ASIA 2016

Trip duration: 101 days (March 2nd-June 10th 2016)

Countries visited: 15

Route: Denmark - Hong Kong - Indonesia - Malaysian Borneo - Brunei - Malaysian Borneo - Taiwan - Japan - South Korea - Jeju Island - South Korea - Macao - Hong Kong - Mongolia - Kyrgyzstan - Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast - Afghanistan - Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast - Tajikistan - Kyrgyzstan - Italy - Denmark

In the air (1)
Day 1: March 2nd 2016 (Copenhagen to London)

Hong Kong (1)
Day 2: March 3rd 2016 (London to Hong Kong)

Indonesia (13)
Day 3: March 4th 2016 (Hong Kong to Jakarta)
Day 4: March 5th 2016 (Jakarta)
Day 5: March 6th 2016 (Jakarta to Pulau Belitung)
Day 6: March 7th 2016 (Pulau Belitung)
Day 7: March 8th 2016 (Pulau Belitung)
Day 8: March 9th 2016 (Pulau Belitung)
Day 9: March 10th 2016 (Pulau Belitung to Jakarta to Bali)
Day 10: March 11th 2016 (Kuta, Bali)
Day 11: March 12th 2016 (Kuta, Bali)
Day 12: March 13th 2016 (Uluwatu Temple, Bali)
Day 13: March 14th 2016 (Ubud, Bali)
Day 14: March 15th 2016 (Ubud, Bali)
Day 15: March 16th 2016 (Mount Batur/Kuta, Bali)

Malaysian Borneo (7)
Day 16: March 17th 2016 (Bali to Kota Kinabalu)
Day 17: March 18th 2016 (Kota Kinabalu)
Day 18: March 19th 2016 (Mount Kinabalu)
Day 19: March 20th 2016 (Mount Kinabalu)
Day 20: March 21st 2016 (Kota Kinabalu, Shangri-La Resort)
Day 21: March 22nd 2016 (Kota Kinabalu)
Day 22: March 23rd 2016 (Kota Kinabalu, Sapi Island)

Brunei (2)
Day 23: March 24th 2016 (Kota Kinabalu to Labuan to Bandar Seri Begawan)
Day 24: March 25th 2016 (Bandar Seri Begawan)

Malaysian Borneo (1)
Day 25: March 26th 2016 (Bandar Seri Begawan to Labuan to Kota Kinabalu)

Taiwan (5)
Day 26: March 27th 2016 (Kota Kinabalu to Taipei)
Day 27: March 28th 2016 (Taipei)
Day 28: March 29th 2016 (Taipei)
Day 29: March 30th 2016 (Taipei, Yangmingshan National Park)
Day 30: March 31st 2016 (Taipei)

Japan (15)
Day 31: April 1st 2016 (Maokong/Taipei to Tokyo)
Day 32: April 2nd 2016 (Tokyo)
Day 33: April 3rd 2016 (Tokyo)
Day 34: April 4th 2016 (Tokyo)
Day 35: April 5th 2016 (Tokyo to Hokkaido)
Day 36: April 6th 2016 (Sapporo, Hokkaido)
Day 37: April 7th 2016 (Lake Shikotsu, Hokkaido)
Day 38: April 8th 2016 (Sapporo, Hokkaido)
Day 39: April 9th 2016 (Hokkaido to Osaka)
Day 40: April 10th 2016 (Osaka to Kyoto)
Day 41: April 11th 2016 (Kyoto, Nara)
Day 42: April 12th 2016 (Kyoto to Hiroshima)
Day 43: April 13th 2016 (Hiroshima)
Day 44: April 14th 2016 (Hiroshima to Fukuoka)
Day 45: April 15th 2016 (Fukuoka, Nagasaki)

South Korea (1)
Day 46: April 16th 2016 (Fukuoka to Busan)

Jeju Island (4)
Day 47: April 17th 2016 (Busan to Jeju City to Seogwipo)
Day 48: April 18th 2016 (Seogwipo)
Day 49: April 19th 2016 (Seogwipo, Mount Hallasan)
Day 50: April 20th 2016 (Seogwipo, Manjanggul Cave, Seongsan Ilchulbong)

South Korea (5)
Day 51: April 21st 2016 (Seogwipo to Jeju City to Seoul)
Day 52: April 22nd 2016 (Seoul)
Day 53: April 23rd 2016 (Seoul)
Day 54: April 24th 2016 (Seoul, DMZ)
Day 55: April 25th 2016 (Seoul)

