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The Best & Worst of my Travels in 2016

Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been.

2016 has been a year that’s very different. It brought me many beautiful surprises and unexpected opportunities to travel. I went on more trips and took more flights than ever before, including 8 new cities (not counting layovers) and 3 new countries #omg. The record was to 3 different countries within one month (and it’s not hopping from country A to B to C like Europe, but from Singapore to country A, back to Singapore, then to country B, back home, then to country C and fly home to Singapore again). I definitely blew a lot of money on travel insurance and airport cab fares that month =p

Every trip was eye-opening, heart-expanding.

Be it visiting each new place for a taste of their culture, or looking at cities I’d been with renewed eyes, I collected a myriad of interesting experiences which made my 2016 So Much More Memorable. I know it’s highly unlikely that I’ll get such a fulfilling year of travels again, so I’m still relishing my travels by going through the photos and reminiscing the times. Stay tuned to this blog and I’ll try my best to share about those experiences soonest!

The Not-So-Awesome Travel Memories

Got stuck in a boat that ran out of fuel!

• Inle, Shan State, Myanmar •


2016's travel memories • Petite Wanders

At first, it rained when we were still in the boat, along Lake Inle. It was actually rather scary to be in an open boat in that kind of weather, by the way. We held an umbrella each and ducked so that the boatman at the back of the boat could still see above our umbrellas and navigate. Then he had us seek shelter at Hpaung Daw U Pagoda, Inle Lake’s famous pagoda. After the rain stopped, we continued back to our host’s house. Halfway through, the boat ran out of gas, so the engine was shut down and our boat was just drifting beside these water farms while we watch other boats pass us by. I was imagining we need to row back manually (Inle Lake is 22km long) or ask other boats for help. Not so exciting.. our boatman brought extra fuel to replenish. After he was done, we were on our way again.

Read more posts on Myanmar!

15 Ways Myanmar Took Me by Surprise
What to know before visiting Myanmar
21 Photos to Make You Consider A Visit to Myanmar

 Checked in into an empty hotel!

• Santorini, Greece •

After 3 flights and many hours later, I finally reached Santorini at night, only to be told I was the only occupant in the hotel. For a few seconds, I internally freaked out. Thankfully, no drastic misfortune happened. I slept well and woke up to an amazing sunrise outside my door. Ah, what an interesting way Santorini welcomed me =D

sunrise at hotel | Review: Dream Island Hotel, Fira, Santorini • The Petite Wanderess

This trip was a test of my limits actually, but each solo trip will teach you more about yourself and the world. This trip to Santorini renewed a faith in me as well as boosted my self-confidence. Of course, it helped that it was low season in Santorini which means very little crowds. Santorini (by that, I refer to Oia and Fira districts) is also a safe place to be for a female solo traveller.

Became a ‘Merlion’ at a vacation club

• Phuket, Thailand •

Review of Marriott's Vacation Club, Mai Khao Beach, Phuket • The Petite WanderessTo this day, I’m not sure what triggered it – probably food poisoning or massage overdose after getting 2 rounds of back-to-back Thai massages at the beach. I suffered diarrhoea, nausea and rounds of throwing up. I was just glad that my room was very nice with a very clean bathroom. Because I was still vomitting in the middle of the night.

No, I did not drink alcohol.

Got lost at empty fields

• Santorini, Greece •

field, Santorini • The Petite WanderessI thought my new friend made in Santorini could be a serial killer, or even a thief. We couldn’t get a cab along the road and so we walked, crossing empty fields with no other humans in sight. She didn’t turn out to be a serial killer or robber or anything close, and in fact was a very nice lady and we had dinner before she flew back to her country. My imagination gets the better of me sometimes.

Went to a public onsen, solo

• Tokyo, Japan •

You might be wondering, how could an onsen visit turn out to not be awesome? Well, it’s my 2nd time to a Japanese onsen and the first I’m trying a public onsen. The experience was vastly different compared to the wonderful onsen experience I had in Kyoto. Firstly, this public onsen (separated by genders, of course) was packed with people. There’re a few pools with different ‘flavors’, so every lady will dip into a pool, soak, and leave within a few minutes to try the next pool. There were kids. I saw a little girl miss her footing and enter face-down into the pool, oh gosh. I witnessed a lady take her soakingly wet face towel which she had placed outside a pool, wring it dry into the drainage system beside the pool, with some of the water from that towel entering the pool, *cringes*.

That was when I decided I’m done with the onsen. So I showered and left.

Still an experience!

Read more posts from my first awesome onsen experience!
First onsen experience in Japan!
Yumotokan, Kyoto’s secret of an onsen ryokan
The easy guide to using onsen in Japan

Hung on for my dear life while Japan’s steepest cable-car climbed up a crazy inclination

• Tokyo, Japan •

2016's travel memories • Petite Wanders

(We call this a tram in Singapore because a cable-car hangs overhead.) This tram that takes people up Mt Takao started out looking harmless so I didn’t think much. You see, those people in the photo are still standing upright.

