Bali Bliss by Maya Yette

(I saved the best for last)

A number of the pictures in this post are courtesy of my friend Arley who was our incredibly talented TN Experiences photographer during the majority of my time in Bali. If he was around, I left my camera at home!

Of all the new places that I visited this year, Bali was hands down my favorite. So much so, that I chose to end my year traveling with a week back on the island before flying home to Maryland. Thus, it was where I both began and ended the Southeast Asia leg of my Remote Year.

Bali is a majority Hindu island in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country -- Indonesia. There are temples everywhere and people place offerings for different things all over the place;  mainly on the sidewalks and streets, but also on cars and motorbikes and buildings, depending on the holiday (there’s always a holiday happening in Bali). The offerings are little squares made of banana leaves filled with flowers and rice and then lit with incense.  You have to get used to looking out for them on the ground everywhere you step, but they also force you to slow down and appreciate your surroundings in a way that we often don’t. It’s also incredible to see how the Balinese people hold onto their culture despite the increasing number of tourists and Western influence that has begun to pervade the island.

My first trip to Bali was for work to oversee a couple of group trips that Travel Noire hosted in Ubud, the cultural heart of this amazing island. We cooked, we shopped in Ubud Market, we explored Bali’s famous rice paddies, we drank kopi luwak coffee, we surfed, we visited a traditional village and taught the kids the Electric Slide and we had dinner with a prince at his palace (seriously, Bali has something like seventy princes due to the island’s history as a kingdom that eventually broke into smaller kingdoms with many royal families, but Kris is my favorite)!

After two weeks in Ubud, I stayed on an additional week after the trips ended and explored on my own before meeting back up with the Remote Year crew in Malaysia. I stayed in Canggu, a hipster town known for its surfing, especially at Echo Beach. There are lots of expats and a number of buildings in town are under construction, so I recommend visiting soon before it’s more built up like nearby Kuta and Seminyak, which are much more crowded and touristy. I stayed at a beautiful hotel right on the beach and took surf lessons every afternoon for a week. It was very intense, but so much fun (and yes, I managed to stand up a few times!). I also rewarded myself with as many massages as possible (they’re so cheap in Bali – and all of Southeast Asia, for that matter).

I returned to Bali for the second time at the end of January, again to help with Travel Noire’s group trips, but also to visit some of the places I didn't have a chance to see the first time around. Before heading to Ubud, I spent the first weekend after Remote Year on Gili Air, one of three of the Gili Islands located a choppy two-hour ferry ride from Bali. The island is tiny and does not have any cars and very few motorbikes. Most people get around by walking, biking or riding in horse drawn buggies. Unfortunately, it was rainy season and I couldn’t enjoy the beach much, but I was still able to relax and decompress, roaming around the island and taking in the lush views.

Back in Ubud, I visited the famous Monkey Forest (I have no pictures from here because I was scared the monkeys would steal my camera), which is beautiful and filled not only with monkeys, but a few holy temples. One morning I walked the Campuhan Ridge Walk, which is a path cut through the middle of the jungle. I would’ve explored further, but the impending rainstorm sent me back to my hotel prematurely.

On my return to Bali I was most looking forward to visiting Tirta Empul, a temple complex dating to 960 AD, which the Balinese believe is home to a holy spring. I went with a local Balinese woman I met on my first trip to Bali and she was able to provide us with the appropriate attire, explain the cultural significance of the temple complex and take us to a part of the complex that’s usually off limits to foreigners. We began by changing into sarongs and bathing suits to enter the crisp, clear waters that flow from the spring into two purification baths. After saying a prayer, we passed underneath eleven of the thirteen spouts (the last two are reserved for funeral rites), saying a prayer and washing the water over our face and head as we went. After exiting the baths, we changed into traditional Balinese dress with lace blouses tied with a sash and sarongs to enter the inner courtyard reserved for prayer where we saw a priest offering blessings to worshipers. The entire experience was beautiful, and I feel lucky to have had a chance to partake in this Balinese tradition.  

