The 21 Best Destinations of 2013

Eleven countries I visited this year, and some of them I entered several times (Malaysia – five times). The list of places is a mix of lot of powerful and intense new destinations, and familiar and friendly countries.

1. Namibia

My first African country to visit, Namibia stole my heart. The fascination of standing on the land where everything started power over me. The red sand dunes of Namib Desert, how can I forget?

Bushmen woman in Namibia
Bushmen woman in Namibia
The Namib Desert
The Namib Desert

 

2. Philippines – Bantayan Island

Some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen are from this small island of Bantayan. It is located northeast of Negros and northwest of Cebu island.

Bantayan Sunset at 10 Apr, 2013
Bantayan Sunset at 10 Apr, 2013

 

3. India – Rishikesh

Rishikesh is a sanctuary for all travelers who go through India. If you are interested in yoga, this is definitely a place to go.

Ashrams and bridge over the Ganges (Ganga)
Ashrams and bridge over the Ganges (Ganga)

 

4. Philippines – Malapascua

If you are a diver, probably the name Malapascua is not a news to you. I went snorkeling a few times around the island, and I can surely say Malapascua is beautiful both under and above water.

 

Calaggamon Island, Philippines
Calaggamon Island, Philippines (a short trip from Malapascua)

 

5. Sri Lanka – Ella

Every country has a backpacker town, where you have access to foreign food, better internet connection, and English menu,  and Ella was one of Sri Lanka‘s. It’s a laid back hill town with several nice climbing routes. Hot during the day and nice and cool at night.

 

Ella Rock
Ella Rock

 

6. Bhutan

The country who officially care about their people’s happiness offers so many to the visitors. I enjoyed driving through the rolling hills, seeing people’s bright smiles, and breathing fresh air from the Himalayas. Seeing the Tiger’s Nest Monastery was definitely worth it.

The Tiger's Nest Monastery (Paro Taktsang)
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Paro Taktsang)

 

7. Sri Lanka – Haputale

It’s another small hill town of Uva Province, Sri Lanka. If you are a tea-person, put Haputale on your list. Because of its cooler climate, tea grows well here. You can easily walk around the tea plantation.

Train station in Haputale
Train station in Haputale

 

8. India – Varanasi

It was the most intense place. Everything about Varanasi struck me hard. Nonetheless of the difficulty level of India, there are a few of ‘must’ places to visit and Varanasi is one of them. Visiting the burning ghat was powerful, intense, and beautiful.

Bathing in the Ganges River
Bathing in the Ganges River

 

9. Malaysia – the Cameron Highlands

Another tea-lover’s destination: the Cameron Highlands. This is a popular destination to locals especially in Summer –  because of its cooler climate. The endless green-rolling hills covered with tea gave me a whole new degree of comfort. The famous BOH (Best of Highlands) tea has a big plantation here.

Boh Sungei Palas Tea Centre
Boh Sungei Palas Tea Centre

 

10. India – Rajasthan

One of the most popular destinations in India, Rajasthan, is quite different than rest of the country. First of all, it is a desert, and second of all, men have the coolest mustache. It’s flat, dry, and each city has its own color (Blue City – Jodhpur, White City – Udaipur, Golden City – Jaisalmer) We went camel riding in the Thar Desert (near Jaisalmer).

Scene of Jodhpur
Scene of Jodhpur

 

11. South Africa – Johannesburg

Johannesburg is changing. It is becoming one of the hippest places to go as an artist, and entrepreneur. There are still certain problems to fix, but it offers scenes you would not expect to see here.

South African lady from the Neighbourgoods Market
South African lady from the Neighbourgoods Market

 

12. India – Bodh Gaya

A small (and can be boring) town of Bodh Gaya meant something to me because I’ve been knowing Buddha’s life story since I was little. Buddhism is treated more as a philosophy and way of living than a religion in Korea. I’ve read how he became a Buddha and opened a gateway to nirvana to common people not just to Brahmans. You can visit the very spot where he sat for five weeks at the Mahabodhi Temple.

Mahabodhi Temple - where Gautama attained supreme knowledge to become Buddha,the Enlightened One
Mahabodhi Temple – where Gautama attained supreme knowledge to become Buddha,the Enlightened One

 

13. Mexico – Veracruz

Veracruz hosted the second annual ATMEX 2013 (Adventure Travel Mexico). I’ve learned a lot about sustainable tourism in Mexico, and got to know more about Veracruz. The weather is quite pleasant.

