The year 2013 was quite an interesting one for me. Most poignantly, it saw me cementing myself properly in the travel industry, churning out the ethnographic-centred article in a local publication every once in a while as a testament to my old love.
In the midst of change, new opportunities and life-defining decisions, the year was certainly an adventure in itself, yet we somehow managed to sprinkle a couple of notable travel experiences in-between.
Instead of long, meandering journeys where time seeped through our fingers, my fiancé and I disappeared on the weekends, perfecting strategies to uncover cities within 48 hours – far from my preferred mode of travel, but a necessary evil when immersed in the flurry of full-time responsibilities.
Unlike the year before, there were no South Asian adventures that spanned over a couple of months. Nevertheless, new frontiers were crossed, and I like to think that we ended the year having learnt a little more about the world and its astounding diversity and beauty.
Here are some highlights:
1) Climbing volcanoes in Indonesia
Last year’s climbs resulted in me successfully scaling Indonesia’s three highest volcanoes. After climbing Lombok’s Gunung Rinjani in 2011, the second-highest in the archipelago, a friend and I took on two volcanoes in 2013. We started with Indonesia’s highest volcano, Gunung Kerinci, located in a remote part of Sumatra and perched at 3,805 metres in altitude. Next, we added East Java’s Gunung Semeru to the mix, combining the climb with a visit to Bromo and the region’s picturesque highlands.
2) Turning 28 with my toes in the soft sands of Thailand’s Koh Lipe
On the Thai-Malaysian border lies Koh Lipe, an idyllic island that is easily accessed by ferry from Hat Yai or Malaysia’s Langkawi. Crystal clear waters, powdery soft sand and plenty of cocktails, grilled fish and Thai food.
This birthday getaway was made especially memorable because it was shared with three wonderful individuals who travelled to Ladakh with me in 2012. My travel initiative, Travel with Metta, planned a cultural immersion trip to Ladakh, and Dennis, Emily and Sandeep were part of the team. Strangers before the project, we connected in the Himalayas over social entrepreneurship workshops, stunning landscapes and countless cups of chai.
3) Spending more than just a weekend in Bali
Living a stone’s throw away from Bali means I am guilty of hopping over for short getaways that merely gleam the surface of this beautiful island. Last year, my fiancé and I made conscious efforts to see more than just the tourist hotspots in south Bali. On one particular trip, we rented a villa in Canggu for two weeks, invited a bunch of our friends over, and used it as a base to explore different parts of the island. Heaps of fun, and a fabulous way to experience Bali!
4) Taking my first steps on the African continent
My very first trip to the African continent saw me traipsing across Zambia, Botswana and South Africa to experience an assortment of safari camps, private concessions and national parks. I went with few expectations and a harried itinerary, returning with a bounty of incredible wildlife encounters and stunning African sunsets etched in my memory.
Hopping from lodge to lodge meant I never got to see the Africa of everyday lives, but this first visit has left me intrigued and I am eager to return and commence a thorough exploration of the continent’s different facets.
5) Celebrating the new year on the island of Socotra in Yemen
To finish off the year, we decided to end with another ‘first’. This time around, we stepped foot on the periphery of the Middle East, a region we had not previously had the chance to visit. For two weeks, we camped on the island of Socotra, an incredible destination home to ancient flora that continue to thrive despite the island’s harsh conditions. 30% of its plants are endemic, the most iconic of which is the Dragon’s Blood Tree and its viscose dark red sap. We trekked through the jagged Hagghier mountains amidst dense forests of these strangely beautiful trees, and ended the trip on white sand beaches with dolphins playing in the distance. It was a trip of ups, downs, and plenty of juxtapositions – I will be writing more about it soon.