Uluwatu, on the southwestern coast of Bali, is home to another temple site overlooking the Indian Ocean. The views at sunset from Uluwatu Temple are incredible and serve as a prelude to the Kecak dance performance that takes place each night.

Finally, I finished my time in Bali in the quiet beach town of Sanur. There’s not much happening in Sanur other than a boardwalk that stretches along the beach. I rented a bike from my hotel and rode around the quiet streets, clearing my head before the journey home.

The only downside to Bali really is the traffic and how congested it can get – the infrastructure is not set up to handle so many people and as more and more tourists flock to the island it becomes even more of a problem. It’s also a place where you need to ride a motorbike, which I was too scared to do, so I was a little limited in where I could go some days. Despite this, I could go back to Bali again and again, not least of all because there are still areas of the island and sights that I have not yet visited. The incredibly kind people, the natural beauty of the rice paddies and the beaches, the fresh juices and smoothie bowls – it’s all perfection.

Thanks for following along with my adventures over the last year! I’ll be updating the Images section of my site in the coming weeks, but this officially concludes my Remote Year blog posts. To celebrate, I’m headed on a cruise to Alaska with my mom and sister tomorrow!


Vibrant Vietnam by Maya Yette

I spent the final month of Remote Year based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I had been to HCMC (aka Saigon) before and didn’t love it – I much preferred the French colonial charm of Hanoi to the north. But, with more than a few days to explore the city and its surrounding areas, HCMC ended up being my favorite of the Southeast Asian cities on our Remote Year itinerary. The food was amazing, it’s easy to get around in Ubers (car or motorcycle) or walk in certain parts of the city and there’s a lot to see and do; this goes for the country as a whole, so please forgive me in advance for the length of this post.

My best friends from home came to visit for New Year’s Eve and in the days leading up to NYE celebrations, we explored the history of Vietnam. On a walking tour with a university student studying English we visited Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office and the War Remnants Museum. We could only see the outside of Notre Dame Cathedral and took a quick peek into the Post Office where a giant portrait of Ho Chi Minh hangs; Ho was the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (aka North Vietnam) from 1945 – 55 and President from 1954 - 1969.

Reunification Palace, aka Independence Palace, was home to the former South Vietnamese Presidents and, most famously, is the site associated with the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War. Walking through the halls, everything seems frozen in time as all of the furniture and décor in the various meeting rooms, reception rooms and bedrooms has been preserved from the late 1970s. The helipad on the roof and bombproof bunker in the basement of the building were also very cool to see.

A visit to the War Remnants Museum is a necessary, but sobering, stop on any trip to HCMC. Some of the displays are so one sided that they could more accurately be described as propaganda, but they also effectively convey the horrors that Vietnamese civilians suffered during the Vietnam War. One room is filled with photos of people who were disfigured or born with disabilities as a result of the use of chemical agents during the war. Another powerful exhibit features images captured by photographers from both sides who were killed during the lengthy conflict. In the courtyard outside, there are U.S. armored tanks, artillery, bombs and other weapons as well as model prison cells showing the horrible conditions in which Viet Cong prisoners were held. (The museum gets very crowded during the day, so go early if you can.)

We also took a morning boat ride up the Saigon River to the Cu Chi Tunnels, which the Viet Cong dug and used during the Vietnam War. It is a very touristy site, but pretty incredible to see. Walking through the forest, you would never know that hundreds of kilometers of cramped, narrow tunnels ran beneath the earth. We were able to crawl through the tunnels for about 80 meters where they have been preserved and reinforced with concrete; I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re at all claustrophobic.

After visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels we switched from a boat to motorbikes and headed to the “Little Mekong Delta”. In the countryside right outside of HCMC we visited a farmer named Mr. Phu and had tea before he showed us his rice paddies. There was a temple in the middle of the paddy field to ward off bad spirits and protect the crop. After our walk, we sat and had fresh fruit and coconut water with Mr. Phu’s family and his adorable grandson.

