2017 Round Up – Everywhere I travelled this year

It’s that time where I take a look back at what happened in 2017 and MAN it has been such an interesting year! In terms of travel, it can’t compare to 2016 of course, i.e. the year of the Epic Career Break where I quit my job in February and spent most of it travelling around Asia and Europe.

Days spent travelling in 2017: 174

When I was working a full-time job, My travel round ups usually included total amount of travel days and see just how well (or how poorly) I used my annual leave in that year. This year, I spent about 47% of it sleeping in an overseas bed, almost half of the year.

It’s probably no wonder now that I’m finally back home that I spend so much time in my room – I’ve definitely missed having my own space.

2017 Round Up Travels Flight Map
According to my trusty MyFlightRadar24 that’s 24 flights I took in 2017 which amounts to about 85 hours or 3.5 days of just being in an airplane.

Countries visited in 2017: 15

I definitely travelled less in 2017 compared to 2016, but I started off 2017 on a very good note by setting foot in Bogota, Colombia on New Year’s Day, the first time I ever visited South America. 9 of these were new countries for me, but in every country I visited excluding Malaysia, I visited cities or areas that I had never visited before.

There are way too many awesome things for me to cover in this one post without it getting super boring for anyone who’s not me, so I picked a maximum of 3 major highlights per country that I visited, and I’m showing you some pix I’ve never posted up on this blog yet.

Colombia

I will get around to writing about my individual experiences eventually, but here’s an overall impressions post that I wrote about Colombia.

  • That time we visited La Chorerra Waterfall and I wished for someone to drive by with an empty car and offer us a lift when we were stuck watching 4 full buses zoom by us, and someone ACTUALLY DID. Score one for good karma.
  • Playing paintball in Pablo Escobar’s summer house in the middle of a beautiful lake was a pretty fun experience and on hindsight, just kinda wild
  • The 10-turned-16 hour bus ride from Cali to the southern border where I reached my destination at 2am with no hotel booked. Thankfully this seems to be a common thing and I got a room easily and spent the next morning checking out the beautiful Las Lajas Church before heading to Quito.
Colombia Ipiales Las Lajas Valley
Las Lajas is a really beautiful gothic style church that stands very tall in the valley

Ecuador

  • Jumped screaming off a bridge in a span of 10 minutes in Baños because that’s how I roll
  • Swam with hammerhead sharks, sealions, penguins and even some marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands
  • Encountered the weirdness of an entire park filled with green lizards in Guayaquil, where I also discovered my favourite mosquito repellent Detar (you can actually see the mosquitos do an about-turn when you put it on)
Ecuador Cotopaxi El Refugio Sign
It might not look like it, but I am DYING inside from crazy steep hiking and altitude issues. I am a sea level girl and kinda useless at altitude. But still, I made it to El Refugio, the highest point you could get to on Cotopaxi at that time because this is still an active volcano, and they closed off the top because of fairly recent volcanic activity, yikes!

Panama

  • Getting to study Spanish and just slowing down to spend at least a week in 3 major cities was quite a nice break for the rapid pace
  • White water rafting near Boquete was pretty damn exciting, especially because I was sitting in front and got super soaked
  • The gang tour in Panama City was definitely super cool, and so bizarre to think that all this history and violence is just beneath the surface
Panama City Canal Miraflores Pano
The Panama Canal is something I’d read about in books but was always a bit of an abstract concept, so getting to see it in person is kinda cool. Seeing the gates work and the water levels change to move the boats along was interesting, but it takes so long, so may be a bit boring after awhile

Peru

  • Meeting and travelling together with the backpacker friends I first met in Vilnius, Lithuania was definitely a blast (XOXO J+M). We did Lima, La Paz and Puno together!
  • Spending my birthday morning flying over the historic Nazca lines was definitely an awesome way to grow older.
  • Machu Picchu. What really can I say? I came, I saw and I loved it. And I had a super awesome Llama photobomb my picture for memories to boot.
Peru Puno Lake Titicaca Reed Boat Me
This is me trying to row a traditional reed boat on Lake Titicaca, one of the lakes with the highest altitude in the world. Even though the sun is out, you can see I’m all wrapped up

Chile

  • Reuniting with another lovely friend V who I met in Ecuador. I love that sometimes these travel friendships don’t just stop at the end of our time together.
  • The Atacama Desert is one of the most amazing and diverse landscapes ever. It’s hard to describe but there is so much diversity and it’s almost unreal to behold
  • Arica was meant to just be a place to sleep for the night, but I enjoyed this little seaside town – the Morro de Arica has a fabulous viewpoint
Chile Atacama Moon Valley Me Path
Valle de la Luna or the Valley of the Moon in the Atacama Desert. All that ‘white’ is salt due to the weather conditions

Bolivia

  • Finally getting to the salt flats Salar de Uyuni, a long time dream of mine, only to find that there was no Singapore flag at the flag area, gah!
  • Cycling the Death Road in La Paz was very cool and quite honestly, not super dangerous if you use your common sense
  • Buying all the Alpaca stuff in Bolivia as souvenirs – my bag was SO FULL.
Bolivia La Paz Cable Car View
La Paz like Medellin in Colombia has a pretty extensive cable car network as public transport to get around the city. Something about being able to see the city from above really appeals to me. La Paz is a big city that people tend to overlook, but I kinda like it

Spain

  • Eating local tapas in Madrid with new Pinoy friends based in Singapore was definitely fun. Little bites and beer is a win for me
  • I’d held out on visiting Valencia for a long time, always dismissing it as somewhere too ‘modern’, but I kinda loved it when I finally made my way there and ended up staying there 2x as long as I thought I was going to because of the great city vibe
  • Cycling to the City of Arts & Sciences was so fun I had to do it twice
Spain Valencia Beach View
The beach in Valencia

Romania

  • Getting invited to Bucharest for the inaugural ExperienceBucharest was super cool, and I met so many fellow bloggers there
  • Seeing forgotten spots like Vacaresti and ‘sneaking’ into Chimopar was quite the experience
  • The Therme was an absolutely incredible spot. I really want to go back there as it’s an amalgamation of all my absolute favourite things – fun slides, hot springs and palm tree weather
Bucharest Athenaeum Detail
The Athenaeum is such a beautiful building, even if getting in seems a bit sketchy cause you just give the guy at the door some money, no proper tix or anything!

