2012: a year in review
2012 has been a bumper year for the blog. While Plus Ultra was previously focused on Spain, I have since turned my attention to exploring places a little closer to home. There are clear downsides to living in a frenetic, stressful city like Hong Kong but its location is not one of them – destinations such as India, Indonesia and Japan are all within five hours’ flying time. In a big way, 2012 has been about grabbing hold of opportunities – stepping out and making decisions without any regrets. I’ll remember this year as one of breakthrough, when writing turned from a hobby to a serious vocation. So far editorial work for a regional adventure travel mag has proven to be a dream job, especially when fellow colleagues share the same passion for exploring our planet.
In February I had my first-ever experience of a Beijing winter. Despite the cold, I enjoyed darting around the Forbidden City on a rare day of clear blue skies, revisiting the Temple of Heaven and wandering the narrow hutong on foot. The smog set in eventually, but that did not hamper the fine views from the top of Jingshan Hill. Local friends made sure I had a taste of Beijing hospitality, and on the final day I was humbled by an encounter at a ruined section of the Great Wall.
In May I joined fellow travel blogger Bama on the first of several joint trips – to laidback Laos via a brief stopover in Kuala Lumpur. We learned to slow our pace in Vientiane, before embarking on a bone-rattling minivan ride down Route 13 towards Luang Prabang. Among the town’s many wats and French colonial shophouses, we admired the intricate details of Wat Xieng Thong, satisfying our physical hunger with Tamarind’s modern Lao cuisine.
Two weeks later Bama and I teamed up again for a short trip to Southern China, around the famous karst landscape of Guilin. Downstream from Yangshuo, we based ourselves in the town of Xingping, where we climbed a karst hill and motored down the Li River in a PVC bamboo raft. At the Longji rice terraces we stayed overnight in a traditional guesthouse, learning a few phrases in the local Yao language. Towards the end of our trip, we experienced the kindness of a local student.
A four-day weekend in October was reason enough to plan another escape – this time to Bama’s native Indonesia, the tropical nation of 17,000 islands. In Jakarta I was quickly introduced to the colonial district of Kota Tua and the flavours of Indonesian cuisine. Further to the east, one of my most cherished travel moments occurred at Mount Bromo, where we watched the sun rising over an unearthly, primeval landscape. I used to dream of becoming a vulcanologist, and this was my first chance to get up close and personal with an active volcano.
No round-up would be complete without a special thank you to Bama, who was the catalyst and travel companion for three of those four trips. I would also like to thank you, dear reader, for following along on my journeys and growing the blog’s audience from a small handful in January to the current count of 2,000 subscribers; something I never personally thought possible!
More adventures are in the works for 2013 – flights have been booked to Taiwan for a 10-day break next March, and tentative plans have been made for a mother-and-son hiking trip along Spain’s Camino de Santiago. Looking back over the past 12 months, I’m overwhelmed by the success of this blog, the new friendships that have been forged, and the memories that have been made along the way.
See you next year, and may it bring you good health, new experiences on the road, and many happy moments that will be treasured forever.