Gearing up for overseas travel

The writer at Halong Bay in Vietnam in January 2020.

IT IS time for me to pack my travel bag again as my last overseas vacation was more than two years ago.

My last trip was to Hanoi and Halong Bay in Vietnam in January 2020, before our borders were closed on March 18 the same year when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country.

All my other overseas trips planned for that year – to four Western European countries, Mongolia and Turkey – were cancelled because of the international travel ban.

The European trip departure date was March 23, five days after the government imposed the first movement control order.

I was looking forward to the easing of the international travel ban in June 2020 for a trip to Mongolia but the MCO was extended as the number of Covid-19 cases had surged.

By then, I was no longer hopeful about my booked trip to Turkey, which was to take place in the last week of October until the first week of November in 2020.

The cancelled trip to Turkey – again caused by the pandemic –turned out to be a blessing in disguise for my group of 10.

An earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale occurred on Oct 30, about 14km north-east of the Greek island of Samos.

Although Samos is closest to the epicentre, it was the Turkish city Izmir, 70km to the north-east, that took the brunt of the earthquake.

More than 700 residential and commercial structures were badly damaged or completely destroyed.

A total of 117 people died in Turkey’s Izmir province while another 1,034 were injured as a result of the devastating earthquake.

We were dumbfounded when our designated tour guide Muhamad Hazimin Sulaiman, a Malaysian residing in Istanbul, sent us messages about the earthquake.

The hotel where we were supposed to stay on Oct 30 was among the buildings destroyed in the disaster.

That earthquake was the deadliest in 2020 and the third major one to strike Turkey that year. It was also the deadliest one in Turkey since 2011.

But it has not put off my desire to visit Turkey as I am now planning to visit the Aegean and Mediterranean regions this November and am looking for the best airfare deals.

Flight tickets are costlier now as more people are travelling again and this is compounded by the weakened Malaysian ringgit.

At the same time cautious of global economic uncertainties and recession forecast by economists, I will have to reduce my overseas trips to twice a year instead of four.

For now, I am looking forward to my first overseas holiday next month to Danang and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam after more than a two-year hiatus.

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