Anjci All Over | Travel Blog


2014 has seen me visit a uniquely diverse list of countries. I have camped under the stars in Namibia, hiked the Argentine Patagonia’s breath-taking trails, enjoyed massive steak servings in Cape Town, perfected my Greek in Karpathos, criss-crossed Lisbon to distraction, enjoyed the absence of tourists in Romania’s gorgeous city of Brașov and – last but not least – flew from London to Hong Kong to Okinawa to Taiwan to Hong Kong to London in just a week. I have been lucky to be joined on some of these trips by the wonderful man in my life who has brightened every such experience endlessly.

And the best comes last! In mid-December I will fly to Burma for two weeks before meeting my boyfriend in Sri Lanka where our good friends are getting married on 30 December. The two of us will welcome 2015 together in Colombo. It will be a wonderful end to yet another unforgettable year.

Take a look at my traditional 2014 newsletter where the happenings in the life of anjči over the course of 2014 are described in more detail. Here though, without further ado, I present you some photographic highlights from my most memorable trips in 2014. Burma and Sri Lanka will be added here when I return to London in early 2015.

Chiang Mai welcomes 2014 with myriads of hot air lanterns and fireworks

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1-4 January: The sight of Chinese lanterns soaring up in their thousands to Chiang Mai’s darkening skies on New Year’s Eve is still fresh in my mind as I board a bus to Bangkok on 2 January 2015. Thailand’s capital greets me with millions of tourists, and, for a moment, I think that the entire world has decided to spend their winter break here. It is my second visit to Bangkok and, after enjoying multiple massages and not as much touristy activity as the first time, I escape to the quieter town of Ayutthaya. The ruins of many temples, once clearly a breath-taking sight, are the main attraction of this former capital of the Siamese kingdom.
~Chiang Mai / Bangkok / Ayutthaya, Thailand

Young woman in traditional clothing laughs in Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple near Chiang Mai

Buddhist monks collect alms early on the first day of 2014 in Chiang Mai

Sun sets over Lumphini Park in Bangkok

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5 January: On my return journey to London, I have a short layover in Seoul, the city I have madly wanted to visit for years. Dashing through passport control to make the next airport train, I soon find myself strolling down the Insadong-gil Street in Seoul’s traditional neighbourhood of Insa-dong. Stopping at the only shop open this early on a Sunday to get warm (Seoul is decidedly colder in winter than Southeast Asia), I continue to Gyeongbokgung Palace where the changing of the guards ceremony under Seoul’s crispy blue skies nearly brings me to tears. South Korea is exactly as I have imagined and I am dying to explore more – but it is time to return to the airport.
~Seoul, South Korea

Changing of the guards ceremony unfolds at Gyeongbokgung Palace

Guard sports a fake moustache at Gyeongbokgung Palace

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18 January: On a weekend visit to my home town of Riga, I ask a friend – an unbelievably talented photographer – to take some quality photos of myself. I bring along a few Asian outfits (which I make no secret of purchasing at every opportunity) to create several “Asian” looks. The result exceeds all expectations. I especially love the red cheongsam.
~Riga, Latvia

The author poses in several Asian outfits: the Chinese cheongsam (qipao)…

…and the Japanese yukata

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8-9 February: Best known for its mustard – most of it actually originates elsewhere – Dijon is not a typical tourist destination in France. After walking every street in the city’s old neighbourhood and stopping frequently for a snack, we nevertheless find it rather charming.
~Dijon, France

Mustard with a long list of unexpected flavours awaits tourists in Dijon

Central square of Dijon’s old town stands nearly empty on a Sunday

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12-13 February: There is little of Istanbul I manage to see on this business trip. Luckily, the meeting room where we spend many hours of those two days has a fantastic view over the city’s business district of Levent.
~Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul looks surprisingly green from that particular angle in Levent

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1-2 March: Born and bred in another city on the Baltic Sea, I have always dreamed of visiting the Polish Gdansk. And I am not disappointed: the Hanseatic architecture of Gdansk’s Old Town – even if mainly rebuilt post-war – reminds me endlessly of Riga, the amber is likewise everywhere and the local beer is almost as good as back in Latvia. And they make a mulled version of it, too!
~Gdansk, Poland

