11 countries in 2011

At some point during the year, probably when I realized that the travel gods were on my side, I decided that I was going to attempt to visit 11 countries in 2011.

And lo and behold, I did.

I started my travels this year with a much needed getaway to culturally rich and geographically diverse Nicaragua. That was followed by the legendary banana pancake trail and a Europe camping trip. It was very poetic that the 11th country I visited was in Latin America as well, the beautiful Panama.

If I were to talk about all of those individual trips, this would be an excruciatingly long blog post that no one will read (because, let’s admit it, we don’t like long blog posts). Instead, here is a little photo montage of my most amazing year for travel ever.

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The Beautiful Bay

Pick up your camera. Point it any direction. Take a photo.

There is a 97 per cent chance that if you are in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, your photo will turn out to be amazing.

Ha Long Bay is hands-down the most visually pleasing work of nature I have ever seen. Jagged limestone formations sticking out of a pearly green bay. Roughly 2,000 islets (exact number varies from source to source) spread over 1,553 square kilometres, emerge out of the water, peaking at different heights.

This place has seen 500 million years of climate and geographical changes and evolved as a tropical green biosystem which is home to 14 endemic floral specials and 60 faunal species.

But along with all the flora and fauna, it is also home to about 1,300 Vietnamese fishermen, some of whom have never stepped foot on dry land and call this bay home. This bay was also home to us for just over 24 hours and that gave us a pretty good idea as to why these people never want to leave.

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Nam’s Best Kept Secret: Nha Trang

The best way to see Vietnam is to buy a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket or take the train along the coast, from North to South (or vice versa). The rich, historical Hanoi and the breath-takingly beautiful Halong Bay are the jewels of Northern Vietnam (and Sapa is definitely an untouched diamond). The bustling ex-capital city of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is an overflowing centre of Vietnamese culture, food and traffic, along with being the gateway to the famous Cu Chi tunnels.

But in between the past and present capitals are a handful of exciting and exotic cities that should make it on to your itinerary: Hue, Hoi An, Danang, Da Lat and my new favourite city in the whole world: Nha Trang.

Given our time constraints we randomly decided to make Nha Trang our pit stop between the two major cities. The day we arrived in Nha Trang, I was already happy enough to have clean clothes (our luggage finally arrived) and a good-looking room without going broke (thank you Agoda). But while checking-in after sunset, little did I know that the next morning, in fact the next three days, were going to be the highlight of Southeast Asia trip.

The view of the Sunrise Hotel pool, Tran Phu boulevard, and the Nha Trang beach from the room balcony

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