Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I. Heart. Vacation.

I don't even know where to begin... I love vacation! I love my family! I love new experiences in new countries!! Be prepared for an extra long post, but I want to remember everything and this blog seconds as my journal!

My brother has been working in Batam, Indonesia for several years and we have been saying forever that we wanted to go and visit, but it just never happened... lives can be a titch hectic, ya know. When he said that his project was over in October this year, we were like, if we are going to go, we need to go NOW! So, somehow we convinced husbands that this was a fantastic idea, coordinated childcare, purchased tickets, made a gazillion lists for the friends/family helping out and off we went.

3 Sisters -- 10 Days -- 2 Countries -- ZERO kids!!!!

Our game plan was to go to Batam for 1 day, just to see where Neal lives and works, spend a few days in Singapore SHOPPING and then rest and relaxation in BALI!! If we were to do it all over again, we would have gone straight to Bali and stayed there... Not that we didn't love Spore, but just LOVED Bali.

So... Where is Indonesia? On the other side of the world... Literally. It was a 24 hour plan ride. 12 hours to Moscow, then 12 hours to Singapore! Interesting fact that I learned... Indonesia is made up of over 17,000 islands...

All I have to say is that Singapore Airlines is the way to go!! Tons of meals and snacks, TV in the head rest with tons of movies, tv shows and games and lots of bathrooms! Coach is still coach... the walk through business class makes me feel like a passenger heading to steerage on the Titanic, but who cares when I am lucky enough to go!

I would love to know the hiring criteria for Singapore Air flight attendants because everyone of them was gorgeous, teeny-tiny, and perfectly coiffed -- even at the end of our flight!

Margaret Ellen & Amy
In the plane... ready to go!
We finally made it to Singapore at 5:30 in the morning... We took a 45 minute ferry to Batam to meet my brother Neal. (We've called him Bubba (for Brother) since we were babies.)

I can't tell you how how excited we were to see him on the dock waiting for us... You would have totally laughed to see us running shouting, Bubba!! He had a surprise waiting for us... his girl, Alit. We thought we would meet her in Bali, but there she was... LOVE. HER. More on that later.

So, Neal has his own driver at his beck and call... Very nice... Very Edward Lewis in Pretty Woman!

He took us to see where Neal lives....
... to our resort
... to get massages to help with jet lag (It was $15!!! For 2 hours!!!!)
... and of course Shopping!
We had an early dinner that night, because we were fading fast. We went to a really cool restaurant on the water... You walk down and pick out what live seafood you want to eat and then they take it to the kitchen and cook it. We ate crab, lobster and fish until we popped and drank coconut water right out of the coconut!

Picking Out Dinner

(Before I go on, I feel like I should explain that it was HOT, HOT, HOT over there. Before I left, I was determined to fix my hair everyday and keep my fake tan applied... Well, after one day of sweating my tooshie off, I threw those plans out of the window.)

We went to bed really early that night and that was pretty much it for jet lag. (Coming home was a MILLION times worse!)

After seeing where Neal lived and worked, we were off to Bali... We had a layover in Jakarta and I had to take a picture of us there because I always remember my dad talking about traveling to Jakarta when I was younger and it just sounded so exotic. Never did I think that I would actually be there myself!

It took us ALL day to get to Bali, but, oh, so worth the wait.

Elle, Alit, Aim, Marg
Watermelon Juice Welcome
We stayed in a boutique hotel called.. Putu Bali Villa.

View from Margaret's Window

Walkway Outside Room

Chillin' at the Pool

Outdoor Shower

Welcome to Bali Dinner...
Me & My Big Brother
Alit & Neal
Our first day in Bali consisted of shopping in Seminyak and walking and walking and walking. Neal and Alit dropped us girls off to do some shopping... After shopping we thought we would walk to the beach for a cocktail... from the looks of my guide book we were close, but we were NOT.

Stopping to take a break from our search for the beach.
We finally made it!!
Amy & Marg

Next we drove to Ubud.... What a gorgeous drive! Lots of rice fields and green, green, green! I use the term drove loosely... it was more like mad dashing in a tiny car, battling motor bikes and other tiny cars for the same exact spot on the road... no rules, no turn signals, just go and hope the other guys moves or stops!!

We specifically drove to Ubud for the suckling pig... Babi Guling. We were determined to eat every and all local foods, so Alit ordered for us... Some was fantastic and others were not, but we tried everything.

(When we called Neal, Bubbie, in front of Alit's friends, they died laughing because they thought we were saying Babi, which is pig!!!)

Alit & Bubbie

The Girls

We watched a ceremony at a palace across the street.. Really neat music and dancing!

Market & Motorbikes in Ubud

Beach time!!! All of our running around made us ready for some chill time on the beach. (I brought Summer in the City to read for this trip... How Carrie meets Samantha, Miranda & Charolette!)