It was also crowded and seats at the sides were taken up very quickly. So I stood along the aisle. Midway up, towards the top, the tram became super inclined and I was silently shrieking inside of me in both fear and amazement! My hand was gripping the pole/bar in order to not fall, thankful for #ChaturangaYogaArms! The aisle is definitely not for kids or elderly to stand on.

 Stopped myself from doing Number Two in a highland minsu

• Cingjing Highlands, Taiwan •

What to expect for a stay at a Taiwanese minsu in Cingjing • The Petite Wanderess

Being very high up in Cingjing, the temperature dips to 4°C and below at night. There was no in-room heater (cold floor, cold air, cold room). You’re not supposed to flush toilet paper down the bowl because the plumbing wasn’t that advanced, which means… some of us refused to do Number 2 because we didn’t want the toilet to be choked with our shit hahaha #TMI.

Read my post on What to expect for your minsu stay in Cingjing, Taiwan!

Held my poop in until I had gastric pain

• Shan State, Myanmar •

Again a digestion issue for me! I’m not sure about the correlation of poop and gastric, but because we were at a rural part in Shan State, I had a stomach-ache, with no access to a toilet that I dared to enter. So, I ate pochai pills (TCM medication that makes your tummy woes disappear). My stomach pain went away. The consequence was, I suffered bloatedness and gastric pain so intense I was barely being able to stand up or walk straight. Thankfully I had gastric medicine too so I ate them, before finally feeling better.

Took a boring walking tour

• Hanoi, Vietnam •

2016's travel memories • Petite Wanders

There are students in Hanoi where they’ll take visitors on a walking tour around the city as a way to practise speaking English. Well, I didn’t have time to research on places and hence didn’t state any preferences when the guide arrived. We walked to see a cathedral, had local lunch at the roadside, walked around Hanoi’s famous lake, walked past Hanoi’s Opera House, ate ice-cream, went to an old-school coffee-shop for custard coffee, and… that was the end of the walking tour. It was very nice of that guy to offer his time though.

2016's travel memories • Petite Wanders
coffee-shop, Hanoi, Vietnam

My friend and I went for a puppet show afterwards which was very entertaining!

Braved up to cross this traffic madness, on foot

• Hanoi, Vietnam •

Hanoi traffic • The Petite WanderessIt was very stressful experiences for me to witness Hanoi’s crazy roads – too much stimulation. Directions are not followed, so you get traffic from both sides of the road. Sometimes, the roads intersect like this photo above.

Hanoi’s traffic isn’t something to be joked around though. I mentioned the accident statistics in this post, along with the entire experience.

Coughed till I had tears on a flight back home

• In the plane •

I must have caught one of those nasty winter coughs, which has happened to me more than once.

So I was on my way to fly home to Singapore. Initially, I thought I had booked an aisle seat which is something I usually don’t do, but the airline changed the plane or my memory failed me, because my seat number became a window seat, and it turned into a blessing, because I could barely stop coughing in the flight. It’s the kind where you wake up from sleeping because you had to cough/choke. Being in the window seat, I could turn away to cough (covering my mouth of course), but still felt bad towards the people sitting next to me. However, the lady offered me a herbal sweet (!! thank you!) and reassured me it’s ok [that I’m coughing] when I apologized.

I also discovered that putting peppermint essential oil on a piece of tissue paper and breathing through that tissue paper worked wonders!

 And now, for the AWESOME Travel Memories!

Stepped into a real desert!

 • Abu Dhabi, UAE •

2016's travel memories • The Petite Wanderess

Not just an expanse of sand dunes like Mui Ne, but a real, proper desert! I had read “The Alchemist” book a few times – being at the desert had secretly been a wish of mine. On my second afternoon of being in UAE, after an hour of driving, we arrived at a desert in Abu Dhabi. My dream came true! Soft, glorious sand beneath my feet; the mysterious desert wind blowing, ahhhhh.

The desert was a dream come true~

Although I still have no idea which desert I was at… merely knowing I’m somewhere in Abu Dhabi.

Lost my center of gravity for dune-bashing!

• Abu Dhabi, UAE •

2016's travel memories • Petite Wanders

I am prone to carsickness; the dune-bashing activity was initially requested to be removed from the desert safari tour. But how could a person go to a desert in UAE and not try dune-bashing?!? I don’t wanna regret it for the rest of my life. So, we went ahead, and it became my best memory of UAE! Dune-bashing was super fun! It was exhilarating going up and down the dunes, sometimes I couldn’t feel the center of gravity because the Land Cruiser is not flat on both sides equally. I saw the sand fly up against my window and squealed as the car swerved and drifted at the edges of the dunes. One bucket-list-worthy item checked!

