Summary of the trip: Overall

This is the overall awards for the trip as a whole – the winners are taken from the best of the previous winners. There is also a post on a few extra awards categories I have these are here.

Best site

Iguazu, Argentina and Brazil it was great from so many angles, up close and far away. I think ultimately this has to be the overall best site winner.

Best museum

The Holocaust Museum, Washington DC, it tried so hard to just give the facts. I learnt a lot about the recent history of the Jews and that reflects heavily on the middle east today. Well worth a visit.

Honourable Mention

The Hermitage, St Petersburg, although I do think the impact from the Holocaust museum was stronger, this is definitely one of the best museums in the world, on a very short list with the Met (which should have got an honourable mention for the US awards) and the British Museum.

Best tour company

Oz Trails, Sydney for managing to organise and excellent and full one day tour of the Blue Mountains in Australia for a reasonable price as well.

Best city

St Petersburg, Russia, overall its beautiful and has lots and lots to do in every category.

Best non-Family accommodation

Te’ora, Easter Island, this award has been practically guaranteed since Easter Island, but Te’ora was amazing and I would definitely go back for the accommodation, unfortunately Easter Island is really the sort of place you only go once, I recommend it to all levels of traveller.

Best food for under US$25

The winner is Steak in Buenos Aires at a small restaurant at Defensa and Independencia which was above and beyond anything I’d had before, or since.

The Lee, Mohan and Tim award for the best burger

Burgers seem to be turning into a staple on this trip and in honour of my time in Chicago when I had four burgers in six days with the guys from Chicago (including two for two successive meals.

Burger Hut at Le Petit Village, Mooera for being absolutely delicious and a bargain for Tahiti.

Best nightlife

Chicago, USA, for its great nightlife in every category. I had a lot of fun there.

Best Activity

Acrobatics at the Shanghai Centre, Shanghai, this was breathtaking and kept my attention for the full 90 minutes of the performance, getting better and better to the climax.

Friendliest People

The Russians, the Russians always seemed to be friendly and went the extra mile to help pretty damn frequently, given their limited resources it was great to see.

Best Transportation Company

Japan Rail, Japan, any train company which can make you forget to photograph something as cool as the Shinkansen because it “just works” so well is incredible, every train has been virtually on time in the entire country and the transportation system here in Japan is nothing short of incredible. Japanese trains are how it should work everywhere.

Best bargain

The free temples in Japan for often being as good as some of those you have to pay to enter. I’m not obsessing about my Chinese clothes anymore anyway :p.

Biggest rip-off

Postada la bonita for accommodation worth a generous US$10/night costing US$100/night.

The Patrick Levy award for cinematography

When I went to South East Asia my friend Patrick (who doesn’t need much sleep) would watch films before going to sleep in the evening. Therefore I am dedicating this award to him. However even though films you watch while travelling are usually bad I’m giving this award to the genuinely most entertaining film.

The winner is Dan in Real Life for being the only romantic comedy I have ever seen that didn’t disappoint its genre by being a) funny and b) about real love.

Summary of the trip: Pacific Islands and Australia

I was always going to give some awards at the end of my trip, but so they stay relevant I am going to do some as I go along. So I’m going to split my trip into thirds. The next logical third is the Pacific Islands including Easter Island, Tahiti, New Zealand and Japan (technically its an island chain at least mostly in the Pacific.) as well as Syndey Australia. I know I haven’t posted my final Tokyo post yet, that is still to come after this one.

Best site

Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand, Milford Sound was an absolutely stunning place to visit and it was well worth doing the excellent overnight cruise on the Fjord.

Best museum

A Bomb Museum, Hiroshima, Japan, though flawed as I covered in the Hiroshima post the A bomb museum was very good and covered the important facts about the first use of the nuclear bomb. All of the signs were also in English and the audio tour covered most of it and was available in 20 or so languages.

Best tour company

Oz Trails, Sydney for managing to organise and excellent and full one day tour of the Blue Mountains in Australia for a reasonable price as well.