Alit had her cousin Janaprya come and take us to the beach. Neal told us that we would love him, but we had no idea how much! HUGE personality and HUGE heart! He totally fit in to our girl talk... boys, make-up, designer clothes and celebrity gossip! He kept us entertained with stories of his single life drama and made us want to bring him home with us to protect him and share him with our girlfriends here!

La Plancha Beach
Serious Waves
The Girls with Miss Bali 2011

Not a lot of tourists go to Denpasar, Bali's capital, but since we had our local tour guide, we ventured in to try Bebek Goreng (fried duck) and hit the local market.

Matching Dresses
Bebek Goreng
The market was crazy! Just like something you would see in a movie... Raw fish, chicken and other meats outside, massive amounts of fruit on the bottom floor and several floors above with clothes and housewares. We were the ONLY tourists there! I loved feeling like we were truly submerged in their culture! (I did not love the rat that ran across the stairwell on our way up, but it gave it a true authentic feel.) Everything was SUPER cheap! We couldn't believe it. You bargain for everything... Alit did it for us and she had a hard time getting the best price because we were with her, but even then it was a steal! (I am talking $5 for a shirt.)

Buying Fruit
Alit -- Serious Bargainer!
Inside Market
Outside Market
On one of our shopping outings, as we were leaving the mall, we saw a Fish Spa... You dunk your feet in the pool and little fish called Garra Rufa come and eat all of the dead skin off of your feet! At first we were a little leery, but ended up saying "when in Rome!" It was the most ticklish thing ever! I could barley stand it for 5 minutes, but it sure got some funk off our feet!

Part of experiencing Bali is to ride on a motor bike, so Alit had some of her friends pick us up for dinner one night on theirs. It's not as scary riding on one as it is watching them!

Pizza -- Tasted exactly like the kind you get in Italy!!
After dinner we went to a Karaoke bar... This was one of my favorite nights!! It's not the kind of bar you think of when you hear karaoke here in America... It was a warehouse with tons of little rooms that you rent, each one being set up for karaoke, so you only sing in front of your group! We spent the night belting out cheesy pop songs... (No judgments, please!)

(James & Tami -- It reminded me of the first time we went to New York to visit you!!)

The Girls

So now for the biggest part of the trip!!! SURPRISE... NEAL & ALIT are getting MARRIED!!! We had no idea until a couple days after we got there and we were giving them the 5th degree about their relationship! One of the questions was "When do you think you'll get married?" and the response was "Thursday." We were shocked, but happily so, because like I said earlier, we love her!

She is smart (a civil engineer) and funny (cha, cha, cha) and so, so sweet (she cried when we left) and best of all she adores our brother! She is as close to perfect as you can get, except the fact that she is the reason that Neal keeps his mustache!! (The babies referred to it as an orange caterpillar on Skype one time!!!!!) No, really... she is perfect for him and we loved her immediately and after spending a week with her, we truly feel like she is our sister and can't wait for her to come home with him!!

The wedding was very small and intimate... perfectly suited for both Neal and Alit's personalities. Just a handful of Alit's close friends and of course, the sisters.... If I know our mom, you can expect there to be a big bash here in Houston when the happy couple arrive!

Wedding Kebaya's & Batik
(Girl shirts & Boy Shirt)

Jana doing Alit's Hair & Make-up

Wedding Guests

Walking Down

Getting Baptized


Kiss the Bride

Rose Petals

Mr. & Mrs. Hare
(Everyone was pronouncing it Haar-y!)

The Hares

The reception was a really cool restaurant on the beach in Jimbaran... Again, you got to pick out the live seafood and they would prepare it and serve. We had crab, prawns, scallops, snapper, bawal fish and yellow fish... Again, we gorged!

Picking Out Dinner



After reading about a fruit called a Mangosteen, Amy was on a mission to try as many exotic fruits as she could. After going to the market, we spent a morning at our hotel trying all of the different fruit... Rambutan, Mangosteen, Mango, Durian and a bunch of others that I can't spell!

Now, I had never heard of a durian before, but before we left we heard some hubbub about how this was a stinky fruit and it turned into a big joke about how we all have to try the stinky fruit. We were like, how bad can it really be... Well, let me tell you that it was FOUL! Like hot, dirty, funky feet! It smelled up the entire car, it smelled up the entire hotel... Just wrong for any food to smell like that. But, being troopers, we tried it. Umm... Not so good.

Amy and her Beloved Mangosteens
All of the Fruit We Tried
Neal & Amy

We took pictures of all the fantastic food that we tried... Our world traveling friends, Kim & Ralf would be so proud!