When I found out that I’d be returning to Vietnam during my Remote Year, I knew that I had to take the opportunity to see some parts of the country that I had not on my first visit; namely Hoi An and Ha Long Bay. On New Year’s Day, we flew up to Da Nang, a coastal city in central Vietnam that is also the third largest city in the country. January is rainy season so, unfortunately, the weather was not on our side, but we did get to enjoy one sunny afternoon at the beach.

We also spent a morning visiting the Marble Mountains, which are host to a number of Buddhist and Confucian shrines and have beautiful views of the ocean from various lookout points.

My favorite part of visiting Da Nang was its proximity to Hoi An and, specifically, Hoi An’s Ancient Town which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hoi An is known for its tailors and leather goods and tons of shops and vendors line the quaint streets. The town is especially beautiful at night when all of the lanterns lining the streets are lit up. Hoi An is also home to Banh Mi Phuong, featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” (I can confirm that this was the best banh mi I had all month).

My last side trip of the year was to visit Hanoi, which served as our jumping off point for a cruise in Ha Long Bay, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. There were torrential downpours the few days I was in Hanoi and it was much colder than HCMC, so our exploration was limited. We did manage to visit the Library Temple, Ba Dinh Square and take a stroll through the Night Market. We also ate at Bun Cha Huong Lien, another Anthony Bourdain recommended restaurant (he really loves, Vietnam), where he famously brought President Obama back in 2016.

From Hanoi, getting to Ha Long Bay takes about three hours by car. Ha Long Bay is beautiful, even under overcast skies, and just two days and one night on the boat, which was surprisingly nice, was not enough. I kayaked for the first time in my life (it’s much harder than it looks!) and we explored some caves on one of the thousands of limestone islands and islets that dot the bay.

Did I mention the food in Vietnam? I couldn’t get enough banh mis or bowls of pho while I was there.

HCMC is also home to some great cafes, in particular L’Usine (both locations) and Au Parc. Some of my favorite restaurants were Propaganda, Secret Garden and Mountain Retreat (owned by the same people and both set on cute rooftops), Pizza 4 P’s and Eon 51 (which has great views from the Bitexco Financial Tower). The Ben Tanh Street Food Market is home to a number of food stalls under one roof with live music and communal tables, so it’s a great place for groups. Finally, check out the speakeasy Snuffbox for cocktails, Pasteur Street Brewing Company for beer and Chill Skybar for a big night out. To find many of the restaurants, cafes and boutiques in HCMC requires walking through unmarked doors, alleyways crowded with motorbikes, animals or both, and sometimes up multiple flights of stairs. But, just when you think you must be lost, you find exactly the place you were looking for or something even better!

At the end of the month, my Remote Year group joined together for a special goodbye party to close out an incredible year traveling together. It was definitely a crazy ride, but I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity, the beautiful people I met along the way and all of the experiences that we shared!

  Drone shot of the group at our farewell party in HCMC. 

Drone shot of the group at our farewell party in HCMC. 

Christmas in Cambodia by Maya Yette

 Holiday drinks at the Raffles Hotel in Phnom Penh. 

Holiday drinks at the Raffles Hotel in Phnom Penh. 

I was excited to head back to Cambodia after almost five years since my first visit to the country. After my bar trip, in particular one amazing day in the countryside, Cambodia was one of my favorite places on the planet. Sadly, I didn’t feel that same connection this time around, perhaps because the city I’d truly loved, Siem Reap, was not on my itinerary, or because my tastes have changed as I’ve grown and traveled more. Either way, I still had a good time in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city, our home base for the month.

 Wat Phnom Temple.

Wat Phnom Temple.

It was an interesting month for us on Remote Year because it was the first time that two programs were ever in the same city. It was nice to meet people who were having the same experience as we were and compare stories from our year on the road (we were in Month 11 and they were in Month 7). Group dynamics and experiences were both similar and entirely different based upon the unique personalities in each group.

