In Madagascar & Yemen

the many faces of 

TAN WEE CHENG


Where have I been to  ?
   

Routes

Countries

Maps - Click to see larger images

"there are places in the world where one is mysteriously magnified on arrival or departure by the emotions of all those who have arrived and departed before...It is a sadness we do not experience today: our journeys no longer take years to complete, we know exactly where it is going, and our chances of coming back are so much greater." Cees Nooteboom in Roads To Santiago

More Travel Quotations below - click here

I do not consider myself a writer, but a traveller who happens to write. 

I am not a hardship traveller, or at least no longer so. I hardly climb mountains; I do not camp in the outdoors these days; And I don’t do much trekking. I am essentially a city guy who enjoys café, shopping in flea markets, checking out local supermarkets and browsing in local bookstores.  As a keen observer of politics and economics, as well as a history bluff, I enjoy historical sites, political oddities, conversation into local issues and a back-of-the-envelope assessment of local business opportunities. 

Even then, I do occasional forays to the wilderness.  I do have a soft spot for historical sites or spectacular scenery located in the middle of nowhere, and would brave minor discomfort to visit such places.  I like remote or difficult-to-reach places, more for the journey there than for what’s to see at the end point. However, I would not do endurance treks to get there.  If I could, I would organize a quick and easy way to get there. I tend to travel on the budget, but have increasingly resorted to expensive but fast and comfortable ways of reaching exotic locations. 

As I get older, I feel that comfort matters more. I have long abandoned staying in hostels – they are too noisy for me. I prefer nice boutique hotels where I can contemplate life, enjoy clean facilities, clear my emails and do some work with privacy. Sometimes, I even stay in expensive, exclusive places with extraordinary setting that I wouldn’t dare contemplate when I first began my travels.  I still enjoy interacting with locals and other travellers.  Hence I would avoid expat enclaves and would just drop by travellers inns and cafes from time to time.  When the term “flashpacker” appears, I thought that is the word to describe me, as well as many of us who began as backpackers but have since upgraded for quality experiences and aesthetics. 

In fact, I am a regular chap who has a 9-to-5 job.  I am neither a full time writer nor a real nomad, though I like the spirit of being the latter.  Perhaps, I am merely a nomad wannabe.  My passion for travel means that I try my best to arrange my life around my travels. I use all my work vacations for travel, and I have also gone on extended journeys between jobs. I had taken two career breaks of one year each time to travel.  In my current job as a university lecturer and business consultant, I am able to travel for as much as two months in mid-year and several weeks at the end of the year. Freedom and flexibility have become key in this stage of my life. 

Some people wonder if I had spent too little time in the many countries and territories I have visited. The answer is, yes and no. Now look – I have been travelling for almost 2 decades now.  If you have been utilizing all of your available work breaks solely to travel, you could certainly cover a lot of ground in 2 decades.  When I first began travelling in the early 1990s, yes, spurred by an urgent desire to experience a wide kaleidoscope of imagery and cultures, I rushed through many places.  

Over the years, however, I have also learnt to appreciate the subtleties of places and cultures, especially ethnic minorities at the periphery of nations.  I began to cultivate an interest in festivals and local histories.  In the last decade, I have spent a lot of time in the places I visit - at least what could be considered a fair bit of time for someone who continues to have a career beyond writing and travel per se.  Certainly, I cannot go away for 3 months at a time like many continental Europeans do because of the peculiar work vacation system they benefit from.  In fact, I often return to the countries I have been, to visit regions I hadn’t gone to, or to experience festivals and cuisines that I did not in my earlier visits.  

I do not spend two months in a small country.  My other commitments simply do not allow me to do so, especially when I am not a full-time travel writer or traveller.  But I do try to spend time to appreciate aspects of places which are worth learning about, and my extensive pre-journey planning allows me to experience these things when I get there. 

Am I trying to break any record?  No, the record of visiting the most number of countries has already been broken a long time ago.  I keep track of the numbers partly because they are of statistical interest, and partly because of my interest in nations and places.  The reality is, I often return to places I have visited before and spend quite a bit of time in such places that do not increase my country count. 

