A 2016 Travel Review

As is tradition on this blog,  I go through the favourite places I have traveled to each year, as a form of giving thanks, and a little summary for myself to look back on.

The year 2016 was a relatively muted one from a travel perspective. No fantastical round-the-world trips, no overly exotic destinations and no crazy travel incidents that make people go “Red, you must be absolute nutters to go there!” Let’s just say  having a new baby curtails your travel plans quite a bit. 🙂

I still managed my fair share of travelling though. Two new countries, and re-visits to places I have previously been to. Below is a summary of the highlights of the past year.

Bogor, Indonesia (Feb’16)
Travelled with the wife to Jakarta to check out the common tourist sights. Took a day trip to the nearby city of Bogor, where I had a wander in the Bogor Botanical Gardens. Within the garden is the Istana Bogor, the residence of the Sir Stamford Raffles when he was Lieutenant-Governor of Bogor.

Chap Go Meh, Singkawang, Indonesia (Feb’16)
The city of Singkawang is on the east coast of Kalimantan. I flew into Pontianak airport and took public transport up to Singkawang. This was the site of big Chap Go Meh celebrations. The festival, which takes place on the 15th day of Chinese New Year, is extra special here. It is celebrated by both the local Chinese and Dayak community. A procession of devotees, many with their faces and bodies pierced with sharp objects, parade across town in a trance, seemingly oblivious to the watching crowd. The guy here is holding on to a chicken, whose unfortunate head had been ripped off.

Porto & Lisbon, Portugal (Mar’16)
One of two new countries visited this year, we just managed to visit Porto and Lisbon. The highlight for most would have to be Belem, where the Tower of Belem and the Jeronimos Monastery are located. For me though, the highlight is the food, specifically Polvo a Lagareiro, or octopus cooked portuguese style. Delicioso!

Santiago de Compostela, Spain (Mar’16)
From Portugal, we took a detour north to the Galicia part of Spain. Visited the famed pilgrim’s destination town of Santiago de Compostela. The town marks the end point of the El Camino Santiago, the walk that leads to the shrine of the apostle St James. We also visited A Coruna, and climbed the Tower of Hercules, a UNESCO listed Heritage Site.

Yogyakarta, Indonesia (Sep’16)
A revisit, this time with the wife, to the Kratons of Yogyakarta, a stay in the Manohara Hotel to catch the sunrise at Borobudur, and a day excursion to Prambanan. Indonesia is still my destination of choice, despite so many previous visits.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival, Thailand (Oct’16)
The beaches of Phuket are a draw for most, but I was here for the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. The festival happens in Phuket Town. Devotees would walk in their processions, often pierced and in a trance-like state, as onlookers stand by. Sounds like the Chap Goh Meh in Singkawang earlier? Yes, it is very similar. Relative to that festival, the Vegetarian festival is a more staid affair, though first time visitors will still be overwhelmed by sheer noise and colours surrounding them. Oh, and firecrackers exploding all around you is the norm.

Ayutthaya, Thailand (Nov’16)
The first of many trips with the little one, 5 month old at the time. While Bangkok is all shopping and food, I took a little side-trip by myself to see the ruins of Ayutthaya. The rich, ancient Kingdom of Ayutthaya was the second major Thai kingdom in history, after Sukothai. Easily reachable from Bangkok, the ruins consists of temples, statues and walled forts and one highlight, a tree with the Budhha’s visage.

Kuching, Malaysia (Dec’16)
Again another revisit, but I was glad to go back to Kuching. The laid back city is a food haven. Highlights are the Sarawak Cultural Village, and a visit to see orang-utans in Semenggoh Nature Reserve. Unfortunately, no orang-utan appeared to feed in the time we were there, but it was a good opportunity to do a little nature hike, with the little one and the missus.

And that’s not all the trips in 2016. There was plenty of work-related travel around the region, to Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia as well. 2017 is going to be another great year, one with more fantastic destinations.