Visitors and locals freeze together on Gdansk’s Dluga Street

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22-23 March: My boyfriend continues to work in Germany while I slowly climb that career ladder in London – what else to use as an unexpected midway meeting point than Luxembourg? I try my first serving of horse meat (unless Tesco has previously sold me some unaware) and cross into Germany by foot. Only to come swiftly back, of course – all Luxembourg’s borders are wide open. Did you know Schengen is actually a place in Luxembourg, too?
~Luxembourg, Luxembourg

The nucleus of Luxembourg is dramatically made up of the Lower and the Upper towns

There is obviously something to see in Luxembourg

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29-30 March: I fly to Catalonia for an annual reunion with Svetlana and her family and am briskly put into a car and transported into the beautiful mountains near Tarragona. We finish the day over delicious home-made tapas and vermouth, arguing about the world politics (could it actually get more Spanish than this?). The following day is rainy and I walk myself to distraction sightseeing in Tarragona, eventually stopping in a central café to dry over an Irish coffee. At least I know how to order one in Spanish now.
~Tarragona, Spain

A small waterfall streams down in the mountains near Tarragona

The old town of Tarragona empties out on a very rainy day

~~~~~~~
5-6 April: One Friday evening in April, my boyfriend and I board a night train from Paris to Pau, expecting the level of comfort we encountered a year before on a trip from London to Cornwall. But the “first” class compartment is the same as the regular class (just that no-one occupies the other four berths), a “food car” is really a vending machine somewhere along the train and the bed-linen is a thin brown sleeping sack rolled up at the head of your berth. We are grateful we have brought a bottle of red Georgian wine along! Laughing off the experience, we greatly enjoy the hilly Pau itself.
~Pau, France

We arrive at Pau station around 7am

Later in the day, the city begins to look a little friendlier

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18-27 April: It is the time for Easter and my first long-haul trip of the year! I head for Argentina – landing in the capital city of Buenos Aires, I explore its safest corners on foot before heading south to Patagonia. The village of El Chaltén, also known as the country’s “Trekking Capital”, becomes my gateway to viewing the Fitz Roy peak amid the most magnificent scenery I have ever, ever seen anywhere in the world. From El Calafate further south, I embark on a day trip to Perito Moreno, Argentina’s best known glacier and a stunning sight. I then fly diagonally across the country to Salta in the north-west – only for a day, as I continue to Iguazu Falls, visiting both the Argentine and the Brazilian sides.
~Buenos Aires / El Calafate / El Chaltén / Salta / Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Laguna de los Tres near El Chaltén provides a great view of the Fitz Roy peak

The hike to Laguna de los Tres runs through a varied terrain

Perito Moreno is the best known glacier in Argentina

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3-5 May: I had originally planned to spend my expiring Lufthansa miles on a trip to Kiev; however, the protesters there had other plans. We instead travel to Romania, flying into the loudly pulsating Bucharest and continuing to the beautiful, hill-bound Brașov in the centre of the country. The city has a distinct Austro-Hungarian feel (if an Eastern Orthodox version of it), and we stop at a Hungarian restaurant for dinner to enhance the first impression – may my Romanian friends forgive me.
~Bucharest / Brașov, Romania

Council Square (Piața Sfatului) houses Brașov’s Council House

The Fortress (Cetatuia) overlooks the Brașov city

Albeit run down after years of neglect, Bucharest’s Old Town boasts a distinct character

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24-27 May: I have originally envisaged Cape Town as a convenient stop-over on the way to Namibia, not much else – but I soon end up longing for more time in the city. There seems to be no end of things to do in and around Cape Town. I enjoy magnificent views from the Table Mountain, travel to the Cape of Good Hope for some amazing seascapes, join an eye-opening visit to several townships in the Cape flats, taste delicious wine around the pretty town of Stellenbosch – and indulge myself in sumptuous steaks wherever I go. My overland camping trip to Namibia departs from Cape Town four days after my arrival in the city – it is pouring heavily the day I leave, but the sky gets bluer and the air warmer as we approach Orange river, South Africa’s natural border with Namibia.
~Cape Town, South Africa

Table Mountain is Cape Town’s best known landmark and offers fantastic views

Dutch Reformed Church in Franshoek, Western Cape, is built in the old Dutch style

Orange river separates South Africa and Namibia

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28 May – 8 June: By the time we cross into Namibia that sunny Friday morning, I have already become a camping pro, putting up and breaking up my tent single-handedly (if a bit awkwardly). I have also lost a front tooth and make rather a funny sight. But Namibia takes my breath away completely with its eerily empty, diverse landscapes. We cover over 2,500 km in an overland truck, stopping at Fish River Canyon, Sesriem, Sossusvlei, Solitaire, Swakopmund, Spitzkoppe, Kamanjab, Etosha and Windhoek. In Sossusvlei, I watch the sun rise out of starkly orange sand dunes, in Kamanjab I visit a Himba tribe, in Etosha I photograph multiple zebras, giraffes and even lions on a 2-day safari… and in Swakopmund, a magic dentist fits my front tooth back in. Which just about becomes the highlight of the entire trip.
~Fish River Canyon / Sesriem / Sossusvlei / Solitaire / Swakopmund / Spitzkoppe / Kamanjab / Etosha National Park / Windhoek, Namibia

Deadvlei (“dead marsh”) in the Namib-Naukluft Park is one of Namibia’s best known sights

Himba women cover themselves in “otjize”, a paste mixture of butterfat and ochre pigment

A lion yawns as his mate looks on sleepily in the Etosha National Park

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28 June – 6 July: Just three weeks out of Africa, it is time for the annual pilgrimage to my summer paradise, Greece. I pick the remote island of Karpathos in the Dodecanese archipelago. Famous for the number of Greek American descendants it has given to the world, Karpathos has plenty of other things to boast about. I marvel at the well-preserved traditional village of Olympos in the north of the island, immerse in perfectly turquoise waters of the beaches of Apella and Achata, nearly walk myself to a sunstroke in the villages of Pyles, Othos and Mesochori, and enjoy the night buzz of Karpathos’ namesake capital. I also spend two days on a smaller nearby island of Kassos – a completely different world void of tourists and public transport where nearly everything is within walking distance. Soon done with the touristy things – visit to the Monastery of Agios Mamas – I go on to learn the names of many locals in Fri, the island’s harbour and main village, and even establish my “favourite” local restaurant. Definitely a place to come back to… if you speak Greek.
~Karpathos / Kassos, Greece

Buildings in the village of Olympos, Karpathos, preserve their original layout and colour

The road descends steeply to Adeia beach in Western Karpathos

Monastery of Saint Mamas on Kassos enjoys a dramatic setting

