It has been nearly a year since I left for the biggest expedition of my life and I thought this would be a great time to look back and reflect on it. I have chosen not to take on my annual expedition this year since I have been booked up for too many events and I simply could not get away for another five month working holiday.
The last expedition took me through four continents and eighteen countries. I had taken 32 flights, travelled over 100,000 kilometres and spent more than a hundred hours in the air. I have not even had a chance to count how many world heritage sites I had visited, but I am guessing it is over 30 and I took over 25,000 images! How are those for some raw numbers?
As the clock struck twelve last week and 2011 came to a close, I looked back and wanted to share my sense of accomplishment with my readers. I had survived one of the world’s largest recorded earthquakes, ate scorpions, watched the sunrise over Angkor Watt, photographed the Taj Mahal, spent Easter in Jerusalem and walked through the ancient streets of Petra. I ran out of ink while checking off items on my bucket list!
I wanted to share some of the highlights of last year’s expedition, so here is some information that you will not normally get in a Lonely Planet guide:
Best Food: I enjoyed the food in every place I visited, but one of them stood out as the most exotic and flavourful of all. Since I have returned from my trip, I have yet to find a Balinese restaurant that makes sweet soy ribs as good as Bumbu Bali in Nusa Dua. I sampled many of the local dishes at this spot and recommend it to anyone visiting the island.
Most Beautiful Women: Beirut, hands down! Lebanon had some of the most gorgeous women I have seen in my entire life. Tokyo, Nagoya and Seoul were near the top of my list as well.
English Friendly: I was expecting Cambodia to be a hard place to communicate with locals, but to my surprise it was extremely easy. Most of the locals in the cities spoke fluent English. It was only when I went to very remote areas that I needed to rely on a translator for assistance.
English Unfriendly: For being one of the most advanced countries on earth and building skyscrapers that can withstand the enormous force of Mother Nature’s earthquakes, Japan was by far the hardest to communicate with people. Sometimes navigating the subway system was like unscrambling a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded.
Best Airline: I actually flew an extra eight hours and the opposite way around the globe to get to Australia because I wanted to fly with Emirates. This airline has the best service, the cleanest and most up to date fleet and the friendliest staff. Take it from a guy that has logged over 300 flight segments in his life, they are the best! If you are flying economy class, the service, amenities and food are far superior to any North American airline. When you fly business class, it is out of this world!
Best Economy Airline: Air Asia! Where else can you get a flight from Bangkok to Phucket for $32?
Best Images – People: This was a toss-up for me as my favorite subject matter to photograph is people. Some of my favorite images I have ever captured were on this expedition and India and Cambodia are at the top of my list.
Best Images – Landscapes: Also a tough one to call. Thailand and Fiji scored high for majestic sunsets and natural beauty. But as far as history and landmarks, India and Cambodia were definitely the winners. Getting up to watch the sunrise over Angkor Watt and the Taj Mahal will always be the most memorable 4AM wake up calls of my life.
I knew you would want some images to go along with the words, so here are some of my favorite shots of the five month trip.