[Where I’m At; a monthly update of what I’ve been up to, site news, and where I’m going next.]
Where I’ve Been
Greetings from Tokyo! The month began at Singapore Changi, which set the pace for a busy travel month. It’s been years since I’ve done so much travel, and certainly the most since my back injury last year.
I visit Europe once a year which always begins London. This is a tradition that began in 1999 when I moved to London to work for 2 years. I’ve been back every year since, making London my longest travel run for any destination. The yearly visits has also made Heathrow my second most visited airport (yes I keep track of such things). It’s still a pain to pass through when a bunch of long-haul flights have disgorged themselves first thing in the morning. I’ve since passed the point where I wished to live in London, but it still remains as one of my favourite cities in the world.
When I visit Europe I like to pick some destinations I haven’t visited so this year I went to the Baltics. I’ve been to Tallinn before but it made more sense to visit the three Baltic states together. I was last here in 2000, so I barely remembered what it was like. I was also interested to see what the city is like in the age of the digital economy and the e-residency program. I wrote a longer post about my observations (see below).
I was on my way to visit Riga in 2000 when I got a bus from Tallinn. It turned out that Australians needed a visa to visit Latvia (or a visa from any Baltic state) to enter. This was before the Baltic states joined the EU, and I never considered that I would need a visa if I was freely allowed into Estonia. I was turned back at the border so I had to get the bus back to Tallinn. I said I would return, so 17 years later I did.
Riga a damn cool city. It has an old town with winding, cobbled streets, and outside that the newer-but-still-old town is reminiscent of the Pest side of Budapest. It has a good mix of old world charm and Euro city grit.
I finished the Baltic trio in Vilnius. Like Riga and Tallinn it also has a UNESCO World Heritage Old Town. It’s set on a pleasant little river, and they have sensibly put the new business district on the other side. Each Baltic capital is about 4 hours about by a comfortable bus, so I spent a day and a half in each city. This was a very easy 6-day trip that felt like a holiday.
When I was planning my trip to the Baltics I saw that Minsk is close to Vilnius. The visa to Belarus used to be costly and involve tedious paperwork. Since 2017 there is a free 5-day visa for 80 countries, so I took the opportunity to visit. See my trip report below.
With the Belarus visa requiring an entry and departure from Minsk airport I just picked a nearby city to fly out of, which happened to be Berlin. I keep saying that I will spend a month in Berlin one year. This year is not that year, but a two day revisit is better than nothing. I have a few friends there as well, so it was good to catch up with while I was there.
From Berlin I flew back to Saigon via Frankfurt and Singapore. I wouldn’t normally book two trips so close to each other, but seeing I rent a room here it felt good to have a base to return to.
Yes, Sydney! I am in Tokyo on behalf of a Japanese tourism board based in Australia, which required a Sydney departure for my trip. So instead of flying from Saigon to Tokyo I went SGN > SIN > SYD > HND.
I haven’t been to Sydney for maybe 10 years, and that was only a day when I had a long transfer between flights. I confused many of my Australian friends that I was in Sydney for a day, and not even in Melbourne. I stayed in the city so as soon as I dropped my bags off I walked straight to the harbour, which is always an impressive sight.
I visited Tokyo for 5 days in 2007, and I’m sitting here wondering why I didn’t come back sooner. Tokyo is considered as the biggest city in the world (depending on which metric you use) so it’s no surprise that I love this city. Being based in Vietnam this is like an infrastructure holiday, and I am in awe and envy of the railway system. I also didn’t appreciate Japanese food last time I was here, so this time I am eating well.
ICYMI – Last months posts
Notes on Tallinn – Visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site Old Town, old warehouses, hipster area, and the E-Residency program.
Visiting Minsk on the free 5-day visa for Belarus – Visiting Belarus used to be a costly process, but now visitors from many countries can get a free 5-day visa upon arrival.