Bulgaria

  • Sofia gets a mention as the only place that I’ve ever joined a free food tour. How awesome is that!
  • I really liked the church at the Tsarverets Fortress in Veliko Tarnovo. I ducked in there because it started to pour and was pleasantly surprised by the modern art happening in this tiny unassuming looking church
  • I had higher hopes for Plovdiv, but I remember it being just a tad too rainy. I did find some cool street art here though
Bulgaria Plovdiv Ceramic Artist
This guy was awesome – I’d bring one of his ceramics back if I wasn’t backpacking with such a full pack, but I did buy earrings and bracelet made my his mum. Watching him work was super cool

Turkey

  • Seeing the break fast and Ramadan being celebrated by so many people at the Blue Mosque was quite an eye-opener
  • I loved being able to see an old friend J and her introducing me to an awesome neighbourhood Kadikoy where I found a ton of cool street art
  • Going to my first Turkish hammam was quite the experience! I scrubbed off more than year’s worth of travelling skin and wore the most insignificant disposable thong ever
Istanbul Mosaic Museum Exhibit
A museum that I liked surprisingly was the Mosaic museum. It’s pretty small but very cool to see these original works of art on display

Philippines

  • Coron was a bit of a last minute decision and a new place for me to visit with my friend Lydia from Lydiascapes, and I loved Kayangan Lake and the Twin Lagoons and sorely wish I had time to scuba dive when I was there
Philippines Coron Boat Me
On the boat to the secret lagoon! I love the sun but if you’ve noticed, I tend to cover up because sometimes I get lazy about sunblock

China

  • Finally climbing the Great Wall of China was a big thing for me. Missing lugeing down it was a major bummer though
  • Seeing Xiamen in the Fujian province where my ancestors hailed from was eye opening, and the food really cemented my Fujian heritage – I know why I love soupy noodles so much now
  • I ate some pretty weird stuff, which is also inherently true to Chinese culture – I had sandworms in Xiamen and some rather mushy silkworms (?) in Beijing. Been there, done that! Not the first time I’ve eaten insects though.
Beijing Eating Worms Me
This picture cracks me up because I’m the one actually eating the gross stuff haha

Taiwan

  • Getting to visit my 3rd Taiwanese offshore island Kinmen – check!
  • Renting a scooter and just exploring Kinmen on my own was a blast – it’s probably the most traffic I’ve had to navigate on scooter though, glad I got through that. I loved my little mini electric scooter even though I was often the slowest poke on the road
  • I stayed in one of my favourite hostels ever – it’s located in a traditional heritage building, but the interior and facilities are new and clean and the hostel staff were really nice. Score one for Beishan Old Western House even if it’s a tad more out of the way! (affiliate link!)
Taiwan Kinmen Beishan Old Western House Statue
The really cool part about the Beishan house is that the back side is not open to the public, but has these old metal statues that depict some of the historical events that took place in this house, as well as the original architecture!

Thailand

  • I was really happy to get to see a new area beside Bangkok, hello Hua Hin!
  • Drinking local Thailand wine and seeing elephants in the vineyard in Hua Hin was pretty unusual
Bangkok Soi Wanit Old Chinese House
I love the exterior and I just happened to be carrying a fan with matching colours, though you can’t see it very clearly here. Beyond this doorway is… a swimming pool, I kid you not.

Malaysia

  • Port Dickson was a road trip with the family – we don’t travel together very often these days so it’s nice to kinda kick back on a trip and not have to even think about blogging about it. Also, I didn’t have to do the driving so it was really an opportunity to kick back
Malaysia Port Dickson Petting Farm Ostrich
Some of you might have seen this on my instagram but this photo cracks me up. Two of us have ages of single digits, and two of us are considered adults. Guess which ones exactly? I’m trying my darnest not to get pecked by the inquisitive ostrich snuggling up to me

Cruising

  • I don’t remember the last time I took a cruise (not counting the one in the Galapagos Islands) – I think it when I was a tiny child with the family. But my sister persuaded us to go on this one, and well… it’s not my thing.
  • We visited Klang (I skipped this day) and Penang in Malaysia for a quick walk around Georgetown, as well as a day trip to Phuket in Thailand before heading back home. I’m not sure I’d call it travel exactly when he had just a few hours in each location!
Genting Dream Cruise Ship Sunset Phuket
Ginormous ship at sunset as we return from Patong Beach in Phuket

What’s on in 2018

I haven’t made any big plans as of yet, but I know that a UK trip is on the cards at this stage, and I actually have a bit of a yearning to go back to some favourite spots, so we’ll see what happens. A lot of it is dependent on what happens on the job front as well, so unlike the last 2 years where I knew I was going to be on the road most of the time, I have absolutely no idea what lies ahead in 2018, but here’s to everyone having great travels!

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