One Year in Asia in Review: 2013 Instagram Recap

Sunrise over Angkor Wat
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I’ve been traveling for almost four years now, and 2013 may have been my most significant year to date.

This year brought me to Asia for the first time in my life. It was a whirlwind of eye-opening cultural experiences that have changed the way I see the Western world. During my time in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, I explored, relaxed, learned, laughed, ate, drank, jumped, and flew.

I also began Instagramming with hopeless abandon. These are some of my favorites!

Jinkang Tea Culture Street, Xi’an, China

At the end of 2012, I moved to central China to teach English for six months. I lived on the beautiful Jinkang Tea Culture Street, in a poor neighborhood in Xi’an, just east of the city. It was always beautifully decorated, though incredibly dirty, and some of my most memorable moments in China took place on this very road.

Tibetan Temple, Shangri La, China

Chinese New Year is in February, and during the holiday break I took off to explore the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan. Here, on the border of Tibet, lies Shangri La, a mystical mountain town set amongst the tundra. The temples here are colorful and unique, always adorned with prayer flags, seemingly overflowing from every edge.

Tiger Leaping Gorge, Lijiang, China

During my time in Southwest China, I spent three days trekking through the deepest river canyon in the world, Tiger Leaping Gorge. This photo was taken close to the end of the trek, looking back along the mountains from where I had just come.

The Great Wall of China, Beijing

May brought me to Beijing for the first time, where I went hiking on the Great Wall of China. This was especially meaningful for me, as my grandmother, a well-traveled individual, used to speak of China all the time. As I made my way across the Great Wall, I felt as though I was following in her footsteps.

Hammock Life, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Though touristy by nature, I fell in love with Thailand and its beaches. I spent five days lounging in hammocks on Koh Phangan, drinking beers on the beach and staying up until the early hours of the morning. In such seclusion, there’s no reason to worry about anything else.

Khao Soi, Northern Thailand

Khao Soi immediately became a favorite dish of mine. In the north of Thailand, khao soi is a common noodle dish often found being served by street vendors. It is served with chicken or beef in a curry sauce made from coconut milk. It has pickled cabbage, shallots, lime and ground chili, then is topped with scallions and deep-fried crispy egg noodles. This savory meal was called for at least once a day.

Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand

In traveling through northern Thailand, I visited the Elephant Nature Park, an elephant reserve funded by the Save Elephant Foundation. They house and take care of abused Asian elephants who have been rescued from the tourism industry in Thailand. For more information, and to support them this year, please visit http://www.TravelBloggingCalendar.com, a grassroots travel blogger charity project raising money for the elephants.

Hot Air Ballooning, Vang Vieng, Laos

After an early night in Vang Vieng, I woke up at the crack of dawn (5:30am) to catch a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the mountains. It was cloudy the day before, and some of the haze still lingered. From 1.2km in the air, we glided over mountains and rice fields below as we watched the rest of the small town come to life.

4000 Islands, Laos

Small traditional villages, waterfalls and vast rice fields make this a unique and eye opening place to explore! In riding my bike through some of the villages located on the other side of this temple, one small boy of about six jumped on the back and I gave him a ride home as he was walking back from school. He clung to my shirt as all the other villages stared on in disbelief, wondering what this white man was doing!

It’s the small moments.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

I had intended to watch the sunrise at the less touristy Angkor Thom, but a late start on the day (5:15am) meant I wouldn’t make it in time. Instead, I sprawled out at Angkor Wat, avoided the throngs of tourists on the inside, and watched the sun come up over the temple. It cast a lovely color in the sky and a silhouetted reflection on the moat below.

The Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The royal residence of the king of Cambodia looks like something out of a fairy tale!

The Streets of Saigon, Vietnam

Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City, is renowned as one of the most bustling places in the world. The streets are packed with motorbikes and the sidewalks are loaded with pedestrians. I captured this photo on Bui Vien Street in District 1.

Rice Paddies, Sapa, Vietnam

A two day trek through Northern Vietnam brought me through the rice paddies of Sapa. The day before it had been snowing–it was only the second snowfall in more than ten years! This day, the sun shone through, but the snow-capped mountains remained.

My hike through Sapa was the very last thing I did in Asia, before flying home to the United States. After a sunrise hike through the mountain villages, passing chickens, water buffalo, huts and streams, I looked down into the valley, drew a deep breath, and said goodbye to my beloved Asia.

Are you on Instagram? Let’s connect! @travelfreak_

Jeremy Foster

Founding Editor at travelFREAK
Jeremy left home in 2010 to embark on a journey to the other side of the world. Years later, he's still on the move and exploring other countries. He is now a traveling cocktail bartender and the head writer for travelFREAK! You can usually find him on either side of the bar, acting wanky and pretentious about booze.

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13 Responses to One Year in Asia in Review: 2013 Instagram Recap

  1. Kim- Wandering Walters December 26, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    Excellent article! We cannot wait to make it to Asia….hopefully it will be sooner than later!

    • Jeremy Foster December 28, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

      Thanks, Kim! I love Asia and, now that I’ve left, I yearn for it! I can’t wait to go back!

  2. Charli & Ben December 27, 2013 at 3:44 am #

    Instagram is such a superb way to capture locations. I love each and every snapshot you’ve captured on your travels! Great round up!

    • Jeremy Foster December 28, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

      Thanks, Charli! Instagram has become my new favorite social media channel. I can’t get enough of it!

  3. The Blond travels December 27, 2013 at 3:54 am #

    Wonderful!

  4. http://theroamingcoconuts.com/ December 27, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    Oh man, I could really go for some khao soi right now! This is a beautiful post, of a beautiful year!

    • Jeremy Foster December 28, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

      How good is khao soi!? I’d kill for a bowl right now.

  5. Brandon Quittem December 28, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Awesome recap! Hot air balloon rides over Vang Vieng is quite different than the activities a couple years back ha ha! cheers!

    • Jeremy Foster December 28, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      Well, the tubing has been mostly shut down, though it still operates. There are three bars that exist along the river now, but it’s not nearly what it used to be. Vang Vieng was almost a ghost town when I was there in November…

      • Brandon Quittem December 28, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

        Interesting. I was there in 2010 but all we did was tube and party. Going to be back in Laos in May, 2014. Maybe it’s time to appreciate the natural beauty in VV. The rest of the activities still up and running? (cave tours, etc)

        • Jeremy Foster December 28, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

          Yep! Everything else still up and running, but it really seems like the locals are struggling with the loss of tourism there. There was a lot of development, due to the influx of travelers, but now they aren’t there and the locals have taken it hard.

  6. Michael Hodson January 1, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    Some great shots here — congrats and keep up the good work.

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