After 49 days on the road, 7 different countries, 14 separate flights and 18 different places of accommodation, my second work sabbatical in 5 years proved just as good as the first.
I started in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan where I checked out some interesting architecture and sampled Horse meat . With some friends I flew from Astana to Russia, causing a security alert after temporarily losing my carry-on bag whilst waiting for an for an Uber outside Ekaterinburg airport. Our accommodation here was fairly remote, luckily we found a brilliant taxi driver called Mikael who looked after us all week. Watching the World Cup in one of the host cities was fun and mixing with the ‘loco’ Peruvian fans and the friendly Japanese a great experience.
After Russia I was travelling solo for a couple of weeks in Central Asia. I flew to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan and learnt about their nomadic culture. I also did a spectacular walk in Ala-Archa National Park just outside the capital. Next I travelled overland back to Kazakhstan, sharing a car with some locals across the border to Almaty. Different in many ways to Astana it is backed by the spectacular Zailiyskiy Alatau mountains and has plenty of places to party making Almaty the must visit destination in Kazakhstan.
I then took a 6 hour flight to the Asian hub of Bangkok where a work’s travel deal allowed me some luxury in the fantastic Avani Riverside. Here I could unwind on its rooftop pool overlooking the Chaophraya River. On from here I flew to Bali, where I met Vanessa who would be joining me for the next 3 weeks as we travelled around Indonesia. In Bali we learnt about the Hindu culture that survives here as well doing a rice terrace trek. In Gili Trawangan and Gili Air we snorkeled for hours in pristine, abundant waters. After some flight issues we made it to Flores, staying in Labuan Bajo and saw Komodo Dragons on Komodo Island. Our final stop was the populous island of Java, in Yogyakarta we visited the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Borobudur and Prambanan. We also did a Jeep tour around Merapi Volcano and saw the devastation caused by the recent eruptions.
Myself and Vanessa went our separate ways in Jakarta, whereas she went home I continued my journey in the Balkans region of Europe. A few days in the Serbian capital of Belgrade and after watching a local football match I took the famous Belgrade to Bar railway to Montenegro, Here I saw the famous walled city of Kotor and the overcrowded beach destination of Budva.