~~~~~~~
16-17 August: My boyfriend and I pay a whirlwind visit to Iceland. In contrast to my previous visit, no volcanoes are erupting (or at least not as dramatically as Eyjafjallajökull), the sun is shining and we have hired a 4×4! We drive from Reykjavik to Þingvellir and to Gullfoss, from where we loop along the obscure F338 dirt road (do not attempt without a proper off-road vehicle) back to Þingvellir and on to the deserted industrial town of Akranes. The rental car having been well rinsed in the streams we have crossed on the way, we spend our few remaining hours in Iceland exploring the cosy little Reykjavik.
~Reykjavik / Þingvellir / Gullfoss / Akranes, Iceland

The area’s most active geyser, Strokkur, erupts every 5-7 minutes

The alternative F338 road from Gullfoss to Þingvellir offers some surreal landscapes

The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates share a border in Þingvellir

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23-25 August: The August bank holiday arrives to the UK but I have long since left the country. A 2-hour flight and a 5-hour bus journey later, I find myself in Gjendesheim – a cluster of wooden log cabins used by visitors to Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park to hike its multiple trails. I settle into a dorm with 13 strangers (no-one promised a 5-star hotel) and set off to explore. The Besseggen ridge hike is reportedly attempted by 30,000 people every year and I join their ranks on an impossibly misty, chilly Sunday morning. The trail ascends steeply into the cragged hills, looping in an out of rain and sleet – heavily demoralised, I persevere and climb the ridge. Suddenly the mist drops and the most breath-taking view unfolds in front of my eyes from the height of 1.7 km – that of Gjende and Bessvatnet lakes in emerald green and dark blue colours, respectively. It has strangely been worth it.
~Jotunheimen National Park, Norway

