It is probably absolutely ridiculous to post an annual review of 2015 on the 21st January 2016 but different than in 2013 and 2014 I didn’t manage to write my end of the year wrap-up for 2015 still in the old year.
This January I already achieved my first goal for 2016 and moved my blog from Bluehost to Hostgator. During the transfer process it is not advisable to publish any posts or reply to comments because any content published during the transfer process might get lost. A huge thanks goes to Conny, a lovely lady from a German WordPress & SEO help group on Facebook, who made a complete backup of my blog, and to the guys of Hostgator who transfered my website and helped me to change the domain name servers. Without these people the transfer of my website would have probably never happened because I only know little about these things. Now there is only one last thing to do and I hope this won’t cause any problems.
However, I don’t want to forbear to write my annual review because like many other travel bloggers I love these posts. Although 2015 wasn’t as spectacular and exciting like 2013 and the last five months of 2014 were, 2015 still had several highlights.
March: Dubai & Beijing
In March I spontaneously booked a flight to Beijing with a 28-hours layover in Dubai. I had lots of miles on Emirates and I could only use a large number of them on bookings till the end of June otherwise these miles would have expired. The alternative would have been “to go shopping” in the online Emirates shop, not really an alternative for a travel passionate like me.
In Dubai I attended a heritage tour through the Al Bastakiya neighbourhood of the Al Fahidi historic district including a visit of the Diwan Mosque and a get-together at the „Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding“ with Arabic tea, coffee and dates, the opportunity to talk and to ask further questions. Like during most of my visits in Dubai I also spent some time in the Dubai Mall area, in downtown Dubai, where the Burj Khalifa and „The Adress Downtown Dubai“ hotel are located which burned on New Year’s Eve 2015.
Our local guide during the heritage tour
Arabic coffee, tea, dates and talks in the “Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding”
Burj Khalifa at night
“The Adress Downtown Dubai” Hotel (left) and the neighbouring souk (right)
Later that evening I got picked up from my hotel with the Emirates limousine service and was taken to the airport. I couldn’t use my miles on Emirates to pay for my flight but I could use them to upgrade one leg to business class and I chose the Dubai – Beijing leg because firstly it was a night flight and secondly it was operated with one of their A380s. I got pampered in their business class lounge and in the business class during the flight. It was really a special experience although I also enjoy flying in their economy class.
Emirates Business Class Lounge at Dubai International Airport
Bar in the Emirates A380 Business Class
In Beijing I spent some time with Leon, a local friend, and got the chance to explore a few of the hidden corners of the city which I would have never found by myself, and to indulge some of the best local foods. In short: I just had a great time.
Tea break in a Hutong in Beijing
Local life in the Hutongs
I also spent a lot of time in the Hutongs of the city and revisited my favourite temple in Beijing, the Lama temple aka Yonghe Gong. I discovered the quite unkown Guangji temple which is home to the Buddhist Association of China and was a new temple for me, wandered through Qianmen street for the first time and headed back to the Liulichang street for a deeper exploration.
Locals in a Hutong in Beijing
Lama temple aka Yonghe Gong
Guangji temple in the Xicheng district
Despite wandering on the restored Mutianyu section of the Great Wall twice in 2013, hiking on the unrestored Gubeikou Great Wall and encountering the abandoned westernmost section of the Great Wall in Jiayuguan in 2014 I still can’t get enough of this infamous monument. So I took a daytrip hiking from Zhuangdaokou to the Walled Village. As the spicy food lover who I am I attended a Sichuan cooking class in Beijing and learned how to prepare a few of the local dishes of Sichuan province. I also participated in a tea tasting where I was introduced to six different categories of tea according to colour and harvest process. Furthermore I took a free Mandarin trial lesson in a Chinese language school and I hope to learn some Mandarin this or next year.
Great Wall at Zhuangdaokou
Sichuan cooking class
April: the Netherlands & Spain
In April I got the opportunity to meet Leon in Breda, in the Netherlands. We both loved the city and I was amazed how beautiful my neighbouring country is. Apparently I should go there more often.
