2018 In 100 Pictures
I started the year in Central America with Chiny and Eby for our annual New Year Girls Trip (called WBT) but other than the countries we were visiting, had no other trips booked for the year and very vague plans at best. However, I ended up having a very travelled-filled year going to 21 countries, on 35 flights, 6 land border crossings and travelling year round with the exception of February and June. A handful of the trips were booked last minute, like same day flight and having to dash home at lunch to grab my backpack while some had months of careful itinerary planning. All in all, I had a very memorable year and here are the places I found myself travelling to:
Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua
From eating fresh fish daily at Mercado del Marisco to hiking Ancon Hill and riding a doorless helicopter through the rain, Panama City was a vibe. We rang in 2018 in the rooftop of Hard Rock Hotel, then went to Casa Casco to continue partying and it became a night of free tequila shots. Personally, I enjoyed Panama much more at night than during the day and if you visit, you must not miss the bar crawl!
Arenal in Costa Rica was all volcano, nature hikes and hot springs.
The weekend in San Juan Del Sur in Nicaragua was filled with a lot of (and I mean LOT) alcohol, sun, sand, seafood and partying. And an idiot stealing my super cute glasses and lying about it. We had a blast!
I had enough of winter and was desperate for some sun so I escaped to Valletta in Malta, which was the European Capital of Culture 2018.
UAE and Turkey
Dubai and Istanbul were 100% relaxation trips. All I did was eat, sleep, drink and relax in the spas.
Israel, Palestine and Jordan
If I had to pick one place I loved the most during the year it’d be Israel! I wasn’t sure what to expect even though I had read a lot about the nightlife in Tel Aviv but was still blown away when I arrived. It was as much the sites as the interactions I had with people I met the entire time I was her. From the 70 year old War Vet who invited into his house as it was the first day of Passover and restaurants weren’t open to the two day extended dates I had at different times with two different gentlemen who I can no longer remember their names but can remember all the details of the times we spent together.
From running into a Nigerian man during a cooking class who insisted men from the country do not enter the kitchen making me roll my eyes so far back in my head I went dizzy, to flagging a taxi to take me back to my hotel around 6pm after a tiring day walking around Old Jerusalem but somehow got convinced to go to Ein Bokek by the driver! He stopped for me to pick up my swimwear then pulled over by a corner shop and got us several bottles of beers for the four-hour round trip. I had planned on going to the dead sea but it did not cross my mind to do it at night and believe me when I say I pinched myself a dozen times to check if I was dreaming. Imagine floating on the dead sea with just a handful of people around on a night with a full moon!
I also visited Jisr Az-Zarqa, Caesarea, Nazareth, Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. I ate my weight in hummus and salads!
I explored the ancient city of Jericho and toured the vibrant city of Ramallah. It was also biblical sites overload with Qasr-el-Yahud which is the ancient baptism site of Jesus, his birthplace in the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem and the Mount of Temptation where he resisted the devil's temptation. I spent a few hours walking alongside the separation barrier that cuts through the city of Bethlehem, looking at the art by graffiti artists, most notably Banksy.
Visited Amman the capital of Jordan, then the ancient city of Jerash where I encountered hundreds of uber stylish and confident school girls who would either walk up to me to ask for selfies or just sneak one in from a distance. I didn’t mind but I have noticed it is something some people do not like. Spent the night in a Bedouin camp in Petra before visiting the Lost City at the crack of dawn.
Snorkelling between the tectonic plates of two continents in Iceland was the coolest thing I did last year literally and figuratively. The outside temperature was 4C and the water 2C, but it was almost a surreal experience save for the short mild panic attack I had.
Weekend trip to Lagos to eat, sleep and drink. I didn’t get to sleep much but I spent some time with friends and all was well with the world.
Austria and Latvia
I had omelettes, croissants, coffee, juice, 4 glasses of prosecco and it still wasn’t up to 20Euros. Had to send an Austrian friend of mine a text asking him why he’d leave Vienna to move to mad London? Beautiful city, beautiful people.
