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.
I saw it the first time you posted it, but that photo of Mount Bromo takes my breath away every time! It nearly looks like you traveled to a different planet! I’m glad that this has been such a landmark year for you! Thanks for taking us along with you on all of your adventures! 😀
You’re welcome Rachel – I loved reading your stories from life on Planet China. And it’s been an interesting contrast to see how things have panned out in your new life back home. 😀
What a great year of adventures. I hope 2013 is even better. I have enjoyed coming along for the ride.
Thank you for following along Debra, I’m looking forward to more of your posts on Italy, Australia and the countries in between!
Hi James – I’ve been following your blog since I saw you posted a link one time a while ago. I have always been meaning to comment, and now I will actually say hello! I really enjoy all you’ve been posting, and even when I skim through posts quickly the photos really draw me in.
Your travel makes me envious, but you create an exciting avenue for us poor folk stuck behind the computer screen to come travel with you. Enjoying it a lot, hope to enjoy more to come. Beautiful blog!
Thanks for the comment Andrea, it’s been a while! No need to be envious – being in Canada means you’re a whole lot closer to some amazing places in Central and South America. Would love to make it there soon but the trans-oceanic airfares seem quite prohibitive at the moment!
Thanks to you, I knew about Mount Bromo now. Very surreal and beautiful picture.
Thanks in turn for reading – you’ll have to visit Bromo the next time you go to Indonesia!
The same credit goes to you, James! It’s been a wonderful and game-changing year for me as well. Just for reminding you, this year you were Freshly Pressed three times! Now that is something!
You’re very kind to bring it up Bama – being FP’ed was a big surprise each time. I’m hugely thankful to the WP team for choosing the blog and getting it out to a bigger audience.
Thank you for your always beautiful and interesting posts. Happy New Blogging Year!
Happy New Year to you too Ann-Christine, I’ve been greatly encouraged by your comments!
Congratulations on all you have achieved and experienced this year, James. It has been a joy to follow along.
Thank you Meghan, I look forward to reading about more of your adventures next year. 🙂
Have certainly enjoyed my vicarious travels through your blog. Can’t wait to see where we go next! Happy New Year!
Thanks Terri, I wish you a wonderful holiday season as well!
Thanks for visiting our country …
Kembali Jaka – I love Indonesia and I’m planning to return sometime next year. Selamat tahun baru!
Wow, what a year!! Though you did forget to write “gallivant some random part of the globe with kizzling around” in your 2013 plans.
Haha, I wish! Going on a food escapade would be barrels of fun. 😉
We need to make this happen. As soon as I get a job and figure my life out… May take a while.
What a great year of travel, may 2013 be even greater so you can continue to share it with us.
Also, a a fellow Spain-aholic, I really hope you are able to do the Camino de Santiago. I was fortunate enough to do it in 2010 and it was incredible, I would do it again tomorrow if I could! It is one of the best ways to see the country and really feel the cultural diversity as you cross such different regions of Spain.
Thanks Tali – love the revamped look of your blog by the way, I haven’t had a proper read through in some time! With the Camino nothing has been fixed at the moment, but I’m hoping to go either in May or September. I doubt we’ll be able to walk the entire length though – my mother’s keen on trekking the French side of the Pyrenees before skipping ahead to the final 100km.
Thanks for your kind words, James! I am sure that you will enjoy the Camino, even if you can’t walk the 800km. Lots of people start along the way, and I think your mother’s idea of starting in France and then skipping forward is great if you don’t have a lot of time. I’ll keep reading for more updates 🙂
Fabulous pictures and what a great year you’ve had James! Happy New Year!!!
Thank you Nicole, wishing you good health and happiness for the coming year!
2012 is an amazing year right :), hope 2013 is also the same :). Happy new year in advanced James 😀
Makasih Danny – Selamat Tahun Baru juga! 😀
Hey James, thanks for all your lovely posts!! Can’t wait to read more and see more of your lovely pictures! 🙂
You’re welcome Sophie, thank you for following along all this time!
Reblogged this on cienciayconcienciaccd.
What a wonderful year indeed! You can’t beat being paid for what you enjoy doing! I knew your blog was a winner the first time I set eyes on it. The FP is just the final icing on the cake 🙂 Congratulations James, and best wishes always!
I’m flattered Madhu – I could easily say the same thing about your own blog! I’m sure many would agree with me on this. 🙂 We’re eagerly anticipating your upcoming posts on Japan and Indochina. All the best in the coming year!
Great photos! You should visit Poland one day! 🙂
Glad you liked them – I’ll be sure to drop by Poland the next time I’m in Europe!
Wonderful photos and awesome that you found a job you love! Good luck with your adventures! 🙂
Thank you, Rhonda. May you be blessed in the coming year! 🙂
U had a great 2012! I want to visit Indonesia. Hopefully within the year 🙂 any plans of visiting the Philippines?
Mica of http://www.senyorita.net
The Philippines is at the top of my wishlist – I’m not sure if I will make it there this year but I hope to visit Vigan, Banaue/Batad, Pinatubo and other places in the near future. 🙂