As I take a few days of R&R before I do Philly (and hopefully beyond), I’ve ranked the non-US legs of the trip. I can’t really come up with a definitive favorite so I’m dividing them in three groups: The Best, The Near Best, and the Least Favorites. Every stop was worth it to me, even if I wasn’t crazy about them. It was an opportunity to experience something brand new, a different culture and different way of life. Every experience makes you grow in some respect, so there are no regrets of anything on the itinerary.
The Best (in order of arrival):
- Rarotonga (Cook Islands) – what a way to start out a trip. This place was paradise. Having never been to the South Pacific, I don’t have anything to compare it to. But the bar was set high here.
- Sydney, Australia – I absolutely loved Australia and would love to return to see more of the vast country. But Sydney itself offers so much to do and see with people so friendly, you immediately feel at home.
- Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel – I’m listing them together since they are so close in geography, although different is spirit and vibe. But really, you shouldn’t see one without seeing the other. So much history, so much diversity. A small country with more to see and do than you can possibly do in one visit.
- Barcelona, Spain – Several times I had planned to visit this city on past European trips but never had enough time to do so. And I wondered whether I would make it this time or not because of the strikes. It was worth the wait.
- Auckland, New Zealand – A wonderful, cosmopolitan city that is easy to get around and has so many friendly people. It’s not in the top category because I feel that the best of New Zealand is outside Auckland, once you’ve seen all the city has to offer. Should I get the chance to return, I would make a point to see as much of the country outside Auckland as possible.
- Chiang Mai, Thailand – This city in the north of Thailand is full of beautiful temples and friendly people. A great cultural experience without the overwhelming vastness of Bangkok.
- Hong Kong – One of the great business metropolises and a truly world-class city, especially when it comes to shopping. Despite its size, it’s very easy to get around. Spent seven days of the trip there and probably three days too long.
- Mykonos, Greece – This made up for all that was wrong with Athens.
- Madrid, Spain – a beautiful city with excellent museums, public parks and plazas, and art at every turn. It’s in this list because it’s not Barcelona.
- Toledo, Spain – I’m including this because it was a day of the trip and not an organized tour that gives you a couple of hours here and there. A quaint Spanish town not far from Madrid that offers quite a bit of history and museums.
- Bangkok, Thailand – One Night in Bangkok is enough. Maybe two nights. It’s not that there’s not plenty to do (depending on the level of debauchery you are into). It’s that the city is dirty, huge, and confusing to get to places. Thailand just has so much more to offer outside Bangkok, that spending too much time here isn’t worth it. That said, you will be hard-pressed to find friendlier people in such a large city.
- Athens, Greece – My least favorite of all the destinations. Dirty, trash and graffiti-ridden, and unfriendly, the best of this city lies in its ruins.