Reflection: 21 Solo Days Through East Asia

Overlooking the ocean in Okinawa.
Hiking, biking, laughing, crying...it seems I experienced it all when I took a 21-day trip through East Asia from mid-January to early February of this year.

I've taken a few solo trips before, but none were as long and extensive as this one. As day one of the trip approached, I felt a new kind of anxiety and excitement. 

Would everything pan out?

What would I learn about and see?

How would I hold up on such a long trip?

Have I finally gone too far?

I planned to travel by train, ferry, and airplane to each destination, just me and a suitcase. Expectations? I can't say I had any. Well, I knew I'd have to change currencies and SIM cards several times! But I truly didn't know what to expect. Comments from others on travel websites can only give a Pollock-style preview of what you might see on your travels. What others see and describe online may or may not be an accurate picture of your destinations. So, even in this technological age, traveling still means going off into the unknown.

With expectations nil, how was my experiences? Naturally, there were a few hiccups in my journey, but it was definitely the experience of a lifetime and I ended up loving places I honestly wasn't sure I'd like.

Stop 1: Xiamen, China

Furong Tunnel, an art space at Xiamen University.
I spent a couple days in this coastal city in Fujian Province where mainland China intersects with Taiwan. Since I lived in Taiwan before, I could really see the influence. Admittedly, I primarily visited the city to check out the beautiful Gulangyu(鼓浪嶼)or Drum Wave Island.

Stop 2: Kinmen, Taiwan

A neighborhood of old houses.
I heard about this small Taiwanese island in passing long before I actually decided to visit on this trip. It was included on my journey simply because it's so easy to access from Xiamen (just a 30 minute ferry ride!). However, this small island blew me away in terms of it's beauty and history. The unactivated mines and old military outposts scattered around the area from old conflicts with mainland China also give in an awesomely ominous feel.

Stop 3: Taipei, Taiwan

In the mountains of Yangmingshan National Park.
If you follow my blog, you're well aware that I used to live in Taipei (well, New Taipei City which surrounds Taipei to be exact). Therefore, this stop was like going back home. As I spent my early 20s in Taiwan, it really does feel like a second home to me. I got to eat most of my favorite Taiwanese food, finally go hiking in the mountains of Yamingshan National Park(陽明山國家公園)and meet up with old classmates.

Stop 4: Okinawa (mainly Naha)

Okinawa Peace Memorial Park.
Followed by Kinmen, this was another surprise on my journey and probably my favorite stop. It was a summery oasis on a trip where I experienced temperatures as low as 15F (~9C). Unfortunately, I did not apply for an international driver's license before I left the States last year for China, so I couldn't drive around Okinawa island. (You'll definitely want to get one if you're headed for Okinawa as the infrequent and confusing public transportation renders much of the island inaccessible to visitors).

Still, not having a car didn't hold me back! I rented a bike and rode almost 50km around the southern portion of the island. I also felt humbled to see the tangible results of WWII. As a sensitive soul, seeing the war memorials was quite emotional.

Stop 5: Seoul, Korea

Posing at the Trick Eye Museum.
At a day and a half, this was my shortest stop on my trip. I'll likely visit Seoul again in the future, but my first time there was mainly for eating and shopping. This was also the only part of my trip where I wasn't solo; a friend of a friend drove me around town for my only full day. It was great having a local tell me about the city and identify points of interest. I also throughly enjoyed the snow, although it was great to jump back into the car when the wind picked up and it became unbearable to be outside.

I at so much in Seoul. So, so much...(no regrets!).

Stop 6: Tokyo, Japan

Shinjuku Park National Garden
During my winter trip I made my second visit to Tokyo. I mainly visited temples and museums, which made it the most low key portion of my vacation. I also revisited a few places from my first trip to Tokyo like Ansen Bakery and Tama Cemetery.

Stop 7: Kamakura, Japan

The Kamakura coast as seen from Kotoku-in.
I took a break from Tokyo and visited Kamakura and Yokohama over two days. Kamakura was packed with tourists, but there were still several quiet, relaxing areas. The small town is home to a seemingly countless number of temples and shrines as well as the famous large Amida Buddha statue at the temple Kotoku-in.

Stop 8: Yokohama, Japan

Minato Mirai area.
I stayed in Yokohama for one night. Aside from walking around the beautiful city (sizable, but with a more relaxed feel than Tokyo), I mainly came to town for the Cup Noodle Museum — definitely a must-visit!

Stop 9: Sapporo, Japan

Traditional Japanese doll statue ice sculptures at the Sapporo Snow Festival.
I ended my long journey in Sapporo, the largest city on the northernmost main island of Japan, Hokkaido. Aside from trudging through the snow for the first time in several years, I got to sample specialty Sapporo beer, walk through the scenic Hokkaido University, and experience the world famous Sapporo Snow Festival.

All in all, it was the trip of a lifetime! I have loads of pictures, stories to tell, and information to share about all the stops on this trip. Be sure to check back for updates!

Please follow me! Niceclectic on Facebook | "nicolette027" on Twitter | niceclectic on Instagram | niceclectic on Snapchat 


  1. I was back in TW recently and when I was doing regional research, your blog popped up in the results, so I was thinking of you, haha!

    This is awesome. I hope you'll share some small stories of the things you saw. I love stories.

    1. Haha, that's great! Hopefully you guys got to see more this time, especially outside of Taipei.

      And definitely, I place to share lots of stories from my trip. I saw a lot of interesting things and I have to document them before I forget it all!

  2. This looks like so much fun! I have a serious case of travel envy now.

    I'm really curious about logistics too, how did you manage to book flights/other tickets between these different countries?

    1. It was a great time! Hopefully you get to take a trip soon. :D

      And that's a really good question that I didn't even think of addressing! Thanks for asking; I'll have to do a blog post about that.

      I used an app called Ctrip to book my whole trip. The app organizes your hotel, flight and train bookings very well. There are also special hotel and flight rates/deals you can get. I highly recommend it!