One and a half weeks later I flew to Barcelona and spent 24 hours exploring the city before heading to Lloret de Mar at the Costa Brava for a travel blogging conference called TBEX. It was my first travel blogging event ever and it was amazing to meet hundreds of travel bloggers from Europe, North America and Australia. The speakers, the keynotes, the sessions and the closing party were fantastic. Although I had read Jessica’s post about her first TBEX beforehand I was quite unprepared so that I missed the Pre-BEX and the Post-BEX tours, Travel Massive at TBEX and the opening party. But I sweared to myself that this wouldn’t happen again when attending my next TBEX.
Palau de la Generalitat at the Plaça de Sant Jaume
La Deessa at the “Plaça Catalunya”
Meeting Dale and Franca from Angloitalian Follow Us at TBEX
Posing with artists
Late summer: taking a TEFL course
In late summer I finally took the TEFL course I had planned to take for quite a while. At first I wanted to do this course on-site in Beijing but in 2015 all courses there didn’t take place and in the other locations I had considered they were either full or the dates didn’t suit my personal schedule. So I chose a 120-hours online TEFL course which I successfully completed on 6th October with grade A and an overall score of 98.58 percent.
Getting my TEFL certificate
One week later I flew to Bangkok where I attended TBEX Asia, my second TBEX, and the first TBEX which was ever held on the Asian continent. This time I joined it all: Travel Massive at TBEX, a Thai Spa visit as a Pre-BEX activity, the TBEX opening party, the keynotes, the sessions and the closing party. At the conference were travel bloggers from Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, Europe and North America. I met several bloggers again who I had met at the conference in Lloret de Mar, quite a few who I only knew from their blogs by then and many who I didn’t know before. After the conference I spent a few extra days in Bangkok and finally visited the Royal Barge National Museum, something I had planned for a long time. I returned to a few of my favourite places in the city, stayed at my favourite hotel and just enjoyed my time in Bangkok.
Travel bloggers at TBEX Asia in Bangkok
Muay Thai boxers at the TBEX closing party
Prayer ceremony on the Golden Mount
Myself at the Menam Chao Phraya river
November: Jordan, Middle East
In November I spontaneously travelled to Jordan in the Middle East. I spent some time in Amman by myself but chose an adventure tour to explore the rest of the country. Our local guide was a hilarious Jordanian guy named Ayman from the capital Amman and my fourteen travelmates came from Canada, the US, Mexico, Italy, the UK, Belgium and Germany.
We wandered through the largest and most well-preserved Greco-Roman ruins outside of Rome in Jerash, took a bath and floated on the surface of the Dead Sea, visited Mount Nebo, the Madaba Mosaic Map in Madaba and the crusader castle in Karak. We experienced Petra by night and hiked through almost the whole sandstone city of Petra by day. We explored the desert of Wadi Rum by 4×4, by camel and on a nightwalk and experienced both, sunrise and sunset at different locations in the desert. In Aqaba we hired a yacht for a day on the Red Sea where we swam, snorkelled and relaxed before returning to Amman the following day. We slept in hotels and in a Bedouin tent camp in Wadi Rum. Besides the 4×4, camels and walking we used a private bus for transportation. After the tour I spent another full day in Amman by myself before flying home to Germany.
Greco-Roman ruins of Jerash
The illuminated Siq
The Treasury, Petra
Sandstone city of Petra
Camels, Wadi Rum
Roman theatre, Amman
Dezember: joining Travel Blog Success
In December I purchased the main and another course of Travel Blog Success and registered myself for an online search engine optimization (SEO) course but due to a busy month of December and because of the transfer of my website from Bluehost to Hostgator I haven’t started any of these courses yet. But this will be one of the next things which I will do once the transfer of my website is completed.
2015: a diverse year
2015 was a diverse year! Now I hope for a fantastic year 2016 which will hopefully be as great as 2013, the second half of 2014 and parts of 2015 were. I hope for a lot of time with friends from home and abroad, lots of fantastic experiences and more amazing and memorable travels.
Although the year has already started three weeks ago I wish all of you a happy and healthy new year 2016!
How was your 2015?
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