Truly, madly, deeply

TTG Asia’s team of editors, journalists and designers may have their fingers on the pulse of a fast-paced and ever-changing travel industry, but they also know how to have fun and laughter at work and in their personal lives. Read on to find out what made their most memorable and creative experiences this year.

Karen Yue,  Group editor
As someone who has multiple tabs open at the same time in my mind all day every day, Taiko drumming forces me to shake off all concerns and focus only on the rhythmic rise and fall of my arms as I attempt to keep pace with my instructor. My Taiko crash course at Tokyo’s Taiko-Lab was led by an effervescent young man who instructed me on several short sequences that were eventually combined to form a complete heart-pounding, bicep-straining performance. Here, take my pen. I’m ready to move from editor to Drum Tao extraordinaire!

Mimi Hudoyo, Editor, Indonesia
My most memorable trip this year was to Rotorua, a town on New Zealand North Island. Despite having been there a couple of times, the city always manages to surprise with new experiences, thanks to the ever-creative local travel operators and authorities.
During my most recent visit to the volcanic plateau of Mount Tarawera, I got to explore the volcano in different ways, from flying over its dramatic craters and lakes on a floatplane, to taking a boat ride to explore the area’s glaciers that puff up smokes of sulphur. We also enjoyed a walk in the woods where we learnt about the different native plants and how the Maori use them in their daily lives. Along the way, I learnt stories from the different Maori guides about their ancestors, their struggle to survive, and their dreams for the future. They were very passionate about preserving their land and iwi (social units). All in all, it was a four-hour tour jam-packed with experiences.

S Puvaneswary, Editor, Malaysia/Brunei
What makes any travel experience memorable is having the company of like-minded companions, which was what I enjoyed when I visited Sky Mirror in Kuala Selangor. I visited the attraction with three other like-minded friends who shared a similar interest of looking for Instagrammable places, before ending the day’s tour with a hearty meal. The full day experience gave us a chance to catch up and rekindle friendships, as we had not been in touch for quite some time. And the best part? We all went home with gorgeous pictures.

Rachel AJ Lee, Subeditor
Exploring Indonesia’s Komodo National Park was the icing on my travel cake this year. Diving into clear waters teeming with colourful fish, I saw a manta ray glide by for the first time (I squealed into my regulator), countless hawksbill turtles munching on coral, a few moray eels playing hide-and-seek, and several white- and black-tipped sharks sleeping on the ocean floor. Back on land, watching the sun kiss the land from the peak of Padar Island – illuminating the rocky outcrop, turquoise waters, and sandy beaches in the process – took my breath away.

Cheryl Ong, Subeditor
I tried out skiing for the first (and probably, last) time at Jeongseon’s High 1 Resort, the highest elevation ski resort in South Korea, and it was memorable for all the wrong reasons. My ski coach, Aron, gave me a crash course in skiing before sending me out on the beginner’s course. Barely 1km into the course, my totally unathletic self had already crashed into everything from the orange fencing to a ski patrol house and uh, three Korean kids. Aron sighed a bit too loudly as he grudgingly lifted me off the ski slope for the umpteenth time. I felt like David trying to conquer the gently-sloping Goliath. When I finally emerge not-so-triumphantly – it took me 1.5 hours to conquer the 2km course – I was perspiring like I was back in sunny Singapore. For trepid first-time skiers, here’s a tip: Stick to dry running on the bunny slopes before battling the big bad beginner’s course.

Pamela Chow, Reporter, Singapore
The Sabre Technology Exchange in Las Vegas gave me the perfect opportunity to hop on the hot activities trend, so I packed into a van with a local land-sailing instructor and drove out to Ivanpah Dry Lake in California. We spent the afternoon racing through the desert against a backdrop of mountains and mirages – definitely the best kind of experience that could come out of getting into a stranger’s van!

Rosa Ocampo, Correspondent, Philippines
A recent trip to Hong Kong, my safe and happy home for nine years in the 90s, was an emotional journey. I attended the wedding of James Lam, whom I have seen grow from a young boy joining us in watching Chinese concerts to a young man committed to farming. James is the youngest son of Via Vai Travel owner Sef Lam, an industry contact who has since became a close friend over the decades. It was a happy occasion catching up with the Lam family and meeting old TTG Asia friends like Hong Kong correspondent Prudence Lui and former TTG Chinese editor Jenny Wong.

