Last year, when I wrote my end of year review (which you can read here), the world seemed to be going through a lot of changes, and I had a busy year too.
2017 was a lot more settled as I spent most of my year living and working in New York and the rest of the year in London. My first impressions of New York laid the foundation for an amazing time in the city that never sleeps from visiting all the famous pizzerias, to discovering all the best museums NYC has to offer. You can't visit New York without seeing all the famous skyscrapers which I made sure to do. I managed to really experience American culture by attending at least one game of every major American sport and even got to see their 4th of July celebrations. A trip out to Long Island gave me a different taste of Americana, something a lot more laid back.
While I was out in the United States, I visited Washington DC on a couple of occasions, managing to see a fair amount of America's capital city. I took a trip out to the midwest and spent some time in Chicago visiting some of the famous landmarks and tasting the famous Chicago style deep dish pizza. I also caught up with friends I had met in Cambodia as they showed me around Florida with a trip to Miami during Spring Break. Perhaps my favourite city that I visited in the US was San Francisco, I spent almost a week seeing different areas, including a trip across the famous Golden Gate Bridge.
My second half of the year was significantly quieter as I transitioned back to life in England. That being said I made a very short trip to Luxembourg, visiting Luxembourg City, the beautiful town of Vianden, and a train ride across the border into Germany to visit the oldest continuously habited city in the country, Trier.
As with the post last year, just click the blue links to read about any of the locations in depth.
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.
Globally its been a strange year. The Syrian Civil War entered into its fourth and bloodiest year, yet in the West we were obsessed with the deaths of celebrities. As spring turned to summer, the UK voted to leave the EU in the biggest political decision of my lifetime. In any other year, that would be the biggest newstory, but 2016 outdid itself in the autumn when the US elected Donald Trump as its leader. President Donald Trump, I still can't say it with a straight face.
I began the year by taking a trip to Madrid with my friend to visit an old flatmate. We stayed in his house (more like an mansion) just outside of the city and he showed us around the city and the trip was topped off with a game at the Bernabeu, a stadium that had been on my 'must see' list for a long time. I then took two trips to Valencia, both stag parties with different groups of friends and completely different experiences. I stayed in the beautiful old town of Valencia during my first stay (in an apartment with the most incredible view), and stayed in a more modern part of the city near the beach a few weeks later. Sandwiched in the middle of my trips was another stag party with yet another group of friends, this time to Prague.
I took an extended trip to South America, travelling along the Pacific Coast all the way across to the Atlantic. I began in Peru where I visited a number of cities and did a 3 day climb to Machu Picchu. After a run in with the police, I went to the salt flats in Bolivia via La Paz, followed by an almost 18 hour bus journey to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. After visiting a friend in Santiago I finished my trip with almost a week in Rio.
After this I attended a summer school in Spain at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics and ended the year with a Christmas trip to Paris to catch up with some friends. The year saw me visit 2 of the 7 Wonders of the World. Not bad considering I hadnt been abroad till my early twenties when I could finally afford to pay for holidays. Here are a collection of my favourite pictures I took this year (click on any of the blue links to read my in depth posts on each location)..
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.
The Sacred Valley (Urubamba Valley), Peru
The Sacred Valley of the Incas, also known as the Urubamba Valley, is a valley in the Andean Mountains in Peru.
The Sacred Valley, or El Valle Sagrado was formed by the Urubamba River that runs through the area and is located north of the ancient Incan capital of Cusco. The area called the Sacred Valley encompasses the towns of Ollantaytambo, Urubama, Calca, Pisac and Chinchero. The proximity of the river, fertile plains and natural defences made this an ideal area of settlement for Quechua people and it was one of the last bastions of Incan culture before it was conquered by the Spanish.
To this day the area produces a lot of the crops that feed the nearby city of Cusco, but it is making an increasing amount of money from the tourist trade. Trips to Machu Picchu pass through this valley and locals have made a business out of selling everything from Quechuan cuisine to clothing/equipment needed to climb the mountains.
The area of the Sacred Valley is one of outstanding beauty and almost every point looks over a view like something out of Lord of the Rings (the good part, not the fiery hell part). I visited a couple of cottage industries while I was out there, drank some purple corn juice and generally just admired the views. My walk around Ollantaytambo was perhaps my favourite experience. The town has ancient Incan ruins, a small community feel and a landscape unlike anything I have seen anywhere else.
Although most of my hike to Machu Picchu took part in the Sacred Valley, the pictures below cover only the towns in the valley itself.
Chile is strange in that the country is not particularly wide, but is one of the longest north-south countries in the world. This means the geography of the country is incredibly varied. From the worlds driest desert in the north, to the large metropolis of Santiago in the centre and the natural scenery of lakes and mountains in Patagonia in the south. Compared to its neighbours, Chile is also a developed country and this was pretty obvious as soon as I crossed the border from Bolivia.
Chile lacked some of the charm of Peru, the excitement of Brazil or the uniqueness of Bolivia but it was still worth the visit. The Atacama desert in the north was something particularly impressive, just a vast expanse of dry heat.
Unfortunately I didn't have time to visit places such as Valparaiso or Patagonia but in this article I have included a selection of my favourite photo's that I took in the country, pictures that I think can give you a feel for Chile, its culture and its attractions.
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.
Rio de Janeiro
One of the largest cities in the Southern Hemisphere, home of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, birthplace of the largest carnival on Earth and famous for its beaches, it is no wonder that Rio is the most visited city in South America.
This city has the feel of a very large metropolis, similar to the rush of Bangkok, and you could spend a month here and still not scratch the surface. Rio has a lot going for it, but there is an income gap that seems to be increasing and social tensions that the state tries to hide from the public view (the construction of large panels to cover Favela's as you drive into Rio being the most striking). However, the positives are endless and this is truly one of those cities that never sleeps.
In this article I have included a selection of my favourite photo's that I took in the city, pictures that I think can give you a feel for Rio, its culture and its attractions.
Bolivia is a fairly large, landlocked country in western South America that was previously a part of the famous Incan Empire. These days, Amerindians make up a sizable proportion of the country, infact the different native tribes together make up just over half the population and the country is proud of its history and culture.
The first thing I noticed was its relative poverty when compared to its neighbours, although it is a country with a growing economy. Bolivia has a number of unique landmarks and attractions, La Paz, which is the seat of the government, is one of the city '7 wonders' as it is built over 3000m above sea level. Further south are the famous Salt Flats, or Salars in Uyuni, a landscape unlike anywhere else on the planet.
In this article I have included a selection of my favourite photo's that I took in the country, pictures that I think can give you a feel for Bolivia, its culture and its attractions.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.