This is the third time I'm writing an end of year review, and it's always nice to have a look back on the places I've been lucky enough to visit.
You can read my end of year review for 2017 here.
You can read my end of year review for 2016 here.
For the first time, I didn't do an extended trip, but instead took a large number of smaller trips to cities in Europe, Asia and North America.
I kicked off the year in Italy, visiting Rome (including a quick stop in the Vatican), Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. I then went to Asia where I returned to Singapore after 5 years. I then experienced a personal highlight exploring Kuala Lumpur and the nearby Batu Caves. It was back to Europe as I visited Vienna, Frankfurt and Zurich in quick succession. I then had a change of pace as I climbed the 'Rock' during my time in Gibraltar. I finally got to visit a city I've wanted to see for a long time when I made the trip to Berlin. As summer turned to autumn I returned to Amsterdam before ending the year with short trips to New York and Edinburgh.
As with the posts the last two years, you can click any of the blue links to read in depth reviews of each location.
Not many cities have surprised me the way that Kuala Lumpur did. I didn't have particularly high expectations when I visited, but I was completely blown away by the character of this city. Often overlooked for Hong Kong, Bangkok or Singapore, Kuala Lumpur is one of the best examples of old meets new and a must visit city. It has incredible food, jaw dropping architecture, it's cheap and there's a decent Sikh population out there. I had quite an adventure in KL and my detailed review can be read here. You can also read top 5 lists of other cities that I have visited here. As with most places I enjoy, it's difficult narrowing the list down to just 5 things I loved about KL, but I've given it a go.
I originally wrote this list a few years back, but earlier this year I visited Singapore for the second time (you can read about it here). I realised that the things I enjoyed about Singapore had shifted a little, and therefore I probably needed to update this list.
That's exactly what I've done, so read on for my 5 favourite things about Singapore
Airport Rating N/A
Reception of locals N/A
Despite being built just over 10 years ago, the entrance to the Batu Caves with the large statue of the Hindu God, Murugan, has become one of the most famous images of Malaysia. Stories of the caves' history, and a desire to see the statue in person led me to taking the very short journey north from Kuala Lumpur to the site of the Batu Caves. This article covers my thoughts from the caves as well as sharing how to get from Kuala Lumpur to the Batu Caves.
Airport Rating ****
Reception of locals ****
My visit to Singapore gave me the opportunity to take a side trip to nearby Kuala Lumpur, giving me my first taste of Malaysia. The city is relatively new, established in its modern form some 30 years after Singapore, yet somehow it feels comparatively ancient. I managed to spend 4 days in the city, and although I'll write a separate article on the Batu Caves, this post covers my thoughts and observations on an often overlooked city.
Airport Rating *****
Reception of locals *****
I recently had the opportunity to head back to Singapore, my first trip to the city state in almost 5 years. If you read my previous article on Singapore, you'll note that I only stayed a couple of days and mentioned it was one of the places I'd like to visit again, only with more time to spare.
Well I finally had the chance to revisit it, and I spent almost a week exploring areas of Singapore that I didn't have a chance to see the first time around. Read on for more about my views and observations about one of the more divisive places in Asia.
It's one of only a handful of one party communist states in the world and is best known in the west for two very violent wars that were fought in the territory in 20th century.
There is no doubt the Vietnamese people have had a rough couple of hundred years. After first being colonised by the French, they were then overrun by the Japanese during the Second World War. Two bloody wars of freedom followed, first defeating the French, and then defeating the Americans.
The country was, for decades, an international pariah. However, a shift to a more markets based economy has seen the country post impressive growth figures and is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world. In addition, a tourism sector that was destroyed by war is also thriving. I paid a visit to two of the major cities in Vietnam; Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), capturing the life of these two distinct areas of the country; two areas that were once bitter enemies, now reunited as one Vietnam.
Ancient ruins, mountains and countryside
Northern Thailand refers to the mountainous north of the country, a whole world away from the golden beaches and blue seas of the south. The area roughly corresponds to the mountainous area bordering Myanmar and Laos, however in this article I have gone as far south as Sukhothai, which is about 4/5 hours north of Bangkok.
The north of Thailand is one of my favourite parts of the world. The amazing history of Sukhothai is complemented by the cosmopolitan twin cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, the former being one of the highlights of my visit.
Sukhothai is famed for its historical park that has literally hundreds of statues of Buddha and ancient temples that are best explored by cycling. It was about an hour into the long journey north from Sukhothai that I began to feel a difference in the climate and landscape. The humidity and flat terrain of the south was slowly replaced by a crisp air and mountainous landscape. The road was bounded by greenery on all sides and the hectic pace of Bangkok tranformed into a slow crawl.
Up until the early 1900's the Lanna area of the north was relatively independent and the natives are still fiercely proud of their local traditions and customs. I was lucky enough to visit Lampang, a city the northerners refer to as the 'last true paradise' of Thailand. Staying in a village about an hour outside the city was one of my favourite experiences and I spent my time there visiting local cottage industries as well as a school.
Further north is Chiang Mai, a city becoming increasingly popular with tourists. The night market in Chiang Mai is incredible and the nightlife in general is very lively. The area has a significant Burmese influence, not just due to its proximity to the country but also having lived under Burmese rule. The city is the capital of the north, built in a valley, surrounded by mountains and is a great starting point for treks further north to the hill tribes. It's also a great place to spend a few days (or weeks) exploring the many temples, restaurants or getting lost in the streets.
Cambodia is a country with a history as tragic as any you will hear about. During the rule and subsequent guerrilla campaign of the Khmer Rouge between 1968 and the late 1990's, up to 2 million people were killed, representing a quarter of the total population. Most of these deaths happened over a 4 year period between 1975-1979 during the 'killing fields' era.
Despite a whole generation of Cambodians being wiped out, you can't help but see the positivity permeating in the country. The demographics are very youthful and there is an energy unmatched anywhere else. Sure there is still a lot of development that needs to happen as the difference between Cambodia and its two neighbouring countries, Vietnam and Thailand is extremely noticeable but changes are happening.
In this article I have included a selection of my favourite photo's that I took across the country, pictures that I think can give you a feel for Cambodia, its culture and its attractions.
I've been to Thailand a couple of times now, but before I first went out there, I had no idea how much cash to take with me or how much I would be spending out there.
I found Thailand to be one of my better value for money experiences. Sure, its not cheap to get there, however if you book flights in advance, you can get a good deal, especially with Russian or Chinese airlines. While you are out there, you really do get bang for your buck. You can do a whole range of activities, for a fraction of the cost of doing them in European cities.
I won't lie, I did have to save some money before I went, no matter how cheap a place is, spending a significant amount of time away from home will always eat into savings. Whats strange is, the longer you stay, the cost per day actually falls, this is because you begin to realise the cheapest places to eat and the most cost effective ways of travelling or finding shelter for the night.
How expensive is Thailand? Here's my take...
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.