Holy macaroni: another year gone like it wasn’t even there. Believe it or not, but we are now officially more than two full decades away from the magical year 2000. What a downer. We were so young and optimistic back when the millennium was brand new. The economy was booming, the US President only played his sax and his intern, and the future felt bright and full of possibilities. ‘Would we be flying to work in hover cars in 2020?’ We could only wonder. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. We’re still stuck in traffic, there’s an orange clown who can’t tie his own laces camping in the White House, and we can consider ourselves lucky when the whole goddamn planet isn’t a scorched wasteland by 2030. The times, they are a-changing.
“We were so young and optimistic back when the millennium was brand new. The economy was booming, the US President only played his sax and his intern, and the future felt bright and full of possibilities. ‘Would we be flying to work in hover cars in 2020?’ We could only wonder.”
Does this mean I moped around on the brink of depression throughout the holidays? Of course not. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a timeless, formless vacuum in which the days have no name. This makes it the perfect period to lazy about like a sloth. Yes, even the hardest working photographer paid to travel the world needs some time off once in a while. That’s why I took the easy road this time, and decided to present you with an overview of my favourite trips and memories of the past year. So keep your PJs on, put those feet up and stay in bed till noon. Work is for the birds.
I found myself in Ha Long Bay last January, where I was invited to professionally hang around on a travel trade show. Once you’ve done the boat tour (I could barely see the rocks through the fog) and you visited that one cave where you have to fight yourself past endless hordes of Chinese tourists, you quickly realise there is jack shit else to do or see here. So I said So Long Bay and quickly moved to Hanoi. The chaos in the Asian megacities always excites me, and they don’t come much more chaotic than the Vietnamese capital. My hostel had a rooftop bar. From there I had the perfect viewpoint on the insanity on the intersection below – fruitful way to spend an evening for someone regularly tortured by Belgian traffic. Finding peace and quiet in bustling Hanoi is not easy, but certainly not impossible. The Note Coffee – covered in several layers of post-its – was an oasis of calm in the city centre, and the famous train streets proved surprisingly peaceful as well when there was no locomotive thundering through. Cars don’t pass here, so the old bloke in my picture could keep lounging on the tracks, as long as he kept an eye on the train schedule. They do tend to run on time here.
Because I occasionally like to breathe fresh air as well, I flew straight to Singapore from Vietnam. When I first set foot here four years ago, I thought it all a little too squeaky clean and spotless for my liking. But, like the Germans after WWI, everyone deserves a second chance. And lo and behold: there was much more to enjoy than I thought at first glance. Singapore is not only a super diverse society with plenty of futuristic attractions on offer, it also comes with lots of green space. Here’s a list of the ten prettiest park, and the one I visited for my blog isn’t even mentioned.
“Because I occasionally like to breathe fresh air as well, I flew straight to Singapore from Vietnam”
The country doesn’t even need to be expensive. The Maxwell Food Centre right next to my hostel – one of many hawker centres you will most likely miss out on when you first visit – offers all sorts of tasty dishes for just a few bucks. I’m glad I gave it another shot. Now if temperatures would occasionally drop under 35°C, I’d have booked my tickets even faster.
Why is there suddenly an unknown Belgian coastal town in this list full of exotic destinations? Well, there are several reasons for that. 1. It’s my blog and I do what I want. 2. I was looking for an excuse to burn this glorious semi-nude picture of myself onto your retina once more. 2. This trip taught me there’s a lot to visit close to home as well, especially in places you wouldn’t look for it first. My Belgian stuff is generally read more than my other articles. 3. That weekend in Koksijde was the last good memory of a period in my life I later had to say goodbye to, and I allow myself to cherish it. Whatever happened later, they’ll never take those two nude Jacuzzi days away from me.
My most intense trip of the year was a three week journey through Malawi: one of the lesser known countries in Southeast Africa. It doesn’t see a lot of tourists compared to its neighbours, and I honestly don’t understand why. It’s perfectly safe, people are friendly and speak English, there are superb landscapes to enjoy and the safari parks have been managed so well recently, they have to export animals because they can’t stop humping each other. Lake Malawi is the country’s crown jewel, and one of the most enchanting places I ever had the chance to visit. Watching the sun go down over the water from a hammock on a tropical island, while all around the lights of the fishing canoes pop on, is as romantic as it will ever get with me around. Go visit this country. They’ll welcome you with open arms.
“Malawi doesn’t see a lot of tourists compared to its neighbours, and I honestly don’t understand why. It’s perfectly safe, people are friendly and speak English, there are superb landscapes to enjoy and the safari parks have been managed so well recently, they have to export animals because they can’t stop humping each other.”
I found myself back in Africa just five months after being in Malawi – I truly lead a horrible life. Kenya is one of the continent’s most popular destinations. I wrote a piece on Nairobi for this blog, but I visited other places as well. Places like Amboseli National Park for example: a beautiful reserve in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. Here, you’ll drive through vast savannah landscapes, full of large herds of antelopes, zebras and elephants. It was here I met the local Masai : an indigenous tribe where the men did very well for themselves. Traditionally, they were in charge of hunting and protecting the village, while their wives did everything else. But these days, hunting is illegal, and roving bands of head-hunters aren’t a real concern either. This is why women now take care of laundry, cooking, building the house, tending the livestock and raising the kids, while their husbands spend the day on their ass or on the nearest lodge’s free Wi-Fi. Al Bundy booked a one-way ticket as soon as he heard.
There you go: a whole article pulled right out of my sleeve for your enjoyment. It’s back to be for me know, where I’ll stay and bingewatch mediocre Netflix stuff for the rest of the week. Good luck in 2020. I hope you’ll hold onto your resolutions until at least mid-January. Where would you like me to go this year? Where will your own trips take you and why? Let me know in the comments below.