And speaking of food, I have to mention that my absolute favorite was the Nasi Goreng!! (Fried Rice.) It was so good that I had it for every meal... every day. When I got back, I had gained 5 pounds, I knew every pound was the Nasi Goreng! (Second row - Far Right)

We hated to leave Bali, but Singapore awaited... Ahhhh! The City!! I love hustle and bustle... Singapore was amazing... So, so clean. So, so cosmopolitan. We stayed in a funky boutique hotel in Chinatown... The New Majestic.

Hotel is Behind Margaret
We couldn't get over how clean and cool and quiet the subway was. Remembering my experiences in Europe, the subways are always hot and stinky... Like you are walking down into the bowels of the earth. In Spore, it was opposite... As you would walk down, the air would get colder and colder... So nice.
Subway Pic - Neal, Aim & Marg
Subway Pic - Elle, Neal, Marg
Hilarious Sign
I totally get it now!!
Our first night out... We went to Clarke Quay in the Buisness District... An area of the city right along the Singapore river. Tons of packed restaurants... I think we ended up choosing the restaurant by the least amount of people more so than the food... It was a bonus that it had a killer happy hour and a flamboyant waiter!

Amy & Neal Being Silly
Best Apple-tini's EVER!
Random Donkey on our Patio
Loud Aim jumped on yelling "It's Rody!" We laughed so hard for 15 minutes!!

This is Rody!!
(and Ivy)
A trip to Singapore is not complete without journeying to Orchard Rd. My guide book called it "A wall-to-wall fashion-junkie's paradise!" and they were not mistaken. Huge mall-after-mall that had level-after-level of store-after-store! I haven't seen anything like it.... From the multiple high end designer stores to the tiny little adorable boutiques to the familiar chains that I love, they had EVERYTHING. Margaret and Neal are not shoppers, so they bailed while Amy and I got to work...

Now I don't know if coming from Bali, our perspective was off, but everything was really expensive. That coupled with the fact that it was the last day of our vacation and we had already spent most of our money, we didn't get to buy a ton!

And on our last night, we got fancy and headed out to the Raffles Hotel, the oldest hotel in Singapore named after the man who founded Singapore. The cocktail, The Singapore Sling, was invented in the hotel's bar and we had to venture over to try it.... When we saw that it was $25, we were worried that we wouldn't like it, but it was yummy! Not yummy enough for 2, but we enjoyed!

So for all the talk of fancy that we heard about the Raffles, they served peanuts and you would throw the shells on the floor. Nothing like being in high heels and stepping in peanut shells.

Elle & Aim with Singapore Slings

Margaret & Amy at Raffles
(Look at those legs!!)

After we left the Raffles, we went across the street to the 70th floor of the Swissotel, to a place called Asia Bar... The view was AMAZING, with all of the city lights below.

Trying to Read Menu in the Dark!
We had our last cocktails and toasted to a fabulous trip and a fabulous time with fabulous siblings!
HUGE Thank You to:
- Stephen, my fantastic husband, for braving the 10 days without me.
- Lolly, Ms. Deborah, Peaches and Ms. Sandy for taking the babies off of Stephen's hands a few of those days.
- Nonna, for taking the week off of work to help while Stephen was at work.

I can NOT imagine what life would be like without all of the support and help I get from so many people who love me and my babies! I am so grateful that I have each of you in my life and I love you with all of my heart!


  1. SO, SO fun to read about your trip!! Looking forward to meeting Neal's wife!!


  2. WOW..what a fantastic trip!!! So glad you got to be there for the wedding!! YOu deserve it girl!!

  3. Thanks for the great blog post, Ellen. I have seen some of those Asian fruits in markets in Europe and often wondered about them. I have also had mangosteen juice. It is supposed to be really healthy.

    Neal looks really happy. So glad you got to be their for the wedding. What fun!

  4. Amazing post, you made made feel like I was there with you... And that I was THE worst sister in the world for not visiting Kenny in Spore when he was on assignment there. Plus I'd already had a hint about Neal's wife when I started to see posts on FB from another beautiful "Hare" woman! Xo

  5. Love this post! Even thought I got to hear about it live for my personal slide show - you are such a good writer it was a treat to read and relive the stories. :)

  6. I know this post was years ago, but I just had to tell you a tidbit about Durian---have you seen the show on the Travel Channel where the guy goes all over the world trying unusual foo? He has stated many MANY times that Durian is about the worst food he has ever tried, and he says he won't eat it. But then he does, thinking maybe it'll be never is, and they usually have to cut away before he throws up. Oh, his name is Andrew Zimmern...Can't think of the name of the show. But he never wants to offend his hosts...but ugggggg, he's a brave soul. And after what you described, I'm thinking he's REALLY brave!

    1. That is hysterical!!! I am going to look to see if I can find the show!!!