Monday, February 23, 2015

The Travel Oscars Part 1

I don’t watch a lot of movies because I just don’t have the attention span for them.  Therefore, I don’t have a whole lot to contribute to the Oscar ramblings that are currently dominating my Facebook newsfeed.  Instead, I’ve decided to host my own little awards ceremony that will feature my travels and all the “most” and “best of” moments I’ve had. 

*As it turns out, this is going to be blog entry 1 of 2 or 3.  I came up with a lot of categories and this would be way too long (both to read and to write) if I did it all at once.

And the award goes to...

Best Food
I’m a foodie.  How can I even begin to narrow it down?!  I’m going to need to break this down into different sub-categories.

Well, the best burger (in the universe) is definitely at Fergburger in Queenstown, New Zealand.  Of course, I opted for the veggie burger, but the meat one looked mighty fine too.  To order this magnificent meal, you have to stand in line for up to an hour, place your order at the counter, and get your ticket number to pick it up in another hour or so.  This is certainly not fast food.

Ugh, I have a picture of this delicious masterpiece of a burger, but I can't find it.  Read on though... there will be enough pictures of other things.

Fine Dining
Finnegan’s Wine Cellar in Tralee, Ireland.  This beautiful stone-walled wine cellar-turned-restaurant is perfect for a romantic, candlelit dinner with the husband.  Until the wife accidentally sets her napkin on fire, drops the flaming cloth on the table and then stops just short of extinguishing the whole disaster with champagne.  Oooops!  They graciously told me that this kind of thing happens all the time.  Mmmm, and the food was divine.

Pub Food
Hong Kong’s Oktoberfest has THE BEST mushroom ragout.   I don’t know if this officially counts as pub food, but I think it does since there was lots of beer around when I ate it.  I also have to mention The Lombard House in Dublin.  We were staying in a room above this quaint pub and my husband says they served the best Irish stew ever.

At the Phantom Forest in Knysna, South Africa, they somehow managed to poach an egg inside a hashbrown.  Not only did it look impressive, but it was fabulous.  And then the monkeys came down from the trees and tried to help themselves.

Taiwan.  Did I get a bit of gastro upset from it? Yes.  Would I eat it all again without changing a thing?  Absolutely.

At Kerria Hotel in Ranthamobore, India, they gave us albino bunnies to play with while we waited for our food.  They then proceeded to serve us the absolute best local dishes I've ever had.

Best Beer
I love beer and try to drink local when I travel.  It would be impossible to choose my favourite kind of beer (besides the great Canadian Alexander Keith’s Pale Ale, of course) because there are too many contenders, so I will just choose my favourite particular instance of drinking a beer.  
K and I had been riding camels into the desert for a long time and we were quite thirsty by the time we disembarked to climb a dune.  Out of nowhere, there appeared a man selling mysteriouly cold beer.  Yes, he was an opportunistic man selling beer at a premium, but that seldom matters when one sees an oasis in the desert.

Most Insane Moment
New Zealand Nevis Swing in Queenstown.  This was the exact moment I thought I was going to die but it ended up being such a revitalizing, life-affirming experience.  I’m so glad I went through with it and was hurled towards the earth at breakneck speed with my husband.  No regrets.  #YOLO (That’s right… I just used a possibly outdated pop culture hashtag.)

Best Animal Encounter
I base a lot of trips around animals, but if I have to choose, South Africa is where it's at.  

Great white shark cage diving in Gansbaii, South Africa.  You can actually feel the shark’s enormous presence in the water before you even see him.  For a shark lover, this is the ultimate bucket list item.  This is clearly my very excited face.

Safaris in South Africa.  Watching animals you typically only see in National Geographic prowl right past as you sit in an open 4x4 is surreal.  I felt like I was experiencing a live version of “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King.

Most Romantic Location
This is so cliché, but we celebrated our 2 year anniversary with an evening champagne picnic under the Eiffel Tower.

Scariest Moment
1. The lightning began during a night jungle boat ride on the Kinabatangan River in Borneo.  We were far from where we were staying and the little boat could only go so fast.  Also, it wasn’t raining so no one else felt particularly worried.  But there I was, curled into the fetal position on the floor of the boat.  Here are the river and the boats by nice, sunny daylight.

2. K and I had been on a caving adventure in Yangshou, China and had been given rough directions about how to hike back to our lodge.  (Down a dirt road, turn left, walk forever, cut through three villages, go around that mountain and then over a bridge.)  It turns out, it wasn’t so simple.  We ended up hopelessly lost, walked in circles through fields and villages, ended up at the head of a ceremonial village celebration march and finally made it back to our lodge well after dark. 

Best Pool
1. Infinity pool at the Shangri-la in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

2. Shiv Vilas Palace in Jaipur, India

Best Sunset
1. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful sunsets, but nothing tops this one in Borneo.  Photo credit to the husband.  :)

2. A close second is the sun setting over Stonehenge in England.

Best Sunrise
1. I spent the night in the Thar Desert, on the border of India and Pakistan.  I woke up at 4 am and climbed a sand dune to watch India slowly awaken in the distance.

2. Angkor Wat in Cambodia on Christmas morning.  (I also think this is the best picture I’ve ever taken.)

3. Kinabatangan, Borneo on our way to our morning hike that was full of leeches.  (The morning before the storm, mentioned above.)

Honourable Mention for Sunrise/Sunset
During the summer in Norway, the sun doesn’t set.  One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen was when I looked north towards Norway around 1 am when we were around halfway back to England, by ship.  It was pitch black above us, but with nothing obstructing the view, we could see a dome of light in the far north and know that the sun was shining on in Norway.  

To be continued...

*All photography is my own personal property and is not to be used without permission. (Exceptions being the picture taken by my husband -and that is his property-, as well as the pictures I appear in because I obviously didn't take them.)

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