Prudence Lui, Correspondent, Hong Kong
I experienced a once-in-a-lifetime journey on The Eastern and Oriental Express in early September. During the 50-hour train ride from Singapore to Bangkok, the experience was beyond my expectations, thanks to the brand’s top-notch software and hardware. As the train was only 50 per cent full, I enjoyed even more attentive services from my Thai butler and other service staff. Having acclaimed French chef Didier Corlou onboard took guests’ satisfaction to the next level because the ‘spice atelier’ excited our tastebuds with his best of Vietnamese and French cuisine, serving up a ‘four-hand’ dinner and signature afternoon tea.

Marissa Carruthers, Correspondent, Indochina
A week on the Indonesian archipelago of Karimunjawa in September blew my mind. Days were spent exploring the smattering of coral-fringed deserted islands with powder-white sand lapped by turquoise waters and an almost tourist-free main island teeming with nature, lush mangroves and rolling hills. The area’s pristine marine parks also delivered my first unforgettable foray into the underwater world with a day scuba diving among adorable clownfish, corals in rainbow colours, and curious parrot fish.

Tiara Maharani, Correspondent, Indonesia
For Jakartans, spending a weekend in Puncak may sound boring, but my Puncak trip in May was fun because I got to re-experience attractions I had visited as a kid, such as taking in sights of beautiful flowers of diverse origins in Taman Bunga Nusantara and the rolling tea plantations in Puncak Pass. I also visited other popular attractions, such as the replica of a hobbit house at the Pinewood Lodge & Organic Farm Cisarua. Until I could realise my dream to travel to New Zealand, visiting a replica of a hobbit house was enough to make me happy. However, this spontaneous journey not only evoked memories of the past, but also reminded me of dreams that must be realised.

Kurniawan Ulung, Correspondent, Indonesia
The most memorable activity this year is celebrating a presidential election because this was my first time voting. In the previous two elections, I did not cast my ballot because I was out of town to do a quick count for a pollster. I later regretted after realising that my salary could not compensate for this very important moment. Therefore, since last year, I was committed to show up to vote and promised myself to reject any assignments on the voting day in April. I left Jakarta two days before the big day, taking a train to go back to my hometown of Bondowoso, a small city in East Java. The 17-hour road trip was exhausting, but well worth the effort because my favourite candidate won.

Adelaine Ng, Correspondent, Australia
My single most memorable travel experience this year was quad biking across the sand dunes near Sydney. Who knew that Port Stephens could transport you a whole world away just two hours from the CBD! I had to pinch myself to be sure I wasn’t in Dubai. Thankfully, the experience in Sydney meant I didn’t have to deal with sticky humidity (not a good combo with flying sand) as I would have in the UAE.

Feizal Samath, Correspondent, Sri Lanka/Maldives
Though the Maldives is always a favourite destination of mine for work and recreation, it has often been a case of more work than play and not enjoying the multitude of attractions this destination offers; even the simple luxury of sitting in an over-water villa and absorbing the sunset often escaped my attention. During my June visit, I simply sat down outside the villa watching as the orange rays of the sun set on the horizon, sipping a beer for comfort. I was so mesmerised by the amazing sight that I forgot to take pictures. Well, perhaps next time!

Rohit Kaul, Correspondent, India
My visit to Siddhabali Temple, located in the Kotdwara town of the Indian state of Uttarakhand, was not just memorable because of my devotion to Lord Hanuman but also due to its tranquil surroundings. The hilltop temple is surrounded by greenery which adds to its beauty and calmness, and one can see the banks of the Khoh River from its premises.

Lina Tan, Editorial assistant
The most memorable travel experience this year would be the Vespa tour that I had in Hanoi. As I had never been on a motorbike before, I was so fearful in the beginning that I even said my prayers as the motorbike took off. The Vespa zipped through Hanoi’s traffic while cars drove past in all directions, before going down the narrow lanes between buildings. During the ride, I also got to see houses and shops tucked beside a railway track, offering me a glimpse of local lifestyles. It was an exciting and eye-opening experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed the motorbike tour.

Goh Meng Yong, Creative designer
My most memorable travel experience would be our company retreat in Mauritius this May. As part of our company teambuilding programme, we got to drive a quad bike through some of the most beautiful places on the island, from lush sugarcane plantations to Pont Naturel – a volcanic rock structure set like a bridge over roaring turquoise sea water below. Overall, Mauritius impressed me as a scenic and interesting country that I would like to bring my kids to visit one day.

Redmond Sia, Creative designer
Naritasan Omotesando is a charming street lined with traditional Japanese houses and quaint shops selling interesting Japanese food and handicrafts. It was one of the memorable places that I stumbled upon by chance during my recent visit to Japan. I love the variety of unique products for sale. The streets were amazingly clean with beautiful blooms of flowers lining most shops. Shinshoji Temple in the area has an amazing Japanese garden filled with colourful flowers, a discovery I made during a leisurely walk around its grounds.

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