Since visiting Estonia I’ve been keen on checking out the capitals of the other Baltic states. Riga was a lot quieter than Tallinn, with less stag crowd but no less interesting sites and good museums to give you a good history of Latvians. It was at one of the museums I read about the Baltic Way, a peaceful political demonstration that occurred on 23 August 1989 when approximately two million people (25% of the population of the three countries) joined their hands to form a human chain spanning 675.5 kilometres (419.7 mi) across the three Baltic States - Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria
This was the birthday trip for the year as the original plan became a little bit dangerous due to political and health crisis. (For Previous birthday see 2017, 2016, 2015). I started off in Giza, then did a 5-day cruise (Royal Esadora) on River Nile from Luxor to Aswan, taking in temples, arts, villages and monuments. It is a very hot time to visit Egypt with day time temperatures around 40C however we did the tours early mornings and were back to the boat before it got unbearably hot. The cruise had a pool and a lovely bar which was all inclusive so of course, I drank my weight in rum every day.
On my birthday, Ayman, the lovely tour guide got my group to sing for me in front of one the Kom Ombo temple and then at dinner I got a cake presented to me with the waiters singing and dancing with traditional instruments. Everyone at dinner joined in to sing, I got pulled up to dance and being quite bashful, alternated between joy and horror. I am super grateful for the birthdays I spend by myself that is never lonely.
From Cairo, I flew to Tunis and stayed right in the heart of the Medina. Oh, I enjoyed the days spent getting lost in the narrow alleyways which led to some secret places, not listed in any guide book or on TA. This was a joy to my wandering soul!
I ventured out one day to the Greek-looking white and blue town called Sidi Bou Said, where I had an encounter with a “ghost”. I was resting at a viewpoint overlooking the sea and a cemetery when he walked out of the house opposite and came to offer me grapes. I politely declined but then he offered to show me around his town - he didn’t speak English, I didn’t speak French but we both spoke little Spanish so, off we went. He showed me everything there was to see, offered to take pictures and when we stopped for a drink at a very touristy bar with an amazing view, he paid for it behind my back. He walked me to the train station, helped me get a ticket and waved goodbye. Ghost or angel, I don’t know but, I’ll always pay the kindness forward.
My experience in the first two days in Algeria is one of those that are extremely annoying initially before you then realise that a country isn’t set up for your pleasure and convenience just because you are a visitor. While I sat at a corner of the dining moaning to Chiny about the rubbish breakfast I had and the condition of my room, I saw people merrily load up their plates and then pack some to take to their rooms/poolside. The hotel was fully booked with Algerian families with smiley faces yet there I was, a sour-faced tourist who travels to see how people live yet moan about it. It was a learning moment for me and my experience changed after that.
I took a taxi from Tunis to the Algerian mountain top town of Seraidi and the journey took around seven hours on a smooth road with very enjoyable scenery. It’s a small town so I covered it in 30 minutes and then went back to the hotel to bask in the cloud. One day I took the cable car down to Annaba to have a meal and poolside beer before hopping on a plane to Algiers. The capital is chaotic and reminiscent of Lagos.
I booked my flight to Budapest a few days before going because I needed a good no-care-in-the-world party weekend and boy, did this city deliver. It felt like a throwback to my early 20s and I did not mind that at all. Don’t miss the Sparty on Saturdays!
Ireland and Northern Ireland
Felt it was time to visit our sister isle for a weekend of beers and whiskeys. There’s a lot going on in Dublin to keep your occupied and I imagine it’d be quite the experience during summer.
Did a Games of Thrones tour through Northern Ireland just in time for the final season. From the cave where Melissandre gave birth to Dark Hedges which was featured in scene for Arya Stark’s exciting escape to Winterfell along the King’s Road. Also stopped over at the Giant’s Causeway.
Belgium and The Netherlands
A long weekend break to eat and drink in Antwerp and the ‘Dam.
Finally made it to the Far East and oh what joy having authentic Pad Thai and Thai Massage which cost a little over a fiver for an hour. We ate through Wanglang, Rod Fi and Asiatique markets and everywhere in between. This is a country I know I’ll come back to over and over again.
Rang in 2019 in Bangkok and within a few hours was on a flight to Hanoi to spend nine days in Vietnam. I only have two trips booked (all for this month) with an idea of where I’d like to visit this year but flexible enough to go with the flow. We’ve also picked out where to go for this year’s girls trip but it is quite off the beaten path and so a logistics nightmare but that ticks all my planning and adventure boxes.
How did your 2018 go?