In retrospect, it’s bizarre that the year I skipped posting my yearly travel review would turn out to be the last pre-COVID19 year. 2019 was an exceptionally busy year, but weirdly it’s also the year I squeezed in a record-high 73 days on the road.
73 days. 13 trips. 10 countries. ONLY 7 leave days taken!
- 2-13 Jan: Egypt (12D) – work FAM trip
- 2-6 Feb: Myanmar (5D) – 0.5 leave day
- 6-7 Apr: Bintan, Indonesia (2D) – 0 leave day
- 19-21 Apr: Kuching, Malaysia (3D) – 0 leave day
- 22-28 Apr: Hong Kong (7D) – business trip + weekend holiday extension
- 17-20 May: Natuna, Indonesia (4D) – 0 leave day
- 14-25 Jun: Kyrgyzstan & Kazakhstan (12D) – work FAM trip
- 19-21 Jul: Malacca, Malaysia (3D) – 0 leave day
- 9-12 Aug: Labuan Bajo, Indonesia (4D) – 0 leave day
- 12-13 Oct: Johor Bahru, Malaysia (2D) – 0 leave day
- 25-28 Oct: Phu Quoc, Vietnam (4D) – 0 leave day
- 8-10 Nov: Bangkok, Thailand (3D) – 0 leave day
- 20 Dec-5 Jan: India (17D) – 12D in 2019, of which 6.5 leave days were taken
[Image Credit: Remote Lands]
Egypt: More than the Pharaohs
I came to Egypt expecting tomb and ruins, but I discovered so much than that. The country is layered with so much history ranging from its Ancient Egypt, Coptic, Islamic to modern heritage. I had a really cool experience to enter the Grand Egyptian Museum before it’s opening, but more tha that, I discovered a world of friendly people, delicious food and many memories.
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Myanmar: Southeast Asia’s Forgotten Corner
I continued my grand tradition of Chinese New Year family trip. The thousand pagodas of Bagan is expectedly grand, but Inle Lake also offers plenty of rural charm and Yangon’s golden-gilded stupas are no less impressive.
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Indonesia: Endless Hidden Corners
While the trip to Bintan was the easy do-nothing escape which I was craving for, I managed to visit the virtually unknown Natuna which is simultaneously the Seychelles and Uyuni of Asia; and also a trip to Labuan Bajo aboard our private boat charter where we spot as many as 8 komodo dragons!
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Malaysia: Ever-Reliable Neighbor Across the Causeway
Whenever I run out of ideas, Malaysia is always ready to supply endless getaway options. Both Malacca and Johor Bahru were an easy trip with friends [I’m really learning to slow down a lot :)], while a solo trip to Kuching with its delicious food, vibrant waterfront and impressive Dayak culture is probably my favorite Malay city to date.
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Hong Kong: Work Hard, Play Hard
I have fond memories working from Hong Kong with my lovely colleagues, whom showed me around where to get all the good food. I visited my auntie who brought me around The Peak (I finally saw it after missing it a few years back). And when the weekend hits, a friend flew over and then our drinking gets wild as we hopped across 4 clubs every night, yet somehow mustered the energy to visit Sai Kung geopark and Chi Lin nunnery the next morning. I can’t with myself lol.
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Kyrgyzstan & Kazakhstan: Tracing the Silk Road
It’s easy to conclude that I failed 75% of my travel resolutions, but I definitely made my Central Asia dream happen after working hard to grow Central Asia business for my company. As expected, the natural landscape is just astounding and the nomadic culture is beguiling. And then, of course there are the horse meats…
Vietnam: Into the Coast
Together with Indonesia, Vietnam is definitely one of the most scenic Southeast Asian countries. This was actually my fourth time in Vietnam, but instead of heading to the usual suspects, I hopped on a connecting flight to Phu Quoc for a… yes, do nothing holiday. As always, Vietnam never failed to disappoint with its rooftop bars and drinks!
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Thailand: Endless Parties
I guess the only other travel resolution I achieved is to tone down my solo trips (with Kuching being my ONLY solo trip for the entire of 2019)—this trip to Bangkok where we hopped across countless bars, pubs and clubs represent so much memories with dearly friends.
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India: Land of the Maharajas
My virgin trip to South Asia is one that I have died to make happen for years. India has a grand reputation for being a love-or-hate-it destination, and I am happy to report that I absolutely LOVE it. I started out in Punjab, spend a long time in both iconic and rural Rajasthan before ending off in Uttar Pradesh. Funnily, even my mom whom didn’t love India all that much with its hectic mess has come to think of it very fondly now. 🙂
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A Closing Thought
What’s immediate is that 2019 was the year of short weekend getaways; maybe some of you might not count Johor Bahru and Malacca, but hey, we should treasure whatever few days we have abroad!
There’s also that glaring 0.5 leave day for the first 11 months of the year, saved slightly with the India trip at the end. No wonder I hit a mental burnout sometime in the early days of “circuit breaker” (that’s Singapore’s version of lockdown). Maybe I should’ve taken more time off and also treasure my leave days without taking them for granted.
I will be posting my 2020 travel review soon. Oh yes, I actually did have 4 trips in total for 2020 despite it being the pandemic year; sometimes I surprised even myself lol.