I know, I know. It’s a bit late to be doing 2017 round-ups. I have no excuse other than the fact that I’ve been completely slack with blogging; however, seeing as over half of last year was spent overseas, it seems a shame to not have a post dedicated to my biggest year of travel yet.
Here’s a look back on all of the adventures that were had in 2017.
2017: A year in travel
I almost forgot about my first sojourn way back in February, although admittedly I didn’t stray far, as Rottnest Island is only 30 minutes from Perth’s CBD by ferry. Visiting this idyllic island paradise had been high on my list since moving out west, and we finally managed to book accommodation for a weekend on what locals affectionately call ‘Rotto’. If you’re seeking a quick getaway with rest and relaxation high on your agenda, then Rottnest Island delivers in spades. Our days were lazily spent snorkelling in the turquoise waters, riding bikes (no cars are allowed on the island except for the shuttle buses), making friends with the adorable quokkas and soaking in the glorious sunshine (but truth be told, you can do that anywhere in Perth).
USA (West Coast)
Places visited: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon
When one of my besties told me she was planning a 30th birthday bash in Las Vegas, it took me all of two seconds to scream out, ‘TAKE ME!’ What followed was a whirlwind trip to the West Coast of the States involving a couple of days in LA and five days in Las Vegas with a group of six gals: all of us thirty and over, the majority with kids, one of us who had already been to Las Vegas three times and all of us excited to have the full Vegas experience. Las Vegas is just as the movies depict it: excessive and unrestrained, while also being kitsch and tacky—a haven for sinners and winners. It was a trip of firsts from tandem-bike riding to riding a mechanical bull (and, more importantly, staying on it!) to winning big on the casino floor without putting down a single chip! Viva Las Vegas!
- Skip the Strip: here’s why you should go to Downtown Las Vegas
- Viva Las Vegas: my thoughts on the sin city
Places visited: Hanoi, Bai Tu Long Bay, Phong Nha, Hoi An
Having my extended family in Hoi An means that I will always have a reason to return to this incredible country. Every time I head back to Hoi An, I am more and more surprised by the changes that have taken place since I had last been there – and each time, I grow to love it more. This time around, we also managed to visit a couple of places in Vietnam that we hadn’t yet explored: Phong Nha and Bai Tu Long Bay (basically Ha Long Bay without as many tourists). Phong Nha was a highlight with its plethora of cave networks to navigate (including Dark Cave where you can take a mud bath), not to mention the day we spent riding around the countryside in a Russian Ural motorbike.
- Stay: Phong Nha Farmstay in north-central Vietnam
- My Hanoi street food tour with Urban Adventures
- How to spend 24 hours in Hanoi
- Tam Thanh Mural Village: Art for a better community
- The best banh mi in Hoi An
- This is the Vietnam that I know
Places visited: Phnom Penh, Kampot, Sihanoukville
By far, the biggest decision I made last year was to spend 6 months crashing on my brother’s couch in Phnom Penh … by myself. There were several reasons for this – the main one being that the hubby has a job that involves going into an office, whereas, with my freelancing, the world currently serves as my office (well, any place with a good wi-fi connection at least). I knew that I wouldn’t ever be as free as I am now – sans kids, mortgage, 9 to 5 office job – and that I needed to make the most of this opportunity. Expat life was not without its challenges and stark realities, because what is it really than real life in another (more tropical and coconut-laden) setting? Still, I enjoyed being based overseas (surprise, surprise) and let’s be honest: who doesn’t love the South-East Asian lifestyle? Ultimately, I learned a lot about myself, and I know now with certainty that I have the capability and strength to push boundaries, real or imagined, in pursuit of what is significant to me. Perhaps most importantly, though, I’ve realised that there is never a final destination in our journey.
