2015 was just another year of learning for me, traveling into 14 new countries, and visiting over 100 cities, so here are some of my thoughts on my travel and growth in 2015. This year I tried to mix the rough with the smooth on my travels, roughing it through many parts of Asia before some relative luxuries in the Maldives.
Asia still amazes me, there are just so many pockets of this continent wanting to be explored, again I tried to get out of the cities as much as possible, particularly in Myanmar (Burma), The Philippines, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. I found a gorgeous island in the Philippines (Boracay) and fell in love with Myanmar with a trip from Mandalay to Yangon, with the roads being the biggest pain the backside (literally) and the people being amongst the happiest I have encountered.
Japan (Tokyo) is an organization freaks paradise with an abundance of redundant helpers walking the streets and zebra crossings. Taiwan again threw up issues with my lack of local linguistic skills. It seems older Asian ladies enjoy serving me what they wanted and not what I thought I ordered – which incidentally became a game I quite enjoyed.
I have also become quite obsessed with motorbikes and am convinced it is the only way to travel in Asia. Forget about name brands like Honda or Yamaha – Hero MotoCorp, Bajaj Auto, or Suzuki are the most popular bikes and (most importantly older bikes), as it is no point having a bike you cannot fix yourself, and don’t worry about breaking down, within minutes there is a friendly local to help you out, even on back dirt roads! In fact just about anywhere in Asia you go, if you even look slightly lost or puzzled someone will approach you – and most of the time it isn’t about the money!
Sri Lanka was a gorgeous country. Yes, the cities are pretty run down and dirty and the noise and smog can be quite annoying in Colombo, but outside of the cities and into the countryside it is beautiful. I recommend hiring a local to take you to some of the hidden gems in the countryside which of course is famous for its teas. Point Pedro and Mannar were particular highlights as well as some of the tea plantations (not a big fan of drinking it) were quite amazing. Although I did try coffee (Kopi Luwak) passed through the intestines of the Asian palm civet. It tastes like coffee if you really want to know, but the people on the table next to me thought it was from heaven.
I am not one to do much of the luxury travel, but if you go to Maldives, it is pretty hard to avoid. My only suggestion would be to find something close to the airport in Male (within 1 hour boat ride) or you will find yourself hopping on another long flight to one of the many resorts. I chose Baros, Maldives, a 5 Star resort, only about a 40 minutes boat ride from the airport. I have to say after a few rough weeks in Asia and a beard no-one could be proud of – it was pretty darn nice. Luckily I had my good friend Gordana, who just happened to be relatively nearby in Cypress to share it with, otherwise it would have been a shame to be on an island like this with the incredibly abundant protected sea-life just a short dive (swim) away from my water villa. Everything is there for you, and catered for, including a private boat trip, a personal helper, diving, snorkeling and just generally relaxing on a tint island paradise. I think I might go back! Just be warned, you wallet will burn big time! I would avoid the city of Malé, as it is a depressing city, run by some religious crazies and almost poor beyond belief.
Probably the best trip I took was in Iceland and Georgia, architecturally Iceland and its cities are pretty poor (functional living reigns supreme), but get into a 4 wheel drive and the countryside and mountainous regions are incredible. Getting to travel around the glaciers on a snowmobile was also a treat, but really just exploring this amazing little country was breathtaking.
Georgia is a weathered country, but the resilience of its people is pretty heartwarming, if you have a steady job, life is ok, if you don’t, then it is tough. Like most rising eastern european countries it again suffers from police corruption – what do you expect when their income is barely enough to scrape by on, so best to avoid them at all times. The people again are friendly and always interested in western life.
So there you have it, a small snapshot of my travels in 2015.