It is difficult to answer the question "What was your favorite place?" It depends on so many things! - from the natural surroundings to man-made artifacts such as buildings and temples to experiences with tours to meeting with friends to entertainment shows and more.
As you know from reading the blog, we have missed out huge chunks of the world. These include Italy, Greece, Turkey, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia, Great Britain, Central Asia, Scandinavia, Western Africa, North America, Central America and much much more. Sounds like the whole world, right? In addition, we didn't even do justice to the countries we did manage to visit on this trip.
As we were told before we set off on our trip, there are many themes we could choose to focus on during our trip... we could have taken any one of these themes and made that our central focus for the trip - but we did not. If you are planning on a trip, perhaps you might like to pick one such theme to focus on. These themes could be wildlife, culture, writing, history, partying, religion, adventure sports, colonialism, mysticism, among many others. As an example, it's amazing for us to think that our tour of the world could be depicted as a religious tour of the world (this was not our intention) - after all, we visited religious establishments (as historical places) all over the world and much of what we saw was built or destroyed because of religion.
Notwithstanding all this, we have put together a list of our favorites - yes, some of these lists are quite long, just about sufficient to put you to sleep quite quickly :-) they're more to help us remember as we lose our brain cells inexorably over the next few decades. :-) None of these lists are sorted in any way.
FAVOURITE NATURAL WONDERS & LANDSCAPES
Wow! The world has an amazing amount of beautiful places! From scorching deserts to snow-capped mountains to beautiful beaches to green meadows, here're the countries we thought had outstanding natural beauty:
- Jordan - beautiful desert scenery @ Wadi Rum, city of rock @ Petra
- Peru - green plains, mountain highlands, fascinating Inca & Pre-Inca history
- India - huge variety of natural surroundings from the Himalayas to the oceans, rich history
- Tanzania - Mt. Kilimanjaro, Safari park @ Ngorongoro
- South Africa - From oceans to mountains to desert to wildlife to history, it's got it all!
- Brazil - lovely beaches, lovely people
- New Zealand - beautiful juxtaposition of mountains & ocean & snow
FAVORITE MAN-MADE WONDERS
Humans have done amazing things with all sorts of natural resources - carved cities out of mountains, extracted metal from the earth and built it into huge towers, created islands out of plants and mud, and created & collected huge amounts of works of art in fantastic settings. We would nominate some of these places for the the top man-made wonders of the world!
- The Hermitage - St Petersburg - Russia - Huge amount of fantastic treasures that could keep one busy for several days. Rivals the Louvre in quality and quantity.
- The Kremlin - Moscow - Russia - Fantastic set of churches and cathedrals on Kremlin Square PLUS the Armory which is completely bling-bling!
- Louvre - Paris - France - Self-evident. Huge amounts of exhibits on any topic you can think of. Don't forget the Carousel with the Object's d'Art.
- The Eiffel Tower - Paris - France - Fantastic but also greatly accentuated by the beautiful buildings spread out in the mile around the Tower.
- Sagrada Familia Cathedral - Barcelona - Spain - Outstanding example of Modernism (or Art Nouveau). Tree trunks for supporting columns, organic forms as opposed to straight lines. Gaudi was a genius!
- Parc Guell - Barcelona - Spain - Another Gaudi creation. Wonderful mosaic colors and strange shapes.
- Alhambra palace & gardens - Granada - Spain - Plain from the outside but beautiful on the inside - Moorish patterns, fountains, gardens and art.
- Temple of Abu Simbel - Egypt - Huge and amazing, especially as this was done 5000 years ago! Also amazing how they've moved it uphill to stop being flooded by the Aswan dam.
- The Pyramids at Giza - Cairo - Egypt - Self-evident. A bit underwhelming although the big Ark was quite amazing.
- Petra - Jordan - Amazing city carved from the mountainside before Christ. Beautiful architecture in places.
- Ellora caves - Aurangabad - India - Awesome carvings, especially the Kailash temple which was carved straight out of a mountain over the duration of a 150 years over 1000 years ago!
- Ajanta caves - Aurangabad - India - Fantastic religious paintings from over 1000 years ago.
- Sun Temple @ Modhera - Ahmedabad - India - Huge temple built 200 years before the renowned temple of Konarak in Orissa.
- Floating Islands - Lake Titicaca - Peru - Amazing how people created their own land out of plants and mud to escape from the Incas several 100 years ago..
- City of Machu Pichu - Peru - Mysticism Central. Beautiful setting from over 500 years ago.
These experiences were unforgettable. Something that we would go do again if we could! More than anything else, these experiences have whetted our appetite to do more of the same! We've got to go do more diving, more whitewater rafting, more flying in helicopters, more mountain climbing, more safaris and much much more...
- Meeting Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg - a lesson in humility and charisma
- Tour of Robben Island - Cape Town - South Africa - amazing how former prisoners & guards are working together now
- Scuba diving - Buzios - Rio - we've discovered a new world underwater that we have completely missed out on all our lives!
- Walking around Le Marais during the Patrimonie weekend - Paris - France - beautiful buildings and hidden gardens. Beautiful people and fashion.
- Heli-hike on a glacier - Fox Glacier - New Zealand - First time ever on a helicopter for both of us! Plus being on a glacier is a must-do at least once in your life.
- Driving around the desert scenery of Wadi Rum - Jordan - Sweeping vistas. Beautiful play of light at sunset and sunrise.
- Lord of the Rings tour - Queenstown - New Zealand - Just great to do as LOTR fans.
- Whitewater rafting - Rishikesh - India - Amazing to see the beauty, safety, professionalism and excitement of adventure sports in India.
