As I have mentioned before, this year has been nothing short of amazing. As this year comes to a close, I see that it’s also been a wonderful year in travel. I went to places that moved me, left an impact, and filled me with so much awe and wonder. I am humbled and grateful at the same time to have such incredible experiences to look back on.
I’ve compiled a throwback list of this year’s travel highlights. Come and join me as I travel back to some of my favorite places and experiences!
Highlights: Trying Civet Coffee (Kopi Luwak); exploring Ubud: The Blanco Rennaisance Museum of the world-renowned Spanish, and Manila-born, painter Antonio Blanco; seeing Ubud Palace and appreciating its preserved Balinese architecture; visiting Pura Luhur Uluwatu, one of Bali’s six main temples, which was perched on a steep cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean and has such beautiful architecture and amazing ancient sculptures.
Read more: High on Bali
Highlights: Getting acquainted with the food scene in Shanghai! What stood out: Colagrueco Restaurant Shanghai, the largest tapas bar in Asia known for its Latin-inspired cocktails and dishes, with a dining room that has a spectacular view of the Pudong bay and skyline; Din Tai Fung and its famous Shanghainese soup dumpling, more popularly known as the Xia Long Bao, (you must try the black truffle and pork xia long bao, topped with ginger slices and drizzled with black vinegar sauce); Fu 101‘s high-end Shanghainese cuisine, where the dining experience is just like in a private home exuding old-world charm; Roosevelt Sky Restaurant, its fine wine and spectacular views of the Bund and Pudong–and food served with the Shanghai skyline in the background.
Bonus: A visit to Suzhou, just two hours away from Shanghai, and marked by beautifully landscaped gardens, ancient bridges and canals, as well as historical temples and little towns.
Highlights: Seeing the Blue Mosque, the most famous landmark in Istanbul, massive and magnificent, and its six silver minarets around the structure piercing the air like rockets about to shoot up; the Topkapi Palace, its superb ceramic Iznik tiles, stained glass windows, painted ceiling, and mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell inlay; the glorious architecture of The Hagia Sophia (the Christian church-turned mosque-now museum), its large dome, Christian frescoes, and Islamic calligraphy; The Grand Bazaar, a massive 60-street marketplace with thousands of shops inside filled with tourists, vendors, and buyers; and going on the The Bosphorus Cruise and seeing prominent landmarks: Istanbul’s green parks, huge palaces, and beautiful mosques from a boat’s point of view.
Read more: The Vibrant Colors of Istanbul
Highlights: Exploring this city of ancient Roman ruins and bearing witness to its past via The Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World); The Fountain of Trojan, The Flying Nike, and The Theatre, the largest outdoor theatre in the world; learning about the art of Turkish rug weaving at Barok Authentic Looms; visiting The Basilica of St. John and The House of the Virgin Mary, the place where Mary is believed to have spent her last days and died… visiting the House of the Virgin Mary is a most fervent wish of mine that was answered!
Çeşme and Alaçatı, Turkey
Highlights: A different dose of Turkish culture… enjoying the Turkish Riviera lifestyle and the view of the the Aegean Sea in the coastal town of Çeşme; and a taste of the slow food movement in the white-and-blue stone houses and cobbled streets of the quaint town of Alaçatı.
Highlights: The meticulously restored Museum Hotel, renovated from ruins, caves, and houses to become the first luxury hotel in Cappadocia (we stayed in “cave rooms”); the Sema (Whirling Dervishes Ceremony), a mystical ritual where performers fall into a deep trance while whirling and twirling; trying Gözleme, a Turkish Pancake; Güray Müze, the world’s first underground ceramic pottery museum (and a ceramic shop); the Göreme Open-Air Museum, a spectacular landscape that was entirely sculpted by erosion, composed of old monasteries placed side by side, and features rock-hewn architecture and post-iconoclastic Byzantine art fresco (wall painting); “Fairy Chimneys” in Pasabag Valley, unique cone-shaped earth pillars, carved in tuff stones, which look like fairies from afar; Kaymakli Underground City, one of 36 underground cities in Cappadocia; Uçhisar Castle, the highest point in Cappadocia, giving a spectacular view of the region; hot air balloon ride, the exhilirating and terrifying way of seeing Cappadocia’s landscape from above!
