I know I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog due to badminton (and my badminton blog. Please check it out if you haven’t yet!). But it isn’t only badminton that has kept me busy.

In the past 53 weeks I have gone to six different countries. A record for me!

Honestly, I don’t like fast travel. One week exploring a new country makes me feel harried and rushed and I leave feeling like I missed more than I saw. I prefer slow travel–three to four weeks in a new place. That way I can see a lot and take my time. I’m lucky to have a job with long winter and summer breaks so I have the time.

But this year I had more opportunities than time and I grabbed them. It all started 53 weeks ago on Oct 1st when I went to Japan for a week. Japan has long been on my list of places to go, but it is one of the most expensive countries in asia, and with my salary a month-long trip has always been out of the question. But with a week off of school, and a friend in Japan who said I could stay with him for free, how could I refuse?

I went to Tokyo and Kyoto and tried to make the most of my brief time seeing both the modern, plastic anime part of Japan, and the peaceful, serene temple side.

I went to the beautiful, and slightly spooky Fushimi Inari Shrine. The orange gates go on for miles, and a few steps away from the entrance took me to a completely secluded part of the forest. It was overcast and drizzling and there were many black crows squawking around. While I usually love having forests walks all to myself I felt a little better when I saw people.

While in Tokyo I stayed at one of the famous “pod” hotels. Only this one was classier, for women only, and included spa facilities. Very nice place to come back to after a long day walking around.

Food, of course, was high on my priority list, and I went to many markets and tried as much food I could stuff down my gullet. *drool*

I really liked Japan, but I just felt too much time pressure. Even in Kyoto, where I saw many sights, I felt like I missed so much I was a little angry and annoyed at myself. This is a country worthy of a longer exploration.

My next country isn’t “technically” a country but you need to go through customs, change money and get a new SIM card so I’m counting it. (And saying I went to 5 countries and one territory is a clunkier blog title. I’m not trying to tear apart China here, just trying to sound cooler.)

Figured it out yet? Hong Kong. It’s only a 4-hour train ride for me, so it’s a great place to go for a small “western” break. I can eat Emack & Bolio’s ice cream while browsing English books. I went with my friend Azhi and I had a chance to meet-up with some other Hong Kong friends too.

Taken at the Peak, the mountain that overlooks the city. It was quite windy and brisk at the top.

My friend (and former student) Danlee invited us out to “the world’s cheapest Michelle Star restaurant.” It was dim sum and soooo delicious.

In the winter I took another quick trip to Thailand. I wasn’t upset about the length this time because I had been to Thailand a few years ago, and this time I went specifically for a purpose. But I stayed with my friend Gaby, a chef, and she knows all the good places to eat, and is friends with the chef’s, so we just ate and ate and ate. *More Drool*

Girls night out on a tuk-tuk!

Many noodles were eaten, thai tea drunk and foot massages gotten.

After that my next big trip was in the summer. I went back to America for almost a month. It’s been a long time so it was good to see everyone even though I had a month-long stomach ache. (Ironic that in all my travels and all my dirty street food eaten, America was the only place I had to take Imodium.)

‘Muricccaaaaa

Then, one year to the date of my Japanese trip, I was again crossing a border, though this too is a bit disputed as to whether it is technically a “country.” Guess where? Taiwan. I went with my friend Azhi who is Taiwanese so I got the real local treatment. I had been before, so going for 5 days was okay and not as frustrating as my rushed Japanese trip. First I went to Jinmen, a small island off the coast of Xiamen belonging to Taiwan, and then flew to Taipei. Like last time, food was a major motivator of the trip.

More “bing” a round baked bread I can’t get enough of. This one had meat inside and was baked in this brick cauldron.

More snow! I ate one of these crushed ice things everyday. The weather wasn’t at all cold, but after eating a giant plate of crushed ice even I can get chilly so I borrowed my friends raincoat.

We managed to do some other things besides eating including going to Pinxi, a famous little town and seeing a traditional opera. Afterwards we got our picture taken with two of the stars which was cool.

So that was all my travels in the past year. “But wait Becky,” I hear you say. “That’s only five countries. Where is the sixth?”

Good question smart reader. The sixth was China itself! Not only do I live here, but I did a fair bit of traveling around as well so it counts.

I took a quick trip to Guangzhou to handle some business and thankfully a friend came to the train station to chat with me for a few minutes before my train.

I went to Shanghai for a few days to see my friends and went to Shanghai Disney!

For Spring Festival (Chinese New Years), I went to my coaches hometown in Chaozhou. One of their special foods is beef meatballs which I am now completely addicted to.

I know you can see nothing in this picture, but it was taken on the banks of the West Lake, in Hangzhou. As it was my former city, many of my darling students still live there and I like to visit them.

So it’s been a pretty crazy year, keeping in mind that I also play badminton everyday, have a job and am writing a book. When I lay it out like this I kinda wonder myself how I keep up with it all. I’m just really lucky to be living in a part of the world where travel is quick and cheap and have a job where I have plenty of free time to follow my passions. Many people think I have a tough life living in a third world country with a low salary and no car of my own. But actually I feel very grateful for all the opportunities I have even if I have to deal with pollution in the sky and people spitting in the streets.

I wonder where this year will take me?

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