Best of 2017: Our Year in Travels

2017 marks my second year travelling with my husband after we officially got married in 2016. It has been an interesting ride for both of us, as we get more and more used to travelling as a couple. In fact, it feels weird not having him by my side when I explore new places. He’s my best traveling buddy!

Compared to the previous years, we only managed to visit/revisit three destinations in 2017. We spent the bulk of our annual leave in Iran and the rest of it is spent in Chile and Indonesia. I did go to London for the first time in my life, but that didn’t really count as I was on a business trip. Anyway, I love travelling for a longer period in one country and that allows me to learn more about the country, people, and culture. I wish I could do that for most of my travels, but unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of travelling long-term.

There is one thing we did not manage to do in 2017: going to the beach! We realized this quite late and before we knew it, the monsoon season had begun. We did attempt to go to the Tioman Island off the eastern coast of Peninsular Malaysia during the Christmas weekend, but we were forced to abandon our trip as our boat to the island was cancelled. Oh well, at least we got to see the jetty town of Mersing!

Anyway, here’s the recap of our 2017 travels:

Iran

Iran was the first country we visited this year. I had been telling my husband how awesome Iran is and how badly I wanted to come back to this beautiful country since my backpacking trip in 2011. I had a slight worry though – Iran had become more and more popular among travellers and tourists. Would it be as authentic as it was 5 years ago? Commercialization is unavoidable and when that happens, it changes the people and the culture in it. This has become a frequent occurrence to many tourist destinations. One should not look too far as it has been happening in Bali. My doubts about Iran were real and I was so ready to be disappointed.

Amazingly, Iran surprised me yet again! My husband and I had the most memorable and well-spent 15 days around the country. We met so many friendly locals that were so willing to open up and talk to us. In fact, we spent most of our time with them, day and night. Strangers on the street would say hi and who would have thought that we would strike into a long fruitful conversation afterwards? It was these random encounters that made me truly in love with the Iranians. Suddenly, visiting different attractions were no longer our aim as listening to their stories and learning about their cultures were much more interesting. Our conversation about Iranian culture, politics, and religion opened our eyes and we felt so lucky to be able to have such opportunity straight from the source!

Not to mention that Iranian hospitality is out of this world! It is something that Iranians have high regard for and eventually, that’s what they are known for. Ask anyone who has travelled to this country and they would most probably tell you stories about how friendly and helpful the locals are. Our encounters with them were no exception and those beautiful memories are something I’d cherish forever.

With Mostafa and Saeede at the art gallery of Tehran With Mohammed in EsfahanMy husband was swarmed by elementary school kidsSome school kids in EsfahanMohsen & Shekoofeh who hosted us in EsfahanWith Jamileh & her family in Yazd

Yes, I could see that there were more tourists visiting the country compared to 5 years ago. There were more hotels built, more taxi drivers offering tours to different attractions, and longer queues to take pictures and for the visas. But the fact remains that Iranians have not changed much — they are still as friendly, hospitable, and curious as they were last time. Without the people that we met and talked to, our visit to Iran will never be the same!

I’ve written my travels around Iran extensively through the Iran series in this blog — and it’s still work in progress. Yes, I still have a lot of things to say about this country!

The Best of Iran series: Iran: Trip of a Lifetime

Torres del Paine, Chile

I never thought I would ever visit South America until I reach 40 or 50. The thought of it being so far from Asia and so expensive made it such an impossible journey to take (thanks to the bad performing Malaysian Ringgit). But alhamdulillah that opportunity came when my husband was stationed in Chile for work for 3 months. In the beginning, I did not want to go to Chile as I had to fork out at least RM 8,000 (or nearly USD 2,000) for my return flight to the country alone. Quite a lot of money, considering I wouldn’t be able to stay there for a long time. Luckily, I was asked to go to London for a business trip at the time when my husband was in Santiago and since I was already halfway around the world, I decided to make the 15-hour journey from the UK to Chile. I’m so glad that I eventually made that decision!

As soon as I made up my mind to visit my husband in Chile, I immediately knew that I absolutely must go to the famous Torres del Paine! Why would I go all the way to Chile to see a mediocre part of the country? This could be my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and my first time in South America. I gotta choose the destination wisely. The tricky part is that I only had about a week in Chile (my annual leaves were running out!), which means that I could only go to the southern part of the country, skipping Santiago (with the exception of a few hours transit) and Atacama Desert in the north. I’d do anything for the sake of the Torres.

Base of the Towers Torres del Paine as seen from the Grey Lake

In the end, it was a journey worth sacrificing. Torres del Paine is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been in my life. The mountains are so breathtaking — I’ve never seen anything like it! I was so blown away by the whole panorama of blue lakes with a huge mountain backdrop in front of my eyes. Words cannot properly describe how amazing this place is. Sorry, New Zealand, you are no longer at the top of my list. Torres del Paine is in another different level! I hope I’ll be able to come back to this paradise to do a W or O trek!

Torres del Paine from the Paine Lake

I’ll be blogging about Torres del Paine in my next few posts. Do stay tuned and please subscribe if you don’t wanna miss out the blog posts!

Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Yogyakarta is a beautiful region that has a lot of things to offer: from beaches, temples, mountains, caves, to culinary tours. It has recently become one of Malaysia’s favourite places to visit due to the popular Indonesian movie, Ada Apa Dengan Cinta 2, showcasing a number of popular places in Yogyakarta. Yes, I know… after visiting the two of the most awesome destinations on earth, Yogyakarta seems to be quite mediocre, but I’m glad I made a visit as it had been in my list since a long, long time ago!

Prambanan TempleMt Merapi Borobudur Temple Timang Beach

My trip to Jogja (a short name for Yogyakarta) was slightly different this time. My family came to join my husband and I so instead of doing an adventurous travel that we always do, we took it easy this time and did a rather relaxing trip. That means, we did not go to the off-the-beaten paths and visit most of the tourist attractions. It was more about being with the family rather than travelling. It was enjoyable nonetheless as we got to see some of the spectacular views of Jogja.

South Sumatra, Indonesia

Although my father is a Buginese originally coming from South Sulawesi, his ancestors sailed to South Sumatra and called this province their home. His family and all of his extended family members live here and that is the reason why I try to go to this part of Indonesia every now and then to visit them.

Our visit to the capital city of Palembang is rather unique this time. It was the first time for my husband to visit South Sumatra and meet my father’s extended family members. It was also the first time for all of us to spend less time in Palembang and get out of the city to see the countryside.

Yes, off we went to Pagar Alam, literally “the gate to nature” in English. The town is surrounded by a mountain range (hence, it’s the gate to nature) and it is famous for its tea plantations. The beautiful view and cool temperature are some of the reasons why Pagar Alam became a local favourite. The journey from Palembang to Pagar Alam was brutal though — it took a total of 8 hours, passing through a few small towns along the way. But as soon as we arrived in Pagar Alam, all that tiredness spending 8 hours on the road became a thing of the past. Such a beautiful town with lots of tourism potentials!

I’ll be writing more about this unknown place on this blog.

To conclude…

That’s it for our year in 2017 travels. I can’t wait for 2018 as we’re planning to embark on a new journey on another continent (if all goes well, insyaAllah). We are also planning to go to Saudi Arabia to do our umrah pilgrimage soon. And hopefully, we’ll get to see the beach before we bid Malaysia farewell.

Do check out our video of the best of 2017:

Have a great new year, everyone!

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