This year was full of new experiences and visiting familiar places that I adore. I spent a lot of time in Korea this year so it was a great opportunity to explore more of my home country. I finally hiked the 59km Jirisan ridge! From this summer until now, I’ve been constantly traveling through Asia to North America to Europe. Our new travel business Unquote Travel is finally up and running. There are a lot more exciting things to come.
Among all the places I traveled this year, I selected these 10 best destinations. The common component of these places is that I would go back anytime!
After 6 years of full-time travel, I finally found a place I want to call home and that’s Alaska. It’s not a secret that I’m deeply in love with this Last Frontier and there are a lot of good reasons. Alaska has a lot to offer and is possibly the most diverse in the United States. In the south, you can witness black bears catching salmon, experience a life based on nature by foraging and fishing, and cruise to see glaciers. It’s a different story in the north. Past Denali and Fairbanks, 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) along the Dalton Highway by the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, you’ll pass the Arctic Circle. It seems hard to believe but the land beyond the Arctic Circle is full of life. Wild wolves, Arctic foxes, caribou herds, and polar bears are some of the permanent residents of the far north. The northernmost tree stands in the mouth of the Brooks Range. The Yukon River is frozen most of the winter. Keeping generations of wisdom, the native people are continuing their life as a part of nature. There is just so much to explore and experience here.
Too many to list: hiking with amazing views, meeting Alaskans, viewing bears, fishing – and eating the fresh catch!
Speaking of diversity, let’s talk about Indonesia. Indonesia is a wonderfully diverse country. That might even be an understatement. The world’s largest archipelago country has hundreds of distinctive ethnic groups, the world’s second highest level of biodiversity, rich natural resources, six official languages, and more than 17,000 islands. I visited the country three times so far but I only saw a fraction. There are more reasons to go back.
An overnight cruise around Flores Island
Oslo is a great gateway city for Europe, especially from North America. There are convenient routes even from Asia. I took a direct flight from Bangkok to Oslo by Norwegian Air (seasonal route). A three-day layover in Oslo meant one thing to me: the Kon-Tiki Museum. As a huge fan of Thor Heyerdahl and his expeditions, this museum was like coming back to the mothership. The museum was everything I expected and more. Seeing the real Kon-Tiki raft was overwhelming.
Oslo is a pleasant city with a lot of important attractions, like Vigeland Sculpture Park, Nobel Peace Center, and the Opera House.
I’ve been to Oslo and Finnmark, so now I have to travel to central Norway soon!
Can you believe I’ve never been to London until this November? I’ve been to other places in the UK, like Scotland (twice!) and Northern Ireland. I’ve even been to the neighboring island, Ireland. This year I finally entered England. People say London is one of the most wonderful cities in the world. There is certainly irresistible charm. The architecture, history, diversity, culture, and cuisine, especially Indian food, was all very exciting.
During our time in London, we took a day trip to Cambridge to celebrate my birthday. I got to visit Professor Stephen Hawking’s office!
Before spending a week in London, Stephen and I enjoyed the countryside of southwestern England. The quiet life of Devon was very charming. Also, this is where you can have the best fish and chips!
Coastal walking in Devon, fish & chips, and Indian food
The capital city of Hungary was my adopted home for 3 weeks. There’re a lot of exciting things happening here. Tourism is growing fast each year and they are competing to host the 2024 Olympics. This city was a favorite place for a lot of my friends so I was curious about life here. The name is a combination of Buda and Pest, which were separate cities until 1873. With the Danube River splitting the city, it reminded me of Seoul and the Han River. The architecture here is grand. The Parliament, Royal Palace, bridges, and many Synagogues, are great subjects for architecture buffs and photographers.
Thermal baths and Jewish food
Summer in Quebec is enchanting. Everything is blue and green, lush forests and street cafes, it is almost magical. This year I explored Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, where you can have the most delicious blueberries. It’s also the center of adventure travel in the region. This was where I discovered my passion for via ferrata. I’ve always enjoyed rock climbing although I’m at the very starting point of my climbing experience, and via ferrata is a perfect match for my love of slow adventure. I also had a chance to visit a small town of Wendake, the Huron-Wendat reserve near the Quebec City. The Wendat’s creation story was a great reminder of how rich and diverse the world we live in.
Via ferrata and poutine!
There’s a reason why certain places are everyone’s favorite. I’m talking about Vancouver. In the beginning of Summer, I had the pleasure to explore the city for a few days and hang out with my friend Jenny who I rarely see. We explored the unique Finn Slough together despite the rain! The highlight of the trip was visiting Squamish Chief Janice George and her husband who are bringing back the tradition of knitting chief’s robes. I would love to learn more about the Squamish tradition someday.
Capilano Bridge Park and seeing the First Nation’s traditions
For a summer holiday, Stephen and I went to Jirisan National Park to accomplish a long dream of mine; hiking the Jirisan Ridge. Seeing the sunrise from the tallest peak in mainland Korea, Cheonwangbong Peak (1915m/ 6283ft) is considered a spiritual experience for Koreans. The peak is often covered with clouds, so it’s known as the sunrise which only shines if three generations of your family have done good deeds. I guess we did! The trail is about 59 km (36.7 mi) long. The elevation difference between the lowest and highest point is 1285 m (4216 ft). There are 16 peaks that are higher than 1500 m (4921 ft). This is considered one of the most important hiking routes in Korea.
The sunrise at Cheonwangbong Peak!
We’re heading to Jirisan National Park during my “Experience Korea Tour” in April 2017! Don’t worry, we’re not going to walk 59km but we’ll see the best of the National Park’s scenery and stay overnight at a temple.
Sometimes being in the right place at the right time is all that matters. Seven years ago, I met my best friend Meaghan at a hostel there. This year we recreated that important moment. We stayed at the same hostel, ate some delicious Taiwanese food, and visited some of the sites we didn’t got to see the first time, like Yehliu Geopark. Taipei is a pleasant city. I would love to travel more in Taiwan especially the coastal areas and mountains.
Dan bing for breakfast every day and all the fun features at Yehliu Geopark
The name Romania might be unfamiliar but everyone knows Transylvania, thanks to Dracula. Bram Stoker wrote his gothic horror novel Dracula in 1897, using a real person Vlad the Impaler and Transylvania as a setting. With its success, Transylvania became associated in the English-speaking world with vampires. But this region is a lot more than the home of Dracula.
The name Transylvania came from Latin phrase ‘ultra silvam’, meaning “beyond the forest”. As you can see from the map, this region is surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains. Transylvania is culturally unique, has an interesting history and distint architecture. We traveled around Transylvania for four days visiting small villages, fortified churches, and experiencing the local culture. Unquote Travel is preparing to launch a small group tour to Experience the real Transylvania in 2017.
Life in Transylvanian villages