In an era where rising incomes have allowed many Asians to travel and see the world, I hope my experiences could be useful to them.  Asian travellers do have peculiar priorities and preferences which differ from those of Western travellers.  I hope that my travels would also provide them with some ideas. 

Writing is neither my career nor a key source of income.  My objective is to encourage independent travel. I do not consider my travels extraordinary. I take public transport, hardly treks or cross dangerous rivers and brave tall peaks. I even keep a regular job connected to neither writing nor travel.  I hope all these encourage others to do the same.  That is the essence of my writing and the key objective of this website.   

I have listed below the countries I have been to, with the year of visit and links to my travel reports (which were to only some of my trips).  Have fun reading!

For what I count as a country and what constitutes a visit, see my Country-Count Criteria page

 

  
East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia & Oceania

South East Asia:
SINGAPORE 
Indonesia: Provinces of Jakarta (1997 & 2005), Riau (1996 & 2003), West Java (2005), Central Java (1997 & 2008), Yogjakarta (1997), Bali (2005)  and North Sumatra (2012)
Brunei (2004), Malaysia (Countless times: Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur & Labaun, Johor, Kelantan, Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Terenganu), Myanmar (2008)Philippines (2004), Thailand (countless times since 1988), Laos (2002 & 2013), Cambodia (2002), Vietnam (2002 & 2004), Timor Leste (2005)

East Asia:
Taiwan (Republic of China) (1989, 2008, 2010, 2011)
China (People's Republic of China): Provinces/Autonomous Regions & Municipalities of Beijing, Tianjin, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai Shaanxi, Henan, Shandong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Sichuan, Chongqing, Anhui, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Yunnan, Hainan, Guangdong and Guangxi. (1986, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014)
Hongkong, before & after reunification with China (1986, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2005) ;  Macau (1995, 2005) 

Japan (2006) plus Okinawa (2010)

North Korea (2004) ; South Korea (2003) ; Mongolia (2002) 

South Asia:
Bangladesh (2007) ; Bhutan (2006); India (2007 & 2012) ; Maldives (2007) ; Sri Lanka (2009)

Australasia:
Australia: Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) (2010), New South Wales (2004 & 2010), Queensland (2010) and Victoria (2010)

New Zealand (2010)

American Samoa (2010), Cook Islands (2010), Fiji (2010), Kiribati (2010), Nauru (2010), New Caledonia (2010), Norfolk Island (2010), Papua New Guinea (2010), Samoa (2010), Solomon Islands (2010), Tonga (2010), Tuvalu (2010), Vanuatu (2010), Wallis & Futuna (2010)

 
Central Asia, Middle East & Africa

Central Asia: 
Kazakstan (1998), Kyrgyzstan (1998), Tajikistan (1998), Turkmenistan (2002), Uzbekistan (1998)

Middle East/North Africa: 
Algeria (2015), Bahrain (2005), Egypt (1996 & 2008), Iran (2008)Israel (1996), Jordan (1996), Kuwait (2005), Lebanon (2008), Libya (2008)  Morocco (1996 & 2015), Oman (2005), Palestine (1996), Qatar (2005),  Syria (1996), Tunisia (2015), Turkey (1995, 2002 & 2015), United Arab Emirates (2005 & 2008 - Abu Dhabi [Al Ain], Ajman, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, Umms Al Qaiwan), Western Sahara (2015),  Yemen (2007)

Sub-Sahara Africa: 
Benin (2008), Botswana (2011), Burkina Faso (2008), Burundi (2012), Cameroon (2012), Cape Verde (2008), Central African Republic (2012), Chad (2012), Comoros (2003),  Congo-Brazzaville (2012), Cote d'Ivoire (2008), Djibouti (2008), Eritrea (2008), Ethiopia (2008 & 2012),  Gabon (2012),  The Gambia (2008), Ghana (2008), Guinea (2008), Guinea-Bissau (2008), Kenya (2008 & 2012), Lesotho (2011), Liberia (2008), Madagascar (2003), Malawi (2011), Mali including Azawad (2008), Mauritania (2015),  Mauritius (2003), Mayotte (2003), Mozambique (2011), Namibia (2011),  Niger (2008), Reunion (2003), Rwanda (2008), Senegal (2008), Seychelles (2003), Sierra Leone (2008)Somaliland (2008), South Africa (2011), South Sudan (2012), The Sudan (2008), Swaziland (2011), Tanzania (2012), Togo (2008), Uganda (2008), Zambia (2011), Zimbabwe (2011)