- Survey work for tsunami relief - Pushpavahanam - India - it was very educational to get into the 'heartland' and see village life close-up. Also heartwarming to see how everybody is pitching in to get things back to somewhere near normal.
- Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro - Tanzania - An endurance test in beautiful surroundings!
- Walking up & down the Ramblas - Barcelona - Spain - beautiful people, lots of activity, lots of nightlife, lots of culture.
- Wildlife safari - Ngorongoro Park - Tanzania - seeing animals in the wild in quite something else from seeing them in a zoo.
- Bathing in a Hamaam - Granada - Spain - Preferred ancient bathing method for the whole region around the Mediterranean. Had to experience it!
- View of Kanchenjunga mountain range in the Himalayas - Darjeeling - India - Beautiful dawn over the highest mountains in the world, including Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga and others.
- Walking up Mt. Sinai - Egypt - Interesting experience to retrace the steps of the Prophet Moses, to think that somebody had taken those same steps thousands of years ago.
- Yak ride around Chhangu lake - Sikkim
- Playing with baby cheetahs - Animal Orphanage - Nairobi
- Walking through the Fez souk - Fez - Morocco
- Trekking up the Atlas Mountains - Morocco
- Travelling with a musician on the train ride to Meknes - Morocco
- Floating in the Dead Sea - Jordan
- Partying for New Year's Eve - Goa - India
- Walking in the hills around Fort Dogummeire - Collioure - France
- Felucca ride on the Nile - Aswan - Egypt
- Hearing Gregorian chants - Cathedral of Notre Dame - Paris
- Whalewatching - Kaikoura - New Zealand
- Kayaking - Franz Joseph Glacier - New Zeland
- Walking around the Monasterio Santa Catalina - Arequipa - Peru
- Walking around Cumbemayo water channels - near Cajamarca - Peru
- Walking down Mt. Sinai in the dark without a flashlight for 2 hours - Egypt
- Hearing about the van accident that affected other people staying in our hotel - Valley of the Kings - Egypt
- Getting stopped at the Israeli Border - Taba - Egypt/Israel border
- Trying to get a Jordanian visa - Egypt/Jordan
- Being stuck at a Red Sea camp for 2 days
- Getting sick from the food - Marrakesh - Morocco
- Getting an Australian transit visa - Bangkok
- Getting bitten by sandfleas - Franz Joseph Glacier - New Zealand
- Getting 16 visas for myself and 6 for Smruti
FAVORITE SHOWS/ ENTERTAINMENT / SPORTS
We saw a bunch of different shows around the world from tribal dances to flamenco dances to players dancing on the soccer pitch to samba dancing. Live shows were the best. We did see a bunch of movies but did not think it made sense to mention movies here.
- Flamenco Show - Sevilla - Spain
- Italian Girl in Algiers @ Paris Opera - Paris - France
- Blacklight show - Prague - Czech Republic
- Maori dance - Rotorua - New Zealand
- Carnaval @ the Sambadrome - Rio - Brazil
- Football Match between Nigeria and South Africa - Johannesburg - South Africa
- Swan Lake ballet - St Petersburg - Russia
- Cultural dance show - Cusco - Peru
- Kharbin - Chinese - St Petersburg - Russia
- Dioskuriya - Georgian - Moscow - Russia
- Ra - Veggie world cuisine - Barcelona - Spain
- Tangier train station - Tangier - Morocco
- Beijing restaurant - Chinese - Cairo - Egypt
- Spice & Herbs - Ethiopian - Arusha - Tanzania
- Java house - Coffee & snacks - Nairobi - Kenya
- Spago - Italian - GK-I - Delhi - India
- Agashiye - Gujarati - Ahmedabad - India
- Thai Pavilion - Presidents hotel - Bombay - India
- Mahesh Lunch House - Seafood - Bombay - India
- Basilico's - Italian - Bombay - India
- Sukothai - Thai - Bangkok - Thailand
- Finz - Western seafood - Kaikoura - New Zealand
- Copacabana Palace Hotel - Italian - Rio - Brazil
- Moni - Peruvian vegetarian - Cusco - Peru
- Witch's brew - Peruvian general - Cusco - Peru
- Mango's - Peruvian variety - Miraflores - Lima - Peru
- F-bar - Drinks - Delhi - India
- Outdoor cafes - Sangria - Sevilla - Spain
COUNTRIES WITH THE BEST NIGHTLIFE
The partying went on late into the night all around the world. One thing is for sure - people everywhere are intent on having fun. I must say though that the Latin world (Spain, Brazil etc.) are on quite another level when it comes to partying! We also had a wonderful time meeting friends for dinner and drinks!
- Spain - Whether it was Barcelona or Madrid or Sevilla, the partying would start at midnight and continue till dawn. Wow!
- Brazil - Well, the partying here was completely non-stop. We had to get out of Rio to stop waking up at noon and going to sleep at 5am.
- India - From Goa to Bombay to Delhi, the party scene is non-stop! So many new places have popped up recently, including lounges, bars, restaurants, clubs and more!
COUNTRIES WITH THE CRAZIEST TAXI DRIVERS
We had taxi drivers who would scream at us, shout at us, change the price half-way through the drive and, worst of all, tell us they knew where they were going when they had no idea where to go!
- Egypt - Bargaining in Arabic can be a bit taxing! Especially when the driver shouts "Me Egypt, You India" or "Amitabh Bacchan" at you for the whole drive or stops in the middle of the drive and demands double the money because you're so obviously a stupid tourist!
- Tanzania - The hinterlands of Tanzania don't have too many taxis. So when you see one, you take it, no questions asked.
- India - A different level of animosity exists on the streets - taxi-drivers are out to kill all pedestrians - hang on for the ride - woooohooooo!
- Dev & Smruti