Best city

Tokyo, Japan for its excellent public transport, great sites and it appears to have strong nightlife as well (though I didn’t experience it myself.). It is also a modern and vibrant city.

Best non-Family accommodation

Te’ora, Easter Island, this award has been practically guaranteed since Easter Island, but Te’ora was amazing and I would definitely go back for the accommodation, unfortunately Easter Island is really the sort of place you only go once, I recommend it to all levels of traveller, whether you stay in youth hostels (well it is a little expensive) or the Peninsula.

Best food for under US$25

Creviche in the blue restaurant on Easter Island, assuming you stay at the recommended accommodation this should be enough to go on, creviche on Easter Island was absolutely delicious.

Honourable Mention

Okomomiyaki, Hiroshima, although I didn’t speak English at the restaurant this was absolutely amazing, and was better than the Tokyo version which I had today (and haven’t discussed yet).

The Lee, Mohan and Tim award for the best burger

Burgers seem to be turning into a staple on this trip and in honour of my time in Chicago when I had four burgers in six days with the guys from Chicago (including two for two successive meals.

Burger Hut at Le Petit Village, Mooera for being absolutely delicious and a bargain for Tahiti.

Honourable Mention for South America

As the award started in Chicago, the USA is exempt so it goes to the BK Argento, Argentina.

Best nightlife

Queenstown, New Zealand, because I actually went out there, and unlike Sydney it had character and wasn’t full of non-descript hotel bars.

Best Activity

Shotover Jet, Queenstown for being great fun (especially the 360 degree spins), not too expensive for New Zealand and for finishing just when you wanted it to.

Honourable mention for the Americas

Mountain biking in Arequipa, Peru which was great fun on bumpy roads, and I even managed not to fall off!.

Friendliest People

The Japanese the Japanese, especially those I have stayed with have all been very friendly, even when there is a language barrier between us.

Best Transportation Company

Japan Rail, Japan, any train company which can make you forget to photograph something as cool as the Shinkansen because it “just works” so well is incredible, every train has been virtually on time in the entire country and the transportation system here in Japan is nothing short of incredible. Japanese trains are how it should work everywhere.

Best bargain

The free temples in Japan for often being as good as some of those you have to pay to enter.

Biggest rip-off

Tahiti for being totally overpriced for what it was. It was even a total rip-off in comparison to the utterly remote Easter Island, and Japan whose currency has gained 70% over the pound this year. This is really reflected in it only having 2.5 times the tourist numbers of Easter Island which is much harder to get to.

The Patrick Levy award for cinematography

When I went to South East Asia my friend Patrick (who doesn’t need much sleep) would watch films before going to sleep in the evening. Therefore I am dedicating this award to him. However even though films you watch while travelling are usually bad I’m giving this award to the genuinely most entertaining film.

The winner is Dan in Real Life for being the only romantic comedy I have ever seen that didn’t disappoint its genre by being a) funny and b) about real love.

Honourable Mention

The counterfeiters which was very interesting, but a little short for my liking.

Summary of the trip: Americas

I was always going to give some awards at the end of my trip, but so they stay relevant I am going to do some as I go along. So I’m going to split my trip into thirds. Firstly the Americas, then Oceania and Japan, and finally mainland Eurasia. Then finally I’ll sum up the whole thing.

Best site

Iguazu, Argentina and Brazil, although Machu Picchu was pretty special out didn’t quite take my breath away in the same way.

Honourable mention

Machu Picchu, well that much is obvious. It is an epic site.

Best museum

The Holocaust Museum, Washington DC, it tried so hard to just give the facts. I learnt a lot about the recent history of the Jews and that reflects heavily on the middle east today. Well worth a visit.

Best tour company

Layana, San Pedro as they gave detailed explanations in English of the sites we were seeing. They also weren’t too pricy.

I have to admit in general I haven’t been too impressed and was going to give it to the Sinh Cafe from my last trip to Vietnam.

