Those of you who know me a bit will know that I don’t care much for Christmas, but the New Year is a big deal for me. The coming of a New Year is always a chance to think back on the last 12 months of my life and see how far I have come or what opportunities I’ve missed. It’s a time when I remember what a tiny scared girl like me managed to achieve and what she could have done way better. Most of all, as my life is so centred around travel, it’s a time when I think back at how blessed I am to have been able to see so many new places and learn about new cultures, even if, like all of you, I still always complain that I am not travelling enough.
So without further bla bla blas, here are my travel experiences of 2012, including the best and worst of each.
January of 2012 was one of the most exciting, scary and emotional months of my life. I was excited because I knew that I was about to leave Switzerland for good to travel in Vietnam and Singapore for 2 months, and I was terrified at the same time of the change that would bring. I was all emotional as I had 3 jobs to quit – 2 of them involving young children – and goodbyes to say. I was also super-stressed as it was hard work getting rid of all the stuff which I had accumulated in my flat – and compared to many people who have years and years worth of stuff, I had relatively nothing! – and choosing what to keep, what to give away, and what to chuck out.
In between all this maihem, we still managed to scqueeze a short trip to Berlin. We had grabbed a great accommodation deal online, and didn’t want to leave Europe without checking out the German capital. I must admit I didn’t have any expectations, but it turned out that Berlin is just amazing: good and cheap food, friendly people, a rich history and so so much culture.
This photo was taken at the Pergamon Museum, and I love the colours of the ancient gate, coupled with the fact that you can see how huge it is because all the people beneath it are providing a sense of scale.
-Checking out Museum island
- Walking along the East Side gallery, even if it was freezing cold
- Going on a walking tour of Berlin, with a stop at the Hackesche Hofe (courtyard)
That I didn’t have more time. Due to basically needing to be back in Switzerland to pack boxes and say teary goodbyes, I only had three nights in Berlin, but that didn’t do it justice, at all.
This is what Switzerland looked like when I left at the end of January…
Foolish me. The ‘warm’ weather (i.e. not subzero and not snowy) had held up until the middle of January. I had but a week left in the country, and when my expensive snow shoes broke, I simply threw them away and didn’t think much of it. I also threw away most of my thickest clothes in preparation for a move to South East Asia. And then it happened. The snow came, as did -10 degrees temperatures. I didn’t want to spend money on snow clothes I wouldn’t use again, so it wasn’t fun, and it was painful, and I ended up boarding my plane bound for Hanoi a week later with frozen feet and drenched socks after walking through 15 cm of snow in the world’s most inappropriate shoes.
And then, I ended up in…
The plan was to spend a month in Hanoi as I was doing a CELTA course, and explore the surrounding area during that time. I’d then make my way South in around 3 weeks, visiting Hue, Danang, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Dalat, Mui Ne, Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong delta.
Rooftop views of Hanoi.
Misty, moody Halong Bay.
The colourful gates of the Imperial Enclosure, Hue.
Local women washing their containers in the river, Hoi An.
Locals having a dip in the ocean on a warm sunny day, Danang.
The Opera House, Ho Chi Minh City.
Riding on a motorbike/truck through small villages down in the Mekong delta.
- Getting to know Hanoi and meeting lots of locals by staying there for a month.
- Visiting Halong bay over 2 cold and misty days (no crowds, more picturesque) and overnighting on Cat Ba Island.
- Hopping on a dragon boat and exploring temples and tombs along the Perfume river in Hue.
- Being almost the only foreigners in Danang, and enjoying the beautiful beach with views of Monkey mountain.
- Taking a cooking class in Hoi An.
Hoi An, hands down.
- Amazing all-round menu at New Day, Hanoi: pop into the actual kitchen and pick and choose from the food on display, or order from the extensive menu. The staff is friendly and efficient, and this place is popular with travellers and locals alike
- Dessert at Cargo Club, Hoi An.
- La Carambole French restaurant, Hue
- A little local restaurant behind the Victoria Can Tho resort, whose name I can’t remember, where I had the best Vietnamese pancake ever, complete with bugs.
- The super expensive restaurants along the beach in Danang, which caused me to practically go hungry for two days.
- Getting sick: Boyfriend started running a horrendous fever on the second day in Nha Trang. He had to endure a 5-hour bus trip to Dalat, where he didn’t get out of his hotel room for 3 whole days. I was worried about him, so I mostly kept him company and basically didn’t see anything of Dalat. We then caught a 5 hour bus to Mui Ne, where he got better but I developed a massive fever. By the time we reached Ho Chi Minh city, I had a bad throat infection and needed to see a doctor and get antibiotics. I was miserable and unable to appreciate eating for the first couple of days in Hoi Chi Minh, until the antibiotics started working.
At the end of March, we took a short flight from Ho Chi Minh city to Sinagpore, and stayed there for a week.
Lanterns at the Singapore History Museum.
- Staying at the funky Hotel 1929
- Visiting the Singapore Zoo with its free range orangutans, and visiting the beautiful Orchid gardens.
- Walking along the waterfront as day turned into night
- The amazing, and often cheap (if you know where to go) food
- The crazy busy China town
- The heat during the day when it’s not overcast. I really don’t enjoy sightseeing when it’s that hot.
The last stop on a journey which took me halfway across the globe to a new life, a new home, and a new job involved landing in Melbourne, Australia. As I have no plan to leave at this point in time, I have been very lazy and very slow at exploring what’s around me. After all, what’s the hurry!
Favourite Photo (so far):
The colourful beach boxes at Brighton Beach, worth around 400,000 dollars each…
Best and Worst? Too early to say yet!
Christchurch, New Zealand
Just when I thought I wouldn’t be ticking any more boxes on my travel wish-list, I got the opportunity to go to Christchurch, New Zealand, on a work trip which was aimed at finding ways to promote the earthquake-struck city and encourage travellers to return to this fascinating and dynamic place.
A beautiful mountain view while jet boating.
- Discovering the many ways in which the city is ‘popping back up‘ on its feet with creativity and colour.
- Never having one boring moment with all the things to do in and around Christchurch.
- Not fully being able to enjoy views of Christchurch from high up in a helicopter because the movement was giving me motion sickness!
I am absolutely crazy excited that I’ve booked flights to Japan for an epic three-week holiday starting at the end of April. Other than that, I’ll probably avoid long periods of time on planes, and focus on seeing more of Victoria via easy day trips or weekend breaks, and perhaps exploring North Australia during our Winter. Darwin? The red centre? Not sure yet.
A merry Christmas and a very happy New Year to you!
-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @www.theartofslowtravel.com. All rights reserved.