Highlights of Our 6-Month Trip in Asia

Posted on July 25, 2012 by

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.

Whale Shark in Cebu

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.

Sunset in Bagan

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.

Songkran in Bangkok

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.

Farming in Yangshuo, China

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.

Rice terraces of Sapa

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.

Chinese New Year celebration in Singapore


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.

It’s going to get even more hectic over the next few months, and we can’t wait! Follow us on the journey either here or on Twitter and Facebook.

Where are you off to the next few months? Share with us!

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

13 Responses to “Highlights of Our 6-Month Trip in Asia”

  1. Jeremy Branham July 26, 2012 4:58 pm #

    Awesome adventures! Love the trekking in Vietnam and the sunset. Bummed I won't meet you at TBEX. I had a ticket but other travel plans conflicted. Hope all of you have a great time and hope you're having fun in South Africa :)

  2. mikehinshaw July 29, 2012 12:00 am #

    Thanks for your post. Really jealous Nellie. have a great time in South Africa and Costa Brava. "Safe Travels" !!!

  3. Agarwals October 15, 2012 1:26 am #

    Hi! I have been to singapore about 4 times already and in my experience there is really awesome ,as it is a small country and going around is very easy. Transportation is okay :) Also its an english speaking country so its easy to communicate. You just have to plan ahead on where you want to go.

    • @WildJunket March 29, 2013 7:18 pm #

      hi there, good to hear that you enjoy Singapore! I'm originally from Singapore so it's nice going home from time to time. :)

  4. Allensharon October 17, 2012 1:22 am #

    Enjoy a beautiful sunset among the temples. Watching the sun go down with an ancient Buddhist temple in the foreground makes for a wonderful sight and great addition to your holiday snaps. With so many temples here, it's easy to find a quiet one to enjoy this spectacular scene.

  5. murali October 17, 2012 1:51 am #

    Thank you for this cool post. I love this adventure and your photography was looking so good.I like the sharks picture very much..

  6. andrea October 17, 2012 2:08 am #

    Good adventure … Its seems that Asia is the heaven on the Earth

  7. Gorge Walking March 27, 2013 9:03 am #

    I'm so jealous, swimming with whale sharks! How long did you search until you managed to find one? Ive heard that they can be fairly elusive creatures.

    • @WildJunket March 29, 2013 7:20 pm #

      We were SO lucky! We actually went to Donsol first to see the whale sharks but only got a small glimpse of it after searching for three hours. Then we were at Sumilon island and heard that there were chances of seeing whale sharks nearby at the village of Oslob so we headed there one day and saw it upclose. It was an amazing experience. :)

  8. TeacherGig August 2, 2013 11:04 pm #

    I read your post on North Korea as well, and it was very moving. This is a great look at some of the destinations around Asia… And I've only been to one of them! Singapore is still one of my favorite cities in the world, and if I ever strike it rich, I'll definitely me immigrating.

    Myanmar is still very high on my to-do list. Mostly because I had a Burman roommate (that's how he described his ethnicity… not Burmese). He was an (how to put this mildly) unpleasant person. I vowed to myself when I moved to Asia that I would visit that country to prove that the man was not representative of his people. I've been in Taiwan 8 years now, and I haven't plucked up enough courage to go. I've been seeing lots of wonderful experiences online, though, and including yours I may just get out to take a look for myself.

    Thanks for the most recent additions to my bucket list! Safe travels!

    • Nellie August 6, 2013 11:02 am #

      hi there, thanks for sharing your thoughts! You\’ll have to visit Myanmar to see it for yourself – the people there are definitely some of the nicest and kindest I\’ve met. They were helpful and always approaching us to see if we needed help. Foreigners are obviously still not a common sight there, but they are more than eager to have more visitors. It must be very different from Taiwan (which we haven\’t been) but I\’m quite sure you\’ll like it. Let us know when you visit!


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