The Best and Worst...
When recounting the details of a trip, people always ask what was the best place, or the worst food, etc. To help us remember and to allow us to better answer these questions, we kept track our 'best and worst' experiences during the trip...
For most the trip, we were not sure how we would pick our favorite destination, since there were always some great and some not-so-great characteristics about each place, and no destination stood out above all the rest. That is, until we hit New Zealand. Nearly everything about New Zealand was great, and we loved it. Australia was a close second, and we loved it, too, but New Zealand was number one for us.
Although we hate to pick a destination as the 'worst', we did have some not-so-great experiences that could rank some destinations closer to the bottom of our list of favorites. Overall, we had the hardest time and least positive experience in Tibet.
But we have heard from other people that they loved Tibet, so we have to assume that the remote western portion of Tibet, where we spent all our time, and some of the things that happened on our time in Tibet, is really our issue with the country.
Our immigration effort from Nepal to Tibet overland was the biggest hassle! In addition to many security checkpoints, switching cars, climbing a mountain with our luggage, the Chinese army and border guards made it extremely to get it. Check out Tibet - Getting There for the full detail.
Although we have been a bit out of place in many of the areas we have visited, we committed the worst cultural faux-pas when we saw our first movie in Bangkok. We were the only ones who didn't stand to 'Pay our respects to His Majesty the King'. See Thailand - Worst Cultural Faux-pas.
We have found that most other countries we visited did not focus on pollution as much as the US seems to. Although pollution can be in many forms (air, water, land, etc), we found the air pollution to the be the most noticeable, during our short visits. The place where we noticed the most air pollution was Quito, Ecuador. Anytime we stepped outside we could smell the car exhaust fumes and see the air hanging with a gray tint.
A close second would be Nairobi, Kenya, where it was very noticeable in the air. We had heard Sao Paolo suffered from terrible air pollution, but we did not notice it when we were there in the area we were staying.
Although we avoided most American fast food on our trip, we did eat pizza in almost every country we visited (except Tibet, where it was not an option). We ate Domino's twice, and Pizza Hut twice, but the rest was 'local' pizza. Some of the local pizza was pretty bad, but even bad pizza is ok.
While in Auckland, New Zealand we talked with another visitor from Christchurch, and he recommended a few places to eat when we reached Queenstown, one of which was 'The Cow'. With such a suspect name we were skeptical about it's supposed great pizza. But we tried it while in Queenstown and he was right! The small restaurant sits in the middle of a side street in town but looks like an old stone cabin. They had a large fire going in the huge stone fireplace, providing limited light and making the chilly temperature bearable. We chose to order the Bolognaise Pizza, a standard offering on their menu, and were very pleased. The pizza melted in our mouths with a smooth, almost creamy, taste. This pizza was by far the best pizza of any we had on our trip. We highly recommend The Cow for any visitors to Queenstown.
Although the ultra-portable CDRW drive broke as early Capetown (in March), our first real technology breakdown did not happen until late April when the laptop died in Vietnam. With some effort we were able to get it fixed in Bangkok, although 'fixed' is a loose term since from the moment we got it back, the laptop would heat to super-hot temperatures and the battery lasted no more than 20 minutes. But at least it was functional. Since we were heading out of Bangkok that day, we had no choice but to take it as is, figuring we would send it to Sony once we returned home.
But the absolute worst technology breakdown occurred in a two day span in Australia (see Australia - technology nightmare, when the we dropped the laptop and the screen broke, rendering it useless. Because we had taken 150 pictures in the Outback and petting the kangaroos at the Crocodile Farm that day, the camera was full and we could not offload the pictures the laptop, since it was dead. Then the Palm Pilot screen broke a day later and we were without the laptop or the palm for the rest of the trip! Very frustrating! This breakdown is the main reason the web was not completed until after we got back to Atlanta.
We did buy additional memory cards for the digital camera to enable us to take more pictures, and eventually found someone to offload the 150 pictures to a CD so that we could again take panoramic pictures (possible only on original card that came with the camera).