2016's travel memories • Petite Wanders
row of 4WD vehicles

Hiked solo in a foreign country!

• Tokyo, Japan •

I’m not really a hiking/trekking or outdoor activity kinda traveller/person but for some reason, I really wanted to be on a mountain this year. So, I discovered the existence of Mount Takao in Tokyo. And took Japan’s steepest cable car to reach the middle of the mountain, before continuing the hike on foot. The trail I chose was pretty well maintained, but still possessed a certain degree of risk, cos the path can get narrow sometimes, or a trunk will limit your path, etc. To the left of the path, it’s an endless fall downwards.. You’ll see fallen (or cut?) huge trunks along the way which adds on to the paranoia. You bet it was a very mindful hike!. The trail can get quite empty and most of the time, I was the only person I see behind and ahead, which adds to the mystery of hiking…2016's travel memories • Petite Wanders

Hiking this trail made me understand why we need to return to nature now and then.

The most important focus of the trail is the path you’re walking on. When I first started, because I didn’t really know what to expect, adding on to the fact that it seemed quite empty (how many people do I expect on a trail actually?), I was in a dilemma between giving in to my paranoia and turn back to take the easier, foolproof, concrete road which families take, or weigh the risks and make an informed decision (I did sufficient research before coming to Mount Takao) to continue the trail. I decided to keep going. The trail took longer than forecasted, but it was a nice and mindful hike, with me finally putting away the cameras in order to focus on the present. I finally arrived at the top and was rewarded with a magnificent view, in the most perfect weather ever!

Read my post on hiking Mount Takao solo!

  Transformed my identity to enter a mosque

• Abu Dhabi, UAE •

We’re talking about THIS mosque..

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi • The Petite Wanderess.. the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi.

For ladies, it’s a rule to either wear a black traditional robe (called an abaya) and a headscarf, or wear loose, modest clothing that will cover all the way to your wrists and ankles, before you’re allowed to enter. I chose the former. To see the magnificent Grand Mosque, it was well worth it!

2016's travel memories • Petite Wanders

 Gasped in shock upon seeing Oia

• Santorini, Greece •

Oia caldera view | Santorini in shades of blue & white • The Petite WanderessSeeing Oia right before my eyes was unbelievable! Being low season (rainy weather), another wonderful memory was seeing the weather clear and the sun set over the mesmerizing Aegean Sea.

Exploring Santorini on my own, taking the coach that goes over the cliffside in entire darkness, trying Greek food, getting lost and walking a long way with the help of Google Maps, all of them made excellent travel memories to me =)

Read more about my posts on Santorini!

How it was like to travel solo to Santorini
Ode to Santorini’s shades of blue
Quick guide to visiting Santorini during low season
• Chasing the Santorini sunset

Did a #yogaeverydamnday retreat for my birthday

• Bali, Indonesia •

2016's travel memories • The Petite Wanderess

I have a thing against my own birthday and decided to go away this year. What better than customizing my own yoga retreat in peaceful Ubud? At first, I was a little paranoid about being in Ubud on my own, but my friend decided to join me and we had a few days of yoga and relaxation! On my birthday, we also hiked Campuhan Ridge early in the morning, a beautiful 2km hike with lots of greeneries. I was happy, and thankful, for everything.

Read more about my posts from the yoga retreat!

How I DIY-ed my own little yoga retreat in Bali
Radiantly Alive Yoga studio in Ubud, Bali – A Review

 Delayed the speed that I finish this bowl of udon

• Tokyo, Japan •

2016's travel memories • Petite Wanders

Dining here was an easy decision. The restaurant didn’t have a significant queue. The food is reasonably priced. There are outdoor seats with an amazing view, no windows. It was cold weather. I was solo (easy to get seats). So I waited for a short while for an empty outdoor seat, ordered my udon and ocha, and had such a wonderful lunch. How I wished my bowl was bigger so I could take longer to finish the food!

Watched Bagan’s scenery in disbelief

• Bagan, Myanmar •Photos to make you want to visit Myanmar • Petite Wanders

Thousands of ochre-colored pagodas scattered across the countryside, each of them holding religious statues, scriptures or murals within, each of them containing plenty of devotees’ faith. Words are not enough to describe.

Road-tripped with dear friends

• Myanmar •

2016's travel memories • The Petite Wanderess

2016's travel memories • The Petite Wanderesss

Walking barefooted on floors and roads in both modern and ancient pagodas, stepping on birdshit, smelling bat-shit inside temples, packing zero shorts in my luggage, trying 20+ strange-tasting dishes for breakfast, seeing men adjust their longyis everywhere, Myanmar is so different from Singapore and so distinct a trip. The best part though, was road-tripping/state-hopping with good friends I haven’t seen for a while. Myanmar is amazing!

