2013 was an incredible year filled with diverse experiences throughout Asia. Hope you can get an idea of some of the amazing opportunities out there. Travel has opened the door to learning new things, meeting new people, and seeing the places I’ve always dreamed of. Hope this inspires you to travel in 2014!
Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in the Korean calendar. It usually falls sometime around the end of January through February, includes a lot of traditions, most importantly several specific foods. I had a wonderful opportunity to join Juno’s family to witness how they celebrated this holiday. Read more about Lunar New Year in Korea.
Even though South Korea is a very modern country and a place I feel really comfortable, it is still a country with a vastly different culture, and a place that truly takes some cross-cultural adjustment. Juno’s parents were extremely generous and hospitable. Here I am posing with her father at Lunar New Year. I was so happy that they think of me as “not very foreign” which translates as “he has dark hair, isn’t very tall, and loves our food!” And I must say, Juno’s Mom makes some incredibly delicious food.
Korean cuisine is some of my favorite in the world. While most of us are more familiar with Japanese sashimi, Koreans have a very similar dish called hoe. This raw fish is best prepared in the seaside city of Busan. Juno and I spent a few days exploring Busan and its fantastic cuisine.
My night in a Japanese capsule hotel was one like no other. It a world unique to the Japanese. I stashed my bags in a locker, changed into the uniform issued clothes and headed upstairs to the rooftop sauna and hot pools. At night, I settled into my little capsule where I got a surprisingly good night sleep. In a country where real estate is at a premium and prices are high, a night in a capsule is not only an economical choice, but a cross-cultural experience for us non-Japanese. Read about my Capsule Hotel Expereience.
You’ll never know unless you ask. They say hitching isn’t really a viable mode of transport in Japan, but he hostel manager in Beppu made me this sign and a young guy picked me up and drove me to Takamatsu. Two hours later I had a free ride and a new friend.
I can’t think of a more quintessential activity to do in Japan than sing Karaoke. Our hostel manager and a Buddhist monk (of all people) took me and a fellow German traveler out for an unforgettable night on the town. Here’s me and Christoph singing either Frank Sinatra or Oasis! Although Beppu was a small city, it’s got a lively nightlife. But its real draw are the many onsen (hot springs) around town as well as the hidden onsen of Beppu.
Much of my 17 days in Japan was spent soaking in one of the countries numerous onsen, or hot springs. The onsen is a national pastime and my hunt for onsen led me to many interesting places. Just look at these interesting and historic onsen in Kurokowa
How about an entire island dedicated to art? I sailed out to Japan’s Naoshima Island and spent a day walking around to look at, and get inspired by, creative art installments and museums. Even the public bathhouse there is an art installment. Check it out: Art Installations on Naoshima Island.
The place: Bantayan Island in the Philippines. Gorgeous clear blue water perfect for swimming. Get to Bantayan. Did I mention how un-touristy this place is? Better go sooner rather than later.
I have visited rice terraces in China, Laos, Bhutan, and other countries , and none have been as spectacular as those of Batad. We journeyed to Batad as part of a light three-day trek. The amount of manpower that must have been needed to build these thousands of miles of stone terraces is astounding.
Only meters from the warm salty ocean, this spring of fresh cool water bubbled out the ground. Part of the magic natural landscape of the Philippines.
Malapascua Island is one of the top dive centers in the Philippines. It also is low-key and has an outstanding beach. We stayed there for five days, heading out to the outer islands each day for snorkeling while the others went diving. I saw some incredible sea life and became infatuated with the underwater world.
The Philippines sure does do sunsets well. One of the joys of being on an island near the water is the chance to see the sunset every evening. It sure does make life a lot more romantic.
Sri Lanka is not a big island, but you can still see elephants living in the wild there. We rented a jeep and guide to take us to Habarana Eco Park where we spotted a few of these gorgeous creatures. The elephant pictured below was the first we saw and one of best moments of 2013. See more elephants in Habarana Eco Park.
The land once know as Ceylon is still a legendary tea producer. Tourism in Sri Lanka is so low-key, that we just showed up at this tea factory, originally set up by Sir Thomas Lipton, and asked for a tour. For a reasonable price we were guided around personally to see all the necessary steps in the production of our favorite beverage. Tea country is one of the highlights of Sri Lanka.
I worked from this balcony for a number of days in Sri Lanka. The internet wasn’t fast nor was the electricity reliable, but it didn’t really matter: this was an office with a view. The balcony of this small guesthouse was located in the little town of Ella, up in the hills of Sri Lanka. It was probably even better than any of these 10 cool offices I’ve had as a digital nomad.
I’m not a very good surfer, but at least I got out there and gave it a shot! These waves, a little bit north of the surf center of Arugam Bay, were supposedly for beginners, but were still a little bit too much for me to handle.
This is the way they roll in Sri Lanka, so I tried it out myself. On nearly every train you’ll see guys hanging out the doors. The trains in Sri Lanka don’t move fast, but they sure are fun, and a great way to experience this country.
One of the most spiritually meaningful moments of the year was visiting the place in Bodhgaya, India, where the Buddha reached enlightenment for the first time. The courtyard around this simple temple is such a serene environment, you couldn’t help but feel some kind of inner harmony. A descendant from the original Bodhi tree under which the Buddha sat, still grows here.
Had the great opportunity spend a couple weeks in India traveling with a friend from childhood. It was a great way to continue a long relationship and share some enriching new experiences.
