2014 was a record-setting year for my travels. I flew the most distance ever, and the second half was just as exciting as the first half.
My focus on this trip is the older neighbourhoods that are disappearing fast amidst redevelopment. These are very local places - lively, bustling, and full of life, while their new replacements are quiet and serene neighbourhoods barricaded from everyone else.
The most amazing part was wandering through the torn-down buildings. Watch your step!
Meanwhile, across the river in Pudong, the city's newest tallest building continues to take shape.
I return to Mumbai's southern centre with a better camera this time to re-capture the exotic architecture and urban scenes. It still looks like they have stopped time, but at least there were fewer beggars this time compared to prior visits.
Street vendors are plentiful. The food stalls are interesting to observe but just in case, not worth trying.
The terrorists came here to wreck havoc several years ago. Today, it is still a busy railway station and I decided to try their "First Class" trains with doors that don't close.
The buses are still a sight to see. Charter your open-deck bus today for your parties!
A bit stressed from the sheer urban experience (I don't get this in Tokyo though), I opted for a drink above the slums with a sunset view. It costed international prices that could probably feed a few families down below for the day.
Ho Chi Minh City
District 1 has been spruced up a lot since my last visit, with many new modern shopping malls and skyscrapers. The core colonial buildings are still around though.
The young folks like to congregate outside in the heat at night.
In places of change, I like to find a good vantage point for a view. What a contrast!
Across the river, it still seems relatively undeveloped. Perhaps this could be the next Pudong?
Everyone seems to drive a motorbike around here.
I return to Dalian once again on the way to and from Japan. This place is also changing, with new skyscrapers going up and a subway system that is still under construction. Unlike my last visit, the smog seems to have cleared.
Like Shanghai, there are old neighborhoods that may see its days numbered. The pace of redevelopment is not as quick though.
Many tourists come here to see the atomic bombing museum. However, despite all the suffering it talks about in the most minute details, it forgets to mention the Japanese Imperial Army's atrocities and wartime aggression that led to this bombing. They were invaders.
Shukkeien was rebuilt after the atomic bombing and is a great place for a nice walk under the shade. I like these cozy little parks.
Hiroshima isn't a crowded city, and it certainly isn't a dense one either, but the Japanese make good use of space as a typical urban design. Here, they made good use of an otherwise useless space for cyclists' parking.
For some alone time, pop into this cubicle ramen chain for the most discreet dinner. You cannot see the server, and vice versa.
Miyajima is a very worthwhile day trip out of Hiroshima. The island temples are very nice and you can also ride the cable car up to the hills for even better views of the surrounding seas. The biggest attraction is the gate in the water.
I have never seen a temple built into the water. Haji Ali doesn't count - that sits on its own island.
What tourists don't always see are the many other temples that are far quieter.
I found some cheap eats in Okayama, such as the famed Hokkaido melon, local grapes, and also ready-to-eat quick dinners. Then there are the 100 yen stores everywhere selling delicious snacks.
Colombo was a pleasant surprise - relatively clean with lots of good seafood and a perfect sunset. I was expecting Mumbai's chaos but it turned out to be a resort!
There is a sprinkle of colonial buildings in the city centre. Surprisingly, there were few tourists here appreciating all this.
This is a great place for some ancient bus spotting and ancient phone shopping.
The Northern Alps experiences quite different weather patterns from the lands below. There was not a speck of snow in Matsumoto, but it was stormy up above.
The weather didn't always co-operate throughout the region, but the fall colours were superb in Kanazawa.
Admire the traditional arts - look into the details.
Shirakawa-go was the highlight, with its sharply-angled thatched roofs being the main attraction. Staying here for the night in pitch darkness and enjoying 2 great meals in a guesthouse was a wonderful experience.
Getting a visa to this mysterious place was quite easy and quick - much better than many other Asian countries. Yangon had some Old World charm but change is in the air.
This cute little train shares the street with cars and pedestrians alike.
Asian cities are rich in street life, but not everywhere can you try the street food.
I was most impressed with Bagan, home to many temples. It felt like Angkor but with less trees and jungle. Despite the dirty feet from trodding around the holy places barefoot, it was a fun-filled day.
This is what we call efficient public transit!
I had a few hours stopover in Bangkok on my way to Europe, so I had to confine myself to a small area reachable by the airport train. Since I was running low on baht, I could only get to the outskirts.
Traffic is notorious here, although the books don't really claim Bangkok is the worst in the world these days.
Street food is always better to photograph than to eat.
I used to visit London once a year at least and use it as a stepping stone for the rest of Europe. With the Middle Eastern carriers' cheap fares, and now Chinese carriers beating them, I no longer need to use London as a stopover point. But I loathed to return so I came back for only half a day of sightseeing with a good friend who was in town. My, has The City changed!
My coverage south of the Thames has historically been weak. I have heard of Borough Market many times but only came around to it now after my upteenth visit to London. I can eat this type of street food!
My favourite transit airport in Europe is Frankfurt, but with Heathrow renovating, perhaps that may change.
... and my 2014 ends in frigid Montr?al