Post-Trip Update: We've added this little bit because everybody's always asking us "What was your favorite this?" or "Where was the best that?" We figured putting this info up on our website would save us three or four hours of repetitious conversation per week! A worthwhile investment. So, here goes...
Our Favorite Stuff
Our Most Adventurous Moments
From shooting down raging rapids in southern Africa to watching the spectacle of Sumba's Pasola festival, we had some real adventurous moments over the past year. These are a few of our most memorable adrenalized moments:
- Rafting down the mighty Zambezi. Adrenalin rush, times one hundred. Click here to visit.
- Exploring the overgrown ruins at Ta Prohm, Angkor. The Cambodian jungle has reclaimed the mystical temple site of Ta Prohm in the country's northwestern province of Siem Reap. Exploring the uncrowded ruins made us feel like amateur versions of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft. For a little while, anyway. Click here to visit.
- Camel trekking outside Zagora, Morocco. Camels. Desert. Sleeping in a Berber tent under the crystal clear sub-Saharan sky. And a 15-year old Berber guide named Omar. What more could you want in an idyllic north African adventure? Click here to visit.
- Rock climbing in Krabi province, southern Thailand. We never knew rock climbing could be so fun. Or so easy to learn. Thailand's southern limestone-encrusted coastline is full of great climbing opportunities. Click here to visit.
- Camping in the remote wilderness of northern Botswana. There are some things we look back on and just say to ourselves, "did we really do that?!?" Yep, we did. Two weeks of rugged wilderness camping in some of Africa's most remote and unspoiled natural wilderness. Click here to visit.
- Waking up under the stars at the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana. The capper to our two weeks in the bush was our final night of the trip spent camping in the massive salt pans in northern Botswana. The place is so desolate that we could sleep in the open under the stars (no animals wander in). Click here to visit.
- Swimming in a pitch-black sea cave near Ko Ngai, Thailand. A very unique, and somewhat eerie experience. Swimming for ten minutes through a half-full and unlit sea cave, we emerged into the light in a giant, jungle-filled sinkhole surrounded by soaring cliffs. A truly adventurous experience! Click here to visit.
- Diving at Ras Mohammed National Park, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. There is nothing like it in the world. If you are a diver, you must go here someday. A pristine dive area with an amazing, kaleidoscopic undersea world to explore. Click here to visit.
The World's Hippest Cities
- Cape Town, South Africa. It's got a beautiful city-on-the-ocean feeling that few other places on the planet can compete with. Like Sydney or Rio de Janeiro, it's got a spectacular setting. But it's also got a hip, cosmopolitan and multicultural vibe which we can't say we've seen anywhere else. Great restaurants, and world-class wine country just 30 minutes away. Oh, yeah, and you're in Africa. Click here to visit.
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We knew KL would be modern, but we didn't expect the chic cosmopolitan air its downtown gives off. Sparkling clean, throroughly modern, and full of great eating and sleeping options. World's tallest buildings, too. Click here to visit.
- Madrid, Spain. To hell with Barcelona. We'll take Madrid's authentic Spanish flavor any day over the country's most popular (and overcrowded) tourist city. A great place to get your food and drink on...late into the night, like the locals do. Click here to visit.
- Thessaloniki, Greece. Greece's "second city" is far superior to smog-choked, often unfriendly Athens. It's got everything the unattractive Greek capital doesn't -- mellower people, a nice seafront promenade, and a modern cultural element that makes you feel you're a thousand miles further west than you actually are. Click here to visit.
- Hanoi, Vietnam. Surprise! Vietnam's capital city isn't the stuffy, reserved final bastion of communism you might think. It's beautiful, it's filled with lakeside parks, and it's got a ton of sightseeing attractions and good restaurants to visit. And the people are sharp dressers, adding a hip cosmopolitan edge to the place which makes going out on the town fun. Click here to visit.
Our Favorite Cities
- Istanbul, Turkey. Wow! Such a city! Certainly one of the world's most beautiful cities, it also holds the distinction as one of the world's most historic. There are more tourists here than in other Turkish cities, but with good reason. Go to Istanbul, where Europe meets Asia, and you'll see why. Click here to visit.
- Cape Town, South Africa. We've said enough already. We love this city so much, we could live there! Click here to visit.
- Madrid, Spain. Once again, a Spanish classic. Click here to visit.
- Prague, Czech Republic. Its grand architecture feels like something out of a Grimm's Fairy Tale. Untouched by any of the 20th century's wars, Prague is a real gem. Click here to visit.