- A quick guide to Phnom Penh
- Discovering street art in Phnom Penh: Street 93
- 12 things to do in Kampot
Places visited: Chiang Mai
I was excited about heading to Chiang Mai due to its reputation for being a freelancing and entrepreneurial hub; so much so that it was the first place that I decided to visit after moving to Phnom Penh. Yet, for whatever reason – and it’s always subjective – Chiang Mai fell short of my expectations in spite of the incredible experiences that I had while there – the day I spent with the majestic elephants at the Elephant Nature Park would have to be my favourite travel experience of 2017. However, nothing beats cheap and cheerful Thai street food (khao soi, when will we meet again?), and the coffee in Chiang Mai was among the best that I tasted in South-East Asia.
- Visiting the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai
- Chiang Mai: Elephants, khao soi and the best travel story I have ever heard
Places visited: Luang Prabang
Conversely, Luang Prabang far exceeded my expectations! This quaint and compact town is a visual feast for the eyes, set against a titillating backdrop of mist, mountains and the mighty Mekong. I was particularly taken by the French colonial architecture and it took me forever and a day to get from point A to point B, because I kept stopping to take photos. The pace in Luang Prabang was a a lot slower and it was lovely to be able to ride a bike without fear of being run over by the crazy and chaotic traffic that is characteristic of so many South-East Asian cities. My only regret was not exploring more of the country! Vang Vieng, I have my eye on you.
Places visited: Penang, Langkawi
After 10 long weeks apart, the hubby and I finally reunited in Malaysia for the hubby’s birthday. There were two main reasons why we chose Penang. First: eat street food; and second: see street art. I believe we succeeded on both fronts. After eating ALL OF THE FOOD in Penang and hunting down many of the city’s famous interactive murals, we hopped on a short flight to Langkawi where we were able to burn off the calories by spending the days island hopping on jet skis, chasing waterfalls and parasailing.
- My top 10 Penang street art murals and where to find them
- Sampling the best of Penang’s food scene with Urban Adventures
Places visited: Colombo, Kandy, Ella
Let me preface this by saying, ‘Go to Sri Lanka if you haven’t already done so’. I knew I would love Sri Lanka before I even stepped foot inside the country, and it would have to be my favourite country that I visited in 2017 (Myanmar is a close runner-up). Here, I spent a leisurely week travelling by train around the hill country region, which is famous for its lush tea plantations and its highland hikes. However, you would need to 3 weeks at the very least to explore the country’s stunning coastline, the ancient monuments and sites of Cultural Triangle and the national wildlife parks. To quote the venerable Arnie: ‘I’ll be back’.
- Travelling alone in Sri Lanka as a woman: is it safe?
- The Kandy to Ella train journey through Sri Lanka’s hill country
Places visited: Tokyo
Tokyo is one of my all-time favourite cities, and I couldn’t pass up a chance to return when I heard that Yayoi Kusama was opening up a temporary museum exhibition. From cute cat cafes to tasty Totoro treats, Tokyo has really nailed the kawaii culture and it’s difficult not to get caught up in it all! This time, I went with one of my besties and had an absolute ball despite the persistent rainy days.
Places visited: Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake
I knew exactly where I wanted to spend my 31st birthday – Myanmar. Or more specifically – Bagan. Because you’ve seen those photos of the hot air balloons floating above the pagodas, right? I had actually planned to celebrate my 30th birthday in Myanmar, but when my brother moved to Cambodia I decided to go visit him instead. Thus, Myanmar is another country that has been on my radar for some time. The hubby joined me and we had a fantastic time taking stupa selfies in Yangon, e-biking to all of the pagodas to watch epic sunrises and sunsets in Bagan and visiting the floating villages on Inle Lake. Tourism has been on the rise ever since the country opened itself up, and I suggest you get yourself there sooner rather than later.
What’s in store for 2018?
There is no doubt that life will be a bit more mellow in 2018. We have some domestic trips planned; the first to Brisbane over the Australia Day weekend to check out the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at GOMA; and then a trip down to Margaret River in March to go glamping (thanks to our dear friends) for our 2-year wedding anniversary.
A trip to Europe might be on the cards, but there are so many variables at the moment in terms of general life and where we’ll be, so nothing is concrete as yet. One way or another, I’m sure our greatest adventure is still ahead.
Have a happy 2018, y’all!
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