Anyone who knows Dan knows his appreciation for condiment, or sauces, of all types. Maybe it was because we stayed in Cape Town the longest and ate at many different places, but a Cape Town restaurant was the clear winner. The Dizzy Jazz Cafe in Camps Bay, a suburb of Cape Town, served a four selection tray of sauces before they put any plate on the table. Sauces included garlic butter (with real garlic pieces in it), tangy apple, teriaki, and a spicy special sauce. They also served the wide-mouthed 'All Gold' ketchup, which is a close #2 behind Heinz, ketchup-wise for Dan.
The #2 restaurant is Spur, a chain in Cape Town, Sun City, and even Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and we are sure elsewhere. Spur offered the All Gold ketchup and also offered 5 or 6 bottled sauces on the menu. They came in second because they did not automatically put the sauce on the table. But since there bottles, once they were on the table, were huge so they came in at a close 2nd!
Our best plane ride was the second leg of our trip to Santiago, our first destination! See the Santiago -- Getting There section.
Our most embarrassing moment was on Easter Island, when we accidentally fell into the band while dancing (after much Chilean wine:). See Rapa Nui -- Big Night Out
We have stayed in great hotels in many places, with each 'the best' for different reasons. So we will just list the ones at the top of our list:
Renaissance in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Westcliff in Johannesburg, South Africa
Ngala Safari Suite in Ngala Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Intercontinental in Cape Town, South Africa
Our 1 hour layover in Cairo between London (British Airways) and Nairobi (Egypt Air) was very rushed which made it very interesting. See Nairobi - Getting There - Transfer section.
We have flown a ton on this trip, mostly in First or Business class. The worst flight for sure was the 1-6 AM flight from Cairo to Nairobi on Egypt Air. Mostly because they allow smoking on the plane! See Nairobi - Getting There - Worst Flight.
We have flown a ton on this trip, mostly in First or Business class. But it was not until Japan that we experienced an extra cool feature worth mentioning: a camera mounted outside on the front of the plane with the picture displayed on the cabin screens. See Japan - Getting There - Best Airplane Feature.
We have found great food in many of the places we visited. To be best in this category the food had to be good at the majority of meals. The Kapawi Ecolodge in the Amazon Basin had the best food at every meal. The food was all brought in fresh from Quito, so it was not that it was local food, as much as the chef just made great dishes.
Also, almost all of our meals in India were very good. We asked for 'extra spicy' at every meal, and sometimes they complied. As far an 'ethnic' food, India was the best.
If you can believe it, a runner-up was on the Andes Trek, mainly because the cook was a soup expert, and every course was tasty.
To be worst in this category the food had to be the worst food the majority of the meals. Hands down, Rapa Nui had consistently bland food. Maybe we ate in the hotel too much, but there were not many other options.
We wanted to call this "Greatest Last Minute 'get a clue'"!
Dan could not take a full breath from Quito through Mt. Kilimanjaro. Although we first attributed it to altitude, he still had breathing issues even in Sao Paulo, Nairobi, Arusha and other places where altitude is not an issue. After a visit to a doctor in Sao Paulo and the hospital in Arusha, with little help, Dan realized the morning we left for the Kilimanjaro climb that the breathing problem corresponded to the day he started taking the malaria pill, malarone. We immediately checked the pharmacy detail and it said
IF YOU EXPERIENCE difficulty breathing...tell you doctor immediately...Do not take any more doses of this medicine...
We felt like idiots for not making the connection sooner, annoyed that neither the doctor nor the hospital made the connection, and hopeful that it would fix itself with just stopping the medicine. Dan could not handle another experience like Day3-Andes Trek, and Kilimanjaro was more risky. He quit taking the pill the night before the climb, and things got somewhat better, but he still had issues.
With the help of a specialist in Capetown, we concluded that the breathing problem was really caused by a combination of issues (altitude changes, pollution, malarone, etc.) -- malarone likely set it off, but was not the total cause of the problem.
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