A 2014 Travel Review

It is December again and time for the annual travel review here at The Furious Panda. Every year around this time, I look back to the previous year’s travel and basically give thanks for all the opportunities I’ve had to travel.

You can take a look at past years’ travel review at these links: 2011 review, 2012 review, 2013 review.

The theme for 2014 was travelling with friends, and visiting festivals in the region. I managed the former OK I think, almost half of the year’s trips were with friends. The festivals bit not so much, but not for lack of trying. Considering I was not on an extended year’s break like in 2012-2013, I think the past year has been a pretty decent year of travelling. Many micro-adventures around the region. Let’s take a look at what was accomplished in 204.

Jan – Indonesia (Medan) – A solo trip. There is a distinct focus on cultural and historical places for this year’s trips. Medan of course, is a common Indonesian city to visit. But I also visited the Batak region of Sumatra, around Lake Toba. A highlight was the largest Batak museum in the little visited town of Balige.

April – Malaysia (Tioman) – This must be my third visit to Tioman for diving. Just a weekender, but a fun trip nevertheless, with colleagues and friends.

April – Indonesia (Jakarta) – Indonesia is my happy hunting ground. My destination of choice whenever I need a getaway. But I’ve yet to spend any time in the capital. So Jakarta visiting a friend means a proper introduction to Indonesian lingo. And food, especially food.

May – Thailand (Sukothai) – One of my favourite solo trips this year. Thailand was my go to place back then (Five trips to various parts of Thailand from 2003 to 2008). So it is a pleasant return to the Land of Smiles. The Buddhist temples of Sukothai are wonderful. Even more wonderful are the obscure satellite towns of Kamphaeng Phet and Si Satchanalai, both sites of the ancient Sukothai kingdom.

May – Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) – Everyone knows KL, but my little tour of the Seven Wonders of KL, is a pleasant diversion from the usual exploratory trips this year. I got to visit parts of KL I would never have visited on my own.

Aug – Indonesia (Tana Toraja, Ambon “The Spice Islands”) – This is one of two highlight trips this year. The elaborate funeral festival of the Toraja people has always been on my bucket list. To be able to see an actual Toraja funeral up close is a treat. The icing is the impromptu decision to fly to Ambon, one of the Spice Islands of the Moluccas.

Aug – Taiwan (Taipei) – Not so much a personal trip, I nevertheless spent a morning spotting Taipei’s major tourist sites during this work trip.

Oct – Lebanon (Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, Tyre, Baalbek) -The other highlight trip of 2014 and the only one this year out of South-east Asia (not counting Taiwan). After plans to visit Iraqi Kurdistan got canned (no thanks to ISIL!), I decided to go to Lebanon. The return to the Middle East and the welcome return to familiarity: the falafels, the language, the people – made the long journey there worthwhile.

Oct – UAE (Dubai), Oman (Ras Musandam Peninsula) – Together with Lebanon, I met up with a friend and we went on a road trip to the Ras Musandam strip, that little sliver of Oman separated from the rest of the country. It was my second visit to Oman, but the first to this region.

Nov – Indonesia (Batam) – A weekend trip to nearby Batam, for the foodie in me.

Dec – Myanmar (Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay) – To close off the year, I went up to Myanmar to see the famed pagodas of Bagan. And broke my collarbone in an electric bike accident.

In summary, it was a pretty eventful year, despite not going too far out of Singapore. I managed one new country (Lebanon) and many revisits to once familiar countries. 10 trips out, with only 2 of them being solo trips.

2015 is going to be a very exciting year for me. It looks like I’m going to have a permanent travel buddy. 🙂