Rishikesh is know as the yoga capital of the world and westerners like me have been seeking enlightenment, spiritual guidance, and yoga training here for years. We spent a couple weeks there, working on our laptops as digital nomads, and sampling each of the different ashram’s yoga instructors. We finally found our favorite yoga instructor, pictured below, near the end of our time in Rishikesh. He left us with a thought-provoking statement, “You [from the West] are very good at ‘outside science’. You understand that very well. You come to India to understand ‘inside science’, to better know what is going on inside of you.”
I had somehow resisted visiting the Taj Mahal, even after months traveling through India. When my brother joined me for two weeks in the subcontinent, he had one request: to see the Taj Mahal. I brought him there and surprised myself. No building in the world epitomizes such perfection and beauty as the Taj.
I made some new Bangladeshi friends on the day I got turned away at the India-Bangladesh border. The buses weren’t running that day so a group of five Bangladeshi guys and I hired a compact car to drive us three hours. The driver had his friend come along, too! That made eight. Needless to say, by the end of the trip we all good friends. (By the way, we only had one flat tire.) Pictured is half the group at our hotel room later in the day.
Sometimes you’ve just got to give in and do the touristy things. My brother, Juno, and I headed off into the Thar Desert of Rajasthan from Jaisalmer in a jeep. In a couple hours we got on some camels and rode. At the end of the day we watched the sunset from a sand dune and ate a delicious dinner cooked by our camel drivers. See more photos from our Camel Safari.
For the uninitiated, or non-British, high tea is the evening meal, similar to afternoon tea. We munched on light snacks, sandwiches, and lots of sweets accompanied by unlimited cups of hot tea. It served as a nice break from the bustle of the hot, dusty streets of New Delhi and was a fun way to spend the last day in India with my brother, who had visited for a week.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery is one of the most extraordinary places I’ve ever been. Perched on a rock-face, half-way up a mountain side, it’s a site that merits an exclusive trip to Bhutan. Good news for you, Bhutan has much more to offer than just Tiger’s Nest. Here Juno and I have almost reached the top after a couple hours climb.
It was amazing just to have gone to Bhutan. It’s a country I never thought I would be fortunate enough to visit. I had always been pessimistic about visiting, mostly because of the high visa fee associated with the country. What I ended up learning was that it wasn’t so expensive in the end. Read more about Bhutan’s unique visa policy.
The morning I starred in awe at this sunrise, I knew I would never see anything quite like this again in my life. In fact, if I had flown half-way around the world just to see this one sunrise, I would have returned home completely satisfied. I’ll never forget it. Period. See more sunrise photos from Lauribina.
I was fortunate enough to meet some great individuals as part of my group trekking in Nepal. We trekked the Langtang Valley together and shared some incredible experiences, epic views, pushing each other through some difficult physical challenges.
My 15 days in the Himalaya were some of the best days of hiking in my life. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve always wanted to see these mountains, and I saw them. I’ll let the photos do the talking.
A major highlight and milestone in my life was not discovering a new place to travel, but sharing a place I know well with new travelers. Together with my Malaysian partner Noel, I planned and led a small group tour through Singapore and Malaysia. We’re passionate about food and culture and that’s what shone through on our tour. Read more about me starting a tour company.
For the first time in my life, I got a smart phone. I’m a little technologically behind, but I hope I made up for it with my Instagram photos. My goal is to show the daily life of people and cultures in my Instagram feed. You can find me here: http://instagram.com/bohemiantraveler
My first night in Bagan was the full moon. After catching a splendid sunset and exquisite moon rise, I turned around to see people lighting candles in this small temple.
Bagan is one of the most serene sites in all of Southeast Asia. I spent four days pedaling around at sunrise and sunset to photograph these ruins. See my collection of photographs from Bagan.
It was an amazing year and I thank Juno Kim for spending most of it with me. Through the good times and the challenging moments, 2013 helped us to grow and really take travel to its highest potential.
Thanks to all of the readers of this blog! Your support has been awesome and I couldn’t have continued this journey without you!
A lot of ups and downs, so many things happened this year. Glad we went to great places and had all that amazing experiences! Cheers to 2014!
You really managed to see some fantastic places. And how lucky you are that you were able to share these experiences with so many special people… not to mention ALL THE FOOD. I love Korean food, so I count you as a lucky guy for sure! 🙂
Quite the year it’s been – can hardly wait to see where “we” go in 2014 *big grin*
What a spectacular year! And beautiful photos too.
As someone recently married with someone from abroad (I am Portuguese and my husband is Indian) I can feel you when you say “I was so happy that they think of me as “not very foreign”” regarding Juno’s parents. That’s a great compliment!! 😉
An amazing journey. Glad to have traveled to India and Nepal with you. Here’s to more adventures in 2014!
Wow! What an amazing journey! Your trip to Bagan sounded amazing. It inspires me to plan a trip to that area of the world!
Wow, that was a hell of a year. Congrats on the new tour company. I see you’re heading back to Borneo in 2014, as well as Colombia.
wow Stephen Bugno, you are very lucky to see whole world , this is your best tour in world because you came in front of TAJ MAHAL . thats a awesome to see you in the railway station. the world is very lovely …i also want to tour of whole world.
What a great year you have!
Lots of beautiful photos you took along the journey …
I hopefully to visit Nepal, and India someday! 🙂