Best city

New York for it’s incredible range of stuff to do in the day. having half decent nightlife as well and also having excellent transportation.

Honourable mention

Santiago, a hidden gem that I didn’t expect to be great. But aside from all it’s attractions seemingly shutting on Sunday and Monday every week it is actually a pretty nice place. Though its worth noting that even in Providencia it does have a sinister feel sometimes, especially after dark (though nothing personally happened to me or anyone I know in Santiago).

Best non-family accommodation

I’m not ranking my family/free accommodation as you all looked after me well so I’m picking the best accommodation I paid for.

Sunny Days, Arica Chile provided all you can eat breakfasts, excellent rooms and good advice on the city as well as a kitchen and lounge area with good cable TV.

Best food for under US$25 (excluding service)

Just in case I get taken to the local equivalent if La Manior I’ve stuck a price limit on this but the winner is Steak in Buenos Aires at a small restaurant at Defensa and Independencia which was above and beyond anything I’d had before.

Honourable mention

Pacha Papa, Cusco for it’s excellent food and exquisite service.

Best nightlife

Chicago, Buenos Aires is close but frankly it’s too late for me to start clubbing at 2am.

Friendliest People

El Soberio. After falling ill I was looked after really well by the people of El Soberio. And I improved my terrible Spanish a bit too.

Best transportation company

Via Barriloche, Argentina for providing good food, drink and comfortable seats for only a little more than the competition.

Most useful material possession

iPod Touch for letting me write these blog posts when on buses and public transport and having lots of other useful information on it.

Best bargain

Plastic playing cards in Cusco for US$0.67 that are fully plastic so should last well.

Biggest rip-off

Postada la bonita for accommodation worth a generous US$10/night costing US$100/night.

The Patrick Levy award for cinematography

When I went to South East Asia my friend Patrick (who doesn’t need much sleep) would watch films before going to sleep in the evening. Therefore I am dedicating this award to him. However even though films you watch while travelling are usually bad I’m giving this award to the genuinely most entertaining film.

And the winner is SHOOTER which was an excellent and clever movie about a presidential assasination. I really want to see the end of it as we arrived in Tacna so I missed it.

Honourable Mention

Don’t mess with the Zohan I quite enjoyed this movie about the Israeli superspy Zohan but my friends I was with thought it wasn’t that great.

Final post from BA

So my last few days weren’t particularly eventful. But I don’t think I’ve really given much of a feel for BA in my previous posts (aside from discussing poverty) so here it is.

On Wednesday I had a bit of a lazy day as I was still tired. I also had a look around Palmero Hollywood but there wasn’t much to see there really. I had some more steak in the evening which was also excellent.

On Thursday I had another Spanish lesson and I learnt lots of Spanish including describing where you live and countries in general. I also managed to have the worst four cheeses pizza ever. Pizza is usually good here but they chose the worst possible combination of cheeses for this one.

Then in the evening I headed for an “authentic” Argentinian meal at Burger King. It was in fact fairly authentic. Firstly they failed to understand my accent at first when asking for the BK Argento (this is the equivalent of the Angus burger in the UK and the US) otherwise the menu is the same so it’s difficult to see the confusion. This happens regularly here. Though I have to admit I was guilty of it myself when picking up my washing. Sometimes they even get their English speaking friend to come to understand your mispronuonsiations. In Oxford this would be like not understanding the Welsh – and god help the Glasweigens. They also didn’t accept credit cards. They aren’t used much here outside of high end stores, which is actually a little strange as quite a lot of the money is fake. Anyhow the good stuff starts now as the burger was in fact excellent. The best burger I’ve ever had at a fast food chain, hands down. This is also typical as the beef here is excellent.

On Friday I got up fairly late and headed to my Spanish lesson at Milhouse on the as usual jam packed Subte. They are expanding the network almost as fast as Beijing before the Olympics though so hopefully that’ll improve matters. After my Spanish lesson I hung around the hostel and chatted with people and went out for some steak (which was only as good as in England) with a girl from Oregon in the US who was very nice and had a lot to say too.

