The Final Review

182 days, 16 countries – how does everything compare?

Best Country
Difficult.  Germany was great – historic sites, varied subcultures, cool shopping, former communist and Nazi remains, Trabis, the people are friendly and helpful, most people speak English, good food, and good accommodation.  But Britain was similarly cool, had extraordinarily beautiful villages, good and cheap food, ancient history, and wonderful people.  It’s a tie!

Worst Country
Easy – Egypt.  They threw rocks at me.  India is 2nd worst – the exotic charms include chauvinism and disgusting hygiene.  China was a more distant 3rd worst – hard to get around, gross toilets and not that cheap.

Best food
Wonton mee – the best ones I had were in Penang, Malaysia, and Saigon, Vietnam.  I didn’t see any wontons in China!
Pizza – pork meatball with a cheese sauce, at a place near the Forum, Rome
Burfi – a sweet made with condensed milk and pistachios in India
Borek – a cheese, meat and spinach pastry in Turkey – the best one I had was actually on a Turkish Airlines flight
Asian custard buns, in Malaysia, Thailand and China
Carrot cake in Hue, Vietnam
Mozzarella cheese, Italy
Quark- Germany
Bok chee – fried potatoes and fish in an omelette (potatoes are fried first then added to the egg)
Korean barbeque
Hazlenut flavoured milk – Germany
Cookies and cream frappe – Chatuchak market, Bangkok
Mongolian noodles – Beijing
Kirsch cheesecake – Munich, Germany
Offal soup – at 1am on the night train to Chiang Mai it was delicious
Souvlaki and doner kebap – Greece and Turkey – if the meat came from a proper wood-fired grill
Yorkshire pudding – England
Flapjacks (made from rolled oats and golden syrup) – England
Welshcakes – Wales
Cornish pasties – England
Frozen custard – New York
Chug milk shake – USA

Best toilet
Some random place in Seoul.  It was electronic.
FOUR ply toilet paper in Germany
Disneyland toilets – I think they clean them with gamma radiation

Worst toilet
Near the bus station, Jinan.  No doors, no paper, squat toilets and some of them hadn’t been flushed.  And they charged for it!
The Indian ones were worse but I didn’t use them.

Best Airline
Turkish Air.  Surprised?  They have excellent food and excellent service.  Even in economy you can keep asking for more food.
Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways are also excellent.  Thai Airways gives you an orchid corsage before landing!

Best public transport
Singapore’s was definitely the cleanest and most efficient train system, but their bus system was difficult to navigate.
The winner is Germany!  The ticketing systems were integrated (bus, train, subway), they were multilingual, it was cheap and the conductor on the Munich train cracked jokes over the PA.

Worst public transport
Athens was graffitied and slow, partly due to the austerity measures.  But the overall worst public transport in the world is in Auckland!  Expensive, slow, no integrated ticketing, and no subway at all.  Even New Delhi has one.

Best indivdual site:
Delphi was extremely nice
The Giza pyramids are epic
Nuremburg’s Nazi remains are impressive
The Great Wall is worth a look
Chiang Mai was a nice place to hang out
Bath – when viewed at disk from the Skyline walk
Buckingham Palace – but I am completely biassed
A visit to New York MUST include a viewing platform visit
The snorkelling at Hanauma Bay is beautiful
The USS Midway is very interesting
Yosemite is amazing.

Unexpectedly good finds
Reunification Palace, Saigon – for the 60s architecture, perfectly preserved, including a War Room
The fitness park outside Country Club Castlefusano, Rome – it’s a free gym!
The DMZ tour, Seoul – see North Korea
Pergamum – a bit off the beaten track but definitely worth a visit for the Roman ruins
Military Museum, Beijing – worth queuing if you like anything military
Muay Thai lesson, Chiang Mai – 3 hours of proper instruction for $15
Agro Park, Langkawi, Malaysia – 2 hours of eating fruit!
The Imperial centre of Delhi
Alot of Thai cooking school, Chiang Mai
The Mormon Battalion Museum, San Diego – it’s extremely well presented
Williamsburg, VA – it’s a lovely place to spend a day
Snickleways, York – get a guidebook and do the tour – it’s a lot of fun
Oceanside, CA – if you like tactical gear and military surplus
Hillside Farmers’ Market, San Diego – it’s real gourmet stuff with a lot of sampling
Yosemite National Park – it’s beautiful

Most overrated things
Everything in and around Cairo except the Giza pyramids
The Taj Mahal – everyone seemed to have a religious experience but I thought it was just ok.
The Forbidden City, Beijing – for how much it costs and how crowded it is
Vietnam battle sites –  There’s nothing to see except at the Vin Moc tunnels
Rome was boring!  Paris was also not that amazing
Edinburgh was just full of souvenir shops
Harrod’s is full of tourists and isn’t worth the trip – go to the KaDeWe instead.
Lexington may be the site of the first shots of the Revolutionary War but all there is to see is a patch of grass
Disneyland – it’s good, but not worth $80

Best Museum
DDR Museum, Berlin – you can touch everything!
Close runners up:
Imperial War Museum, London – comprehensive
British Museum, London – it is the history of the world
Singapore Museum – very modern set up that guides you through Singaporean history well
Military Museum, Beijing – GUNS.  LOTS of GUNS.
Deutsches Historiches Museen, Berlin – all-encompassing – a good mix of social, political, technological and cultural history
Baba Nyonya House, Malacca, Malaysia – mainly for the guide woman who was very entertaining
War Remnants Museum, Saigon – just for a different perspective
Mormon Battalion Museum, San Diego – for a very different way of running an interactive museum

Best accommodation
The Sen Hotel, Hue, Vietnam – a proper hotel room with air con, towels and satellite TV for $12/night twin share
Bibim House, Seoul – an amazingly hospitable owner who picks you up from the station and gives you lollies!
Close runners up: Athens House – but they shifted me out of my balcony room
Traveller’s Soul Inn, Nanjing – Clean and comfortable hostel in China
HI Hostel, New York – there when you need it!  And close to some good freegan sites
Hababusch Hostel, Weimar – €10 a night isn’t bad!  If only it wasn’t so busy
Twin Peaks Hotel, Cameron Highlands – sleep in an attic!  But the walls are very thin

Worst accommodation
The Inn Crowd, Singapore – Arctic air conditioning, dirty showers and bed bugs
Camping during Oktoberfest

Best shopping
Orchard Road, Singapore
Monastiraki flea market, Athens
Chatuchak market, Bangkok – buy a map and allow a whole day
Shanghai, if you have a lot of money
For outdoors equipment – central Munich Globetrotters and Sports Scheck
Camden market, London
Hamley’s toy shop, London

Best night venue/drinks
Country Houses, Saigon – soft backgorund music so you can hear what people are saying, a drinks list 20 pages long with a whole page for milk drinks, and a nice garden setting

Best tips
Always carry toilet paper, wet wipes and hand sanitiser in Asia, India and Egypt.  Keep some small change handy in Asia, India and Europe to pay for toilets.
Racing through the terminal to beat the queue at immigration does work in all airports.
Always allow an hour for immigration at Suvarnabhumi airport, both ways.  This was the 2nd slowest immigration processing after Liberty, Newark.
A small multitool (Leatherman) is extremely useful.
Take as many discount cards as you can – military ID in the US, Hostelling International membership, teacher registration cards, student ID, and Historic Places Trust membership if you are going to the UK.
The most important things to learn in a language are greetings, haggling, ‘Where am I?’ and numbers.
Visit India and Egypt in a group.  The rest of the world is ok solo.

Thanks to all my subscribers!  The blog will be a lot quieter now that the trip has finished!

The End.

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