This year was a huge year for me. When I started in January I was expecting a few travels here and there, the big ones were: Hong Kong for a conference and Indonesia for a wedding. Little did I know that I would be heading off to another dream destination a few months after, Seoul, South Korea. That trip was a memorable first for me, I didn’t expect it but at the same time I welcomed it because it was an opportunity to travel solo, something I had been meaning to do for quite some time now. In the last part of my three part year in review series, let’s take a look back some of the best places I’ve visited this 2016.
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Like I said earlier, this year was a big year for travel for me, clocking in over 13976kms, I was able to cover a good part of Indonesia, revisit Hong Kong, and explore Seoul. Undoubtedly these trips were the true highlights of my year and I am eager to share some of the best experiences I had all throughout.
When I visited Hong Kong for the first time in 2012, I did all of the touristy things: HK Disneyland, Ocean Park, Mongkok Night Market, Victoria’s Peak. But I was unable to fit in a museum trip or some sort during that time. When I was given the opportunity to go back earlier this year, I promised myself to visit at least 3 museums. I ended up visiting only two.
I had a lot of fun in this museum, not because it had the words history on it, but because of the gigantic displays inside it. There were life-sized replicas of ancient villages, burial sights, and colonial buildings that really made this museum quite experiential. For the casual visitor, the trove of information and the amazing sights are a welcome break from all the shopping.
Sadly I didn’t really have the chance to fully explore this museum, when I arrived the museum was about to close and that only gave me about 10 minutes to see some of the exhibits. But what struck me about this museum were the stunning views of the harbor, the misty mountains, and the peaceful ambiance for a wartime memorial. So next time, I will make it a goal to visit this museum and devote more time to really enjoying and learning about coastal defence.
The next stop in my 2016 adventure was Indonesia. This trip was a memorable one: it was mine and Tricia’s first overseas trip as a couple together and my first time to attend a Muslim wedding. Those 11 days in Indonesia were quite fun and was a grand adventure. Traveling from Jakarta to Yogyakarta and then to Bandung and back on trains was a highlight of the trip.
The Wayang Museum wasn’t our first stop in Jakarta, in fact it was second but I had the most fun in this museum. I had always been interested in puppets and this museum was a good place to learn about it. The museum had wonderful exhibits of traditional leather and wood puppets as well as foreign made ones. At the end of our trip, a man named Aldy Sanjaya approached us and invited us to his workshop. Aldy showed us how he makes his leather puppets, gave us a fantastic show, and we left with a few souvenirs along the way. If ever you spot him in the Wayang Museum, accept his invitation and learn something cool and interesting.
From Jakarta we made our way across Indonesia’s main island to the ancient city of Yogyakarta (pronounce Jogjakarta) to see the majestic Hindu and Buddhist temples the city had to offer. Our day started early to catch the sunrise in Borobudur, but since we didn’t stay in the hotel there we took the next best thing watching the sunrise from Setumbu hill where we saw the light touch the stupas of Borobudur and the orange glow of Mt. Merapi behind it. In Borobudur, we climbed flights and flights of stairs while enjoying the magnificent reliefs about Buddha’s life. At the top, we took in the breathless landscape before us, enjoyed the early morning sun and wished said our wishes.
After enjoying Borobudur, we took the opposit route and visited Prambanan. Here, Tricia and I had to enter and have our pictures taken separately lest we challenge the belief that couples who enter the temple are doomed to break up after. Beliefs aside, this beautiful temple was just as majestic and marvelous as Borobudur. The towering structures were marvelous and made me feel small. Inside, these towers were a joy to climb and peer inside. It also helped that the weather was perfect and was perfect for walking all day long.
All of these destinations: Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bandung wouldn’t be possible without the trains we took. This was the first time I took a train to get to somewhere very far, usually it would be by bus, plane or boat, but taking the train was a wonderful experience. Watching the Indonesian countryside whizz past us by while we talked, read, and slept made for a very chill experience.
South Korea, one of my dream destinations simply because I wanted to see the Demilitarized Zone, the border between North and South Korea was realized during the latter part of this year. I went to South Korea for a conference and this was a huge trip for me, it was the first time I would be traveling alone and I was both apprehensive and excited at that time. Since the conference was a whole week, I decided to maximize my stay by adding a few extra days before and after, that way I could see the sights of Seoul.
My first stop was the South Korea’s national museum to learn everything there is to know about the country I would be staying in for more than week. This massive museum covered the basics: prehistoric origins to the early civilizations that migrated to Korea. This museum covered a lot of the basics and was a good way for me to know who the Koreans are and learn all about their rich culture.
Another interesting museum. In the War Memorial I learned more about the Korean War than I ever did from my textbook or the reference books I use for class. What I liked about this museum were the beautiful exhibits, the rich artifacts and the information that practically covered everything that I needed to know. For war buffs and those generally interested in this part of Korea’s history, this is a must visit.
Despite my country hopping this year, my home continues to give me beautiful memories and a lot of firsts and first times in a long time moments.
Waking up at the crack of dawn and making our way to Mt. Pinatubo isn’t how I want to start my Sunday. But the chance to experience this place before it gets hot was something Tricia didn’t want me to pass up. Despite my growing frame and general out of weight feeling, we were able to make the trek and reach the beautiful crater lake but note before admiring the desolate, barren, and majestic route going there.
The last time I visited this island was waaaaaay back in 2003. With my officemates for an ocular, I returned to this elusive island, with its batteries and battle worn barracks to learn all about World War II in the Philippines. The whole day tour took me from one end of the island to the other side, with stops along the way highlighting the life and times of the defenders of the island.