Saturday, November 5, 2016

Full Year Recap: Final Lists & Maps

I made up a few more random lists but couldn’t really fit them into any of the other blogs.  These are the last lists of the gap year… noooo!

Best Beaches:
1.  Pointe Coton (Rodrigues, Mauritius; Indian Ocean):  Every beach on Rodrigues seemed abandoned.  I went to several beaches where I was the only person there… crazy.  The beach at Pointe Coton did have a couple and a family of three further down the beach, but I barely noticed them since they were quite far away.  The sand was soft and the water was gorgeous.  It was my favourite of the trip!
2.  An Bang (Hoi An, Vietnam; South China Sea):  The Vietnamese beaches are surprisingly gorgeous.  My friends and I sat down on some lounge chairs and had waiters to attend to our food and drink desires.
3.  Anakena (Easter Island, Chile; Pacific Ocean):  The water was cold but swimming with the moai behind me on the beach was pretty frickin’ fantastic.
4.  Cayo Jutias (near Viñales, Cuba; Gulf of Mexico):  This gorgeous semi-island has a stunning strip of white sand along its northern edge.  The water was fairly temperate and comfortable if I recall correctly.
5.  Playa Negra (Floreana Island, Galapagos, Ecuador; Pacific Ocean):  This was the first time I’d swam off a black sand beach.  Because of the dark sand, the water wasn’t translucent like at other beaches, which gave it a bit of a creepy feeling, but the sunsets were gorgeous so that brings it back on the list.

Best Internet:
1.  Taiwan:  Wherever I went, the internet just seemed to be instantaneous.  I’m sure it’s partly because I had been in Africa and Asia for so long and became accustomed to slow, but it was such a treat.
2.  Japan:  Japan actually seemed slower than Taiwan, I think mainly because many of my Airbnb accommodations had these portable wifi connections which were very popular there.
3.  New York:  My friends in New York seemed to have much faster wifi than other parts of the US.  Maybe it’s because Manhattan gets special treatment or because my friends are rich.  Either way, it was good.

Worst Internet:
1.  Lesotho and Swaziland:  These are the only two countries where I did not have access to the internet.
2.  Cuba:  I was actually surprised that I could get access to the internet in Cuba, but it was a process.  It’s super rare that a home or accommodation will have internet access so you have to buy an internet card which gets you an hour of internet time.  Then you can sit in the main plaza of whatever town/city you’re in and there’s usually one wifi hotspot which everyone is connected to, so it’s not super fast.  I think the internet cards cost about $3 for the hour if I recall correctly.  That’s a reasonable price for tourists, but keep in mind that the average wage in Cuba is $19 per month.  One hour of internet time can take the place of quite a few meals.  Plus, you have to have an internet capable device, which most people wouldn’t have.
3.  United Arab Emirates:  Internet wasn’t slow, but it was pretty terrible with respect to censorship.  They are watching everything and it’s really unnerving.  Facebook and other social media sites are monitored for profanity, and if they see something they don’t like, they take it down and warn you.  Anything gay-related is blocked.  And Wikipedia appeared to be blocked as well (WTF?)  It’s not really a free place by any definition, despite what that guy at the cultural centre tried to tell me.

Countries I was saddest to leave:
1.  Colombia:  I had such a nice time here and met some amazing people.  I was all pouty at the airport when I had to go and I wish I had the chance to stay a bit longer and explore more.
2.  Taiwan:  Did I mention that I love Taiwan?  Of course I was sad to go, especially because my short time in Taipei just wasn’t sufficient.
3.  Argentina:  Taiwan was my favourite country, but Buenos Aires was definitely my favourite city.  It was another reluctant trip to the airport for me…
4.  South Africa:  I had such a nice time in Africa, and the camping part wasn’t nearly as rough as I was expecting.  Leaving the continent and saying goodbye to my travel buddy was a sad morning for me, especially when I realized I’d be heading to Mauritius with no tour, no friends, and no hostel scene to meet other travellers in.
5.  Japan:  I had such a nice stay with my friend Elcid, and everything about the country was beautiful.  The hour-long train journey to the airport and the prospect of 30+ hour journey to my destination made me very sad to go.
6.  Costa Rica:  Costa Rica was fabulous and with a great travel buddy with me for nearly all of it, I was so sad to see my time in the country end.

Countries I was happiest to leave:
1.  Thailand:  After experiencing the dark side of Thailand on Koh Phagnan, I was ready to GTFO.
2.  United Arab Emirates:  There’s just something unnerving about being in the UAE.  It’s actually a really safe country but it just feels so unsafe in so many ways.
3.  Cambodia:  I loved Cambodia.  I really did.  But it was so fucking hot – especially after being in the heat of the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia for around 11 weeks.  I was ready to get to Taiwan where the climate was to be more tolerable.
4.  India:  It’s dirty, loud, and everybody is out to get you.  Get me out! 
5.  Cuba:  Creature comforts aren’t a thing in Cuba.  In fact, many things aren’t a thing in Cuba.  I was definitely ready for some civilization.

That’s a wrap, folks.  I hope you’ve enjoyed following me on this trip around the world!  Here are a few more maps to see me out.  Click to enlarge any map!

Here are the passport stamps I’ve received.  I’ve never received a stamp for the same country in two different passports.  The US no longer stamps US passports so my newer US passport doesn’t contain a stamp from its home country.  Similarly, Australia and New Zealand don’t stamp Aussie passports – it’s all automated and I can use the self-service machine.

Here are the countries where I’ve driven – both cars and motorbikes.

When I couldn’t drive, here’s a map of the countries where I’ve used Uber.  I was surprised at just how many countries they are actually in!

Thirsty?  Here’s a map of where I’ve had Starbucks.

Finally, here’s a map of the asshole countries that have given me food poisoning.  I’m not talking about a little upset tummy – I mean a proper case of food poisoning including fever, terrible bathroom episodes, and – usually – vomiting.  The list is actually a bit surprising and makes me feel like my stomach is stronger than I think it is.

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