2013: A Travel Retrospective

a short aside before we begin: 2013 was the first year i really started to embrace travel as a lifestyle — or well, at least as much as i have been able to, and i’m so grateful for it. rarely a day passes that i don’t reflect on how fortunate i have been to have seen as much of the world as i have been able to.


  • flew on the A380 five times this year: 2x Air France, 1x Singapore, 1x Thai, 1x Lufthansa. i don’t have a favorite airplane, but if i did, it would likely be this.
  • finally crossed the sole aviation-related item off my list, Hello Kitty.
  • i started my lounge shower review series and wrote 21 of ’em so far.
  • according to my records, i flew 189,431 miles this year, significantly more than any year previous:

  • my longest flight was Dulles to Dubai, 7,069 miles (about 13 hours) which i did in a middle seat (somehow got switched at the gate; at least it was economy plus? — luckily the return was in an exit row aisle)
  • my shortest flight was Dulles to Philly (3x this year), 135 miles.
  • according to the tripadvisor facebook app i use, i’ve passed the 50-country mark (50 was Singapore, 51 was Myanmar). note that if you use it and your number comes out lower than you expect, it’s because it counts England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all as one country, the United Kingdom (which makes sense).

a brief word on United PQD

for me, the 2013 development that will have the most impact was the announcement that United will be instituting a minimum spend for their elite tiers in addition to the amount of miles flown. i can’t say i was completely taken by surprise, just saddened they chose to do it right as my flying was really picking up (this will likely be the only year i ever make United 1K).

that said, i totally get their side of the story.

they are making a business decision: they want more money. i’m making a business decision: i only fly when it’s cheap and i want to save money. they are valuing me less as a customer, i’m valuing them less as a business. as i’ve said before, no hard feelings. see ya’!

but first, the food

i’ve singled out three of my favorite food experiences from this year (tough, since y’all know how much i love to eat!):

zaatar in Qatar:

the Skåne-focused pop-up food festival in Malmö during Eurovision:

pretty much anything in Singapore (yes, i know twitter thinks i was in Malaysia):

i suppose, though, i shouldn’t forget this was the year i waited for that damn cronut

and now, drumroll please, some highlights from 2013

  • my first-ever op-up to business class, flying home from Frankfurt to San Francisco (New Year’s Day)

Oops I think I drove too far. #uturn

Driving around Qatar, almost a bit too far


Never before have I been so overwhelmed (in a good way) by the smell of incense.


Heh, I still can’t believe I did it!


Mother Nature worked overtime here.


I will admit this one is a bit creepy.

(the wedding theme makes sense given Finland’s entry this year)

i’m disappointed my number one pick (Germany’s Cascada with “Glorious”) didn’t win, but i had a blast nonetheless.

  • my first, but hopefully not last, visit to Thailand (July)

From my day trip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya

Drinking salty milk tea in a yurt

Drinking salty milk tea in a yurt, part of my wacky day trip out of Ulaanbaatar.

Towing a car using a seatbelt (which explained our missing seatbelts), also from the wacky day trip.


Experiencing Naadam, Mongolia’s annual sports competition

  • returning to Budapest, Hungary for the first time in seven years (August)
Riverside and trackside seating

And spending a day wandering around just a little south of here in less-than-touristy District VIII.

  • a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, because why not? (August)
Shit I want to go inside here so bad. Too bad I can't open the door wide enough :(

Especially this one particular street in the old city that’s in the slow process of rehabbing.


I’m not a hiker, but the trek was so worth it.

  • pretty much any time i looked up in St. Petersburg, Russia (September)

Between the cathedrals and the Hermitage…a feast for the eyes to last a lifetime.

  • exploring my family’s heritage in Penang, Malaysia (September-October) bucket list
Me at the Khoo Kongsi, or Clanhouse. Yes, the same Khoo that's my last name.

Me at the Khoo Kongsi, or Clanhouse. Yes, the same Khoo that’s my last name.


And getting to meet fellow #avgeeks!

Sofa king scared right now. Not afraid of heights, afraid of collapse!

I was so afraid of the building collapsing or me falling through a hole in the rusted-out flooring.


So. Kawaii.

  • the modern + traditional dichotomy found in Singapore (November)

while much of Singapore is so unabashedly modern…


…there are some areas that are still very much as they used to be, like the Geylang District

  • standing on top of a temple overlooking a vast plain dotted with history in Bagan, Myanmar

Oh and the sunset view! AMAZEBALLS.

2014 is shaping up to be a busy travel year as well. i can’t wait to see what experiences are in store!

this post is dedicated to the amazing folks at The Flight Deal, who unearth the cheap airfares that make many of my trips possible. oh, and for the record, my 2012 retrospective.

8 Comments on "2013: A Travel Retrospective"

  1. Nice! Puts my meandering to shame. Slow but steady?

    Not sure if I’m more jealous about the fjords of Norway or the Malmö pork belly. Wow.

  2. Love your blog. It’s really inspirational. How do you get so much time to travel?!

    • Thanks! I’m really lucky to have a work-from-home job and last fall I finally realized that if I can work from home, I can work from anywhere!

      I pretty much just go wherever there’s a cheap ticket and stay at airbnbs which I prefer to hotels since it’s usually cheaper and you get more space so if you are stuck inside working it’s not as claustrophobic and dull.

  3. You had me at … Soup Dumplings! Sounds like a great year. I discovered you through the link from milenemonics.

    • thanks kim! i am completely honored to have gotten linked from there (especially the accompanying compliments!). anyways, yes, definitely worth a stop if you’re ever in taipei (or any of their other locations, but there’s something about being where it all started). here’s to a great 2014 — happy travels!

  4. Hi Jon, long time!
    Congrats on winning the game.

    • Hey Leon! Hope all is well! Sometimes I don’t know if I’ve won anything, and have questioned the way my life has changed so much since our NU days, but I am slowly making peace with the way things have turned out. Definitely lucked out though!

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