In order chronologically, here are my top ten moments from the trip:
K-Pop Club in Seoul – Thinking we were walking into a casual restaurant / bar and then having the lights dim and the dance floor erupt, the night was wholly unexpected. But despite being the only white people there, we had a blast, made many new friends, tried new foods, and danced the night away. Also got to hear my favorite K-Pop song from Thacher played (BigBang – Last Farewell). Looking back almost three months later (yes it was our 3rd or 4th day), I think it might have been one of my favorite nights of the entire trip.
Visiting the Bund, Shanghai – Even the stunning pictures cant really do the scenery justice. It is amazing to see. On one side there is Pudong with some of the most modern buildings in the world (including two of the five tallest) and on the other side is the classical European architecture of Shanghai’s earlier days. An amazing place to take a walk at night. Side note, this was probably the place where Alex and I were the most “popular” in China and at one point had 20 people IN A ROW take pictures with us.
Hiking Huangshan (sunrise & sunset) – Sunset was quiet, sunrise packed. However not even the droves of Chinese tourists could ruin the most magical sunrise views imaginable. With the sun illuminating what looks like a dramatic still from the movie Avatar, words can hardly do it justice. And as for the night before, sneaking under a barbed wire fence really offered Alex and I some much needed quiet time in China. Just us, on a mountain top, watching the sun set. And if you have ever been to China you know that that, is pretty rare (both being alone & seeing the sun).
Sunset Boat-Cruise of Hong Kong – I had read it was fun, but little did I know…. For the fairly reasonable price of something like $20 a person, we took an hour-long sunset boat tour through Hong Kong (with a drink included!). With some of the world’s most famous skylines passing you by on either side, it’s hard not to feel in awe. And trust me, if you thought the Hong Kong skyline was cool already, wait until you see it at sunset.
Visiting Singapore Just Before SG50 – While we never actually saw any OFFICIAL activities for Singapore’s 50th Independence Day, the energy in the city (country?) was enough to put it on the list. With flags plastered to every surface imaginable and the words “Majulah Singapura” cresting a banner above every door, the people’s excitement was palpable. The whole week prior felt like the 4th of July, on America’s 500th Anniversary, in New york City, with all your most patriotic friends…. In short it was surreal. Singapore, congrats on 50!
Eating in Kuala Lumpur – Its hard to pick one meal in particular that was my favorite from the trip, but if you choose by city, I would have to think KL would run away with the title (although Hong Kong may be a close second). The beautiful cultural blending of KL’s people has lead to an amazing assortment of “local” and “authentic” cuisines form around the world. Cuisines such as Malaysian, Indian, Chinese, and Arabic are all considered commonplace for this metropolis…. Yes all those cuisines are local. Dumpling for breakfast, Masala for Lunch, and Char Kway Teow for dinner, yes please!
Visiting the Phi Phi Archipelago – Of all the things, Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Lee may have been one of the things I looked forward to most on this trip. It had been marked on my “Places to Go Before I Die” list for years and so when we finally arrived, it was a little surreal. The beach itself is not amazing (its crowded and the water is rocky) but from a purely visual perspective, it is hard to imagine many places in the world more beautiful. And once we had seen the bay, the day entailed visiting several other islands, seeing monkeys, cliff jumping, and snorkeling. All in all, a great day.
Coffee in Melbourne – I will be frank here, putting this on the list may be skewed by my love of coffee…. However when I found out that Melbourne is unofficially known as the “Coffee Capital of the World” I started to feel a lot better about my choice. In short, the coffee was amazing and came in so many unique forms I had never seen. Coffee with bubbly water to rinse afterwards with, check. A coffee that had been made like a tea and was poured over ice, check. A “iced coffee” that comes with a scoop of ice cream, check. A piccolo (what even is that), Check. If you can dream a coffee, Melbourne makes it. And, It’s probably delicious.
The Great Barrier Reef – Are there many places more “hyped up” in the world than the Great Barrier Reef? Short of things like the Eifel Tower and the Coliseum, I am struggling to think of something that ends up on more people’s bucket lists than the Reef. And after going I can tell you… cross everything else off the list and swim down under. Seriously, it’s amazing. The water is clearer than you have ever seen and there are dozens more fish than your local aquarium. It cannot be “over-hyped,” the Reef is simply a must go for anyone who can.
Exploring Oneroa, Rarotonga – Wake up, make breakfast, pack things in waterproof bag, swim across ocean lagoon, step on to beach of deserted island, read, swim, sunbath, swim back to main island at sunset, repeat. While it sounds hard to believe, that is actually what its like to visit Roratonga! With four different island just a ¼ mile offshore (but still protected by the outer reef of the island), a quick swim from Muri beach to the beautiful island of Oneroa can make you feel like you are reenacting Castaway. A beautiful tropical island, all to yourself, what more could you ask for?
(Bonus) Visiting Thames Town – Just outside of Shanghai in the small suburb of Songjiang (population 1.5 million), lies one of the oddest places I have ever been, Thames Town. The mega-development that now functions more so as a tourist destination rather than a housing development, played host to one of my favorite days. Casually walking the streets of abandoned British-style homes and cracking jokes with Alex regarding the hordes of wedding couples that come for photo-shoots, the day was a blast. From crashing tandem bikes, to frisbee catches in the park to eating at a Chinese-Ukrainian café to posing in front of a statue of Harry Potter… I could not make up a more refreshingly odd excursion