 
Europe

Central & Eastern: 
Albania (2002), Armenia (2000), Azerbaijan (2002), Belarus (1999), Bosnia-Herzegovina (2002), Bulgaria (1995), Croatia (1995 & 2002), Czech Republic (1993), Estonia (1999), Georgia (2000), Hungary (1995), Kosovo (2002), Latvia (1999), Lithuania (1999), Macedonia (2002), Moldova (1999), Montenegro (2002), Nagorny-Karabakh (2000), Poland (2001), Romania (1995), Russia (2002), Serbia (2002), Slovakia (2001), Slovenia (1995), Transdniestria (1999), Ukraine (1999) 

Western Europe:
Andorra (2001), Austria (1993, 1995 & 2001), Belgium (1993), Cyprus (2001), Denmark (2000), Faroe Islands (2002), Finland (1999), France (1993 & 2000), Germany (1993, 1999 & 2000), Gibraltar (1999), Greece (1993 & 2002), Guernsey (2000), Iceland (2001), Ireland (2001), Isle of Man (1999), Italy (1993, 2000 & 2001), Jersey (2000), Liechtenstein (2002), Luxembourg (2000), Malta (2001), Monaco (2001), Netherlands (1993 & 2000), Norway (2001), Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (2001), Portugal (2001), San Marino (2001), Spain (1993, 1999, 2000 & 2001), Sweden (2000), Switzerland (1993 & 2002)
United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland & Wales)  (Many Times - Have lived there)
Vatican City State (1993 & 2000)

 
North & South America

United States of America:
California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Mass., Penn., Washington D.C. (1998, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2013 & 2014)

Canada (2013):  Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan

St Pierre & Miquelon (2013)

Anguilla (2007), Antigua & Barbuda (2007), Aruba (2007), Bahamas (2002), Barbados (2008), Bermuda (2006), British Virgin Islands (2006), Cayman Islands (2009), Cuba (2001), Curacao (2007) Dominica (2008)Dominican Republic (2009), Greenland (2001), Grenada (2008)Guadeloupe (2008), Haiti (2009), Jamaica (2009), Martinique (2008), Montserrat (2007),  Puerto Rico (2006), St Barthelemy (2007), St Kitts & Nevis (2007), St Lucia (2008)St Martin (Fr) (2007), St Vincent & the Grenadines (2008), Sint Maarten (Neth) (2007) Trinidad and Tobago (2008), Turks and Caicos Islands (2009), US Virgin Islands (2006)

Belize (2002), Costa Rica (2002), El Salvador (2002), Guatemala (2001), Honduras (2001 & 2002), Mexico (2002), Nicaragua (2002), Panama (2001)

Argentina (2000), Bolivia (2014), Brazil (2001/2), Ecuador (2002), Chile (2001 & 2002), Colombia (2002),  French Guiana (2008), Guyana (2008), Paraguay (2002), Peru (2002 & 2014), Suriname (2008), Uruguay (2001), Venezuela (2009)

 
Places To Visit:
My Wish List

wish me luck in lottery !

        Parts of Russia (Tuva, Yakutiya, Kamchatka, Altai, Northern Caucasus, Volga region) 
          Northeastern Turkey 
     Western Iran ; Afghanistan (The Great Game & Silk Road) ; Iraq (Mesopotamian civilization)  
          Northern Spain; Sicily ; Campania & Calabria ; Sardinia ; Corsica ; Canary Islands ; Azores & Madeira; Balearic Islands
     Sheltland Islands

Algerian Sahara, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome & Principe, Democratic Republic of The Congo, Angola
     Nigeria: Kano, Sokoto, Ibandan, Benin City 
     South Africa's Garden Route, Drakensberg Mtns & Kruger National Park 

          Northern and Central Brazil ; Falkland Islands

     India (Tamil Nadu, Hampi, Northeast, Sikkim and Buddhist monuments of India)  

