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By Kate Springer | December 19th, 2015

A travel tell-all by Kate Springer.

As I prepared to jet off to the US for Christmas, my “2015 Year in Review” popped up on Facebook. Scrolling through all the pictures, I feel so fortunate to have explored a lot of Asia.

The year brought some unforgettable trips, and some wish-I-could-forget moments, but overall it was an awesome year of travel.

It started off with a kinda-sorta romantic weekend in Koh Samui, where it seems like all of the beaches are full of Russian tourists, Italian restaurants and foot massage huts. Plus an elephant or two.

Koh Samui Elephant
Like this one!

Then there was a hurried trip through Sri Lanka, where I thought it would be a great idea to pack in six locations and approximately 30 hours of driving into a one-week itinerary. Word to the wise: take things slowly when you go to Sri Lanka. The country’s certainly in no rush.

There was a quick trip to Bangkok to see some friends and the inside of a  few really great bars, and then one of the year’s highlights: a few days in Okinawa, where we ate surprisingly good Americanized Japanese food like “taco rice.”

Okinawa surprised me with its quirky mix of seemingly incongruent experiences — think bitter melon snacks, Awamori whisky-like rice liquor, pristine beaches and American country music blasting on the radio.

I went to Macau and China more times than I can count — Shanghai, Sanya, Guangzhou and even our underrated neighbor Shenzhen, where there are actually a few cool bars, cafes and art exhibition spaces popping up.

Sanya Park Hyatt
Ok fine, I guess Sanya isn’t THAT bad

A work trip also took me to Taipei, where I’ve now been four times and I fall in love with the city a little bit more on each visit. There’s something about the combo of mountains, tea, hot springs and street food that just does it for me.

Another standout was Siem Reap — my first time to Cambodia was an educational experience. We had an insightful tour guide who spoke of his family’s suffering during the Khmer Rouge, and how the country is still struggling to get on its feet.

Despite Cambodia’s troubling history of corruption, war and widespread poverty, the country is full of natural and manmade beauty — from the rivers to the countryside to the crumbling temples. And who knew it’s only a three-hour flight from Hong Kong?

The year also took me to some big cities — Sydney, London and New York — which made for some direct comparisons.

Work out before you go to Sydney, both because of the delicious food as well as the ridiculously good-looking people. Also drink as much beer, whisky and wine as you can, and stuff your face with avocados and cronuts for good measure.

Sydney North Head Hike
After you stuff your face, take a hike up to North Head

Whereas, if you’re heading to London, you better bring a coat, umbrella and boots, because even in August it’s so freaking cold and rainy. But once you’re there, try to eat at every St. John establishment, and hit up as many outdoor markets and beer gardens as you can.

In New York, plan to buy an unlimited SIM card, because America loves to rip you off on mobile plans; spend as much time as possible in the parks, get your fill of pizza, and devour all the bagels in sight.

Oh, and whatever you do — never casually utter the words, “I dunno, though, I think I like London better.”