2013 has been a year of intense travel, both for leisure and business. Since January almost every month I left Jakarta to travel, from a short drive to Bogor – a city to the south of Jakarta – to a 14-hour flight to Istanbul. As for What an Amazing World! itself, stories from various places kept the blog not only alive but also thriving to a level I never thought possible when I first started it almost four years ago.
As for the number of new countries I visited, 2013 saw the addition of three more countries to the list: Turkey, Taiwan and Timor-Leste. Istanbul proved to be hard not to love, especially for an enthusiast of ancient sites like me. From the millennia-old walls of Hagia Sophia to the classical Ottoman marvel of the Blue Mosque to the lavish halls of Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul is a city I would love to revisit one day in the future.
Taiwan offered a different experience from Istanbul. The troubled history and current political status of the country made the trip different in a way as it is recognized as a sovereign state only by less than two dozens countries in the world. However the highlight of the trip was the 3-night trip to Orchid Island – a small island off the southeast coast of Taiwan – where the aboriginal Tao people live. Culturally oppressed for decades by Taiwanese mainlanders, Tao people are now able to carry on their unique culture and language and pass them to the next generation.
Only a few days ago I returned from Timor-Leste (formerly known as East Timor), a former Portuguese colony for about four centuries then annexed by Indonesia for almost 24 years shortly after it declared independence. The new nation has witnessed its early years of nationhood filled with hope and, unfortunately, violence. A trip from its sleepy capital, Dili, to its second city of Baucau and the nearby town of Venilale brought a deeper understanding of daily life for ordinary East Timorese, and what hopeful aspirations the country has in hand.
As for domestic trips, in the past 12 months I have not only visited new places around Indonesia, but I have made further explorations in more familiar areas. Some of the greatest trips in the country this year were done in two neighboring islands of the lesser Sunda island chain: Bali and Lombok. From a gruelling but amazing trek up Mount Rinjani – Indonesia’s second highest volcano, to a moment of bliss at Lombok’s incredible unspoilt southern beaches, to the recent unforgettable trip to Bali’s rich cultural and natural landscapes.
“If Bali and Lombok were one island, with Bali’s culture and Lombok’s beaches, it would be perfect,” James says.
Again, a special thank you goes to James – who has become my perennial travel partner – for suggesting amazing places like Orchid Island and Mount Rinjani. Also to Daily Meaning which was my workplace for the last 1.5 years until my last day in the company a few weeks ago prior to the trip to Bali and Timor-Leste.
More adventures will surely come in 2014 even though no plan is fixed yet. Thank you for always following What an Amazing World! and I wish you good health and happier moments in the upcoming year.
Happy New Year and see you in January!