New York City, USA
Highlights: Taking in a breathtaking view of New York City from the top floors of One World Observatory, a technology- and future-oriented venue filled with interactive, high tech exhibits; visiting the site of the tragic 9/11 attack, the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial; eating my way through New York City, from fine dining at Eleven Madison Park, to eating at the “posh food court” or The Plaza Hotel Food Court; to the Lobster Place at Chelsea Market, to lining up for Halal Guys at 53rd street corner 6th, (and not just once!), to having Katz’ Deli‘s famous and huge Reuben sandwiches (all by myself), to eating the best cookies from Levain Bakery; checking out New York City’s newest upscale shopping mall, Brookfield Place; having lunch at the lavish Baccarat Hotel; staying for a few nights and having brunch at the rooftop of the modern Quin Hotel.
Washington DC, USA
Highlights: Visiting the must-see historical sites, like Washington Monument, the US Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Lincoln Memorial; hearing High Noon Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Roman Catholic Church in the US and North America; taking the kids to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, which has the largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artefacts. And… eating at the popular landmark restaurant, Ben’s Chili Bowl.
Read more: Washington DC’s Iconic Monuments
Highlights: The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, which was both luxurious and magical; Universal Studios for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure; Disney World Hollywood Studios, decked out in Frozen theme–which was heaven for my little girl!
Highlights: Senso-ji Temple, one of Tokyo’s most popular Buddhist temples and also, the city’s oldest; Epson Shinagawa Aqua Stadium, a small indoor park housing 300 species and about 20 specimens of marine animals; an exclusive dinner at Sushi Mizutani, one of Tokyo’s oldest sushi places; and eating at Gonpachi, (the “Kill Bill Restaurant”), Birdland for yakitori, fine dining at Narisawa and L’Effervescence, both French Japanese Restaurants, highly rated by The World’s Best Restaurants. And of course, a stop for sweets at Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki.
Read more: Tokyo Adventures: Food and More
Highlights: Osaka Castle, a 16th-century shogunate; and Kani Doraku, an iconic restaurant in Osaka’s popular and brightly lit Dotonbori street.
Read more: Osaka: Bright Lights and Good Food
Highlights: Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district; the symbolic architecture of Machiya houses; Nijo Castle, which dates back to 1600’s; Bamboo Grove in Arashimaya, an extensively sprawling bamboo grove, where the bamboo stalks tower over you and grow endlessly in every direction–magical and otherworldly.
Highlights: I’m still processing this entire trip honestly… but there’s the city of Bergen where we took the Norway in A Nutshell tour and saw Norway’s magnificent fjords, stopped by the charming little town of Undredal, and explored the World Heritage Site of Bryggen. There was Tromso, where we tried dogsledding and tried to catch a sight of the elusive Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights… and almost gave up hope until we finally saw it on our last night. (Blog post coming soon, I promise!)
Read more: The City of Bergen and the Fjords
Where I am now? Bagan, Myanmar
…more on this in a future post! 🙂
What travel means to me
This year has been the busiest one I’ve had in terms of travel! It has pushed me to visit new places and try new things I’ve never done before.
Traveling, in spite of my many commitments, played an important role in my life this year. It gave me much-needed quality time with my family, and together we experienced all these adventures and made so many special memories for us to keep.
I also know that I wouldn’t have been able to travel so freely and leave Manila behind if I was “disconnected”. Connectivity, as we know is very important these days, especially given the nature of my life as a blogger and as a new entrepreneur. There was one time I almost decided to skip a family trip because I felt that my work with Grace Home needed my presence. If it weren’t for my mobile roaming, I would have gone truly crazy, I think!
It goes without saying then that another highlight for me this year is being chosen as one of Smart Infinity’s brand ambassadors. This has given me the opportunity to use Smart Infinity’s reliable roaming service, called Smart Surf Abroad. Using this service afforded me discounted roaming rates, complimentary monthly roaming SMS, and travel assistance perks. Seriously, I don’t know how I would have gone through this year of traveling without it! Even now, as I carve some time to go online and share my thoughts with all of you (while currently in the middle of nowhere in Bagan, Myanmar), it is Smart’s roaming service that allows me to keep in touch and write this blog post! I’m grateful that I am able travel the world and that I am a part of the Smart Infinity family. And you know what, I do think anyone who is always on-the-go or who travels the world frequently should consider its enhanced mobile roaming plans! Get the full details on smart.com.ph/infinity.
Thank you, Smart for travelling with me all throughout 2015! I am looking forward to an even better and greater 2016!
So what’s next in my travel calendar for next year? I am already as excited as you are… so stay tuned!