Outside of certain neighborhoods, Phnom Penh is a really difficult city to get around by walking. There are few sidewalks and those that do exist are home to numerous motorbikes and street stalls selling various foods and other wares. We took the ubiquitous tuk-tuks almost everywhere, which cost about $2 - $3 a ride, but add up if you’re taking multiple a day.

Although I felt pretty safe walking around, there were a number of petty thefts by motorbike -- people got necklaces and purses snatched from their bodies by guys driving by -- so I was careful not to have my phone or camera out too much on the street (one reason for the relative lack of pictures this month, sorry!).

The second reason is that I was only in Cambodia for half the month because I spent the first two weeks in Kenya on a team retreat for work. Given my limited time, I didn’t revisit any of the tourist sites that I saw on my first trip. However, if it is your first time in the country, visits to the “Killing Fields” and “S-21”, the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide to learn about the country’s dark past under the Khmer Rouge are a must, in addition to a visit to Angkor Wat. This time around, however, I chose to relax and check out the surprisingly good café scene in Phnom Penh (Backyard, Enso, ARTillery and Mere were favorites). As far as restaurants go, Malis is delicious Cambodian food served on a beautiful outdoor patio; Romdeng (where I tried a traditional Khmer delicacy: tarantula!) and Khmer Surin are more mid-priced Khmer restaurants and Il Forno is decent Italian.

During my last week in Cambodia, we celebrated Christmas, my first away from home since I studied abroad in college, which felt a bit surreal. We took a boat ride to a resort up the Mekong River and spent the afternoon lounging by the pool drinking and exchanging Secret Santa gifts.

The highlight of the day was a walk around the neighborhood to a silk farm where we met a Cambodian family who weave scarves and other textiles using techniques passed down from their ancestors. They were absolutely beautiful and I treated myself to a little Christmas present. I also enjoyed the brief glimpse into life outside the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh.

A few days after Christmas, it was time to head to Vietnam for our last stop of the year!

Traversing Thailand by Maya Yette

In Thailand for my birthday month last year, on my third visit to the country, I was based on the beautiful island of Koh Pha Ngan in the southeast region of the country. To get to Koh Pha Ngan requires a flight to the neighboring island of Koh Samui or Surat Thani on the mainland, and from either of those places, a ferry to the island.

Koh Pha Ngan is deceptively small. Life is laid back and it’s home to the most amazing coconuts and some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had (shout out to Bee’s Kitchen and Mama Pooh’s Kitchen!). But, to get around to the various areas of the island requires a lot of patience waiting for the communal taxis, which are pick up trucks with benches (sans seatbelts) in the back, or the courage to rent a scooter, which I didn’t have. Thankfully, our hotel was right on the beach and within a fairly easy walk to our workspace, so for the week and a half that I was actually on Koh Pha Ngan I was able to relax and explore in equal measure. Thong Nai Pan Beach was one of my favorites and watching sunset at Amsterdam Bar is a must (I hear 360 Bar also offered beautiful sunset views, but I didn’t make it there).

The island is most well known for the infamous Full Moon Party that takes place each month on Haad Rin Beach. There is plenty of debauchery that (don’t worry, mom) we witnessed and didn’t partake in, but it was definitely an experience to see the party in full swing. Personally, I preferred the more laid back Jungle Party that takes place the night before every full moon. The night after the Full Moon Party, we were up and at ‘em to catch a 7 am ferry to Koh Samui for our flight to Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is my favorite city in Thailand. Although it’s the second largest city in Thailand after Bangkok, it is much less hectic, the food is delicious and there are a lot of modern comforts mixed in with traditional Thai culture. It’s also easy to get around with Uber and the local taxis  -- red pick up trucks that you hail on the side of the road and hop in the back. Not to mention, Chiang Mai is close enough to more rural areas of Thailand so we were able to spend an afternoon riding ATVs through rice paddies and across beautiful vistas, which was a welcome escape from the city.

