2017 half year review: Looking back at Asia

Pipeaway blogger Ivan Kralj dressed in golden gear standing on the edge of the Ijen Volcano in East Java, clouds, mountain and blue crater lake visible in the background

Sitting in the plane parked at Brussels airport. Two hours departure delay minimum. The airport is busy, they say. Hahaha. Not really understanding why Croatia Airlines boarded us in the plane then. But here I am, in the seat 27C (equivalent to the outside temperature), looking through the window at the runway that now feels incredibly distant, in the heart of efficient Europe. Waiting to fly home.

The other day someone from Ghent, Belgium, asked me where is home. Not being sure how to answer this, I confessed the only truly solid truth: my car is parked in Zagreb, Croatia. So, I guess, home is where your car is? After spending the first half of the year in Asia, it became harder and harder to answer difficult questions that occur more and more often: Where are you from? Are you traveling or living in Asia? Are you there for pleasure or work?

Where am I from?

I have a Croatian passport. That makes me “being from Croatia”, I guess. Besides my two bags, one with clothes I usually check in, and the other one with technical stuff such as laptop and cameras, that is always nearby, I have some more belongings, and yes, they are all in Croatia. Croatia is where my closest family lives. So, Croatia.

Supertree Grove in Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, Asia, photo by Ivan Kralj
Supertree Grove in Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay attracted the significant interest on Pipeaway’s Instagram
Am I traveling or living in Asia?

That is a very tricky question. I guess living is the answer that cannot go wrong. Aren’t we living everywhere we – are? I understand, there is this different understanding of temporary and permanent relocating. But then, any short-term traveling requires a certain plan, at least the one where you know your in and out dates, places to visit, events to attend, etc. If you moved to a certain place, you are free not to have many touristic plans, but then people expect you to stay at one place, to “replace” the home. Nomadism comes somewhere in between those two poles, and I believe it is closest to my truth or my current vision of the truth. Being on the constant move, having some plans, but feeling completely OK with changing them, or canceling them.

Am I there for pleasure or work?

Well, ideally, work should be pleasurable, right? But then again, most of the people believe that if the work is being done, it should be done because one is getting paid for it, not for the sake of pure pleasure. That is why most of the people associate pleasure with off-work hours, with off-work days. That is why they take yearly holidays, closing the work agenda in a sealed safe, so the focus could completely be on – resting. These cycles interchange again and again. I would like to believe there is nothing extraordinary about my choices; it is just living while enjoying and working at the same time.

Silver-tiled outdoor swimming pool in Jaya House RiverPark hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, Asia, photo by Ivan Kralj
This silver swimming pool is a part of Jaya House RiverPark in Siem Reap, Cambodia, probably one of the most extraordinary places in my 2017 Southeast Asian tour
So where have I been in Asia?

With three-weeks hop off to Japan, I have mainly been moving through Southeast Asia for five months. I started with Malaysia, the country I could now easily call my SE Asia home base. My Kuala Lumpur friends Kreso, Masa and Una, have been my most steady anchor in this period – Malaysian capital has been the place I would be returning to in between all other countries visits.

Immediately after the short trip to Penang Island and Thaipusam festival in Batu Caves, I traveled to Vietnam to organize the funeral for my deceased pet at the paradise island of Phu Quoc. I have been traveling the country for a month, from South to Central Vietnam, avoiding to go more north than Hue. I was packing light and wasn’t ready to experience colder North in February/March. Frankly, the Southern half of Vietnam was offering so much that I felt I could have easily stayed there for another month! It is certainly the place I will be coming back to, to explore more of its hidden natural and human-made treasures, fantastic food, and generous people.

Pipeaway blogger Ivan Kralj standing in front of the snowy Kegon waterfalls, Japan, Asia, in spring 2017, photo by Ivan Kralj
Let’s just say that spring at Japan’s Kegon Falls was not what I expected – there was no cherry tree in sight!

Then I flew to Tokyo to explore Japan’s spring with my Croatian friend Mladen. Besides the usual cherry blossoms viewing, we have been exploring the not too exploited touristic paths, such as the abandoned amusement park in Nara or the snowy spring in Nikko. In three weeks we have been discovering the exciting cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, and smaller towns in between.

People as the biggest asset

In April I started the Khmer New Year in Cambodia in what has been a very wet experience. Water splashing with locals in Battambang was a perfect introduction to this country with so many smiling faces even if its tragic history is a quite recent one. From visiting the moving Killing Fields in Phnom Penh and other parts of the country, to spending a day with the elephants in Mondulkiri, swimming in the enchanted crater lake in Ratanakiri or discovering ancient pyramids of the Khmer Empire in the north Cambodian jungle, I was always being reminded that the biggest asset Cambodia has are – people! Even if Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge killed up to 3 million people in the seventies, many intellectuals among them, there is still hope that in the corrupted environment of nowadays small actions can influence bigger changes.

