Happy New Year! I hope everyone got a little drunk to try and forget the chaos that was 2020! Honestly, 2021 better come through. There’s not enough champagne in the world otherwise. Even though we don’t have much to complain about and were able to travel around blissfully ignorant the first few months, we too got done dirty. But then again, who didn’t, right?
Even though this hasn’t been a great travel year, I love writing reviews though, it’s fun to reminisce and look back on what was. We did try and make the best of it and if anything, it left us dreaming and wanting more, so off we go!
We had landed in Bangkok on Christmas Eve and had quickly made our way to the islands. We celebrated New Year’s Eve at a beach party on Koh Chang, spent a few days on Koh Mak and then moved onto Koh Kood. We fell in love with both of these islands for their laidback tropical vibes, and the fact we had only just started our trip.
We jumped on an airplane to Udon Thani (for $18!) to go see the Red Lotus Lake and moved further up north to Nong Khai. Because we were at the Lao border, we figured we would cross and circle back to Chiang Mai and Myanmar (a big one on our list) on the way back.
We had crossed into Laos somewhere mid of January, and spent a few weeks. We explored Vientiane and its many temples, went tubing in Vang Vieng and loved Luang Prabang so much we spent quite a few days there. We traveled up north to have some adventures in Nong Khiaw, and then got ‘stuck’ for a little bit because due to Chinese New Year, many embassies were closed. We needed a visa for Vietnam and not having done that in advance, we needed to wait.
We made it to Vietnam, flew into Hanoi and were overwhelmed by big city life after rural Laos. It didn’t take long for us to get accustomed! We then booked a 3 day trip to Ha Long Bay, which was a big highlight for us. We then traveled south to Da Nang and Hoi An and Hué, where we decided we had seen enough rain and to (again) forego on Cambodia and circle back later. Notice the trend.
We booked ticket to fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Bali and arrived there late Feb. We spent a day or 3 doing the tourist thing and then realised we were not enjoying it as much as we had thought, and it had definitely changed since the last time either of us had visited. (15 years ago!)
We were told about Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida and decided to move on. We hopped on a boat to Lembongan and arrived in a monsoon, but we loved it. We quickly figured out Indonesia humidity was not for us and decided to take it easy. Our days on Lembongan were spent driving around, drinking cocktails, and swimming. It was glorious.
We too had seen the masses move to Nusa Penida, so we booked 3 days in a fancy place to indulge ourselves. The heat really got to us here and after a day of touring the highlights on our scooter, we called it and never came out of the pool again!
Our biggest dream for this trip was New Zealand. Because it is so far away from us, we had never seen ourselves going there (30 hours on a plane ain’t fun) but knowing that we would be a lot closer we had booked a campervan for a month. This would be the pinnacle of our trip.
To get there from Bali, we made a 5 day stopover in Sydney and pinched ourselves. We were in Australia, literally the other side of the world! We explored the city, took a day trip and had a very fancy meal that would be our last dining out experience in a long time.
Just before the borders closed mid March, we arrived in New Zealand, completely clueless. Our hotel owner in Bali had told us it was quiet ‘because of Covid’, but we had stored that knowledge somewhere and completely forgot about it. We opened news outlets maybe once a week and the complexity didn’t really hit us, also due to the difference in situations where we were vs back in Europe.
Until we got to New Zealand where as we know now, they implemented some of the strictest rules. We had no idea what had hit us. After getting family visits in we luckily had our campervan and did some solid hauling ass in before no one was allowed to move anymore.
In April we were truly stuck. We were at a lovely campsite with a bunch of other travelers in the same situation, and we all formed our own little bubble. We finally accepted the situation and did a few hikes, bbq-ed a bit and enjoyed the luxuries of warm showers and washing machines.
It became clear that slowly, government rescue flights were picking up stuck travelers all over the world to bring them back home. We signed up and on April 9th, we flew to Amsterdam after 3,5 months of traveling, instead of the 6 we had planned.
Because of our 6 month plan, we had rented out our house until Mid June, which meant we could not go home yet. Friend of us are in the camping business and hooked us up with a cabin in one of Holland’s national parks. It had a swimming pool, we made friends with the next door alpaca’s and hiked some more. We spent a full 2 months there and were super lucky with the weather. At least we got to extend some of the vacation vibes!
We got our house back! We moved into our small city apartment and I went back to work. The 6 months of unpaid leave were up and it was good to make money again.
We took a trip to France to visit family. We had 4 course lunches, visited little markets and cute towns. The French countryside was hardly hit with Covid and we enjoyed ourselves in relative normalcy. We considered buying a house there and moving for a hot minute and decided against. Good decision, in hindsight.
September & October
It was back to the mundane work life for both of us. We enjoyed our city as much as we could, reconnected with friends and took a few trips within Holland. The beaches here are definitely not the same!
November & December
We went back into lockdown, went on more walks, took another trip to France for less fun reasons and put up the Christmas tree way too early. The ending of the year couldn’t come quick enough!
The travel year in review
Remember how I saw we would ‘circle’ back to a few places? So, we never made it to Myanmar, Cambodia or any other places. Because we, under no circumstances, wanted to make the trip from New Zealand back home in one go, would hop back via Asia, maybe Greece, and then go home. We had 6 months after all.
And so we didn’t get to do any of that, and did have to fly back in one go. Looking back, our travel pace in those first 3 months was pretty high, but knowing what we now know, if it hadn’t been, we never would have made it to Australia and New Zealand.
Pros and cons, but we feel pretty lucky we got to make this trip when we did. It was a wild experience, a good story to tell and we’re not done. Travel will surely be different this year as well, but our own country is beautiful too, and Europe is so diverse. No need to fly anywhere!
- Who got sick the most? Jochem- 1 (Laos) Jeltje-1 (Nusa Penida)
- Who got the tannest? Jeltje
- How many flipflops were broken? 2; both Jochems
- How many accidents did we have? 0! (pfew)
- Favorite place? New Zealand & Thai islands & Luang Prabang
- Least favorite? Ho Chi Minh City
Cheers to 2021!