In recent years, Chiang Mai has become known as a great place for “digital nomads” because it has a ton of cute cafes and restaurants; there is also plenty of cheap street food. We stayed in the Nimman Road area, which is pretty trendy and home to my namesake mall! In July 2016, the MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum opened about half an hour outside of Chiang Mai, and it is totally worth the trek. The museum houses the private collection of its founders, the Bunnag family, and is easy to get through in an afternoon. There is some really interesting work by modern Thai artists, but one of my favorite rooms featured works of art honoring the late Thai President, Bhumibol Adulyadej AKA Rama IX, who was widely revered in the country and had recently passed in October 2016.

Like much of the rest of the country, Chiang Mai is home to a number of Buddhist temples. Four of the more well known are Wat Chiang Man (the oldest), Wat Phra Singh (adorned in gold), Wat Chedi Luang (which gives off major Angkor Wat vibes) and Doi Suthep (the most sacred temple in Chiang Mai, which overlooks the city). Wat Chedi Luang also hosts a program where younger monks talk to the public and you can just grab a seat and start chatting with them about their lives, which is pretty cool, and I’ve done it both times I’ve visited Chiang Mai.

My final stop in Thailand was Bangkok, where we spent my birthday. It was my third time visiting the city, and if I’m being honest, I’ll be ok if I don’t get to return for a fourth visit. The traffic is horrific and it’s way too difficult to get around, especially because the city is so big. There are, of course, plenty of good restaurants and bars, among them the Banyan Tree hotel’s rooftop Moon Bar and Gaggan and Nahm, two of the 50 best restaurants in the world. My favorite part of visiting Bangkok this go round was getting out of the city and visiting Ayyuthaya, the old capital of Siam. Many of the temples there, which are all ruins now, were built in Khmer style so resemble Angkor Wat and are incredibly beautiful. 

If you haven’t been to Bangkok before, some obligatory temple visits are Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), the Grand Palace, which is home to Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and some of the most ornate and intricate designs of all the temples, and Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). I didn’t make it to the weekend market, but I hear that’s well worth a visit if you have time as well! 

Laid back Laos by Maya Yette

I arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos on Election Day 2016, so I don’t need to tell you what kind of mood I was in. My sister, Laila, and I met in Bangkok and we flew to Laos together; it was the first time in my life I truly understood the meaning of “bittersweet”– I was so happy and excited to see Laila for the first time in five months, but also depressed and anxious about the future of our country. Despite that, and the fact that the gray and rainy weather seemed to match our mood, Luang Prabang is truly a gem along the Mekong.

Visiting Laos had been on my list of places to visit (what country isn’t, really?) since I first traveled to Southeast Asia in 2012, but I didn’t have time to squeeze it into my itinerary then. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage City, and deservedly so. It is quiet and moves at a relaxing, slow pace. The old town is pretty small and it’s easy to walk its entirety in a day or bike through its charming streets a few times. Over the course of a few days, we walked around, stopping to visit many of the temples (aka wats) and shops in town.

The detail on the temples is incredible, with intricate gold paintings, beautiful wooden doors, sculptures and numerous Buddha statues.

We weren’t in a rush to see anything and because part of Luang Prabang’s charm is just to enjoy the slower pace, we relaxed at the hippy Oasis Restaurant right on the Mekong River and watched the fishermen floating by below.

Eating well and trying local dishes, particularly in Southeast Asia, was one of the predominant themes of my year traveling, so naturally, much of our visit to Luang Prabang centered on food. My favorite restaurants were Tamarind followed by 3 Nagas and L’Elephant. After dinner, it gets dark pretty early and most places are shut down by 11 pm, so Luang Prabang is a perfect place to recharge and get some rest.

Early to bed, early to rise is certainly true, as many people are up before sunrise to take part in the traditional alms giving ceremony that Luang Prabang has become known for. Every morning, hundreds of Buddhist monks clad in their saffron robes file silently out of the many temples throughout town and walk the quiet streets with their “begging bowls” collecting alms. Locals (and more recently, tourists) provide alms, or gifts, in the form of food, mainly sticky rice, which will be the monk’s food for the day.

