After a good and decent 2013, I have been mulling the last couple of weeks over my travel plans for 2014.
Most hardcore travellers I know, tend to drop everything at the drop of a hat and catch a flight. That’s their commitment to travel. Well, not me. I have a regular job, and personal commitments. So as much as I would love to drop everything, I have to plan that drop well in advance. So, as it mostly happens, most of my flights are planned at least 4 months prior to travel. And each trip is planned at least a year before. And for those who have been asking me if I have made my plans for 2014, well, I have!
The list below is not exhaustive, because I also make sudden plans if I see a cheap deal, albeit very rarely. And the list does not include the countries i have already visited and will most definitely be visiting again this year too. In other words, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines. Also, the list does not include my own country India, which I have dedicated to explore a lot this year. And of course, the list is in no specific order, except chronological.
1) East Timor
When: In another week!
Why: East Timor, or Timor Leste, is one of the newest countries in the world, and it is better to get there before the rest of the rat-pack rushes down. Apart from being at the base of the famous coral triangle (which has the highest diversity of coral reefs in the world), there are plenty of ship-wrecks in the nearby waters, making East Timor a diver’s paradise. But since I don’t dive (YET!), I’d rather head to the highland coffee plantations of Ermera and Maubisse, and just chill there.
How: The ‘how‘ is the only scary part about getting to Dili, the capital of East Timor. There is no direct flight from Singapore, so I have to take a flight to Bali, and from Bali choose among one of only 2 airline carriers – Sriwijaya and Merpati. I bet you haven’t heard of either, but I chose Sriwijaya because of its airline safety scoring. Merpati had a score of only 2/7. Sriwijaya had it much better at 3/7! 😀
Why: I love the smell of Pho in the morning on a Good Friday! (18th April). And yeah, the historic sites in Ho Chi Minh are definitely a draw too. Sadly, wont have much time to cover Sapa and Hanoi, will have to come back for that some other time.
How: From Singapore, just wait for a promotion from TigerAir or Jetstar. And if you see a return fare in the SGD 150 range, TAKE IT!
Why: Ni Hao! I want to see the great wall of China before it becomes un-great!
How: There are relatively cheap flights from Singapore, on the China Eastern Airlines.
Why: Drink up with the crazy Laotians I have met in Khaosan Road before! And for the cheap food mostly. And for a change, I will have Visa-on-Arrival! And Luang Prabang is my dream place in South East Asia!
How: Singapore to Bangkok on some cheap flight, and then Bangkok to Udon thani on an even cheaper flight. And then cross the land border at Nong Khai.
Why: Never been there, mate! I have no idea what I plan to do in Australia, but given the size of the country, I should have a concrete plan by July.
How: There are some cheap flights from Singapore to Darwin and Perth nowadays. I am keeping my eye open for promo fares on Jetstar, tigerair and scoot for a one-way fare below 100 SGD. (why one-way?? Well, this is a smaller piece of a larger plan! )
Why: It’s close to Australia, and the Vanuatu people are simply delightful to photograph! And, no visa required!
How: Air Vanuatu flies from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, to Port Villa in Vanuatu. Slightly expensive for my taste (one-way is roughly 350 SGD), but I wouldn’t mind spending on this one.
Why: If you get the drift, this is going to be an Oceania month! So, why miss out on Fiji? And visa on arrival rocks! And have you seen the mesmerizing beaches there??!!
How: Fiji Airways runs flights for as cheap as 170 SGD from Port Villa in Vanautu, to Nadi in Fiji.
8) New Zealand
Why: Capping the Oceania adventure. Meeting old friends in Auckland. And new sheep! And checking out the Waitomo caves and Taupo lake.
How: There are regular flights from both Fiji Airways, and Air New Zealand, from Nadi to Auckland.
Why: Who doesn’t want to go to Bhutan? And Damn, we Indians don’t need a visa there yet! And we also dont need to pay the expensive tourist tariff! To see, the Taktsang Monastery in Paro alone is amazing on the eye.
How: Cross the border at Phuentsholing. Preferably on a motorbike, since the views are amazing and you don’t want to be stuck inside a dingy bus.
Why: If I can ride into Bhutan, why not into Nepal? And yeah, as you would have noticed before, I am enticed by countries where I don’t need a visa. :-D. To visit, my top places would be the Annapurna base camp and Pokhara.
How: Cross the border at Kakarvitta or Birganj, on a motorcycle.
Why: It is so close to Kolkatta!! It would be a crime for an Indian not to ride into this country. A visa is required, but can be obtained from the Bangladesh embassy in Kolkatta in just a day or two. And the sunderbans is worth that extra day.
How: Cross the border at the Haridaspur/Benapole border crossing. I will try to exit via eastern side of the country, so that I can continue into North East India.
Why: Because a crazy Greek traveller friend has been telling me for ages that he thinks Iran is the best country ever. Because I don’t need an advance visa! Because I really dig ancient cities, like Hegmatane, Susa, Pasargod and the Persepolis.
How: Air Arabia runs a few cheap flights from India to Iran. You can catch a flight from Mumbai or Bangalore, and fly into Tehran or Shiraz.
Why: The Nagorno-karabakh exclave is enchanting, although I may have to forget about entering Azerbaijan after this. Located elsewhere in Armenia, are some of the most beautiful monasteries that were ever built.
How: There is a bus service between Tehran and Yerevan, or will have to rely on the local minibuses.
Why: Visit the UNESCO sites in Racha and Imeriti. TRY to get into the separatist region of Abkhazia.
How: Cross the Armenia-Georgia border at Guguti or Ninotsminda.
Why: Finish the year and begin the new year, partying in Bodrum! Check out the mosques and the Roman ruins. Kappadocia. Gallipoli, and the amazing Oludeniz! Although I will no longer have a visa-on-arrival, the Turks will be implementing the E-visa process by April 2014, which should still be relatively easy.
How: Cross the Sarpi border from Georgia.
Like I said at the beginning, this list is not exhaustive, and things could change. The primary factor which may affect this travel plan, is safety concerns. Some countries mentioned in this list, have sporadic unrest and appear to be safe at the time of writing. If that changes during the time that I am visiting, I will chuck the plan and go back to the whiteboard. If nothing else happens, THIS is the plan! And hopefully, I should be able to fit in a side trip to a few other countries too. (Like PNG from Australia, and Azerbaijan from Iran)
And if anybody is interested in joining me in any of these trips/legs, leave me a comment below, or contact me here, and buy me a cheap beer! (ok, forget the beer!)
Update: The list was pretty much completed by the end of the year, except for Bangladesh, Iran, Georgia and Armenia, all of them due to Visa-related reasons. But instead, I managed to visit UAE, Qatar and Sri Lanka during the year which were not in my original travel plans. So, pretty much win-win.
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