The Gjende lake has a distinct light green colour

Sheep graze near Gjendesheim cabin

Besseggen ridge offers a spectacular sight onto the Gjende (left) and the Bessvatnet lakes (right)

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30-31 August: With the Scottish referendum approaching, I briefly visit one of Scotland’s strongholds of the union, the archipelago of Orkney. Of course I really visit for other reasons – such as the all-penetrating fresh Atlantic breeze, a stunningly well-preserved Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae and the magnificent St. Magnus’ Cathedral in Kirkwall. Not forgetting the gorgeous fish and chips I successfully defend from a massive seagull amidst all the sight-seeing.
~Orkney, Scotland

St Magnus Cathedral is the most northerly cathedral of the British Isles

A well-preserved archaeological site, Skara Brae is known as “Europe’s most complete Neolithic village”

Cows stare at the photographer near St Margaret’s Hope village

~~~~~~~
13-14 September: With my lovely man, we enjoy a weekend together in my home town, Riga, where a friend of a friend (everyone obviously knows each other in Riga) takes a few decent photos of us. Note the importance of the event – 99% of our photos are usually selfies taking from a distance the length of my right arm.
~Riga, Latvia

Apparently I like petting my boyfriend’s cheeks

Two people in love grin to the camera

A stone wall in Majori, Jurmala, provided some wonderful texture

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27-28 September: Most people spend days and even weeks hiking there – but I opt for a high-speed train instead. I arrive in Spain’s Santiago de Compostela well rested and ready to fight my way to the city’s famous Cathedral through hordes of sweaty backpackers. Kudos to them for walking all that distance.
~Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Those hiking for weeks must have been disappointed to find the Cathedral all scaffolded up

San Fructuoso church gets outstaged by the Cathedral

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4-5 October: We fly to Lisbon for a weekend with a single goal in mind: to try garlic shrimps at as many local eateries as possible. Shockingly, we manage to see a whole range of unrelated sights as well, including the Castle of Sao Jorge (the outside of it, anyway), the Belem Tower and the Prazeres Cemetery. As interesting as they are, I still prefer the shrimps.
~Lisbon, Portugal

Garlic shrimps are the main reason we will be coming back to Portugal

Lisbon must be Europe’s prettiest capital

Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument in Belem celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery

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11-12 October: It is not a great start to my weekend in Lyon: the flight is hopelessly delayed and I risk spending a night at the airport. Thankfully, a gallant Frenchman gives me a lift to the city centre and the weekend is saved! I take a day trip to the pretty lakeside town of Annecy, then taken over by a farm fest and singing country groups. Lyon itself is plagued by omnipresent dog poop – like any other big city in France – but certainly has something going for it.
~Lyon / Annecy, France

Sailing boat glides along the Annecy lake

Palais de l’Isle in the Thiou river in Annecy was built in 1132

Fourvière hill in Lyon houses the Tour Métallique de Fourvière

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25-26 October: I miss Greece too much to wait until next year and pay a quick visit to the island of Corfu, better known in Greece as Kerkyra. It proves to be unexpectedly wonderful: Corfu Town may well be the only pretty city in the whole of Greece and the Ionian Sea is still warm enough for frequent dips. I have forgotten my bikini in London but it doesn’t stop me – thankfully, there aren’t many other people on Greek beaches in October.
~Corfu (Kerkyra), Greece

The New Fortress of Corfu offers the best views of the namesake city

Ipsos beach in eastern Corfu goes quiet in October

Motor boat in Kassiopi plays in the waves in the distant backdrop of Albania

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15-17 November: It is November and Europe is cooling off mercilessly, so the two of us set off to the very edge of Asia for some balmy weather! Hong Kong is our first stop, and we spend a few wonderful days zooming around this vibrant city. The Victoria Peak offers some amazing bird’s eye views of Hong Kong’s modern skyline; the island of Cheung Chau is popular with local fishermen and tourists alike; the beautiful fishing harbour of Sai Kung provides a lovely refuge from Hong Kong’s urban life (and typhoons, apparently); lastly, Hong Kong itself turns out exactly as expected: a massive city at the crossroads of multiple cultures, with the buzz quite simply unmatched anywhere.
~Hong Kong

The whole of Asia poses like that… why can’t Hong Kong

Sun sets in the haze of the harbour of Cheung Chau island

Hong Kong island’s skyline looks timeless on a clear day

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18-20 November: From Hong Kong we head to a very different world of Okinawa – a Japanese archipelago actually located closer to Taiwan rather than “mainland” Japan. At first we wonder if the place has been deserted, so deafening is the silence we have lost all habit of in Hong Kong. But it all livens up upon our encounter of hundreds of local school children having group photos taken at the Shuri-jo Castle in Naha. We take day trips to the island of Zamami nearby and Okinawa’s northern city of Nago, enjoying lovely weather, scenery and – most importantly – the best food we have had anywhere in the world.
~Okinawa, Japan

Japan could just make the cutest shop signs on earth

School children in uniforms go wild at Shuri-jo Castle in Naha

Ama beach on Zamami island presents an idyllic sight

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21-23 November: I am initially taken aback upon arrival to Taipei – I expected to see something resembling Seoul or Tokyo (don’t ask), and the reality is much more colourful than that. I quickly warm up to Taiwan though: its streets simultaneously remind me of Vietnam, China, Japan and India while retaining their very distinct character. We enjoy Taipei’s hot springs in Beitou and the Shilin Night Market before transferring to the southern port of Kaohsiung where the Qijin island and the Lotus Pond equally take our breath away. First an underdog, Taiwan comes out as my definite favourite on this trip.
~Taipei / Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Dragon and Tiger Pagodas at Lotus Pond in Kaohsiung are a popular destination for visitors

Local boy waits for the Gushan-Qijin ferry in Kaohsiung

Surfer enjoys a late afternoon dip off the Qijin island in Kaohsiung