ATV ride at the sand dunes of Chachalacas, Veracruz
ATV ride at the sand dunes of Chachalacas, Veracruz

 

14. Korea – Busan

Busan has been always an exotic city for me. I was born and raised in Seoul, the big metropolitan area with lots of mountains, buildings and a river. Busan on the other hand, is located right by the South Sea, and the people speak differently (they have a strong southern accent). It was one of my go-to getaway destination when I was in college.

Jagalchi Sijang (Jagalchi Market)
Jagalchi Sijang (Jagalchi Market)

 

15. Mexico – Loreto, Baja California Sur

Baja California Sur is interesting both historically and biologically. Loreto was the first Spanish settlement in Baja California. It’s a good place to watch Gray Whales and marine life.

Sea of Cortez sunrise
Sea of Cortez sunrise

 

16. Korea – Seoul

My one and only hometown Seoul has so many different faces through out the year. The city blooms with flowers in spring, the color changes to deep green in summer, foliage covers the streets in autumn, and it becomes while wonderland in winter. It’s a magical place.

Gyeongbok gung (Gyeongbok Palace) of Seoul, Korea
Gyeongbok gung (Gyeongbok Palace) of Seoul, Korea

 

17. Malaysia – Penang

It’s every Malaysian’s favorite local destination. The city is full of eateries and historic sites. No one makes better char keow teow (fried wide rice noodle), and nasi kandar than Penang. As the World Heritage Site, Penang also offers lots of historic sites.

Cheong Fatt Tze mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze mansion

 

18. India – Shimla (Simla)

If I landed in Shimla without knowing the name, I wouldn’t have imagined India as the answer.  The capital city of Himachal Pradesh, is well known as the Summer capital. Shimla has a lot of neo-Gothic style architecture dating from the colonial era.

Rashtrapati Niwas, Shimla, former "Viceregal Lodge", built 1888
Rashtrapati Niwas, Shimla, former “Viceregal Lodge”, built 1888

 

19. Sri Lanka – Galle

Galle is the best known with its fortress, built by  Portuguese and fortified by Dutch during the 17th century. It’s a pleasant colonial town located southwest tip of the country. Easily reachable by train from Colombo, the capital city.

Galle Lighthouse - Sri Lanka's oldest lighthouse (1848)
Galle Lighthouse – Sri Lanka’s oldest lighthouse (1848)

 

20. United States – San Francisco

Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge was one of the most memorable experiences of this year. The sky was clear, bridge was beautiful, and I saw a few dolphins in the water.

The Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge

 

21. Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur

You all know how much I fond of Malaysia.  In fact, I choose Kuala Lumpur to be the first location of Asian Women’s Empowerment conference!  Although Kuala Lumpur isn’t my favorite place in the country, it is definitely a pleasant big city.  It’s diverse, convenient, has a lot to see, and easy to get around by public transportation.

Petronas Twin Tower
Petronas Twin Tower

How about you? Where have you been this year, and which places are on your list for the next year?

15 thoughts on “21 Destinations of Year 2013”

  1. Love the post! Very happy to see Namibia here. I loved everything about my visit to Namibia this year. There’s so much to this country and yet most people don’t know anything about it!

  2. What a beautiful year! And your pictures are gorgeous as always 😉 Particularly loved the India ones – looks like I’ll be visiting there early in February and am super duper excited. It’ll be a short trip (doing the long weekend adventure from Doha before I return to SF) but cannot wait to explore Delhi and finally see the Taj Mahal in person.

  3. Agree on Seoul and Penang as two of my favourites from this year 🙂 Great foodie towns!

    Loved Harbin, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Panglao Island (Philippines)!

    Can’t wait to head to Shimla & Varanasi next year!

    Hope to bump into you on our travels again soon.
    Tom & Megs

  4. Wow, you have truly been all over the world this year!! I love that you included the walk across the Golden Gate bridge – I’ve driven it many times but never walked. Did you make it to Tiburon (small town just across the bridge?) Thanks for the great photos. Malaysia is on my list for 2014!

  5. Wow! What beautiful pictures. Some places I have already visited, other are definitely on my list. Especially the Phillipines and Namibia! I have heards so many awesome things about them. Great for photographers as well!

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