We got up on our last day to observe the alms giving ceremony, which was a beautiful ritual that dates back to the 14th Century; in Buddhist culture, those who give alms to the monks believe that these good deeds will help them come back in their next life as a higher life form and also help them on their path to enlightenment. After watching the alms giving ceremony, we climbed a few hundred steps up Mount Phousi to reflect and catch one last view of the town and the muddy Mekong River spread out below as the sun began to burn off the morning fog. 

Singapore Slingin' by Maya Yette


Depending on how much sightseeing you want to do, a long weekend in Singapore is plenty of time for a solid introduction to this city-state in Southeast Asia (not least of all because it’s relatively small, only about 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C.). This is exactly what I did when I spent a long weekend in Singapore, which is a quick one-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, my home for that month of Remote Year.

On our first night in town, we splurged for a room at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel purely so we could get into what is one of the most famous pools in the world. It was teeming with people trying to get selfies with the city’s recognizable skyline as a backdrop and the weather wasn’t on our side that afternoon, but still worth it.

From Marina Bay Sands we could walk to Gardens by the Bay, an amazing park across from Marina Bay Sands that’s full of colorful, filled with different forms of greenery and plant installations. We visited the Cloud Forest and saw the light show from the Skyway above the Super Tree Grove. We didn’t have enough time to check out all of the attractions within the Gardens, which I’d definitely do upon a second visit.

The food in Singapore is delicious and a weekend is definitely not enough time to try it all. Highlights were the black pepper and chili crabs at Long Beach Seafood and dinner at Neon Pigeon.  Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodles, the first hawker stall in the world to receive a Michelin star, serves chicken & rice (a popular dish in Southeast Asia). It was good, but not wait in line for 2.5 hours good, and the pork ribs were, in my opinion, the better dish.


Singapore itself is a very interesting place. It has a reputation for being “sterile”, especially compared to other nearby cities like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia or Jakarta, Indonesia, that are more colorful, crowded and where the cacophony of scooter horns, hawkers in the street and the buzz of everyday life can overwhelm the senses. In comparison, Singapore is orderly and clean; the city-state famously banned the sale of chewing gum back in the 1990s. Formerly a British colony, Singapore was a part of the Malaysian Federation from 1963 to 1965 and then gained independence in 1965. Roughly 75% of Singaporeans are ethnically Chinese, so cultural and ethnic differences were at play in the split from Malaysia (ethnic Malaysians make up another 12% of the population). It’s also very expensive because the government adds taxes to many things that it wants to discourage, such as smoking, drinking and driving cars.

I was lucky enough to visit Singapore with a Remote Year friend who has friends living there. They showed us the more local side of life in the city-state, like where the start-up scene is concentrated, where to get the best noodle dish at 3 am after leaving the club, and where young Singaporean couples go to hang out in “private” since many of them live at home until they get married (hint: the local beach).

Singapore didn’t work its way into my heart like some other places in Southeast Asia have (more on those in the coming weeks), but it’s definitely a place I would return to next time I’m in the region and am looking for a change of pace. 

Meanderings in Malaysia by Maya Yette

All of the Remote Year cities on the Southeast Asia leg of my itinerary were repeats of cities I had previously visited on my post-Bar trip a few years ago when I graduated law school. I was excited to return to many of them and see what changed and see how I might appreciate them more with the benefit of thirty, rather than three, days in a place.

Our first stop was Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There wasn’t much sightseeing I wanted to do in KL, but there was a lot of food to eat (Jalan Alor for street food, Oribe for sushi and Din Tai Fung for dim sum were a few of my favorites). The speakeasy scene in KL was unexpected but pretty good – check out PS150, Omakase & Appreciate and 61 Monarchy if you find yourself in Malaysia’s capital city.

The sightseeing that I did do consisted of visits to Kuala Lumpur Tower for one view of the city and the Petronas Twin Towers for another. I also made stops at Central Market, Merdeka Square and the Islamic Arts Museum.