Macao (1)
Day 56: April 26th 2016 (Seoul to Macao to Hong Kong)

Hong Kong (1)
Day 57: April 27th 2016 (Hong Kong, Victoria Peak)

Mongolia (16)
Day 58: April 28th 2016 (Hong Kong to Ulaanbaatar)
Day 59: April 29th 2016 (Ulaanbaatar to Gobi Desert)
Day 60: April 30th 2016 (Gobi Desert)
Day 61: May 1st 2016 (Gobi Desert)
Day 62: May 2nd 2016 (Gobi Desert)
Day 63: May 3rd 2016 (Gobi Desert)
Day 64: May 4th 2016 (Gobi Desert to Central Mongolia)
Day 65: May 5th 2016 (Central Mongolia to Ulaanbaatar)
Day 66: May 6th 2016 (Ulaanbaatar)
Day 67: May 7th 2016 (Ulaanbaatar)
Day 68: May 8th 2016 (Ulaanbaatar to Kharkhorin)
Day 69: May 9th 2016 (Kharkhorin)
Day 70: May 10th 2016 (Kharkhorin to Ulaanbaatar)
Day 71: May 11th 2016 (Ulaanbaatar to Terelj National Park)
Day 72: May 12th 2016 (Terelj National Park)
Day 73: May 13th 2016 (Terelj National Park to Ulaanbaatar)

Kyrgyzstan (12)
Day 74: May 14th 2016 (Ulaanbaatar to Bishkek)
Day 75: May 15th 2016 (Bishkek)
Day 76: May 16th 2016 (Bishkek)
Day 77: May 17th 2016 (Bishkek to Karakol)
Day 78: May 18th 2016 (Karakol, Jeti Oguz)
Day 79: May 19th 2016 (Karakol, Skazka Canyon)
Day 80: May 20th 2016 (Karakol, Arashan)
Day 81: May 21st 2016 (Karakol to Kochkor)
Day 82: May 22nd 2016 (Kochkor to Kyzart Pass to Kilemche Jailoo)
Day 83: May 23rd 2016 (Kilemche Jailoo to Song-Kul Lake to Kochkor to Bishkek)
Day 84: May 24th 2016 (Bishkek to Osh)
Day 85: May 25th 2016 (Osh)

Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (5)
Day 86: May 26th 2016 (Osh to Karakul Lake)
Day 87: May 27th 2016 (Karakul Lake to Murghab)
Day 88: May 28th 2016 (Murghab to Khorog)
Day 89: May 29th 2016 (Khorog)
Day 90: May 30th 2016 (Khorog to Ishkashim)

Afghanistan (1)
Day 91: May 31st 2016 (Ishkashim to Sultan Eshkashim)

Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (1)
Day 92: June 1st 2016 (Sultan Eshkashim to Khorog)

Tajikistan (2)
Day 93: June 2nd 2016 (Khorog to Dushanbe)
Day 94: June 3rd 2016 (Dushanbe to Khujand)

Kyrgyzstan (5)
Day 95: June 4th 2016 (Khujand to Osh)
Day 96: June 5th 2016 (Osh to Arslanbob)
Day 97: June 6th 2016 (Arslanbob)
Day 98: June 7th 2016 (Arslanbob)
Day 99: June 8th 2016 (Arslanbob to Bishkek)

Italy (1)
Day 100: June 9th 2016 (Bishkek to Istanbul to Bergamo)

Denmark (1)
Day 101: June 10th 2016 (Bergamo to Copenhagen)

 

Visiting Afghanistan
Visiting Afghanistan

Untitled 3

On March 2nd 2016, I set off on my longest journey to date. After travelling solo through Northern Europe and Australia the year before, I felt that I was now ready to take on Asia. I decided to spend just over three months travelling through Southeast, East and Central Asia. The Total Solar Eclipse in Indonesia in March was the main reason for me to go to Asia in the first place, but since I was there, I thought I might as well check out some more Asian countries. I ended up visiting 15 countries, which was way more than I had originally planned, but every country had something amazing to offer. I generally enjoy travelling fast, as I get too lazy if I stay in the same place for too long, but I don't feel like I missed out on anything. Of course there were places that I didn't get to see in each country, but that gives me an excuse to go back!

Hong Kong

On the way to Jakarta, I had a long stopover in Hong Kong, a city that I initially fell in love with. I spent an afternoon exploring Hong Kong Island and Kowloon and watched the sun set over the beautiful skyline, before going to sleep in the airport. I loved Hong Kong and I was excited to go back in April, where I hoped to get to know the city better.