Then this morning after getting a taxi back to my accommodation at midnight I slept in until 9am and then packed and went back into town for my final Spanish lesson before having some Milanesa (with veal) for lunch (this is meat made very thin and covered n breadcrumbs.)

Well it’s off to Peru in a few hours where I meet my friends from England. I suspect the blog posts will slow down for a few weeks as I’ll have them to talk to instead on buses and other places where I write this. I’ll definitely be spending less time on the rest of the Internet. I’ve made too many forum posts in the past few days. But as I’ve been not feeling 100% I didn’t feel like going out and socializing until Friday.

More Spanish, MABLA and Tigre

So yesterday I actually did something a little more interesting than just resting.

Firstly I went to the police station to report the theft of my camera. This took about an hour. After that I grabbed some lunch before my Spanish lesson in the early afternoon I made some more progress and was able to figure out the menu of the Chinese restaurant I went to in the evening. I have also learnt some Spanish chat up lines including the classic Do you come here often? Which is ¿Venís siempre acá? en Español. I haven’t (yet :p) asked my teacher whether it’s also a double endentre in Spanish or whether that is only in English.

Anyhow in the afternoon after my Spanish lesson I headed to Palmero, one of the districts I had previously missed here in Buenos Aires. In palmero I went an saw a museum of modern art called MALBA which was a modern art museum that was free to students! Anyhow they had an interesting exhibit by Félix González-Torres. This was an interactive exhibit and I got to pick up various bits and pieces including free sweets from around the gallery. It was quite interesting actually. They also had some other galleries which were also worth seeing. One of the most interesting pictures was one of the centre of BA in the 1930’s it looked gorgeous, and is definitely somewhere I’d have liked to live at that time.

After that I headed back to my accommodation. On the train I was accosted by the usual people trying to beg or sell crap that I don’t want. It is incredibly irritating and I just ignore them as I learnt last year in south-east Asia. The Buenos Aires citizens aren’t as cold-hearted as me though; maybe there is no money from the government for these people, which given Argentina is the 31st (23rd by PPP) richest country in the world there really should be. I suppose there are lots of people digging through rubbish in the streets which I didn’t see in south-east Asia so there is clearly a very serious poverty issue here. There is also a lot of guilt about the problem. Begging isn’t just confined to the streets and public transport here. It is also even happens in coffee shops.

Then this morning I got up fairly early and headed to the Tigre delta outside BA as my Spanish lesson isn’t until 6pm. I went on the train which wasn’t particularly crowded and was also only a little more expensive than a Subte ride which in itself is very cheap (US$0.30). Once I got to the delta I booked myself on a boat tour of the delta and then went off to have some lunch. For lunch I had some Milanese which is beef in breadcrumbs and is a speciality of the region which was nice. I also had some (freshly squeezed – and therefore expensive at US$2.60) orange juice for my fruit portion of the day. It’s actually hard to eat enough fruit here as most of the stuff in the supermarkets seems to have lots of blemishes. So much so that you aren’t sure if its fit to eat or maybe that’s just Tesco brainwashing me.

Then i wet on the boat tour. The boat tour itself was only OK, there was no commentrary (even in Spanish) and it was pretty expensive at US$10 for a 2 hour trip. I did finally get to see some people who looked like they had money on the boat; given the poverty in the centre it was kind of uncomfortable, though certainly to an extent I was looking at a mirror back of myself. The trip itself did seem to be an expensive camera photoshoot of the delta and posed people on the boat so I guess I missed out on the full experience as I didn’t have a camera.

Then I headed back to Buenos Aires for my Spanish lesson. The journey wasn’t entirely uneventful. I had to jump the barrier at the train station as it wouldn’t accept my ticket and I had to block the door of the Subte train as I was too far back to get off (the stop for Milhouse is one after the busiest station on the Subte system) before I had my Spanish lesson at the hostel. After that I headed back to my accommodation on the edge of the city and I had dinner at the local Italian (which was very nice) before going to bed after a long day.

