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The End of crellston's RTW trip (for now!)

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It all started off in Asia so I though I would post a rundown of our trip here first. Since October 2007 we have been travelling the world, first a couple of months in Sierra Leone in West Africa and then on an RTW ticket visiting a further 14 countries over three continents. Although one could argue that it all started off with a long weekend in Boston September 2007 where we had dinner with the famous four - Bob, Karen, Gpanda and Beth - surely that in itself is enough to send most people off around the world for a year!!

By the end of this trip we will have circumnavigated the planet and flown over 30,000 miles. We will have driven ourselves (in a variety of vehicles) over 15,000 miles. Averaging 7-10 miles per day, we will have walked around 2500 miles and we will have spent around one week (160 hours) on buses in many different countries - some very comfortable and some unbelievably bad!

Many, many thanks to all fodorites who have provided advice either directly or indirectly without which this trip would undoubtedly have not been the success it turned out to be.

We have seen many amazing sights and missed many more. The highlights of our trip were many and varied and a few that immediately spring to mind were;

-The temples, gardens and cherry blossom of Kyoto in the Japanese springtime

-Our week long road trip around the remote areas of Salta and Jujuy provinces in Northern Argentina

-Seeing the whales around the Valdez Peninsula in South East Argentina,

-Our 4 day trek in the Andes from Lares to Ollantaytambo - wonderful scenery and even better people, simply amazing

-Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil - surely one the most breathtaking sights in the world

-Staying with a family in the beautiful and remote Ba Be lakes in the far north of Vietnam

-Walking around Kata Tjuta in the Red Centre of Australia
New Zealand’s South Island - two months in in a campervan in mid winter and waking up every day in a different place and seeing to the most amazing and varied scenery, often with not another soul around.

-The Argentine lake district
A month in the Sacred Valley in Peru helping out a small NGO (strangely the famed Machu Picchu was not our favourite part)

-Staying in a Ryokan in Japan - fantastic food, accommodation and great people

-Staying in a Buddhist temple in the mountains of Koyasan, Japan - an amazingly tranquil place (and the best vegetarian food on the planet)

-Bathing in an Onsen in Japan

Our favourite towns and cities include;

Kyoto - Surely there cannot be another city in the world that has more beautiful sights

Bangkok - still feels like home after all these years!

Hanoi, Saigon and Phnom Penh all have rich and sometimes tragic histories but it is good to see these places growing and thriving

Tokyo - huge, modern, old, great food and surely the best transport infrastructure to be found anywhere

Buenos Aires - So different from our favourite Asian cities but so much to see and do and such great people

Countries we would most like to revisit:

New Zealand

Countries we did not make the most of:

Chile - we really should have spent more time there and less in Peru and gone down to southern

Patagonia - Torres de Paine etc
Equador and Bolivia - really not sure why we missed out these countries completely!

Laos - Having been several times before we decided to cut short our time there. In retrospect we should have gone back to the far north of the country - some of the friendliest people in the world and great countryside and villages still largely untouched by tourism

Least favourite experiences

-The temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia . We first saw them about five or six years ago and were shocked at how much the temples had deteriorated and how much Siem Reap had grown with the numbers of tourist rising now to virtually unmanageable numbers. If UNESCO should focus its attention on one place it is surely here!

-Visiting some of the smaller Australian towns and witnessing the depravation , discrimination and alcoholism amongst the Aboriginal population - very sad.

-Aguas Calientes - the closest town to Machu Picchu - an armpit of a place with absolutely nothing going for it other than its proximity to Machu Picchu.

-Arriving back in London Heathrow on at 7.00am on the Monday morning between Christmas and New Years !

Most peaceful places:

Staying in a monastery in Takayama, Japan

Ba Be lakes in North Vietnam

Don Khong - one of 4000 islands in the Mekong river in Southern Laos, near the Cambodian border.

Just about any Department of Conservation campsite in New Zealand

Most moving experiences

Ibrahim, a Sierra Leonean boy crippled with polio who "adopted" me when we were in Sierra Leone - he would come around every day and just sit in my office smiling and laughing!

Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh - a testament to man's inhumanity to man

15 May School for street kids in Saigon well worth a visit if in HCMC

Best food

Japan wins by a mile. Particularly the vegetarian food in the Buddhist temple, the Ryokan food and most of all the Sashimi breakfast in Tsujuki fish market in Tokyo

-The street food in Thailand and the food from the hole in the wall restaurants around Bangkok is still world class for very little money
-The beef in Argentina simply cannot be bettered (possible exception being Hida beef in Japan)
-Raw fish marinated in lime juice and chilli ( known as Ceviche in Chile and Peru and Laarp in Laos)
Best wine - New Zealand with Chile a close second

Best places to stay

We were travelling on a budget so cost was always a major factor. and we quickly came to realise price often bears no relation to quality. Some of the nicest places we stayed at were not the most expensive but will always stay in our memory for a wide variety of reasons.

-Sumiyoshi - A traditional Ryokan in Takayama , Japan great food, baths and run by two amazing old ladies who kept us laughing the whole time we were there

-Yougendo - a small Minshuku just outside of Nara, Japan , this place is in an old traditional house converted and run by and English guy and his Japanese wife. Just as we imagined life in a Japanese house to be and really friendly owners

-Casa Hernandez, a small B&B in San Lorenzo in Salta, NW Argentina newly opened by a Dutch couple. If we were going to run a B&B it would be just like this - a home from home

-Finca la Paya - A tradition finca just outside of Cachi on Ruta 40 in NW Argentina

Finally, nothing beats the freedom of waking up by a remote lake shore in New Zealand in your own campervan

It is my intention to write a post detailing my “dos and don’ts” of travelling for a year but that will have to wait a week or two as we get back into “normal” life again.

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