Southeast Asia 2013
This was my first trip to Southeast Asia, a long time coming so I tried to make it up by going to 3 countries for 3 weeks. It started off great in Vietnam, a country I’d wanted to visit for a long time but didn’t have the courage (or time) before, then continued smoothly in Cambodia where I got to visit the great temple ruins of Angkor. It ended in Bangkok which was a bit of a letdown, but was still ok. Vietnam’s main cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City were attractive and interesting, historic Hue was decent, and Ha Long Bay was amazing. Phnom Penh was mixed – the National Palace and museum were nice, the genocide sites were sad and despairing, and the general poverty is very apparent. In Bangkok, I enjoyed watching muay thai (Thai kickboxing) live and the Grand Palace was beautiful, but the vibes were too mixed to really enjoy the city.
Hanoi day 2-history museum, temple, and prison
Hanoi’s Old Quarter and Night Market
Hanoi to Hue by train
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay- photo roundup
Huế’s Imperial City
Huế’s imperial tombs
Hustled in Hue
A brief look at Da Nang
Ho Chi Minh City-the first full day
Ho Chi Minh City at night
Ho Chi Minh City-the second day- part 1
Ho Chi Minh City-the second day-part 2
Mekong Delta daytrip
Phnom Penh, once the pearl of Asia
Phnom Penh’s genocide sites
Cambodia travel- On to Siem Reap
Cambodia travel-Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm
Cambodia travel-Angkor’s ‘Big Circuit’ sites
Cambodia travel- Angkor Wat again, Ta Keo and a few more
Cambodia travel- Angkor Thom
Angkor Thom photo roundup
Thailand travel – a mixed start to Bangkok
Bangkok travel -Muay Thai live at Lumpinee
Bangkok travel – Wat Pho and National Museum
Bangkok photo roundup – Wat Pho, National Museum
Bangkok travel – Chinatown and Chatuchak Market
Bangkok travel – Chao Phraya River
Bangkok travel – Grand Palace
China 2012 – Yellow River region
China was so nice I had to go twice for 2012. This time, it was to the ancient city of Xian, home of the terra cotta warriors. Xian is in Shaanxi province, which along with Henan province, is considered the cradle of Chinese civilization. As the Yellow River passes through these places, the area is known as the Yellow River area. It was my first time coming to this historic region. Well, the reason I went to China again was because in August my mother spontaneously wanted to go to Xian and asked me to come along. We quickly devised an itinerary that also included Luoyang and Huashan. Ironically she had to cancel the week before due to a family emergency so I ended up going by myself. Which turned out to be pretty good and proved that somehow I can handle being in China alone and enjoy it without any danger. Xian was loud, ancient, and booming; and it exceeded my expectations. Huashan was spectacular and worth the over 10 hours of hiking I did on top over two days. I never expected to ever actually go to Henan province, but it was good to visit a lesser-traveled part of China. Luoyang was very decent, with its Longmen Grottoes and a museum that fully befits its status as one of four ancient great capitals of China. I also went to the Shaolin Temple, which was decent in itself, but I also had my only bad experience during the trip getting there.
China 2012 – Beijing
I finally went to Beijing, the proud capital of China, for my fifth visit to China. I went to the usual sights – Great Wall, Forbidden Palace, Summer Palace, and the Bird’s Nest and Ice Cube Olympic sites. I went on a tour with my father so while the food, accommodation, and transport were top-notch; it still felt like a superficial experience. I did enjoy the trip and places like the Forbidden Palace and Great Wall are truly impressive. I also did get a different sensation being here than I did in Shanghai or in the other Chinese cities I’ve been to. Truly, Beijing is special, and it’s the first Northern place in China I’ve been to, so maybe that contributed.
China 2011 – Yangtze River Delta 2
I took my only holiday trip in 2011 to China. This was a trip for family and history. I visited relatives in Shanghai and Zhoushan, Zhejiang, for the first time, where their great generosity really overwhelmed. Then for the finale, I visited the ancient charming city of Nanjing, the southern capital. Shanghai and Nanjing are both large, modern, booming metropolises, with Shanghai being glitzier and more famous, while Nanjing is more pleasant and historical. I enjoyed both of them a lot. Zhoushan on the other hand is a collection of islands off of Ningbo, where my maternal grandmother is from. It has a place in history as the reason why Hong Kong, then a collection of villages, was offered to the British after the Opium Wars of the 19th century. Basically, Britain had captured Zhoushan and China wanted it back. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to see this historical heritage on Zhoushan, though I did see where my grandma grew up, and I visited Putuoshan, a holy island that is considered one of China’s four sacred Buddhist mountains (strange, I know).
South Africa 2010
In 2010, I had the opportunity to go to South Africa for the World Cup and needless to say, I took it. I didn’t go just for the World Cup, of which I saw just 2 matches in person but thoroughly enjoyed the vibes from just being there during the tournament, as I was able to spend time in the three biggest cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban. I also went on an actual safari and to Victoria Falls, hiked in the Drakensberg mountains (a UN World Heritage Site, one of SA’s many), visited townships and went along with members of a Taiwan-based NGO on their weekly rural missions. It was my first time in Africa, attending a World Cup and major international event, and even traveling by myself. All in all, I stepped foot in four countries (the other 3 being Lesotho, Botswana, Zambia), though by far I spent most of my time in SA, and vastly broadened my insights, experiences and horizons. It was an amazing experience though I’d be lying or delusional if I said everything had been great. But I don’t regret any of it though I do wince a bit when trying to remember what I spent.
World Cup 2010 stadiums
5 World Cup stadiums that I took pictures up close of
China 2010 – Yangtze River Delta
I finally took a trip to China outside of Guangdong. This was to the Yangtze River Delta region, one of China’s wealthiest areas and which includes Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou. It was literally a whirlwind tour as I went to 5 cities, including the aforementioned three, in 6 days with my mother with a Taiwan travel tour group. As hectic and uncool as that sounds, the trip was actually fairly good and it was a bargain. It was so cheap that it was almost as if we got the hotel accommodations, meals and intercity travel for free (in fact we virtually did). Despite the fact we went to so many places, several places in each city, and spent a lot of time on the road, I came away with two solid observations- China’s economic growth is no mirage, at least in the physical sense, and I want to go back.