Indonesia

My first experience with Indonesia was its capital, Jakarta, which didn't impress me. As a matter of fact, it intimidated me! Everywhere I went, guys would shout at me on the streets, and I felt very alone and unsafe in the city that had been bombed by terrorists just one month earlier. My next destination, however, was like being in paradise. I went to Pulau Belitung, a small unknown island north of Java, where I travelled through the island with two lovely guys and watched the Total Solar Eclipse with tears in my eyes. I fell in love with the stunning scenery and the beautiful people of Pulau Belitung and swore to come back there one day. My last destination in Indonesia was Bali; the tourist destination over all tourist destinations in Southeast Asia. I wasn't impressed by Bali at all and I had some moments of homesickness when I was there, but seeing some good friends there helped a lot.

Malaysian Borneo

I left Bali two days earlier than planned and flew to Kota Kinabalu, the biggest city in Sabah on Borneo. I had originally, stupidly, booked my flights so I only allowed myself a week in Sabah, which I thought would be enough, but those two extra days were much needed. I spent two days on the greatest adventure of my life; climbing Mount Kinabalu at 4.095 m.! It was an epic climb and despite how tough it was, I loved every minute of it. I spent the remaining days in Kota Kinabalu, where I partied and relaxed with some new friends, saw orangutans at Shangri-La Resort and went on a trip to Sapi Island.

Brunei

At the end of my days in Borneo, I decided to go on a small trip to Brunei, a small country that is much richer, but also much more conservative than its neighbouring countries. I spent a full day in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei, where I explored the Water Village, saw some beautiful mosques and listened to the Call to Prayer, before going to sleep in my overpriced hotel, which was the cheapest in the entire country at 25 GBP per night.

Taiwan

I fell in love with Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, as soon as I arrived. So much that I decided to spend all of the 6 days that I had in the country in the capital and the surrounding mountains. I spent the days climbing mountains in the city with amazing views, sightseeing all over the city, eating candied fruits, enjoying the lively Ximen neighbourhood and climbing Mount Qixing at 1.120 m. in Yangmingshan National Park, where I met a new friend on the top.

Japan

I had been excited for Japan for a long time, mainly because I knew that two of my good friends would be there to celebrate my birthday with me in Tokyo. I arrived right in time for the beautiful cherry blossoms, which I saw in three different places. Tokyo was a pretty full-on city, so I was happy to take a breather on Hokkaido, which was my next destination. I absolutely loved Hokkaido and spent the days climbing mountains and hanging by a lake with my CS host. After Hokkaido, I flew to Kyoto, where I met up with my friends again and went on a day trip to Nara to see the sacred deer. My last days in Japan were spent in the south, where I explored the a-bomb cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and experienced two terrifying earthquakes in Fukuoka.

South Korea

After a night of no sleep because of the earthquakes, I caught a ferry to Busan on the southern tip of South Korea and was happy to finally be in a safe zone. I didn't spend long in Busan, as I flew to Jeju Island the morning after arriving. I spent the night in a 24-hour café near the airport after exploring the city for a few hours. Four days later, I flew to Seoul, the capital of South Korea, where I spent my days climbing mountains in the city, exploring the lively streets and visited the DMZ, where I got to peek into North Korea. The DMZ was an interesting experience and made me - even more - want to visit North Korea one day (soon)!

Jeju Island

The self-governing Jeju Island is the holiday destination of South Korea and is famous for its beautiful and diverse nature. I spent four days exploring the island and managed to see all of its famous nature sights. I climbed the extinct volcano Mount Hallasan at 1.950 m., saw two stunning waterfalls, explored the Manjanggul Cave, which is one of the longest lava tubes in the world, saw impressive basalt cliffs by the ocean and climbed a volcanic tuff cone.

Macao

What should originally have been the beginning of a big China adventure, ended with just half a day in Macao and a few days in Hong Kong. I flew into Macao in the morning and spent a few hours sightseeing in the center. I was pleasantly surprised by the old center in Macao, which reminded me of being back in Europe. It's a big contrast to the bustling casino streets that made the city famous.

