What a privilege it is to travel — and as you might expect, we did a fair bit of it this year. Did we succumb to the allures of consumerism and capitalism? Yes, but we also contributed to foreign economies, cultural exchanges, and the sanity of our minds. From market visits in Fiji to a homely feast in Vietnam’s Sa Pa Valley, here’s our most memorable experiences around the world for 2018.

Whale watching at Margaret River

Humpbacks in front of Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of Beninfreo

Western Australia’s Margaret River is where some of the world’s best wines are produced, but fine food is not all the region has to offer. From June to early December every year, Margaret River becomes the place to watch whales, and we weren’t going to miss out on that. An estimated 35,000 whales — from Humpbacks and Southern Rights to Minke and Blue Whales — made the journey from the Antarctic to warmer waters as we watched the giant beauties in wonder from a purpose-built whale watching cruise. Whale watching season happen from June to early December each year.

See herex for more about Margaret River’s whale watching tours.

A visit to Fiji’s biggest produce market

If you’re a foodie like we are, visiting the bustling Suva Municipal Market in Fiji’s capital is a must try experience. The best day to visit is Saturday, when hundreds of village farmers bring their fresh produce, many unique to the country, into town to sell. We easily spent over an hour walking around the well-organised aisles, where paw paws (papaya) go for 50 cents each and huge plantains for $2 a kilogram alongside piles of taro, jackfruit, and fiery cherry chillies. Don’t miss the second story as well — that is where you will find the kava, the unofficial national drink of Fiji that’s bound to make you a bit light-headed.

See here for our list of activities to do when in Fiji.

Trekking across Sa Pa Valley

Photo courtesy of Phil Norton

You haven’t seen greenery quite like the one in Sa Pa. The small mountain town in Vietnam’s Lao Cai Province is closer to the Chinese border than it is to Hanoi, and makes for great trekking due to its awe-inspiring vistas and iconic rice paddies. Spanning from Ta Van to Lao Chai village, the best part was undoubtedly a home-cooked dinner with a Black Hmong family (one of the numerous highland tribes in the area), where we got to taste the ethnic cuisine and an apple wine that’s sour, sweet, and bitter at the same time.

See here for more information on Sa Pa.

Open-air onsen bathing in Kochi

Kuroshio Honjin’s numerous baths look out into the grandeur of the Pacific

Don’t confuse this beautiful Japanese prefecture with the city in southwest India. Kochi, located on Shikoku island, is less than an hour’s flight from Osaka, and is a stark difference from your touristy spots. We loved the sheer number of traditional ryokans that offer the rare opportunity to interact with nature, and that includes soaking in onsens. These rejuvenating hot springs were pure joy to be in, our fatigue melting away in the fresh breeze. Some, like the open-air rotenburo bath in Kuroshio Honjin offered scenic views of the Pacific or Futanajima Island — and what a sight it was.

See here for more of our favourite onsens in Kochi.

Grampians sight-seeing tour from Melbourne

We didn’t get to the see the real Grand Canyon in Arizona, but the unique Australian version was still quite the sight. Inside Grampians National Park, a short-ride out from Melbourne city, we took a little hike through the sprawling Wonderland Turntable before towards the ‘Grand Canyon’ to admire the stunning panorama over Victoria Valley and Stringybark Forest. As we traversed the different lookout points around the park, there were no shortage of kangaroos and emus dropping by — just two out of the many native animal life in Australia. We had our lunch at the nearby town of Halls Gap, but bringing some sandwiches and hot tea up doesn’t sound so bad either.

See here for more day trip ideas from Melbourne.

Feasting and drinking at Hong Kong’s Wine & Dine Festival

After four days of eating gourmet street snacks and endless glasses of wine, you can only imagine how big our tummy’s become since the 10th Wine & Dine Festival in Hong Kong. The culinary extravaganza took place in October and brought with it more than 450 booths from the region and beyond, encompassing wine producers and importers as well as international hotel brands, local craft beer breweries (here’s a shoutout to Young Master) and restaurants like Picada from Peru, and Kelly’s Cape Bop from Korea. Singapore got some representation too, with Tian Tian Chicken Rice and Noodle Story joining the fray. One of our favourite moments? A dazzling 100-drone choreographed performance over Victoria Harbour.

See here for a full recap of the 10th Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival.

Dancing from dusk till dawn at Wonderfruit 

Was there a better party to close the year than the epic Wonderfruit? The annual celebration of art, music, wellness, and food took place earlier this month in Thailand’s glistening party destination: Pattaya. And if five days of dancing and other immersive experiences taught us anything, it’s that the location — a massive field near the Siam Country Club — matters. From live music experiences by the likes of Crussen (at the stunning Solar Stage, no less) and Chamapoo at The Ziggurat, Wonderfruit might as well been on Mars.

See here for details on Wonderfruit 2019.

Top Image: Wonderfruit