~~~~~~~
13-26 December: I call it a year at work on 12 December and jet off to the exotic Myanmar: the country which soon becomes my favourite ever visited. I gasp at the colonial beauty of Yangon, mingle with the locals on the 15-hour train ride to Mandalay, enjoy a chilled Irrawaddy river voyage to Bagan, see gazillions of temples there, have the most amazing time exploring Inle Lake and have my all-time-best paradise beach experience in Ngapali. The country may have multiple human rights issues but I am still in love beyond words.
~Yangon / Mandalay / Bagan / Nyaungshwe / Ngapali, Myanmar (Burma)

The ancient city of Bagan looks spectacular at sunrise

A Burmese lady wearing thanaka sits opposite me onboard the Shwenyaung-Thazi train

Kandawgyi Lake in Yangon offers spectacular sunset views to Shwedagon Paya and Karaweik Hall

~~~~~~~
28-31 December: I arrive in Sri Lanka in time for the wedding of two very special people: my old friend Sharoni and my boyfriend’s even older friend Rovendra. And they didn’t even need us to meet! Saree-clad, I dance the night away.
~Colombo, Sri Lanka

The author gets all dolled up for a Sri Lankan wedding. How I’d like to look for the entire 2015!

A very Happy New Year!

Here is to many more unforgettable flights and experiences!


Comments

4 responses to “2014: Year in Pictures”

  1. anjči says:

    Thank you so much, my lovely Wani ^_^ I have wanted to print and put up some of my travel shots for a long time! Should get around to it properly one day. Have a great 2015 and hope to see you soon xx

  2. wani says:

    what a rich life you live – lovely pictures. that sunrise picture of Bagan is stunning – should be on the wall…here's to even more adventures in 2015

  3. anjci says:

    Glad you liked it, Chris!

  4. Anonymous says:

    What a superb pictorial commentary, and the words are lovely too!!

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Welcome to ANJCI ALL OVER!

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My name is Anna and welcome to my blog! I work full-time in London and spend most of my free time travelling the world and taking pictures, with the aim to see as many of the world's less visited places as possible. My favourite parts of the world include Chile, Faroe Islands, Greece, Myanmar and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Take a look at my stories and photos!

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