My favourite Destinations in 2013
This post is a hard one to write as I was privilaged to have traveled and seen a few countries this year. Its always nice to take on any adventure and experience new locations where I have not been before. When visiting any location there are some that touches your soul and makes it stand out from others. Recapping on all my favorites I choose a destination that surprised me the most and a combination of things made it my favorite travled destination for 2013…. LAOS!!
So… Before I talk about amazing Loas, I first want to point out some of my other favorites and moments that took my breath away.
1. Singapore, Singapore
This city is something out of this world and probably my favourite city I’ve seen in terms of architecture. You can visit this fast growing city every two years and I believe it will just keep changing. They are building and improving at a tremendous and unbelievable pace. Marina Bay, underground malls, Sentosa Island and the huge resident buildings are impressive… but I was literary staring at the Marina Bay Sands for three hours the first time I saw it. I was also very lucky to stay with someone from Couchsurfing in one of the most recognisable residential building in Marina Bay, The Sail @ Marina Bay!! Singapore will keep you busy until all your money is finished! What a city!!
2. Beijing, China
China has some impressive cities, but Beijing was the one that really climbed into my heart. You need to prepare yourself because you won’t understand anything and they won’t understand you! In Beijing you’ll be able to get some of the best Chinese Cruizine at one of the hundreds, if not thousands of restaurants. I ate until my money was finished when I climbed on the plane back to South Africa. Don’t leave Beijing until you had their famous Roast Duck… and eat a few unknown dishes! Then there is one of my favourites of all time… The Great Wall of China! If you visit Beijing make sure you do your research and climb some of the more remote parts of the wall. Then there is other amazing sights like Forbidden City, Capital Museum, Olympic Park, Lama Temple, Summer Palace, The Palace Museum, Tian’an Men and so many more!!! One more thing you can’t miss… the Bullet Train. Jump on it and go to one of so many locations across China while doing 300 km/h.
3. Cape Town, South Africa
I don’t say this because Im from Cape Town, but this city is still one of the best cities in the world. While doing my cycling adventure I will seek for a city that is able to beat Cape Town. I always say, “if you are bored in Cape Town, its your own fault”! If you like sports you can choose one you like… Road running, trail running, cycling, mountain biking, surfing, kite surfing, rugby, football (soccer)… I can go on forever. In the summer you can enjoy a breakfast at one of the 200 or something wine farms or just jump from one farm to another to taste world class wines. The weather can get wet in the winter, but then you can choose from the hundreds of restaurants, bars and cafe’s to enjoy the company of your friends. Cape Town will give you some of the best beach days, paradise for photographers, beer @ bars on the beach (Blue Peter – My Favourite), amazing sunsets, friendly people and soooo much more! Best time to visit is between February and March. Table Mountain has also been named as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World and believe me… the more you look at the beautiful mountain, you’ll understand why it is so magical.
I’ve heard stories about Malaysian food and all of them was true. Mala (a friend I met on Couchsurfing) made my experience in Malaysia so much better as she took me around the local markets to taste some of their cruizine they had to offer. The great thing about Malaysian food is all the influences in their culture, like Malay, Indian and Asian. So, if you visit Malaysia, make sure you find some local markets and eat as much as you can!!! Thats what I did, because it was to delicious to stop!!
When you think of Vietnam some things like snake, spiders and dog might pop up in your mind… Well, all these things are available, but their are so much more the local food has to offer. Yet again, you need to go to local markets and taste your way through them to discover your favourites. There are some interesting things to see in the markets but if you look further you’ll find food that will blow your mind! When visiting any Asian country the food is a mayor part of your experience in that country…. So go out and make sure you eat as many food as you can. Some might be a bit daring but trust me, take the risk and it will pay off!
During the whole of my South East Asia trip, the Chinese food was the cheapest and its very hard to say, but China might just be the country where I had the best food in 2013. From the South in Nanning to Beijing and Shanghai, these locations have some of the most tasty, fresh food I’ve tasted in my life!! Like Malaysia and Vietnam, go for the LOCAL MARKETS! You might not be able to read the menu’s and understand what the cooks say, but maybe its for the better ;). You can look around and point what you what. So take your time, look around, look what other people eat and buy some food that you wont forget you ate the rest of your life! You can have a proper meal for about $1!
1. Ko Toa, Thailand
The island of Ko Toa on the East side of Thailand is one of those locations where I decided to stay longer, just because it was so relaxing I did not want to leave. I can go on about this location but the sunsets was the one thing that stood out above all the other great experiences. I had a spectacular sunset, every day, while I was here. So make sure you a two cold beers, camera and kick off your sandals while you enjoy the amazing sunsets on of the white beaches.
