Wow, 2015 really did fly by! This has been a really huge year for me- it’s been my big year of travel! I didn’t do the whole “gap ya” thing but always kind of felt like I’d missed out on it. Before coming to Korea, most of my travel was long weekends in Europe and trying to fit as much as I could into Ryanair’s hand luggage restrictions. This year, after saving my pennies teaching, I went away on a 3 months trip- not quite a
year long sabbatical, but a start! I planned to go home and “get a real job” but decided that this is more fun and came back to Korea for round 2!
Looking back at the pictures, I can’t believe how much I experienced in one year! I visited 6 countries across 2 continents. Hopefully I can up that number in 2016. But for now, here’s a look back at 2015.
The beginning of 2015 saw me saving like a maniac but I still managed to fit in a few trips. Skiing at Pyeongchang, the home of 2017 Winter Olympics and lots of hiking!
Tokyo was the city that I always fantasised about when I thought about living in Asia. Before coming here, I used to watch Lost in Translation over and over again. Now, I think it’s kind of weird that I thought my life would have been like Scarlett Johanson’s character’s because she wasn’t really having a very good time…. Tokyo turned out not to be my favourite Japanese city but I really loved exploring all the different neighbourhoods; especially Harajuku for the famous quirky street style, plus eating lots of sushi and ramen and drinking Japanese beer is always fun!
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
After I finished my teaching contract in Korea, my first stop was Kuala Lumpur. This seemed like the most logical place to start- I could fly their for cheap from Busan, then fly onwards to India for even cheaper with Air Asia! Another huge pull of going to KL was being able to meet up with my friend Emily who is working there at the moment… and since she is such a doll, she helped me cure my Irn Bru fix by taking me to supermarket that stocked every Scottish persons favourite orange, fizzy juice!
Mumbai was the first stop on my India trip and it was a bit of a culture shock. Even though I knew about cows being sacred in India, I couldn’t help but feel shocked the first time one mooed at me in the street! Mumbai is a huge city, and I found it much more overwhelming than Delhi, but I think that is probably because it was the first stop on my trip. Travelers who visited Mumbai later in their trip told me that they really loved it so if I ever go back to India, I’ll definitely give Mumbai another chance!
The next stop on my India trip was Goa for some much needed beach time with my mum! We stuck to the North part of Goa because of time constraints but I would definitely head to South Goa in the future. We spent 2 nights in Arambol which is supposed to be the main “hippy hangout” of Goa but because we went at the very beginning of the off season, we just missed them and their drum circles. Oh well….. We spent the rest of our time in Vagator beach which has great restaurants and is close to Anjuna Beach which hosts an huuuuge flea market on a Wednesday! Also, if you ever plan on visiting I would recommend taking a day trip to Old Goa which is full of really beautiful Christian chapels- it’s got a totally different vibe from other parts of India.
During the last 2 weeks of my trip in India I went to Rajasthan, Taj Mahal and Delhi with one of my best friends from home. I originally thought about skipping the Taj Mahal.. it seemed like a mission to get to and we had really been enjoying just kicking back in Rajasthan. I’m glad I went though. There is so much hype about not buying into the hype of the Taj Mahal but it really is worth a visit. It’s an image that we’re all so familiar with and it is surreal to see in person. Kind of like what you imagine it would be like to meet a famous person!
One of the best things about my big trip was the company that I had on it…. my mum in Goa, my friend Andrea in North India and my friend Emma from home in Sri Lanka. We had 2 weeks to explore Sri Lanka which was a great amount of time. Because of the size of the country, it’s easy to travel around in a short period of time. During our time there we visited tea plantations, saw elephants on safari, tried surfing, went snorkeling with sharks, drunk too much arrack (Sri Lankan coconut rum), discovered local villages by moped and lounged around the East Coast beaches. For such a tiny country, there is so much to see.
After 15 months away, it was time to go back to the homeland, wee bonnie Scotland! Being away from home makes you really appreciate what a beautiful country you come from. And also makes you realise how unique you are to be Scottish… I only met 3 other Scottish people while I was in Korea so I was definitely looking forward to all the Scottish chat and not having to repeat myself 20 times a day. Most of my time was spent catching up with relatives and friends, drinking lots of Williams Bros and Brewdog beers and ordering haggis on everything. It was amazing!
Off Sonar, Barcelona
For me, the music scene in Korea really does leave a lot to be desired. I’m not a big fan of K-Pop or expat open mic nights so I usually just have to make do with soundcloud in my bedroom! I was so excited for all the house and techno nights when I got back to Glasgow and I was soo happy that the Electric Frog Festival was on my homecoming weekend… buzzin! To top off an amazing holiday back in the UK, me and my friends went to Barcelona for the Sonar Festival off parties. It was a mental but amazing 3 days and I was so broken on my flight back to Korea that the flight attendant probably thought I had ebola. Like our previous trip to Sonar, we never saw much of Barcelona apart from the local supermarket, the balcony of our apartment and the parties themselves but I wouldn’t change that for the world. Sonar is one of the best weekends in Europe for house and techno lovers like me so it was the perfect end for my return to Europe!
After just being back in Korea for a few weeks, I needed to hop to Japan to change my tourist visa to a working visa. In July, this part of Asia is going through a really humid and muggy monsoon period. So it probably wasn’t the best time of year to make use of the ferry service that runs from Busan. My journey there was choppy to say the least but choppy is ok! What was annoying was getting stranded for my return journey and having to book an emergency flight back to Korea. Aside from that Fukuoka was a great city. Much more chilled out and much less tourists than Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto. Highlights of the trip were sushi, bare bums and catching up with my old primary school pal Ashleigh who had been out teaching on the Net programme.
Korea (Round 2)
So it was back to Korea for me. The land of kimchi and lots of perks for English teachers. I must admit that I was more inclined to come back for the latter rather than the former, but I do try to make the most of this country and see as much as I can. Because air fares here are expensive and we have a rather controversial overland border, it can be difficult to travel overseas. But since I’ve been back I’ve been enjoying exploring Korea’s countryside using their (amazing!) 4 River Bike paths on my new bike. It’s been going well apart from getting knocked off my bike by an ajumma (older *terrifying* Korean lady.) I finally managed to get up to the DMZ and peek in North Korea and have also squeezed in discovering more of Seoul and Busan at the weekends.
So, that’s 2015 all wrapped up- it’s been a bit mental, eh! Looking forward to seeing what new places and experiences 2016 brings!
What was your highlight of 2015? Leave me a comment below!