         Following parts of China: North-West/Silk Road, Guizhou, Tibet

     Kachin State & Eastern Shan State of Myanmar ; Parts of Thailand: Isan 
     Parts of Indonesia: Maluku, East Java, Nusa Tengarra, Sulawesi, Irian Jaya

South Island of New Zealand ; 

Canada's Nunavut & Yukon  territories

Favourite Places

Favourite Country/Regions
- Iran
- Italy

- Libya
- Mongolia
- Peru
- Spain
- Taiwan

- Thailand
- Yemen
- Yunnan Province, China

Favourite Large Cities (population >1 million)
- Bangkok
- Beijing

- Cape Town

- Esfahan
- Hong Kong
- Istanbul

- London
- Mexico City
- Rome
-Singapore

-Taipei

- Vancouver

Favourite Small Cities/Towns (population <1 million)
- Antigua (Guatemala)
- Cusco (Peru)
- Bukhara (Uzbekistan)
- Hoi An & Hue (Vietnam)
- Jerusalem (Israel/Palestine)
- Lijiang & Dali (China)
- Marrakesh (Morocco)
- Melaka (Malaysia)
- Oaxaca City & San Cristobal de la Casas (Mexico)
- Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina)

- Thimphu (Bhutan)
- Yazd (Iran)

Unique "Small" Places/Sites (Culture & Heritage) -exclude those already listed elsewhere
- Angkor (Cambodia)
- Easter Island (Chile)

- Dogon Country (Mali)
- Dubrovnik (Croatia)

- Ghadames (Libya)
- Karakorum (Mongolia)

- Khoima (Nagaland, India)
- Palmyra (Syria)

- Pushkar (India)
- Sapa (Vietnam)
- Titicaca, Lake of (Peru)

- Wadi Hadramawt (Yemen)
- Zhongdian (China)

Unique Places (Nature)
- Amazon Peruvian (Peru)
- Atacama Desert (Chile)
- Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)
- Greenland, Glaciers & Icebergs (Greenland)
- Guilin (China)
- Iguacu Falls (Brazil & Argentina)
- Libyan Sahara
- Mongolian Plains
- Patagonian Glaciers (Chile & Argentina)
- Tierra del Fuego (Argentina)
- Todra Zorge & Sand Dunes of the Sahara (Morocco)

Weird Regimes
- Adjara (Georgia)
- Kosovo
- Montenegro
- North Korea
- Somaliland
- Srpska (Bosnian Serb Republic)
- Transdniestria (Moldova)
- Turkmenistan

Epic Journeys
- Baltic To The Black Sea
- Inca Trail
- Reunification Express (Vietnam)
- Trans-Siberian Railway
Various quotations from  John Simpsons in A Mad World, My Masters:

"Once we had a planet.  Now… we’re left with a suburb." 

"There are three bad times: the night before you leave for somewhere difficult, and you sit with your lover or your family trying to behave entirely normally in order to show how safe everything is going to be; the following morning, when the car comes to take you to the airport; and the moment when the plane touches down at your destination.  Of all these moments, the last is by far the worst.  It is also more unpleasant than anything you are likely to experience later." 

"Even if you find yourself under long intensive shelling, which is the nastiest thing I know, or are attacked by an angry crowd, which is the second nastiest, it never quite matches that dreadful sense of foreboding when the plane jolts, the tyres scream, and the trip begins to unfold: the separation from the comfortable, safe, familiar world of an aircraft, the cold air, the uncertainty of standing in line at the immigration desk, defenceless against all the fears you have been suppressing.  And of course if shelling, arrest, or angry crowds materialize – and they usually don’t – you are much too busy to worry about the outcome."

"Serious traveling is never comfortable or safe, and is very rarely accompanied by champagne, unless, that is, you have brought your own.  Serious traveling is difficult, and the enjoyment is in direct proportion to the degree of difficulty.  By which I mean, it only starts to be really enjoyable once it’s over."

Icons of Travel
Zhenghe Ibn Battuta Marco Polo Lawrence of Arabia Bruce Chatwin

  

Aspiring Nomad
Kykkos Monastery, Troodos Mountains, Cyprus Helsinki Bay, Finland Georgian Military Highway, near the Russian/Chechen border Train, Ukraine, near the Moldovan border Torres del Paine National Park, Chile