Not the worst year ever.
I really can’t complain. I mean, I started it off with a two week holiday to Taiwan, Hong Kong and China where I celebrated my 32nd birthday.
Taiwan was so much fun. A friend who lives in Taipei was more than happy to take us around, which proved incomparable as we tried so many foods and visited places we would likely not have known about otherwise.
We also experienced our first big earthquake in Taiwan. It was a 6.7 which isn’t that intense, but at 3am on the tenth floor of our hotel it was something else! We were in Kaiohsiung at the time, which was one of the closest cities to the epicentre. I stayed awake for an hour afterwards.
I'm sorry to hear that people lost their lives due to this morning's earthquake. I'm fortunate the hotel I'm staying in stands tall.—
Mario MMXVII (@itsa_Mario) February 06, 2016
Returning to Taipei the next day proved quite difficult, as the High Speed Rail was not running in the south due to the earthquake so we had to catch a packed, slower train with standing room only, and then change to the HSR, which added around four hours to the trip. We spent most of the trip back standing in the train’s hallway, right next to the toilets.
In Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai I got to revisit a couple of places from earlier trips, including Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak, as well as Lantau Island, which is where I stayed on my first visit.
Our Hong Kong leg coincided with the Lunar New Year. We went to the parade, saw the fireworks display and went to Sha Tin racecourse for their Lunar New Year raceday. There was a winter fairground on the harbour, and we even found our new favourite dessert place, eating there at least three times.
We stayed in what was simultaneously the most expensive and smallest hotel of the trip. Luckily I used some frequent flyer points I had saved up over the years, so it was not as painful.
We’d booked ourselves in for a Peking Duck experience at Beijing Da Dong, so were shocked to realise that there was another, cheaper Peking Duck restaurant across the road from our hotel. We ended up going there twice (when in Rome…), but Beijing Da Dong definitely won out.
In 2008 (I know, a restrospective within a retrospective) we were in Beijing, and the highlight of the tour was a visit to the Great Wall of China. The day before the day trip, Bob got sick, and it became apparent that he would be unable to go. We were incredibly disappointed, but seeing as we were staying in Beijing for a few more days after the end of the tour, we booked another day trip at our own expense, for the second last day of our holiday. We had to be at the hotel at 6am, but when we arrived just before 6, we were told that the bus had already left. I was so angry. I asked for a refund, as we had been given the incorrect time, but they told me that their office didn’t open for another three hours. I kicked up such a stink that they returned my money, and we left, with no time to book another visit.
In 2016, we arrived at the hotel which was to be the start of our Great Wall day trip. We were very early, to avoid any incidents. It was our last full day in Beijing, and we had no room for error. Little did we know that our efforts were pointless, as the company has booked us in for the wrong day. One of the lovely hotel staff helped us get in touch with the tour company, but it slowly became apparent that, for the third time, we would be missing out.
We were given a lifeline. We, along with the other guy who was on the same tour as us, could make our way to Mutianyu in a taxi. The driver would take us all the way and point us in the right direction. He’d wait for us to finish, and take us back to Beijing. The price was reasonable, and the three of us agreed. The chairlifts that took us up to the Wall were ancient. The views on top of the Wall were magnificent. The toboggan trip back down to the ground was exhilirating.
The most fun part of seeing the Great Wall was the ride back down 🎢 https://t.co/Rud8SL4Vvi—
Mario MMXVII (@itsa_Mario) February 17, 2016
We ended the trip with a few birthday celebs in Shanghai, and a >430km/h trip on the Maglev train to the airport. We saw more of Shanghai than the first time we visited, and as more experienced travelers we could appreciate and feel comfortable doing our own thing. As I mentioned in a previous post, we also discovered that our favourite dumplings restaurant opened up in Sydney recently, so we will most likely visit it in the coming days.
Mario MMXVII (@itsa_Mario) February 25, 2016
We took our mums to Melbourne for a long weekend in June, a belated Mother’s Day gift. We caught up with my cousin and a friend, had nice dinners together, visited the Queen Victoria Markets, St Kilda, and watched Chile become the Copa America champions for 2016 at the Crown Casino sports bar. It was such a lovely weekend away.
FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND
In July Bob and I embarked on our second driving holiday (Tasmania in 2015 was our first). This time, the destination was Far North Queensland, which we had previously visited. There were so many highlights, which I really must write about in a separate post, but snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef was one of the highest.
Mario MMXVII (@itsa_Mario) July 19, 2016
The past year was a great one for me. As this post has hopefully summed up, I saw some of the world, but I also ate lots of delicious food and spent a lot of time with my friends and family. I read a few great books, less than previous years, but still a happy amount, and watched lots of films and television shows.
I’ve posted a few tweets throughout this post, as well as a couple of photos of places and food that I have really enjoyed this year.
I do hope to write more in 2017 so that my thoughts and memories are fresh on the page, and I hope to challenge my brain a bit more. I plan to write about events during my 2016 trips in more details as well, so watch this space.
Cheers to the new year.