2. Cape Town, South Africa
I lived in Big Bay, Cape Town, and it was 100m from the beach, so I had the chance to see so many of the great sunsets Cape Town had throughout the year. Cape Town definitely has some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world with the perfect scenery in the background with the white beaches, ocean, Robben Island and mountain.
1. Climbing to Summit of Chang Dao – Northern Thailand
One of my favourite moments in 2013 and was also one of the toughest ones as we climbed to the summit in three hours! The whole experience about this day made it one of my favourites of 2013. From sneaking into the National Park in the dark early in the morning, making the steep climb while still dark, the sunrise, final climb to the peak, the summit, the decline and finally resting back at the lodge after a long shower! The climb to the summit,2225m, was tough as we were speeding up, because we heard its actually a two day climb. The pace that was set by Mads was hard as I was not so fit at the time :). The views from the top was amazing and one of my breathless moments of 2013… because of the views…. And the significant climb 🙂
2. Cycling the Nullarbor, Australia
Traveling through the Nullarbor was one of my dreams and this year I was able to cross it on my bicycle! The Nullarbor is probably one of my favourite experiences and things I’ve done on my life. The remote destination, nothingness, wildlife, people and the challenge made it shoot to the top of so many things I’ve done! Crossing the nullarbor in a car, bicycle or motorcycle will be a great experience, but make sure you don’t rush through it and take in the smaller things in life. One other thing thats makes the experience even better is the other travellers on the road. Always friendly, talkative and offering help when you need it the most. The Nullarbor gave me a total new perspective about Australia. So as you cross, look out for things we’ve seen like snakes, kangaroos, eagles, spiders, Dingo and so much more!
Walking on THE WALL has always been one of my dreams and I was privileged to had the chance to make that dream a reality earlier this year. I decided not walk the touristic route and seek some remote part, that was difficult to get to and experience something different than other tourists. My idea was not to walk where hundreds are walking at the same time, like ants while trying to get some good photos. Getting to the part of the wall where I wanted to walk was a difficult task but on the way met some other travellers from Netherlands. After starting our trekking on the wall, we were alone more than 90% of the way and this gave us the opportunity to have a unique experience and take amazing photos during our four hour trekking!
TOP 5 DESTINATIONS
5. Countrysides, green and and relaxing Ireland
Ireland is a beautiful country. We were fortunate enough to get some amazing weather during the winter. We stayed off the highways and discovered the real Ireland! I had some pictures in my mind after so many movies and when I got here… it was exactly like I imagined.
4. Northern Wales
Before my visit in Wales, I did not know Snowdonia existed and boy was I surprised when we cycled through this amazing and beautiful landscape!
3. Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia
Climbing onto a slow boat heading to any island in Asia is exiting, but the feeling when we reached Nusa Lebongan was something out of this world. Blue, crystal clear water with boats, villages and hotels on the beach. I stood on the edge of this boat trying to find words but nothing came out of my mouth. Taking your snorkking gear and just walk into the water and discover the most amazing reefs was one of the moments I will never forget in my life.
2. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
I believe Ha Long Bay has all the qualities any tourist attraction needs… Great food, great company, meeting new friends and sights that will blow your mind. Ha Long Bay is by far my single most favourite natural sight and will be difficult to beat. Spending a few days between the 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars, will change your life. Most of the time I just mumbled, because I could not find words to describe what Im seeing.
Soooo, finally my number one location… LAOS !!!!
I almost skipped Loas and in the end I was planning to do a week trip through this country…. and I ended on staying for a month!
I was reading on how to get into Laos and found out it is not as easy as it might seem. In the end I read so many bad stories about the slow boat and I decided to go and find out why everyone complains so much, because it can’t be that bad. Taking this slow boat changed my whole South East Asia trip and met so many great people. That slow boat and all the memories will stay with me for the rest of my life!
Luang Prabang – This city came out of nowhere. When you go into an Asia city you expect that it will be dirty, messy and difficult to navigate. Well this was one of the cleanest and pretty cities I’ve visited to date. Yet again meeting new people, drinking cold bear looking over the river, bowling and roof surfing on Tuk Tuks!
Vang Vieng – I stayed in Vang Vieng for over a week… Not because of the hard ass drinking or tubing, but I helped out building a community building just outside of Vang Vieng. This was so cool as I got the chance to meet more locals and actually get to know their culture better. Drinking beer together with one glass and sharing was a great local experience. And then there is the local Lao Lao 🙂 Well… all I can say is STRONG! If you are in town go and have a beer at the Aussie bar… their beer is REALLY COLD!
4000 Island – Yet again did not know what to expect but this is probably one of the most relaxing places in the world. They have no rules and you just chill in hammocks the whole day or float on tubes down the river.
Loas had everything… Great sights, friendly locals, great travellers, delicious food, cheap beer and just an overall experience that touched my soul 🙂 This is why Laos made my Number 1 Traveling Destination for 2013 !!!