We’ve been back in Spain for over a month now, taking time off to concentrate on marketing our magazine as well as working on our new app and other projects. The last six months in Asia have been quite the journey as we trotted from one country to the next, with our laptop and camera in tow. From the hot sultry islands of the Philippines, we hopped over to Vietnam, into Thailand, before making our first visit to Myanmar and eventually China and North Korea. Before we hit the road again, it’s time to take a look back at the past six months and share with you our favorite moments of the trip.
1. Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cebu, Philippines
At the start of our trip, we revisited the Philippines mainly to fulfill our dream of swimming with whale sharks. It was an experience unlike no other, swimming just inches away from a massive animal (whale sharks average 9.7m in length), it was surreal, intimate and extremely moving. In the clear glassy water, I saw its red gills flapping, and its dorsal fin zigzagging through the water. There was one point when the shark glided extremely close to me, and whipped its tail in a forceful motion, missing me by mere inches.
2. Watching Sunset in Bagan, Myanmar
Thousands of ochre stupas sprawl across the plains of Bagan, amidst wilting Acacia trees and whirlpools of brown earth. Before our trip to Myanmar, many friends told us that sunrise and sunsets in Myanmar were extraordinary. It wasn’t until we came to Bagan that we fully understood the true meaning of their words. On the top of Shwesandaw Paya, we watched the colors of the sky and the stupa-studded landscape transform from bright vermillion to golden yellow and eventually a pale shade of plum purple.
3. Meeting Local Children in Pyongyang, North Korea
Our short trip to the DPRK (North Korea) was definitely the one of the most insightful experiences for us to date. Despite having been shut out of the outside world for centuries, the North Koreans we met were surprisingly curious and friendly towards us. Out on the streets, we smiled and waved at people – many of them coyly giggled, while others waved back enthusiastically. At a park, we even played finger guessing games with a big group of school children who had crowded around us and poked curiously at our cameras. (The photo below was taken at the park.)
4. Celebrating Songkran in Bangkok
In Thailand and many other parts of Southeast Asia, Songkran is celebrated as the traditional New Year’s Day.The splashing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people, but these days, it has evolved into major water fights and a means to cool off from the heat. We celebrated Songkran in Khao San, Bangkok where locals and tourists alike flood the streets, armed with chrome-colored water guns, ready to have a good time. We squeezed elbow-to-elbow with the crowd, getting buckets of ice cold water poured on our heads and chalk powder smeared on our faces.
5. Learning to Farm in Yangshuo, China
In the rural outskirts of Yangshuo, we met a farmer and his family, not just to learn how to plant rice, but also get to know them better and learn about their lives. Mr Pan and his wife had no idea why anyone would come and plant rice from them, but they were happy anyhow to have us as their guests. Pan told us one story after another about his life growing up in this village and we shared an amazing day with them. That night, we left their home with gratitude and eternal memories; we had come as strangers and left as friends.
6. Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam
We had long heard about the beautiful rice terraces of Sapa and the Hmong ethnic groups who inhabit this region — and it didn’t disappoint. While the trail was clearly well-trodden (as with most parts of Vietnam), it was still impressive – we experienced Vietnam’s backcountry, stayed in a local’s home, and met plenty of Hmong people (who all offered a helping hand during the challenging trek). Emerald green rice terraces stacked up one on top of another, as water buffaloes ploughed through the soggy field. It was definitely our favorite part of the country.
7. Celebrating Chinese New Year in Singapore
We rang in the Year of the Dragon with family and friends in Singapore. Chinese New Year is one of the most important festivals of the year in this part of the world, celebrated in fervor with a flurry of traditions and cultural practices – such as spring cleaning, reunion dinners and lion dances. It was a great time to be there – with streets and shops splashed in red, Chinese words of wishes sprawled across hallways and an infectious festive spirit in the air.
Where are we off to next?
In a week’s time, we will be heading to South Africa for a week or so of traveling with Cape Town Tourism. We will also be speaking at the Getaway Travel Blog Conference. It should be quite an exciting event, with many bloggers and industry folks from around the region gathering to discuss ideas and exchange tips. We’ll then spend two weeks traveling around Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique.
In August, we’ll be traveling to Florida and Canada before flying to California for a family reunion. I’ll then hop over to Palau for a press trip with Visit Palau – the itinerary includes scuba-diving trips, sea kayaking and swimming with jellyfish.
Right after, we’ll be back in Spain for TBEX(Travel Bloggers Exchange Conference). This time it’ll be held in Costa Brava, and we’re looking forward to catch up with our travel blogger friends and industry folks. Travel plans after that are still up in the air, but we have plans to head to Australia and Israel.
Where are you off to the next few months? Share with us!