A late round up of 2013’s travels. Having been travelling through China the past couple of weeks we have only now arrived back to Bangkok in preparation for the New Year 2014. Happy New Year by the way. Blogging-wise we couldn’t be happier with two unexpected awards; Wanderlust Travel Blog of the Year 2013 and a Foodie Blog Award 2013 from Asiarooms. Site stats are looking strong; closing on 1,000 daily PageViews (1,082 yesterday) which comes unexpectedly having had little (no) access to the wordpress side of our website when in China. All is good blogging-wise but this post is more about travel, the joint experiences of myself and Fanfan where in 2013 we coincidentally travelled through 13 countries. These are our highlights of the year; our Best of Travel 2013.
Our trip to Phuket came during an unplanned month where travel looked impossible and our only excitement for the month was penny pinching to fund our next travels. Yet we managed to squeeze in a week of luxury boutique hideaways, swanky pool villas and private island resorts and the kicker was it all came complimentary thanks to a bout of good fortune. Phuket is a destination I’d normally avoid, it is expensive for budget travellers, but when done in luxury it is also a destination hard to beat. I would share all our exciting travel experiences during this trip but there were little to none; we made the most of luxury while it was there.
China has been long on my to-do list since long before I’d known of Thailand. While we’d covered Hong Kong and Macau in the past I was still uncertain of what to expect from the mainland, and to be honest it was a complete surprise. Arriving first to Xian I expected more of a sleepy backwater than a modern, shiny, vibrant city; and of course it is these surprises in travel which keep us excited. All the authenticity still there, the local charm and the Chinesey stuff which inspired our travels in the first place. We arrive on the 23rd December and spend early Christmas morning in a local park watching locals practice Tai Chi, dancing and martial arts. For me this was fascinating (video below). For New Year we ‘celebrate’ in Beijing (asleep at 23.30) and squeeze in some time on the slopes for my first time snowboarding in the northern hills of Nanshan.
Tibet sums up wanderlust for me, mysterious and enchanting. While I haven’t quite made it to Tibet I almost feel we found better. You kind of know what to expect when travelling to Tibet or Nepal, the famed Tibetan Buddhist temples and a whole lot of tourists. Instead we arrive to the Himalaya from the Indian side through the state of Sikkim. Off season, not a tourist in sight and the Himalaya feel like our own to explore. The first Tibetan Monastery we find, a short walk from our hotel in Gangtok, is Enchey Monastery a smaller localised monastery hidden beneath trees and a haze of cloud. Locals circle the compound, spinning prayer wheels surrounded by lines of shivering prayer flags. Peaceful, serene, enchanting and again unexpected (video below). We went on to visit more of the better known Tibetan Monasteries including Rumtek Monastery where a Tibetan monk hands me a Milkybar Mango Choo Bar, spreads his arms to the side, makes airplane noises and vrrrumms off to the back of the Monastery. Amazing?
This was Fanfan’s first ever visit to Europe covering many of her dream destinations; Paris, Rome, London. However Northern Ireland tops them; the freedom of travel and schedules, the road trips, the sentiment of being with family and of course my proposal for marriage. We cover Northern Ireland extensively and squeeze in a sneaky trip to Ireland crossing the border to the Wicklow Mountains for my surprise proposal. The story behind the engagement starts in Bangkok where a few years back, in an Irish Bar, Fanfan tells me the “PS I Love You” story (rom com movie); she gets sentimental and ends in tears in the middle of the bar. Hilarious. In Ireland we retrace the steps to the Wicklow Mountains and I propose at Sally’s Gap. Awk.
An easy number one. Other than our simple yet perfect wedding in Ubud, the opportunities and experiences travelling with friends and family was, in its own, unbeatable. Bali will always be one of my favourite destinations as one of the most magical places on earth. It is a place I will always go back to and I think, for everyone involved, the experiences were unforgettable. Oh and don’t forget the luxury resorts and private pool villas. This will be a hard travel experience to top in 2014… but we will try. Maybe a new addition to our less ordinary family?