In the second part of my Cambodian stay, Anita, another Croatian friend, accompanied me. So my contact with the homeland has never been lost, even if I could have concluded that my own country kept struggling with the same issues. Turning off the TV set, not following the internet news channels or any physical dislocation cannot fast forward Croatian development to the level of the European Union, that this country joined in 2013.

Art of making selfies: The girl posing for a photograph in the middle of Monica Hapsari's artwork "Antara", sitting in the sand as if on a beach, at Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Jakarta, EXI(S)T - Tomorrow As We Know It exhibition, Asia, photo by Ivan Kralj
With almost 34.000 views in two months period, the article “Selfies as Declaration of Stupidity: #instaidiots Raping the Art Galleries” was the most read content on Pipeaway’s website in the first half of 2017
Going viral in Indonesia

After celebrating Buddha’s birthday in Kuala Lumpur, in May I traveled to Indonesia. In three weeks I have explored Java and Bali, from country’s gray capital via amazing volcanos, eccentric people and historical temples to the beautiful tropical waterfalls. In Jakarta and Bandung I have been visiting art places too, and one of my articles, the one from the National Gallery of Indonesia, went viral in this country – only in past two months Selfies as Declaration of Stupidity: #instaidiots Raping Art Galleries has been read almost 34.000 times!

The second most read article in the first half of the year has been the interview with Erik, the naked Australian hiker, followed by the photo report from Kanamara Matsuri, Japan’s penis festival.

Sunrise with foggy mountains, as seen from Ijen Volcano on Java, Indonesia, Asia, photo by Ivan Kralj
With 201 hearts, this photograph climbed to the top of Pipeaway’s Instagram account in the first half of 2017
Ijen Volcano wins Instagram

Pipeaway’s Instagram account, launched in mid-February, celebrated its 1.000 followers beginning of July. If you still haven’t, make sure to follow @pipeaway.project, as this is the place where most of my photographs appear first. Speaking of statistics, in the first half of 2017 the photograph that got the most attention is the one showing the sunrise on Kawah Ijen. The third place is held by another picture from the same volcano – the one showing how little are the people waiting for the sun-up at the edge of the crater. In between, one Cambodian image managed to squeeze in, the second most liked picture on Pipeaway’s Instagram is the silver pool of the extraordinary Siem Reap hotel Jaya House! The fourth place is taken by the Supertrees from Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay (I have been exploring Singapore for several days on my way back to Malaysia), while Bali’s Twin Lakes hold the fifth place. Besides the Ijen Volcano pics, the most commented images on Pipeaway’s Instagram have been the ones depicting the pig and the mouse in the Singapore’s Haw Par Villa, the watersports in Cambodian Battambang (the photograph from the same series has been chosen for PICKS Balkan Edition 4 / Travel Photo of the Year 2017 Contest, organized by art photography festival Fotorama) and me sitting in the bookshelf of the bookstore-themed hostel in Japan.

Pipeaway’s Facebook page has 12.677 likers today, our Pinterest profile has 375 followers, and we have recently launched our Twitter account @pipeaway_travel (50 followers), so make sure to follow us there as well!

Pipeaway blogger Ivan Kralj petting the elephant from Mondulkiri Project, Cambodia, Asia, photo Ivan Kralj
I have spent one day with the beautiful freely roaming elephants of Mondulkiri Project in Eastern Cambodia
Searching for a new ‘home’

Asia treated me well! Whether I was sleeping in sleeper buses or five stars luxury resorts, whether I was sharing dormitories with other travelers in hostels, waking up in a capsule or a tree house, crashing at old friends’ homes or couch surfing with those who will become new friends, I was learning how beautiful, kind and warmhearted people can be found everywhere! The universal idea of humanness is what makes us ‘at home’ anywhere we go, and never alone. Thank you, everyone, who joined this first part of an incredible journey I am so grateful I embarked! I have experienced so much, and there is so much more still to be published here and on Pipeaway’s social outlets. Thank you for following it all!

I briefly visited Canada recently, but plan to spend the summer in Europe! In the autumn new adventures await. If you have suggestions on where should I go next, to discover even more extraordinary places, people and passions, please leave them in the comments! I would be really grateful to read them.

Ivan Kralj


Award-winning journalist and editor from Croatia

  1. I really liked this post! As for someplace to go next, have you been to Valencia or Alicante in Spain? They’re amazing! I prefer Valencia, but both are great. If you have, I suggest going to Copenhagen if you haven’t been their either. Also one of my favorite places to me!

    1. Hey, Tess!
      Thanks for your comment!
      No, I haven’t visited Valencia nor Alicante. I like your proposal!
      I have been to Copenhagen, but I understand why you like it! I would love to go back as well!
      I appreciate your suggestions!

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the whistling signal for the ship about to
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Mapping the extraordinary since 2017.


Pipeaway is a travel blog mapping extraordinary people, places and passions.
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