The Batu Caves are one of Malaysia’s holiest Hindu shrines and are located a little outside of the city, but worth the Uber ride to see the large golden statue of a Hindu god and the impressive limestone caves (just beware of all the monkeys).

The highlight of my time in Kuala Lumpur was definitely stumbling into an underground dance party when trying to find one of the aforementioned speakeasies. We walked into an office building and down a stairway filled with graffiti into what turned out to be a club called U9. For most of the night my friend and I seemed to be the only non-locals in the place and it was incredible to watch what seemed like a break dancing scene from “The Get Down” – not to mention everyone had on Kangol hats and Adidas track suits!

My only trip outside of Kuala Lumpur was to Penang Island, right off the coast of Malaysia. On my previous visit to the island’s main city, George Town, I had what was the best samosa of my life and fell in love with the region. This trip was different not just because of who I was traveling with, but because we tried different food (this time I had the best char kway teow of my life) and explored a little further from downtown, but George Town is still as charming as I remember.

We visited Penang Hill at dusk, strolled the streets of George Town, had drinks at sunset overlooking the water, visited the Green Mansion and Kek Lok Si Temple, the largest Buddhist Temple in Southeast Asia, and walked through the Chinese Clan Jetties. It was a quick trip to Penang, but a great visit; ditto for my entire month in Malaysia!

A Short stint in Split by Maya Yette

I was only in Split, Croatia for about a week and a half before heading to Bali for a work trip last year. I had been to Croatia before – Dubrovnik and Zagreb, to be specific – but not to Split. All I really knew about the city before my visit is that it is the jumping off point for the original “Yacht Week” and serves as a set location for some episodes of “Game of Thrones”. While both of those things are true, the city, the second largest in Croatia after the capital, Zagreb, is also a perfect blend of modern and historic. It is full of both natural beauty due to its position right on the Adriatic Sea and historic, manmade beauty because of all the ancient Roman architecture.

My first full day in Split, I oriented myself with a walking tour of the Old Town and Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main areas of the “palace” (which is actually a town inside of what was originally built as a fortress and residence by the Roman Emperor Diocletian), were built in 305 AD and much of it is still original, which was mind blowing. Diocletian built the Palace using imported marble from Italy and Greece and columns and sphinxes from Egypt. Walking on the smooth stones and viewing the sphinxes up close was pretty cool.

On one of my last mornings in Split I got up early and was the first person to climb the bell tower at the Cathedral of St. Domnius, inside Diocletian's Palace, which offered beautiful views of the city waking below me. 

The Old Town is fairly compact and easy to wander around in a day, getting lost in its labyrinth. The farther away you get from the main square, the more authentic it feels and the more removed you’ll feel from the hordes of tourists that visit Split from their cruise ships each day.  

I spent a few mornings wandering around getting lost and stumbling upon cute shops and restaurants. I didn’t get to explore too much of Split’s food scene, but did have some good meals at Restaurant Dvor, Uje Olive Bar and Bokeria.


Remote Year opened its first workspace in Split, WIP, which was one of my favorites of the year. I could go to the workspace in the morning, walk across the street to the beach at lunch, and then return to work for a few hours in the afternoon. Because I was only in Split for a week, I tried to do some exploring most mornings, whether it was a run to one of Split’s beaches or a visit to an art gallery. Galerija Meštrović is a bit outside of the city center but worth the trek for the art (Ivan Meštrović is Croatia’s most famous sculptor) and the views overlooking the city. The Gallery of Fine Arts is also worth a visit and right outside of the gates to Old Town.

The highlight of my time in Croatia was a Labor Day boat ride to Hvar and overnight on the island.  We watched a beautiful sunset at Hula Hula and then after dinner did what everyone does when they go to Hvar: party.  On the way to Hvar, we stopped for lunch on another small island, Vis, that I really wish we had more time to explore. Ditto for the rest of Croatia!