Camera pinched

Well, something else had to go missing. This time my camera. Oh well at least I have my photos on Flickr.

I’m getting the police report for the insurance tomorrow.

With some good news at least I’m finally feeling better.

Sickness and Spanish

So I didn’t go to my Spanish lesson on Thursday after all. On Wednesday after realizing I’d only been taking half the dose for my antibiotics I took the proper dose for the first time (I’d been taking 1 pill not 2 every 8 hours). Unfortunately then things took a turn for the worse and after I couldn’t finish my dinner I was sick so I took a Benedryl and woke up feeling fine. However that was not to last by the afternoon I was itching all over and I realized I had a rash. So I rushed to hospital in a taxi where I was prescribed my own benedryl (anti-histemene) and steroids. Then fortunately within an hour or so I was feeling fine so I thought no more of it. I was more concerned with not drinking at the bar at the hostel that night (which was worryingly hard; like asking the first girl I cared about out but I pulled through ok)

Then the next day after a good sleep I was still ok and went shopping, then to the Indian embassy to pick up my visa and finally to see Tropical Thunder which is a film best described as fun. Though in true hollywood style it had holes the size of oceans in the plot for one by making the geographical error that Myanmar is next to Laos. Thailand of course fails to exist in between. Fortunately also the film was subtitled so I could understand most of it. However after getting back to the hostel and grabbing dinner on the way I came down with another rash.

This lead to another hospital trip and being given fluids and as it didn’t clear up as quickly a stay overnight. Then this morning I went to find some quieter accommodation in the suburbs for tonight so I’ve done that and after an afternoon rest I am now feeling better so hopefully I can get some supper and will be feeling cured tomorrow.

Hopefully also I’ll be able to continue my Spanish lessons on Monday for the rest of the week.

Back in BA

After the bus ride which arrived on time I got back to Buenos Aires. I didn’t get up to much but I did see Plaza del Congresso and an expensive but good Tango show in the evening. Some of their moves were amazing so it was worth seeing. I have some cool photos which I’ll add to Flickr at some point; basically the next time the Internet holds enough fun to spend an hour waiting for the upload to Flickr to finish uploading on the ultra fast connections they have here. Maybe I need to pretend I’m staying at the Hilton to borrow their connection or something…

Then this morning I fruitlessly searched the city for some Spanish lessons. My search didn’t go particularly well but I went back to the hostel and had lessons there; I wasn’t expecting them to be taken particularly seriously but they were actually pretty good and I’m having more for the rest of the week.

Tomorrow before my Spanish lesson at 3.30pm I have my homework to do and some shopping for a new jumper as I shrunk my wool one in the wash.

Jungle and El Soberbio

The short version is that the Jungle wasn’t very good and it probably made me sick and then El Soberbio was full of kind helpful people who helped me get better. If you really want to know more gory details you’ll have to wait as I need a refund for the advance payment for the trip out that they insisted on (I should note that in general the Argentinians are honest and don’t pull tricks like this, of course I still shouldn’t have agreed to it.).

On the way I did go on a boat trip to Saltos del Monica a set of waterfalls in the middle of the river Uruguay which was amazing and we got really up close and personal to the waterfall. I also got some really cool sunset pictures as it was just getting dark when the boat got back to shore. Some even came out well without the sunset mode being on on the camera.

Then I got the bus back to Buenos Aires with Via Bariloche again (arranged by my hotel) and that included a free transfer to the bus terminal at San Vincente so I’m not complaining. On the bus we saw a crappy Disney movie and then an endearing and sometimes irritating French film.

One thing I did learn from the French film was that words that refer to life’s pleasures such as sex and alcohol are generally the same in every language! Modern words such as computer and air conditioning are the same but that’s not the same thing.

