bali is this great, I doubt I’m coming back. Sea Gypsy Village is very close to our resort on Phi Phi. That’s where you can forward my mail.

And the rest, they say, is Herstory…

Now for the other side of this fairytale, “True Story of the Three Little Pigs” style.

Too Many Dollar Signs, Not Enough Food

Let’s start from the beginning, or, the beginning according to Drew. We went to Boston for Thanksgiving. *I have to put The Meritage restaurant on blast here for a second, because our “meal,” (which really was more of a tasting menu) cost us roughly the equivalent of spending the holiday with our actual family in Texas. But I digress… Several laughs later, it is the jumpstart to an even better story. 

While in Boston Common, Drew did ask me about diamonds. True, I’m not really into jewelry, but I do not know one person who who is too “anti-establishment” for diamonds! Plus, you have to be specific with men! Might I also add, Drew cannot be blamed for not stealthily determining my ring size. Up until this point, the only ring I wore daily was a $2.99 mood ring (adjustable, for convenience). *Drew, if you’re reading this, “fancy jewelry” is always welcome, as are mood ring replacements (mixing “high” and “low,” as Lucky Magazine always says to do!)


Alright, let’s skip to the soft opening of the Lefrak Center ice skating rink in Prospect Park, December 17th. As you probably know, I go hard for Prospect Park (it’s quintessentially New York to me, more so than it’s shinier sister, that shall remain nameless), so I was really looking forward to this event. Being “pioneers,” as all Brooklynites like to think they are, we joined the Prospect Park Alliance, admittedly, so we could skate there before everyone else. I was in a good place that night, which would work in Drew’s favor. 

Before meeting up with my (future) fiancé, that night of the ice skating “incident,” I put a fifty dollar bill in my back pocket. *This will be important to later events, I promise.

I met up with Drew in the park, and we headed to the new rink. It was cool (literally!), but the skates were not!  Mine were so narrow, fit for the likes of Tara Lipinski or someone of equal figure-skating clout. I was happy to be ice skating though, so I soldiered on. Drew was a bit more vocal, dramatically declaring his skates the “worst skates he’s ever worn.” I think I rolled my eyes in minor annoyance, but was not going to let this clown cast a shadow on our pioneering experience. 

I’m sure you’re expecting The Proposal to involve Drew spinning figure eights around me. Nope. Or orchestrating the event, having the crowd clear the rink. Uh uh. He pulled me to the side as we were leaving, mumbling something about an ulterior motive. It was really too romantic for words.

“So, uh, I was wondering if you want to marry me?”

“Huh?! What?! Shut up!”

Drew pulled out the (very perfect) ring, only it did not fit on my finger. 

“I wear a size 8,” I told him. *Only, I definitely do not wear a size 8, but we’ll get to that in a few.

We are so happy and engaged at this point. Drew periodically flashes the ring to appeal to my newfound need for shiny stimuli. We go to Brooklyn’s very first Whole Foods (which also would’ve been an ok spot to propose, in my book), to round out a perfect evening. Only, my fifty dollar bill had, by this time, worked its way out of my back pocket, and I would spend the remainder of the night lamenting its loss. 

Anthropologie is for Shopping for Ruffly Shirts and Tiny Bowls, Not Surprising

No one knew the latest, because we were planning to surprise our family in person, when we went to Texas the next day for the holidays. 

The kind folks at the New York Tiffany hooked us up with a Big Time Diamond Dealer in Houston, where we were able to get the ring re-sized. *Turns out, I have super skinny fingers and wildy fat knuckles! I actually wear a size 6 1/2. My sister, Lindsay, accompanied us to the B.T.D.D, and thus, learned of the surprise before everyone else. She is exactly the person you want around in these situations. 

“You’re engaged? Cool.”

We then met up with my mom and sister, Caitlin, who were Christmas shopping in Anthropologie. The most inappropriate news unveiling unfolded:

Mom: “Lauren, do you like this top.”

Lauren: “I’m engaged!!!”

Mom: “What?! No, that’s fake. You guys, that’s fake!”

After several minutes of convincing, congratulations were exchanged in the Anthropologie parking lot. Later that evening, the rest of the family was notified, the men having the better responses. Dad, clutching his chest, declared, “That’s beautiful!” Grandpa, the more stoic one, solemnly deemed it “cute” and “neat.” Drew’s family found out a few days later, which involved many tears and hugs. Different strokes, different folks, I guess. 

The Non-Wedding Wedding

Drew and I attempted to start planning for The Wedding, but the thought became too overwhelming, and I think I started to cry. 

Fast-forward, we’ve decided to turn our nuptials into a “non-wedding wedding,” and are (somewhat) eloping in Southeast Asia. *This, as my sister has currently hipped me to, “is evvvverrrything!” Our families will get to be part of the festivities too, as our travels will end in Texas, where, thanks to an an incredibly event-savvy sister, a family celebration will ensue!

Can’t wait to share our journey with you all! Stay tuned!

*Side note: If you found a fifty dollar bill in Prospect Park, it is mine. Spend it wisely, or just give it back.