- Sevilla, Spain. A perfect place to soak up the Moorish influence on Spanish architecture and culture. Great food, too. A bit busy, but still an oustanding destination. Click here to visit.
Best Hiking Spots
- The Swiss Alps above Grindelwald. It's the stuff that dreams are made of. Impossible to imagine until you've actually seen it for yourself, this portion of the Swiss Alps offers some awesome hiking and walking opportunities. Click here to visit.
- Champagne Castle area, Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa. Who'd have thought such rugged, beautiful mountains existed in the center of South Africa? Click here to visit.
- Walking and picnicking in the mountains of Naxos island, Greece. The ideal Mediterranean outing, through oak and olive groves in the rural interior mountains of the Cyclades group's biggest island. Click here to visit.
- Day trekking through the Tavan Valley, northern Vietnam. A surreal experience. Click here to visit.
"Way Out There" Spots - Get Away from it All!
- Prespa Lakes, northern Greece. You're a long way from the island crowds up here near the Albanian border. Click here to visit.
- The really remote island of Sumba, Indonesia. We were the only tourists on the entire western half of this fairly large island. They still hunt heads here occasionally. An oustanding cultural experience.
- The tiny island of Koufonissia, Greece. It may be near the super-busy island of Naxos, but you'd never know it from the uncrowded, powder-white beaches and beautiful blue water that surround Koufonisia island, population 238. Click here to visit.
- Dahab village, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. A sleepy bedouin village on an unpopulated stretch of coast, not far from Mt. Sinai itself. Have a seat on a floor cushion at a seaside cafe, fire up the sheesha, and chill out. Oh, yeah, and unbelievable snorkling offshore, too. Click here to visit.
- Cruising the calm waters of Halong Bay, Vietnam. A more pleasant, relaxing sail maybe doesn't exist. Drifting along the glassy waters of one of the Natural Wonders of the World, we felt like we could get lost in the bay's thousands of beautiful limestone karst islands. Click here to visit.
- Hoi An, central Vietnam. Maybe our favorite small town of all time. Click here to visit.
- Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa. Surf City, ZA. Might tie with Hoi An as our favorite town. Great beach, too. Click here to visit.
- Dalyan, Turkey. A mellow town with ancient rock tombs, sea turtles, and mud baths. Click here to visit.
- Hora, Koufonisia, Greece. The quintessential small Greek island town. Whitewashed walls, narrow cobblestone streets with donkeys and quaint patio restaurants. And virtually no tourists. Click here to visit.
- Essaouira, Morocco. Super cool, super atmospheric, and super relaxed. Old Portuguese coastal fort town with a very Moroccan flair. Click here to visit.
Best Places to Eat!
One of the great pleasures of international travel is getting to sample the great food many countries produce. We had a blast taste-testing our way through several countries. Here are a few of our favorites:
- A table full of mezes in Turkey. Turkish food is fresh, delicious, healthy and quite varied. Our favorite way to eat: plopping down at a small tavern and ordering small plates of mezes, or snack-sized items similar to Spanish tapas. Yum!
- A nice Vietnamese meal in Hoi An, Vietnam. Almost all Vietnamese food, properly prepared, is outstanding. But it's even better in Hoi An, where the local dishes are unlike anywhere else in the country.
- Any good restaurant in South Africa. South African food is undergoing a kind of renaissance, with lots of international influences contributing to the local African, Dutch, Indian, and British-inspired flavors. Many of the popular restaurants are outstanding -- like Napa Valley at a third the price!
- A bar full of tapas in Spain. The Spaniards perfected the notion of snacking. Go into any bar, and chances are there will be some tapas (small plates of appetizer-type foods) sitting around waiting to be eaten. Tapas bar hopping is like a progressive dinner party, drifting from bar to bar sampling the local treats while enjoying Spanish wine or sidra (Basque cider).
- Real Thai food in Thailand. We love Thai food, and of course there's no better place to eat it in the world than in Thailand itself.
- A nice tagine in Morocco. Moroccan food is great, with lots of fresh veggies, lamb, and spiced side dishes available everywhere. A Moroccan specialty is the tagine, a kind of slow oven-cooked stew usually served over couscous. We had a really excellent, home-cooked lamb kefta tagine at our friend Abi's house in Marakkech. What a dinner party!
- Real Balinese food. We're not talking about common Indonesian food like Mee Goreng or Nasi Campur, but real Balinese food. It's hard to find, even in Bali, but when you do get the real thing, look out. It's quite spicy, and takes a long time to prepare. The results are worth it!
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