After dinner we saw another Hollywood film called “Licence to Wed” which was a cold dark thriller (OK it was a romantic comedy). It starred Robin Williams and was set in Chicago and was pretty funny and enjoyable.

Then this morning I got back to Buenos Aires on time, which was a surprise but I have several things to do today.

The Iguazu Falls

So I caught the bus with Via Bariloche to Puerto Iguazu which was about £30. The bus was very comfortable; much more so than buses in England. After dinner they played a Disney movie called Game Plan about American football (and ballet) which was quite bad but still fairly entertaining; it contained the worlds most mature eight year old it was worse than Gossip Girl’s 17 year olds who act like 21 year olds in maturity. It also contained the worlds most predictable love plot (it hasn’t actually happened yet as I’m writing this but it’s sure to — in the end they went on a date.).

We arrived in Puerto Iguazu at 1.30 pm which was 2 hours late so I didn’t have much time at the waterfall yesterday. I went up to see the Gran Diablo falls at the top of the Iguazu system. You had to go on a walkway a long way (1100m) to get to the waterfall. First you were tempted by a haze of spray from above the trees and then once you did you got the most amazing view of a waterfall that I’ve ever seen. You can’t even see the bottom due to the spray and there is a permanent almost circular rainbow in the spray. After spending 15 minutes at the waterfall and taking lots of photos (sometimes a bunch of spray came up from the waterfall so I carefully protected my camera from that.)

After that I then got a boat back downriver to the centre of the complex. This went on quiet waterways and let you see birds flying overhead as we went which was a relaxing end to the day.

After that I went back to my room and cooked myself some dinner as I have a stove there. I had bought food in the supermarket to do so, it was great fun afterwards washing the stuff up with a cloth and cold water. I also didn’t get food poisoning as of 8am as I write this. Then after dinner I watched some TV, they had some American TV with subtitles in Spanish so I could actually understand it!

Then this morning I got up really early at 6.30am so that I’d have lots of time at the waterfall. I left just 7am and had to run to get the bus as I was given the wrong time, I had to do this past the bus station attendent with a whisle yeah when running for a bus I’m really not going the bus way and it’s totally safe anyway (they’ve literally done this when the bus station is empty.). After I got on the bus after passing through immigration I was told where to get off for the waterfall which was very kind of them (unlike the attendents the bus drivers are all really nice). By 8am I was at the park in Brazil. Unfortunately even though I am here really early unlike the Argentinian park the damn place didn’t open until 9am! The other problem with Puerto Iguazu itself is that they don’t have any obvious foreign exchanges fortunately it wasn’t a big issue though I had to get some Brazilian currency from an ATM making my bank very rich; guys I hope you’re happy, you’re the only ones who are with the cash issues here.

After that I went and had a look at the paroramas of the waterfall from the Brazillian side of the falls and they were absolutely awesome. Even though I’d seen the Gran Diablo the day before they were still incredible. There were several viewpoints and by quick-marching off the bus I managed to have several of them to myself. There were a few other people around though so I got some shots of me in front of the waterfall (which my friend Jamie will love :p). As usual you will need to have a Flickr account and be on my Flickr friends list to see those pictures though my others will be generally viewable.

From there we got a bus to the border and then a taxi to the falls on the Argentinian side with some other English people for $7.50 each which for a 50 minute ride wasn’t bad at all.

Then after I got back to the Argentinian side I had lunch and drowned a wasp which got in my drink (they were everywhere). I then went on the upper trail which was only OK though the view at the end was really good.

After that I headed down the lower trail to get up close and personal with the waterfalls which was also well worth seeing there was a lot of climbing to keep me fit too. I also went on a boat ride into the heart of 2 waterfalls which was fun but very wet! Pictures will come from back in Buenos Aires.

PS I hope everyone back in the UK (and elsewhere) has had a good summer so far, let me know in the comments what you’ve been up to.

PPS there’ll be no more posts until I’m back in Buenos Aires as i’m heading into the jungle and there is no internet there.