15 countries on my 2014 Travel Radar 7

After a good and decent 2013, I have been mulling the last couple of weeks over my travel plans for 2014.



Click here for my update of 2013, and the countries visited.



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! 😀

Dili, Timor Leste

Beaches of Dili. Image courtesy: Wikitravel.org



Click here to check out how the Dili visit actually turned out!


2) Vietnam

When: April

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!

Ho chi minh war museum

The tank that ended the war. Ho Chi Minh. Image courtesy: Wikitravel.org


3) China

When: April/May

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.

National theatre of Beijing.

The National theatre of Beijing. Image courtesy: Wikitravel.org


4) Laos

When: May

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.

Wat That Luang Temple in Vientiane, Laos.

Wat That Luang temple in Vientiane. Image courtesy: Wikitravel.org


5) Australia

When: July

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! )

View of the Sydney Harbour

View of the Sydney harbour. Image source: Wikitravel.org

Click here to check out Katoomba, a little while away from Sydney.


6) Vanuatu

When: July

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.

Port Vila in Vanuatu

Vanuatu from above. Image source: wikitravel.org

Click here for pictures of Vanuatu’s Mele cascades!


7) Fiji

When: July

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.

Yasawa island in fiji

Yasawa island in Fiji. Image source: wikitravel.org


Click here to check out the broken bridge in the rugby town of Sigatoka, Fiji!


8) New Zealand

When: July

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.

Auckland port in New Zealand.

Auckland port. Image source: wikitravel.org


Click here to check out the magical sunrise at Wellington, in New Zealand.


9) Bhutan

When: October

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.

Thimphu Valley in Bhutan

Thimphu Valley in Bhutan. Image source: wikitravel.org


How does Bhutan look like in the cold December? Click here to know!


10) Nepal

When: October

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.

Annapurna base camp in Nepal

View from the Annapurna base camp. Image source: wikitravel.org


Click here to check out the ethereal Fewa lake in Pokhara, Nepal.


11) Bangladesh

When: November

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.

Lalbagh fort in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The Lalbagh Fort. Image courtesy: wikitravel.org


12) Iran

When: End-November

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.

Shiraz in Iran

The ancient city of Shiraz. Image courtesy: wikitravel.org


13) Armenia

When: December

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.

Sanahin Monastery in Armenia

Sanahin monastery in Armenia. Image courtesy: wikitravel.org


14) Georgia

When: December

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.

Georgian Dancing

Georgian dancing. Image courtesy: wikitravel.org


15) Turkey

When: December/January

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.

Oludenz beach in Turkey.

The beautiful Oludenz beach of Turkey. Image source: wikitravel.org

Click here to check out the magical mosques of Istanbul!

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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About Abhi Surendran

Abhi quit his corporate job, and decided to immerse himself in travels, photography, occasional periods of bankruptcy, and copious amounts of insanity. He is currently working on a book of his experiences, and a dream road trip through South Asia. Both in a haphazard fashion. He blogs at Iamnothome and you can also catch him at times on Facebook and twitter.

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