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.

Recycling and the New York subway

I have to admit there is a lot to dislike about the New York subway aside from it’s safety at night which is excellent but it has a further good point on recycling.

In New York all the rubbish thrown away at stations is sorted for recycling; now while this isn’t a pleasant job it brings benefits. Rather than having to have several bins in one place and assume people don’t get confused they have one which is much simpler. It also helps to have that approach where it is only practicle to have one bin (e.g. in the bathroom). Many
Hostels have multiple bins which is difficult as sometimes you aren’t sure whether something is recyclable so stick it in the general rubbish bin (which can be hard to find) or put it in the wrong bin by mistake.

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.

Moma, baseball and brooklyn

After visiting the UN two days ago I headed up to the museum of modern art (MOMA). The first thing I saw was an exhibition on prototype buildings; unfortunately they were too prototype, the best one was made of cellophane and metal so you had to touch the metal regularly to discharge the static from walking on the cellophane; not exactly practical! Then I went round the main museum and there were some pretty cool works including a pretend corridor in the wall which I fell for initially and many others (these can be viewed on flickr here)

After moma I went to a baseball game with some friends from New York. We saw the mets vs the marlins who they beat 3-0, it was an interesting experience too. Afterwards we went to a bar and I had some chicken. When it arrived there was enough to feed a family for a week; even though I had the smallest portion.

Then yesterday I went to brookyln firstly. I went to Brooklyn heights to try and go to the pizza restaurant Gramaldi’s. This restaurant apparently sells New York’s best pizza (or not depending on who I believe!) though due to the massive queue at 12:25 I unfortunately didn’t get to try it; I was too hungry to wait as I’d skipped breakfast having been out the night before. Then while in Brooklyn I took a look at the new York transit museum so. I could see how old the subway trains really were. It seems some of them may date back to the 1950’s or so but it wasn’t totally clear… I then went to the Brooklyn botanical garden and had a wander around that before returning to Manhatten. Then last night I went to a club called Pasha which was quite good but the music was over DJ’d. I didn’t know it was possible but as with many things in life it follows a bell shaped curve.

I’m going to try and upload photos later today though I don’t have many of Brooklyn as I forgot my camera battery.

Up at 7am and the statue of liberty

So I got up at 7am yesterday morning to head down to the statue of liberty.

Two days ago after I’d been to the 9/11 exhibition (which was very moving) I tried to go to the statue of liberty. Unfortunately it was 2pm so the tours for the day had all sold out. So I got up early to try again.

Fortunately they had tickets available when I got there at 9am, though that was only the beginning, there was a 1.5 hour queue to get into the statue due to the extremely tight security. Even then you only got into a museum and to climb to the base of the statue which was disappointing. After that I went to ellis island which was where the poor immigrants to the US were admitted around 1900 when it was in use. It was a really interesting museum and it discussed how immigration has occurred over the past several hundred years as well as the cultural changes from moving to a new land. They also had a video showing the personal stories of some of the immigrants. After that I went to Wall Street which we really interesting. I tried to get into the stock exchange but I wasn’t allowed as a tourist, you probably wouldn’t get into any others though. I did get to see a tour of the Federal building however.

After Wall Street I got the subway up to Chinatown and saw the Brooklyn and Manhatten bridges. Chinatown was really interesting and there weren’t many non-Asians around. I ate quote early in a really nice and cheap (I.e. less than $10, you can barely buy a sandwich for less, here Pret is cheap though still more expensive than it is in the UK) restaurant called East Corner Wanton; there I ate a dish I’d never heard of before called congee (my iPod had heard of it though :p). After continuing to wander through Chinatown I went up to Time Square and saw a jazz band playing; they sounded good and I got their CD but haven’t added it to my iPod yet.

Today I did my first load of washing before heading to the UN. The building itself as interesting and there was a guided tour around the general assembly room though there was yet another long queue so I decided not to bother. It is definitely appropriate for the UN to be in New York, it is probably the most multicultural city in the world; certainly one of the highest alongside London.

Finally I headed to the New York public library to upload this to my website, the New York library is a very beautiful building and also seems to have a lot of books. To compare it to Oxford I carried out a rigourous scientific study: searching for Condorcet’s 1785 work on election theory. Unfortunately for Oxford they lost; although the New York library doesn’t have the original like Oxford it does have an English translation which is much more useful (and the library is fully open to the public!)

PS photos will come from Washington I’m not hogging the hostels whole connection to do it and the Apple Store and library don’t allow plugging in of cameras.

Arrived in New York

After waiting for an hour to clear security, I picked up my waiting bag and caught the subway to the hostel. The train arrived promptly and thanks to the fact that new York subway trains don’t call at every stop we were soon in the centre of Manhatten. One thing I noticed about the subway was that aside from a few British tourists everyone else on the train looked poor (and they were also mostly Black or Hispanic) which was strange compared to public transport everywhere else I’ve used it (admittedly that is just Europe and Singapore :p). The train was also covered in graffiti and the stations looked pretty dodgy. The tube is great in comparison!

Anyway, enough on public transport, I did get to Manhattan and to my hostel. The hostel seems very cool and friendly and seems like a nice place to start my journey. It is also close to the sites and in a neighbourhood called Chelsea which seems like an average place to stay (the only thing it has on common with Chelsea in London is the cars parked on the street but there they belong to the staff)

After I arrived I went out to get some food, I got some African food from a restuarant just up the road it was quite spicy but tasty and very filling, definitely an interesting choice. New York is definitely the most multicultural place I’ve been so it should be interesting. Tomorrow I’ll be off to time square and then to have a explore of the city.

I’ll try and get some pictures up tomorrow when I’m using a computer not my iPod to post a blog post.