If I had to describe the year 2012 in only one word, it would have been ‘change’. A change of my traveling speed and style, a change of my job, and a change in the place where I live, to name some.
I chose Hong Kong as the place to start my trips in 2012. It all started like my other trips last year – visiting two or three places within one week or so and as many interesting sites as possible. This time my plan was to visit Hong Kong, Macau, and Myanmar in a week with short stays in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.
When I visited Myanmar after Hong Kong, my plan was to visit Bagan as it is probably the country’s best and most striking ancient site. However, due to time constraints I was not able to secure a return flight from Yangon to Bagan, and then it hit me. From that moment on, I knew the next time I traveled, it would be better to focus on less places so that I could spend a proper amount of time tasting the local cuisine, understanding the culture, and interacting with locals.
Fortunately I had a resignation plan by then because I found that my old job in the banking industry did not really suit me. Therefore, a few months prior to my trip to Hong Kong, I had booked return flights to Medan (Indonesia), Laos, Southern China, and Sri Lanka for traveling during my career break before starting a new job in June.
In Hong Kong I met up with James, the man behind Plus Ultra – one of the most eloquently written blogs I have ever read. It was the first time for me to plan a meet up with another travel blogger on a trip. In the past I had only met other bloggers by coincidence.
It turned out that James and I have the same taste in travel. We visit the same kind of places when we travel, we take photographs of the same kind of objects, and we both love learning the history of places we visit. Therefore, later that day without any hesitation I asked him if he wanted to join me on my next trips to Laos, Southern China, and Sri Lanka. To my surprise, Laos and Guilin (China) were some of the places he had always wanted to visit. So before we realized it, we had already planned the itinerary for Laos a few weeks after we met.
Before Laos, I went to Medan and Lake Toba with one of my ex-coworkers – who also quit the company around the same time – to kick off my career break travels. It was a perfect decision as Lake Toba is a very tranquil place which suits those who seek peace of mind. One month afterwards, James and I met in Kuala Lumpur for a short stay before departing for Laos. Thanks to him, I changed the schedule for my flight back to Indonesia to a later date to allow us to stay longer in Laos – a decision I will never regret. Otherwise I would probably only have time to visit Vientiane and miss Luang Prabang altogether.
It was less than two weeks after Laos that I teamed up with James again for another trip. This time we went to Southern China to go to Guilin and Xingping to see the fabled karst mountains which are often depicted in Chinese traditional paintings. Had I not traveled with him, I would have stayed in Yangshuo instead of Xingping. Again, I was really fortunate because later I found out that the former has become really touristy with neon lights everywhere, creating a rather tacky atmosphere in this small town.
Not being able to join me for the trip to Sri Lanka, James decided to book a return flight for a short trip to Indonesia in late September. To return his favor for taking me around Hong Kong – including to places which are less known to most tourists – I decided to take him to Mount Bromo in East Java, taking heed from one of his earliest comments on my blog.
In the meantime, two weeks after coming back from Sri Lanka, I started a new job in a completely new world for me – people development consulting – as I did not have any background in psychology, let alone people development. However, I have learned a lot so far, including life skills which might become very handy one day – including for my future trips.
2012 was indeed a year of change for me. A lot of great things happened, along with some hiccups on the journey. In 2013 I will continue to travel to some of the world’s most amazing places – Turkey and Taiwan are in the pipeline – and share the stories on the places I go, the food I try, and the people I meet.
Many thanks for following my journey and sharing your thoughts in this blog.
Happy holidays, safe travels, and see you in 2013!