Hong Kong

I was so excited to be back in Hong Kong, but, unfortunately, that excitement didn't last for long. I had prebooked a hostel in the Chungking Mansions in Kowloon without knowing what kind of place it is. Chungking Mansions, as I later found out, is the ghetto of Hong Kong and to make matters worse, the hostel was dirty, small and I had some of the worst roommates ever. Only one guy, Florian, and I seemed to be sane, so we decided to hang out on my only full day there, where we *tried* to climb the Victoria Peak. That was much easier said than done though, and getting to the top was impossible, but we did find some amazing views of the skyline of Hong Kong after all.

Mongolia

Oh Mongolia! To say that I loved Mongolia would be an understatement. I fell in love with the country's beautiful and diverse nature and its gorgeous and friendly people. Mongolia is now one of my favourite countries! I flew into Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, on May 28th and immediately booked a week-long tour to the Gobi Desert! I had a blast in the desert with my four lovely tourmates, a funny driver and a great guide. We saw a lot of stunning nature including ice valleys, sand dunes, snowy mountains, orange cliffs and vast rolling steppe, and stayed with nomads in their guest gers in the middle of the desert. After the tour, I spent a few days in Ulaanbaatar, before going on a short trip to the cultural village of Kharkhorin and then onto the beautiful snow-covered Terelj National Park.

Kyrgyzstan

After 2,5 months, my solo travels came to an end when I met my friend and long-time travel buddy, Steve, at the airport in Bishkek. Steve and I had decided to travel together for a month, which was the last month of my journey through Asia. We spent about three weeks in Kyrgyzstan, where we explored the capital, spent several days in the gorgeous town of Karakol near the Issyk Kul Lake and went hiking in the surrounding nature areas, went on a 2-day horse trek to the beautiful Song Kul Lake, discovered the culturally diverse city of Osh, where we fell in love with a cat named Molly, and, when we came back to Kyrgyzstan in June, we spent a few days exploring the picturesque village of Arslanbob on foot and horse.

Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast

From Osh in Kyrgyzstan, we embarked on an epic 3-day journey driving through the Pamir Highway, which is the second highest highway in the world! We made several picture stops on the way and spent the nights in the tiny village of Karakul by the shore of Karakul Lake and in Murghab, where things weren't quite as westernized as we had imagined. Our journey ended in Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, which is officially a part of Tajikistan and makes up 45 % of the land mass, but only 3 % of the population. The GBAO was an interesting place to explore and we were surprised by a lot of things that we experienced there, but mainly their lack of western standards (especially wifi), which we actually didn't expect.

Afghanistan

While we were travelling in the GBAO, we learned that travelling to Afghanistan was actually possible! We never thought it would be, since it's an active war zone and the Taliban are known for kidnapping foreigners. But luckily, the tiny village of Ishkashim in the GBAO shares a border with the slightly bigger, but still tiny village of Sultan Eshkashim in Afghanistan, which is perfectly safe and free from war and the Taliban. Despite us not having many days to spare, we decided to get our 150 USD visas and head to Sultan Eshkashim for two beautiful days full of positive culture shocks, friendly people, amazing food, stunning scenery and starry night skies. Our way-too-short trip to Afghanistan was the best thing I've ever done in my career as a traveller and I will keep the memories in my heart for as long as I live.

Tajikistan

From Khorog, we went on a spectacular 1,5 hour flight to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, which didn't go over the mountains, but THROUGH the mountains! It was a great start to our days in Tajikistan, although we had to cut our time in the country short because of bad weather. We ended up only spending one day in Dushanbe and one day in Khujand in the northern part of the country, but both of those days were filled with great moments and beautiful people. Dushanbe surprised us both with its grand architecture and modernity, and Khujand was one big party, since we arrived on a day with big celebrations in the city!

Conclusion

Travelling through Asia was amazing, although quite different from my other journeys in other parts of the world. In Bali, I experienced my first case of homesickness, I got caught in two earthquakes in Japan and in Hong Kong, I had the worst hostel experience of my life. But all of the amazing things that I experienced in every country made up for those few mishaps. My fondest memories from this journey are watching the Total Solar Eclipse in Indonesia, climbing Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia, Taiwan in general, seeing the Cherry Blossoms in Japan, experiencing a bit of arctic weather on Hokkaido, climbing Mount Hallasan on Jeju Island, exploring the Gobi Desert in Mongolia for a week, horse trekking in Kyrgyzstan, falling in love with Molly the Cat in Kyrgyzstan, driving the Pamir Highway in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, visiting Afghanistan for two amazing days and flying through the Pamir Mountains from Khorog to Dushanbe in Tajikistan. For the most part, I really enjoyed this journey and I now have a ton of new countries that I need to revisit!

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