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