The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Many people have asked us over the course of our trip a variety questions along the lines of “what was the best [fill in the blank]?” So from food and foul ups to sites and surprises, we thought we’d give a quick run down of the best of and the worst of:

Best place: Wadi Rum, Jordan

Best place runners up: Summit of Kilimanjaro, Gili Islands (Indonesia), Mumbai

Place we would most recommend visiting: While we visited many beautiful places that should be visited. Many of them, however, are fairly well known: the Pyramids at Giza are great, but they aren’t exactly untouristy. Here are the places we’d recommend to get off the beaten track:

1. Syria: while we may not be on most friendly diplomatic terms with them (“Axis of Evil” anyone?), we found Syria be a fun place to visit with super nice locals, good sites, cheap prices, and not a lot of other tourists

2. Burma: Getting a Burmese visa is a process and the government is like a repressive bad joke, but the scenery is fantastic, the food is surprisingly tasty, and the culture is very interesting; this is probably the most different place that we went

3. Namibia: There are certainly some well known sites in Namibia, like the iconic dunes at Sossusvlei, but it is a huge country with very few people and is much less traveled than its neighbor South Africa. Thus relatively speaking Namibia is a great way to get see all that Africa has to offer with less people, lower prices, and better beer than other places in the region.

Places that lived up to the hype:

1. The Pyramids, Egypt: Yes, they are crowded; yes, there are lots of touts; and they are one of the world’s original tourist sites. But there is a reason for this: they are truly remarkable. Their size, their perfect shape, their natural setting, their age… wow!

2. Safari in Tanzania: “Are you going safari?”; “You must see the animals while in Africa!”; etc… We heard all this and more about how great a safari was and how we must do it- turns out everyone was right. Seeing exotic animals in their (jaw-droppingly beautiful) natural setting is fantastic!

3. Cape Town, South Africa: This city is world-renowned and righltly so as it has it all: beautiful mountains, the ocean, good food, great wine. It is a wonderful place to spend a week.

4. Istanbul: Istanbul gets it right- the history, the mix of cultures, the energy, the architecture, the food. Again this is a place that people highly recommended to us and we’ll do the same- Istanbul is great!

Most surprising place (that we thought we wouldn’t like as much as we did):

- Nairobi, Kenya: This city has a very bad reputation but we found it to be a pleasant city; in fact, the nicest city we saw in Africa with the exception of Cape Town

- Victoria Falls: After Niagara Falls, we didn’t have high expectations for another big waterfall. Turns out when you take away tourists and the barriers- allowing you to walk right up to the edge and even lean out over the falls (literally)- it is pretty awesome.

- Jogykarta, Indonesia—we went there as a means to see the temples of Borobudur and Pramadan outside the city but ended up really loving the city. The people were incredibly friendly and it was a great introduction to the vibrancy of the Indonesian culture

Best Food overall: Malaysia

Best Food compared with what you get in the U.S.: Middle East

Best meals: 1. Falafel in a back alley in Amman, Jordan 2. Dinner in Selcuk, Turkey 3. The Copper Chimney Restaurant, Mumbai

Worst meal: Nkhata Bay, Malawi

Best hotel value: Hoang Van Hotel, Kon Tum, Vietnam (beautiful, spotless, modern room with all the conveniences (wifi, satellite TV, bathtub, mini-fridge, etc) in a prime location for $15.)

Worst hotel value: No Name Hotel, Damascus, Syria (noisy, dirty craphole with bathroom filled with bugs for $29)

Best decision: Going on a 6 month honeymoon (we highly recommend it!) Others include:

  1. going through the hassle of figuring out how to get to Burma
  2. not booking Kilimanjaro trip in advance as booking it on the spot cost 30% less
  3. renting car in Thailand allowing us to escape the hordes of tourists and find “the real Thailand"
  4. opting to buy plane tickets on the fly, rather than buying a pre-arranged around-the-world ticket- ironically not buying this gave us more flexibility and cost us 75% less

Worst decision:

1. Trying to go from Nkhata Bay, Malawi into Tanzania in one day: turns out this trip is long and slow and drove us to the brink of insanity

2. Changing money (from Zambian Kwacha to Malawian Kwacha) with scammers at the Zambia-Malawi border: they cheated us out of $8 with their tricky math

3. Not changing money with scammers at the Malawi-Tanzania border: this reactionary move (see #2 above) cost us $50 since no else one in the entire world will exchange Malawian Kwacha (trust us, we asked in every subsequent country we went to).

Best Cities: Saigon, Mumbai, Istanbul

Worst City: Mandalay, Burma (although the surrounding sites are great)

So that is the wrap up on our around-the-world honeymoon. We look forward to being a source of advice for our travel friends in the future. Now on to finding a job in Latin America....

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