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The Highlights of 2016 Travels

It’s that time of the year again. Every year, like most people would, I look back and reflect on the travels I’ve done throughout the year. Here is what I’ve got for this year.

2016 has been lauded as a terrible year due to major celebrity deaths and controversial political events. For me, I started the year on a high with a new job at a start up in Singapore, where everything was new and exciting. I spent much of the year getting to know my coworkers, many of whom have become close friends and a huge part of my life this year. I learned how important it is to surround yourself with people who are in the same wavelength as yours.

The year ended in somewhat a somber note for me, but in the process I am learning some important life lessons. I learned how to deal with my insecurities, defining my personal boundaries, coping with disappointments and coming to to terms on conflicts I didn’t think I could have resolved in the past. All useful life skills I plan to continue honing in the next years to come.

On the travel front, it was an amazing year – no doubt. It’s easy to forget events throughout the year as they become memories, especially when you’re feeling down. I didn’t realize I had done so much in 2016 until I started writing this post. It made me feel great about myself… and reminded me that this is exactly the reason why I keep a blog!

So without further ado, here are my travel highlights of the year:

1. Exploring parts of Japan that is not Tokyo, for once.

The rows after rows of torii gates at Fushimi Inari

The rows after rows of torii gates at Fushimi Inari

Since my maiden trip to Japan two years ago, I have visited Tokyo and its surrounding regions twice. In 2016 I finally got to branch out and visit other regions – Kansai in one trip with friends and Kyushu in another trip with cheaptickets.sg.

It’s no secret I have always been fond of this land of rising sun. However what made Japan really memorable is that in the Kansai trip I met up with my best friend Kat, whom I’ve known since we were 18 but haven’t seen face-to-face after i left Los Angeles 8 years ago. Despite the thousands of miles and fifteen hours difference, we managed to keep in touch via messaging app almost every single day for all these years – an extremely rare quality of friendship. The only other person I do this with is Serena who now lives in New York, but we usually meet up every year for a trip.

Kat and I, reunited in rainy Osaka

Kat and I, reunited in rainy Osaka

I also got to check off several bucketlist items – visiting Japan during Hanami (Sakura) season, seeing the torii gates at Fushimi Inari, visiting Nagasaki and Hiroshima for the Atomic Bomb history lessons, and a roadtrip at a foreign country.

Playing with friendly deers in Nara

Playing with friendly deers in Nara

So much Sakura everywhere in Japan

So much Sakura everywhere in Japan

Roadtrip in Kumamoto

Roadtrip in Kumamoto

I’m forcing myself to stop right here, or else I would go on and on and on writing about Japan.

For more posts in Japan, you can visit this page  I’m still in the process of writing more posts on Japan so stay tuned!

2. Jordan – visiting the Middle East for the first time!

This year I was also lucky enough to be invited by Jordan Tourism Board. They had reached out to me months before and the plan finally materialized in May, where I spent 7 glorious days tasting Middle Eastern cuisine and experiencing the wonderful sights in Amman, the Dead Sea, Dana, Petra and Wadi Run.

There is just something about visiting a new territory. Those 7 days were total sensory overload for me. The sights, the smell, the taste of the food… and oh, the food. I can never forget the texture of perfectly creamy Hummus and a melty goodness of a freshly baked Knafeh.

I have written extensively about the food and my experience in Jordan. To view the Jordan posts, you can click here.

A spread of hummus, falafel, mutabal and ful medames in Amman

A spread of hummus, falafel, mutabal and ful medames in Amman

At a view point at the Dead Sea

At a view point at the Dead Sea

Camel camp in Wadi Rum

Camel camp in Wadi Rum

Petra city from the above

Petra city from the above

Probably my favorite picture of 2016 - At the Treasury in Petra

Probably my favorite picture of 2016 – At the Treasury in Petra

3. Falling in love with Diving – Like, really.

Let’s start with the statistics – I clocked in 45 dives this year. This is a huge deal for me, because it makes up 50% of the total of dives I’ve had my entire life – so far, I have done a total of 91 dives since I got my license in 2012.

How did this happen? I went on three liveaboard trips this year – two big destinations to Raja Ampat and Komodo, which gave me 19 and 16 dives respectively, and a small weekend trip to Tioman which totals to 6 dives. I also did 2 dives while visiting Bali and another 2 in Similans. Basically, I snuck in diving whenever I could!

So many mantas at Manta Ridge in Raja Ampat

So many mantas at Manta Ridge in Raja Ampat

Endless corals at Melissa's Garden

Endless corals at Melissa’s Garden

Truth to be told I hadn’t planned on diving so much, but when opportunity presents itself you just have to take it. Raja Ampat was planned almost a year in advance, else it’s difficult to get a spot at our favorite liveaboard operator White Manta. We had such an amazing time in Raja that right after the trip ended, a few of us decided that we need more underwater time and booked the trip to Komodo with the same boat.

Unfiltered, dramatic Sunset in Komodo. It's like this every single day!

Unfiltered, dramatic Sunset in Komodo. It’s like this every single day!

The Dive Deck at Black Manta. I love this view.

The Dive Deck at Black Manta. I love this view.

I agonized over it for awhile because diving trips are not easy on the wallet, but eventually I rationalized the cost by reminding myself that I save so that I don’t miss out on life experiences like these.

4. Testing the limits of my fitness.

Prior to 2016, I was not at all a fit person. It wasn’t until the later part of 2015 that I started working out regularly. At the beginning of this year, I started doing Barre exercises 2-3 times a week at WeBarre. I have to give them credit where it’s due here – Barre has helped me a lot in terms of improving my cardio and endurance level.

In April, a group of friends and I trekked Mt Rinjani in Lombok. We did not summit since we don’t have enough time, but this was a very tough physical and mental challenge for me. If you’d like to know more, I wrote a lengthy post on the trek here. Fun fact: The Rinjani trek post has become the most popular post on this blog!

Team Rinjani - One last picture before we descended

Team Rinjani – One last picture before we descended

In July, I went back to Angkor Wat to run a 10km race. While this is not really pushing my limits as much as the half marathon I did last time I was in Siem Reap, it turned out to be my personal best. I hadn’t been training much until maybe the week before, so I think Barre really helped me!

Running through one of the gates in Angkor Wat

Running through one of the gates in Angkor Wat

What’s 2017 looking like?

Honestly, I haven’t got the slightest idea. As for now, I have a Hong Kong trip booked for mid-January. I have been to Hong Kong many, many times before so I would be playing tour guide for my friends. I have an annual trip to Rawa Island in Malaysia in March and a week in Boracay in May for a wedding. I also have one last trip left before this year ends, which is to visit Shanghai and spending my new years there.

But if history is an indicator of what’s to come, I have nothing to worry about. Reading back on my 2015 year-in-review post I had no idea how 2016 was going to pan out, but it turned out to be one of the best years for me travel-wise!

As for wishlists of things I would like to do this year – I still want to try for rescue diving certification, going back to Europe in the summer (maybe finally going to nordic countries), some sort of road trip in Australia or New Zealand, visiting the Northern parts of Vietnam and perhaps South America though this is a long shot.

Last but not least, for real-time updates of my travel outside of Girl Eat World, you can follow me on my personal instagram @ichabunni.

Thanks for reading! I’ll see you in 2017 with more adventures!

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