It’s that retrospective time of year! 2011 has been amazing, to say the least, and as 2012 is just around the corner, I thought I’d take a minute to look back on some of the adventures that really stood out. This list is in no exact order, but all 11 of these experiences had their place in conspiring to make 2011 yet another fantastic ride.
So thank you, universe, for an amazing 2011…and onto 2012!!
11. Blissing out in El Nido (The Philippines)
There’s something about tiny island fishing towns, where there are only two main streets, an abundance of $10 massages and a shake shack stocked with fresh fruit, that forces you to slow down and just relax. The time I spent in El Nido was a welcome mental respite, when my biggest decisions of the day were whether to nap, read, or lay on the beach (or all three!). The slow pace and ridiculously chill vibe of El Nido are some of the reasons I walked away completely enamoured with the Philippines.
10. Partying in Boracay (The Philippines)
Of course, islands aren’t just for relaxing ;)
From the moment I landed in Boracay, I knew I was in trouble!!
9. Exploring Jeollanamdo with a girl I love ♥ (South Korea)
One of my best friends in the world visited me in Seoul, and (besides roping her into hilarious photos!) we spent a couple of days exploring the Boseong Tea Fields and Yeosu Island in the southern part of Korea. I was a bit worried that the trip wound be ruined by grey, rainy weather, but it wound up creating the most vibrant forest scenery.
8. Going to the Boryeong Mudfest (South Korea)
Oh yes, Korea’s answer to the Full Moon Party: Boryeong Mudfest. Every year, throngs of people descend on a small beach town on the west coast and spend their weekend drinking, dancing, and playing (somewhat haphazardly) in the water, all under the guise of celebrating the holistic qualities of local mud. Definitely an experience! A group of us got together and had a truly epic weekend on the beach, going down mudslides and swimming in the ocean and playing in the dirt!
7. Witnessing the sunset at Las Cabanas (The Philippines)
My last night in El Nido, a group of us got together and made a trek out to a deserted beach to watch the sunset. The scenery we saw that night made an impression on me, to say the least…
6. Participating in the Temple Stay programme (South Korea)
I spent two weekends away at Buddhist temples here in Korea, in which we woke up before dawn for the morning chants, practised meditation and the 108 bows, ate completely vegan meals, and sat down to afternoon tea with monks. Can’t I spend every weekend chilling like that?
5. Hiking the Jirisan Dulegil (South Korea)
This autumn, I spent the fall holiday hiking along the base of the Jirisan mountain range. The route took me through tiny villages, past hermitages and flowering fields, up into forests and down into valleys. I passed crops of pumpkin, apples, persimmons, red peppers, squash, and ginseng growing right along the trail. Tiny old ladies gave me smiles and rice drinks when I stopped to rest, and I spent the night in what can only be described as a Korean alpine village – high up in the forests, buried in mountain fog, not a neon sign in sight. And the country scenery that I saw was something I never thought I’d witness in such an industrial place like Korea!
4. Spending an afternoon with murderers, rapists, and drug dealers (The Philippines)
While in Palawan, some travel buddies and I went to visit the Iwahig Penal Colony, an open-air prison that allows visitors to come and hang out with the inmates. Gift shop (yes, there is one) hustling aside, it was by far one of the most fascinating things I did in the Philippines – and obviously an upcoming blog post! ;)
3. Participating in a raw food yoga detox retreat (The Philippines)
Are you one of those people that secretly dreams of disappearing into the jungle and joining an intentional community with organic gardens, resident energy workers and multiple yoga sessions a day? Because I definitely am (blame Berkeley!). While on Palawan, I found a centre that was hosting a raw food yoga retreat and went to check it out with one of my travel buddies from El Nido. We were only there for a short time, but the few days we spent were some of introspection and horizon-broadening. Time to plan some jungle adventures for next year!
2. Island hopping in the Bacuit Archipelago (The Philippines)
Maybe it was the colour of the water, the look of the cliffs, the green of the jungle or the sound of birdsong all around us, but at some point in the Philippines, I realised that I was vacationing in a National Geographic spread. Or, at least, my coworker’s desktop wallpaper.
1. Getting shot at with live fireworks during the Yenshui Fireworks Festival (Taiwan)
OK, OK, I know I said that this list wasn’t in any particular order, but this was definitely my top adventure of 2011. I happened to visit Taiwan right after the Lunar New Year, when certain cities began gearing up for their festivals of light. Unlike other towns which celebrate with floating paper lanterns or lighted sculptures, Yenshui likes to celebrate by rolling massive structures filled with fireworks out into the streets and firing them directly into the crowds. Apparently, the number of times you’re hit is the number of blessings for the new year. Everyone wears a motorcycle helmet and long sleeves as protection, but I still saw more than a few articles of clothing set on fire.
All in the name of good luck!
2012 has a lot to live up to…….but I have a feeling that it won’t disappoint!
Anything you hope to see more of next year?