In less than 25 hours, another year will come to an end. Before I start another calendar year in my life, I believe it is a good time to look back where this year took me.
2016 was mostly about solo travel. After years of travelling with various sets of friends, I finally had the courage to go on my own, (re)discover old & new places, experience different cultures & meet new friends.
Let me give you a recap of how this year of solo (& some of not-so-solo) travels went.
I initially planned this as the first solo trip of the year but my friend Geof tagged along. There are no direct flights from Manila to Yangon; so we had to book tickets to Bangkok, then onwards to Yangon. We had a 16-hour layover in Bangkok so we took the chance to go out of the airport, stay in a hostel over the night & see the Grand Palace in the morning.
Team Philmar at the Yangon Amazing Games 2016
Then, we took the afternoon flight to Yangon & spent the rest of the trip there. We joined the Amazing Game Yangon & attended the Global Village 2016 Program, both organized by AIESEC in Myanmar. We also went around the city by foot, discovered different temples & pagodas & experienced Chinese New Year in Yangon Chinatown. We went to different markets, tried their street food & watched football (with beers) with our roommates in the hostel.
A visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda
Of course, a visit in Yangon will never be complete without visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s definitely a place to visit in Yangon.
Koh Lipe, Thailand
This should have been a beach trip to the Gilis in Indonesia or a weekend in the forests of Luang Prabang, but plans changed when Carl, the Brit guy we met in Ao Nang last year, recommended Koh Lipe. This place is also known as the Maldives of Thailand.
It was my first international solo trip, to an island unknown to all people I know back home. It took me 2 flights (Manila to Kuala Lumpur, then to Langkawi) & 1 ferry ride (Langkawi to the island) to reach Koh Lipe.
Walking at the shores of Koh Rawi
I had the most relaxing 3 days of my life there. I literally walked around the beautiful island, sipped some fresh fruit shakes while sitting on the shore, enjoyed some quiet time in paradise, got sun-kissed in the scenic beaches & met some cool new friends in the hostel & in the island tour.
Koh Lipe is truly a paradise; it’s a place I will definitely go back to in the future.
With my sister in the grounds of Petronas Twin Towers, KL
I had a one night stopover in Kuala Lumpur before I flew back to Manila. I dropped by to visit my sister who was assigned there for work. We heard mass & had lunch together; also made a quick visit to the grounds of the Petronas Twin Towers.
For the 2nd year in a row (& maybe for the last time), my friends at work decided to have a beach weekend trip somewhere far from the metro. We, a group of 16 fun people, went to Pangasinan for a weekend last May.
View from the Governor's Island, Hundred Islands
We spent the first day around the Hundred Islands in Alaminos City. We walked around a crowded island, went to caves & jumped over a cliff. We then went to a lighthouse, a beach, another cave & into a market on the 2nd day.
With the best colleagues!
The road trip was really long, we enjoyed each other’s company.
Boracay Island, Aklan
This trip pushed through just because I didn’t want to waste the cheap roundtrip tickets I booked. I went to Boracay all by myself, stayed in a party hostel & ended up having a great time up to the point I didn’t want to leave.
Mad Monkey Hostel Boracay's pool
The weather wasn’t that favourable during my stay. Good thing, Mad Monkey Hostel had a swimming pool & a bar / restaurant. I found myself staying in the hostel all throughout the trip, talking to different people from all parts of the world, drinking with new-found friends & exchanging travel stories with everyone.
It was also one of the days where I had too much alcohol, passed out & woke up in my bed the next day not knowing how I went back the night before.
El Nido, Palawan
Just like the Yangon trip, this was supposed to be another solo trip. Days & months after, my high school travel buddies joined, making it a reunion trip for the 4 of us. The last trip the 4 of us were complete was way back in Singapore 2 years ago.
With my highschool travel buddies / constants!
El Nido is place I will never get tired of visiting. It was my 3rd time to visit the paradise & I still am in awe of how beautiful the place is. I took my friends to Nacpan Beach twice (Yes, twice!) then joined them in the famous Tour A (Lagoon Tour).
Small Lagoon, Miniloc Island
It’s one of the trips where we made great memories together & enjoyed each other’s company.
This is the best trip of my 2016. I wasn’t able to see much of what Bangkok has to offer but I surely had fun drinking, socializing & partying.
One of those nights in Khao San Rd with 10 other solo travellers
I flew to Bangkok with a roundtrip plane ticket, a hostel booking & no plans at all. The only ‘tourist-y’ I probably did there was to go on a day tour in Ayutthaya. The rest was all about meeting people, eating ฿40 pad thai on the streets, drinking Chang beers & partying in Khao San Rd.
A game of cards turned into one big party group!
I also met & hangout with a lot of people from all over the world – England, United States, Canada, The Netherlands, Poland, India, Gibraltar & a lot more.
When I went to Japan last year, I made a promise to myself that I will definitely go back to explore more. It didn’t take long for me to book tickets back to Japan; thus this trip was born.
European city vibe in a middle of a Japanese City (Nagoya)
This 13-day trip brought me to the beautiful gardens of Nagoya, the historical sites of Hiroshima, the ancient temples of Kyoto, the busy shopping streets of Osaka, the friendly deers of Nara, the tender beef cuts of Kobe & the delicious ramens of Fukuoka.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto
I was able to experience the Japanese culture again but this time with the luxury of time.
Deer selfie 😉
That sums up all my travels for this year. I may have explored fewer places & countries this year; but I surely made awesome memories with different people. I might not have anything booked or planned as of yet, but I look forward to another year of solo (& maybe not-so-solo) travels for 2017!
*Yangon photo credits to Geof & Nappark photo credit to Danielle.