Acquainted a new doggie friend

• Santorini, Greece •

dog in Oia | Santorini in January – Solo Travel Guide • The Petite Wanderess

This dog followed me for hours, everywhere. It even managed to find me in an enclosed restaurant where I was having lunch, and got in somehow. It was hard to leave him in Oia. I didn’t see him again when I returned another day.

 Stargazed into the desert’s sky overhead

• Abu Dhabi, UAE •

After the belly-dancing and dinner programmes at the desert, they switched off the floodlights that had previous illuminated the bedouin camp. I laid down on the cushions, staring straight up into the sky of stars, feeling at ease and at peace. How do you forget memories like these?

Stood at the world’s tallest building

• Dubai, UAE •

2016's travel memories • The Petite WanderessBurj Khalifa is more than twice the height of Paris’ Eiffel Tower, which I’d been to many years ago. Being 124 levels is a different feeling from being up at Eiffel or Taipei 101. Cars on the biggest highways appeared minuscule, while skyscrapers became just small blocks of concrete. It was amazing to be so high up, and we have a lot of the people behind this structure to be thankful towards.

Struck a yoga pose in unexpected snow

• Cingjing Highlands, Taiwan •

I thought it was my first time seeing snow fall but actually, I had seen snow fall in Tokyo many years ago, lol #veryforgetful. I had gotten a lil carsick when we were driving up the highlands, but when I stepped out of the car to see snowflakes coming down (we thought it was drizzling), my carsickness went away immediately! The snow became heavy afterwards and we had to drive away before the roads closed.

What to expect for your minsu stay in Cingjing, Taiwan • The Petite Wanderess
it’s snowing!

Waited to see this world-famous sunset happen

• Santorini, Greece •

Sunset, Oia, Santorini • The Petite Wanderess

Sunsets are proof that endings can be beautiful too. ~Beau Taplin

It was my last chance of a none-rainy/cloudy evening in Santorini. The weather finally cleared! There weren’t many tourists (which is very rare for Santorini) so it was a quiet, peaceful time to enjoy this beautiful show by nature.

So that’s about it for my most distinct memories from this year’s travels!


Definitely my favorite year as a traveller =)) I’ll also like to thank the people who supported my journeys in one way or another, whether they’re family or friends encouraging me when I felt uncertain, or hosts or guides that bring me around countries or direct me to exotic places. 2016 will remain a treasure in my memory. I cannot wait for more adventures ahead!

How about you?
What are your most distinct travel memories of the year?

Pin this!2016's travel memories • The Petite Wanderess

Enjoyed this post? Check out my previous year’s recap!

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  1. What an awesome year of traveling. Thanks for including your mishaps as well. It’s always nice to hear about the good and the bad. I can’t believe your boat broke down! Also, huge props to hiking solo. I am a big hiker myself and have been encouraging girls to get out and hike even when alone, so I hope you keep doing more of that. Have a great new year and happy travels in 2017

    1. Thank you Susanna! I prefer a balanced overview so I thought I’ll make this post one like that too 🙂 It’s fun counting the bad once we passed those ‘bad moments’ and have a good laugh over what happened =D Where do you usually hike? I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve hiked, hope to get more in touch with nature over time!

      Have a happy new year and great trips ahead!

    1. Thank you Flo! You can try customizing one the next time too, it’s great!

      Have a Happy New Year and more experiences ahead!

    1. Thanks Sophie! There will constantly be many boats going up and down the lake and also many fishermen, so the Burmese will probably help one another out because it’s part of their culture and way of living! When are you going Myanmar? =)

      1. Haha that’s good to hear! I’m going at the end of February on a Geckos tour then off to Thailand – CANNOT WAIT! Your posts are making me super excited haha. When did you go?

        1. Wow! I hope your trip is long enough in Myanmar to cover more places! Bagan is lovely =)

          I was in Myanmar in Sept 2016 =))

  2. I loved reading this. Some of your best of 2016 were also some of mine- Burj Khalifa. I’ve yet to see the desert despite living in Qatar and like you am quite intrigued by it. But I have to say what I most enjoyed were the worst bits. Simply because of the toilet humour. Being a bit of a potty princess myself, I can see why some of them would have made the list, especially not going number 2 because the sewage couldn’t handle it! lol

    1. Potty princess, I like this term! I’m terrified by dirty/old/smelly toilets, it’s always a factor to consider when I choose where to visit or when to go to the toilet! >< Thank you for reading through my post! =) You live in Qatar? Ah that's awesome! I have only stopped over in Doha (the airport, because I take Qatar Airlines sometimes) twice. I hope to visit more deserts in the future too, the few hours at Abu Dhabi's desert was definitely not enough!

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