Countries we’ve visited (in chronological order) include Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Nepal, China, Taiwan, Japan and Vietnam.
I’ve tried my best to make the the post more readable by making descriptions short and only picking the best pictures — hopefully you will enjoy reading it.
In mid 2013, while sitting down at our favourite chill-out spot in Singapore, we started talking about travelling long-term for a year.
We’d read a couple of RTW (Round-the-World) blogs and thought to ourselves, wouldn’t it be a dream come true if we did the same someday? We indulged in the fantasy and wrote down a list of places we would go.
The following day, we started researching and found the Round-the-World air ticket.
“If we really decide to go, I’d like to do this before I turn 30,” Reuben texted me.
He was 29 in 2013.
We bought our tickets and said goodbye to our jobs, family and friends in early 2014.
Our first stop. It is home to the world’s best steaks, wines, glaciers and the hearty-est people I’ve ever known.
Our home for the first month. It’s been described as the “Paris of South America”. Rightly so. Despite its recent economic woes, the city retains its fusion of classic European charms and carefree South American vibes.
Hiking on the Perito Moreno glacier in Los Glaciares National Park and visiting El Chaltén was the beginning of our Patagonian adventure.
Argentina’s Perito Moreno glacier is 250 km², or about 1/3 the size of Singapore. Hiking on this monster of an ice field was one of the most sublime experiences of our lives.
The Chilean side of Patagonia and the Atacama desert skies took our breaths away. The people’s story of coming out strong in South America after a period of fascism under Pinochet touched us.
Torres Del Paine
Hands down the nicest national park we were in this year was Torres Del Paine. We took a 5 day hike to complete the challenging Torres Del Paine ‘W’ Trek.
Santiago and Valparaiso
In Chile’s cities, we were surprised to find a country similar to Singapore. Mis-labelled as “boring”, this country proved to be brave, innovative and as spirited as its famous poet Pablo Neruda.
San Pedro de Atacama
Our last stop in Chile was the the Atacama desert, filled with geysers, lagunas and an incredible night sky.
Of Salar de Uyuni, La Paz and Copacabana. We had some serious National Geographic moments here.
Salar de Uyuni
Bolivia wasn’t even on our go-to list when we first started. Since we were so close to the border, we decided to cross over and see what the fuss was all about. We spent 4 days in a 4×4 jeep and toured the world’s largest salt flats.
With an altitude of over 4000m high and nestled in the Andes mountains, La Paz is the world’s highest city. We enjoyed the messy, sprawling city, its interesting personalities and great views.
In La Paz, we met a fellow Singaporean in the hostel who told us that Isla del Sol and Copacabana are must-visit spots in Bolivia. We took a bus to Copacabana, the main Bolivian town on the shore of Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America.
We spent our third month in the beautiful country of Peru to see the world famous Machu Picchu and rest in the colorful, Incan city of Cusco.
The trip to Machu Picchu took us on a 3 day hike, consisting of zip-lining and biking along the way before we reached our destination.
The Incas built Machu Picchu around 1450, but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. While it was known to locals, it was made popular only after a visit by a Yale university professor.
Cusco was a treat for our tired hiking selves. We took a month to enjoy the slower pace of life in Cusco, meeting entrepreneurs from all around the world who had settled down in the upcoming city to set up businesses in tourism and hospitality.
Cusco was the capital of the Incan Empire. The beautiful city of Cusco is filled with relics from the Inca period. Sadly, churches were erected directly above the Sun-temples during the Spanish conquest. The city itself represents the center of indigenous Quechua culture in the Andes, and by merely walking the streets, one sees the layers of history.
Germany has a special place in my heart. The country is currently the unwilling leader of Europe — which is strange, because they did try to take over Europe twice.
Present day Berlin is creative, innovative and very interesting because of its history and open culture. We spent most amount of our time in Germany there, visiting co-working spaces, watching the World Cup with Germans.
Bavarians are super proud of their culture and heritage. And they have the right to be! Home to crazy kings, beautiful castles and IMO some of the world’s best beer, it’s not hard to see why people love Bavaria.
Veni, vidi, vici. A trip to Europe without Italy is incomplete. We took this chance to visit Rome, Venice, Pisa and Florence.
The Eternal City. We were awed by the history and culture of the city. Oh, and the food too.
Summer in Venice was amazing. We loved the city that inspires so many with its beauty.
Pisa is known worldwide for its leaning tower. We took a day trip out of Florence to reach the cathedral grounds of Pisa.
Under the Tuscan sky, I left my heart in Florence. We felt instantly under-dressed upon reaching this sleek, artistic city with its incredible duomos and non-stop partying.
Florence, or Firenze, is the cradle of the Renaissance. It is magnetic, romantic and busy. Many fashion labels like Gucci and Roberto Cavalli were born here. We found the best way to enjoy the city was just to walk around it and discover its many pockets of art and history.
Hungarians tell us that their language sounds like a crazy mix of alien language. We agree. Nope. Not Slavic, not Russian. Give up guessing.
We stayed in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, for 3 weeks. The city is split into two parts, Buda and Pest (thus the name Budapest). Buda is the former capital of the Kingdom of Hungary, and consists of the western part of the current Hungarian capital Budapest, located on the west bank of the Danube. Pest is the eastern, mostly flat part of the city, comprising about two thirds of the city’s territory.
