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.

Buenos Aires

After arriving in Buenos Aires on Saturday I headed down on the subte to Plaza de Mayo where I had a bit of a wander the trains are still in their original 1913 form and were surprisngly quiet and comfortable though they didn’t even have automatic doors (and the stations even have wifi!) Unfortunately it seems they are going to be replaced soon but for now they are fun.

The other thing to note is the language unlike most of the world everyone here assumes you speak Spanish so for products of the English education system it makes life more challenging to say the least. Maybe I should get some lessons.

The city centre at least seems to be very European and is very beautiful; though there is a fair bit of graffiti around. There is also a lot of litter around it’s not exactly a clean city by any means. It also seems to be a pretty safe city at least in the centre. The only issue with safety is the driving, especially by taxi drivers. If your taxi driver isn’t clearing the junction when the lights change from red to red Amber he isn’t getting you to your destination quickly enough!

On Saturday evening I had a very delicious steak for only £5 at a steakhouse it was the best steak I’ve ever eaten and was delicious!

Then on Sunday afternoon after staying out very late on Saturday (Argentina’s clubs barely open by 1am!) I headed down to San Teno and the Feria de San Telmo which is an antiques Market that takes place every Sunday. After that I headed to the national history museum which wasn’t that great to be honest and took about 5 minutes to have a good look around.

This morning I had some chores to do including getting cash out. You are limited to withdrawing £100 here (even the Sheraton where I went as I was desperate, had this limit and many machines are further limited to £50) which even given it is cheap here it is annoyingly low as you pay by cash for everything. This is something I’ve never experienced before, even in Vietnam.

This afternoon I headed to buy my bus ticket to Puerto Iguazu and then went to the recoleta cementry where Evita is buried and it was very moving.

Argentina and Flying

Due to the fact that I’m flying in and out of BA (Buenos Aires) I’ll be spending quite a bit of time there. I also have a visa to apply for here which may restrict my movement a bit. Anyway this is also the first city I’m going to where I don’t know anyone and the first time I’ve been to South America.

I have until Monday evening in BA when I head up to Puerto Iguazu one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world (it’s beautiful enough that Ellanor Roosevelt said “poor Niagra” when she saw it) and then into the jungle away from civilization for a few days.

Now although American doesn’t know how to fly a plane on time they do know how to (not) fill one. I’ve had two seats to myself for the whole flight which has been great and I’ve slept fairly well. Due to my direction of travel going anticlockwise around the world when I get to a new country I generally just “stay up late” so this means the next time I’m going to need to sleep on a flight is on my flight to Singapore from India at Chinese New Year.

Even before landing I can see that Argentina looks very barren and that a lot of farmers are burning their land.

The trip in from the airport was interesting the buildigs seemed very European and there was a lot of cross between rich and poor. On the bus I think I got a return by accident and then got the subte to the hostel which was very busy but otherwise fine.

Anyway I’m now off to get some lunch and have a wander around.