Greece has an active tourism industry, thanks to the historical veins that flow through Athens (named after Zeus’ daughter Athena) and the romantic atmospheres of its famous islands like Mykonos and Santorini.
Athens is the capital of Greece and is one of the oldest cities of the world. Greek mythology comes alive here. We were enthralled by the stories of power, love, determination and hope of the Athenians. Our Airbnb host, young and energetic, also gave us an insight into the current economic situation of the Greek economy and how it affects the younger generation of Greeks.
About 6 hours from Athens by boat, we cruised along the Aegean sea to reach Santorini, the volcanic island with stunning views and amazing sunsets.
Santorini is exactly like how I imagined it — except with a lot more people. The sunsets in Oia draw the most amount of tourists, but other than that it’s truly a gorgeous island.
A country we fell in love with. In between Europe and Asia, the capital of Istanbul is a great representation of this country’s position in the world. Young Turks tell us that they wish to be closer to Europe, but their President’s policies are drawing them further away from this.
I’m not quite sure when it happened, but it must have been between the hamams, the amazing Turkish breakfasts, its beautiful mosques and super hospitable people that I fell in love with Turkey’s capital.
Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish. It is a natural site in Denizli that contains hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left behind by the flowing water.
The best thing to do in Pamukkale’s travertine pools is to just let the warm water run over your feet and enjoy the amazing views that nature has bestowed upon this city.
Cappadocia lies in the center of Turkey and is a magical city. Filled with hot air balloons, fairy chimneys and cave churches, we had a great time exploring this moon-like landscape.
Cappadocia’s most extraordinary phase was during the medieval era, when the valleys were a refuge for Byzantine Christians — who created churches in the caves that were formed by volcanic eruptions.
An unexpected destination with a lot of Orthodox Christians. Georgia was occupied by the Soviet Union and a majority of the population speak fluent Russian.
Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia. Walk around the city center and you’ll probably smell sulfur from the baths. Head into a restaurant and order a Georgian Khinkali “Xiao Long Bao”, and definitely try their stews!
Energy is bursting in the capital of Kathmandu, a stark contrast to the peace and serenity found in the Himalayan mountains in the Annapurna region.
All mountain adventures start from the crazy capital that is Kathmandu. Messy, noisy and bursting at the seams, we found ourselves in a love-hate relationship with this adventurous city.
Pokhara and Poon Hill Trek
Pokhara is the second biggest city in Nepal and is where most treks into the famed Annapurna region begin. We spent a total of 5 days on the Poon Hill trek, where we got beautiful views of the Annapurna mountain range.
From cultural artefacts, nature, to big city life — China has something for everyone.
We began our journey in Chengdu, the main city of the Sichuan province. There we found amazing (spicy) food, pandas, gorgrous natural scenary, giant buddhas.
Jiuzhaigou National Park
Jiuzhaigou Valley is a nature reserve and national park in Sichuan. Its pristine lakes and well-preserved landscapes, coupled by the Tibetan influences enthrals visitors everywhere.
Another national park, with stunning views of temples set to the background of snowy mountains.
Like a confused teenager, Beijing is trying to find its new identity between modernity and retaining the cultural relics left behind by thousands of years of history.
Beijing is a must-visit for anyone going to China. We sank our teeth into the best Peking duck we’d eaten in our lives, ooh-ed and ahh-ed at size of the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China and tried our best to get out of the pollution after President Obama left the city, bringing the blue skies with him.
The Yangtze River & Three Gorges Dam
The Yangtze River, known in China as the Chang Jiang, is the longest river in Asia. We cruised down the river to the Three Gorges for 3 nights and woke up on the last day in the famed Three Gorges Dam itself.
Oh how we miss Taiwan. Its lovely views of the Pacific Ocean, the friendly people and delicious snacks from its famous night markets.
The ultra modern Taipei, with its skyscrapers and famed restaurants like Din Tai Fung. The best parts of Taipei are where locals hang out, like bookstores, night markets and KTVs!
Road Trip around Taiwan
Taiwan is the perfect country to cover via a quick road trip.We toured around the country in 10 days, driving to cities like Kaoshiung, Taitung, Taichung, Yeliu Geopark and other National Parks in between.
Japan is a mix of old and new. There are some things only the Japanese can pull off, like Hello Kitty, a great bowl of charashi rice and Pachinko. We had a great time exploring Okinawa, Osaka and Kobe.
Okinawa is an island off mainland Japan with the longest-living people in the world. It’s not hard to see why though: the older generation of Okinawans have access to clean, fresh air, impeccable views of the Pacific Ocean and know how to cook a mean tofu.
Spa World and Universal Studios. ’Nuff said.
We stopped by Hanoi for our very last stop before heading back home to Singapore. It was a welcome treat to just sit by the roadsides and people watch while sipping on a divine cup of Vietnamese coffee.
It’s been surreal to travel to such amazing places and have met some of the coolest people in the past 330 days. While we might be tired and have aching shoulders from carrying our 15kg backpacks around, there’s no doubt that it’s been the best year of our lives.
Joyce and Reuben, over and out!