Alas, this is my final post for the near future as I complete my seven month sabbatical around the world. I spent the last couple of days of my sabbatical chilling out in Bangkok. I have been to Bangkok before, so there was no pressure to go and see the sights. And when my plans to catch up with a friend fell through, I decided to end my sabbatical on a high note – living it up in a five star hotel, shopping to the max, having divine massages and facials, and drinking champagne (and cocktails) at Bangkok’s most exclusive rooftop bar. A simply wonderful way to end my world travels.
As I sat outside drinking a cocktail 60 floors up at the Vertigo & Moon Bar, I recounted all my incredible experiences.
I can’t quite believe that I’ve:
- Studied at Stanford University
- Caught up with long lost friends & family in New Zealand
- Helped a struggling artist sell his paintings in Guatemala.
- Helped a women’s collective gain fair trade status in Guatemala
- Learnt the art of photography from a Vogue photographer in Costa Rica
- Snorkelled at a secret barrier reef in Colombia
- Swum with stingrays in the Cayman Islands
- Partied with friends in Miami
- Learnt basic French with a bunch of Saudi Arabian men
- Caught up with long lost friends in France
- Been smuggled into a music festival by 8 Frenchmen in Croatia
- Seen a real reindeer and moose in Norway
- Taken a road trip with 3 random gals to see the breathtaking landscapes of Iceland
- Worked in a microfinancing organisation in Cambodia
- Become best friends with Buddhist Monks
- Met traditional long necked women in Myanmar
I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve met some amazing people, and reconnected with some dear friends and family. Thank you to all of you who were ‘guest stars’ in my world travels – I have loved spending time with you all.
People said that I was crazy to temporarily leave my job to travel around the world. I say ‘au contraire’. Taking time out from the hamster wheel has been the best decision of my life. My business skills have improved markedly having done pro bono consulting for different organisations around the world and having studied at Stanford. And most importantly, I come back home with a fresh vision and new perspective on life, and courage to take even bolder choices in the future. To those of you I met up with – meeting each and every one of you changed my life – thank you.
So what’s next for me? Well, straight back to work (sigh), and I begin to implement some of the major life changes you have inspired me to make. But one thing is for sure, my passion for travelling will not cease. Ms Scandinasia will be back. But when? You’ll just have to wait and see…
I leave you though with ‘Ms Scandinasia’s Travel Awards’, showcasing the best (and worst) from all my travel experiences.
Ms Scandinasia’s Inaugural Travel Awards
Best city for partying: Finalists – Bogota, San Francisco, Miami
Winner: Miami (from what I can remember)
Worst city ever: No finalists needed
Winner: San Jose – I didn’t even bother leaving my hotel room. You know it’s a hole of a city, when the highlight is doing your washing.
Best street art: Finalists – Miami, Bogota
Winner: Bogota. It is not illegal to graffiti in Bogota, so the street art is carefully and beautifully painted throughout the city. Love it.
Penis Museum, Iceland – because it makes me laugh every time I recall my visit there. It’s quirky and eccentric to the extreme!
Most over-rated destinations:
Pindaya caves – Myanmar. We visited this destination because it was recommended by Lonely Planet. I would describe it as a cave for Buddha hoarders. Thousands of buddhas in a damp wet cave where you have to walk bare feet on the sticky dirty ground. And they charge you to enter the area, then the caves, and then to take photos – over the top. Give it a miss.
Jaco beach, Costa Rica – people that rate Jaco beach must come from a landlocked country, because there was nothing spectacular about this beach. The beach in fact made me homesick for the great beaches back at home. If you are thinking of heading to Costa Rica, head to the Caribbean side, the beaches there are a million times better.
Most under-rated destinations:
Colombia – so much to see, people are so welcoming, and I never felt unsafe.
Iceland – jawdroppingly beautiful landscapes, quirky people that believe in Elves, and a country full of artists – it’s an intriguing place.
Myanmar – this country showcased festivals, long necked women, wineries, & in some ways felt like going back in time 30 years (like when we received handwritten airline tickets on carbon copy paper). We felt very lucky to experience Myanmar while it still has all it’s quirkiness.
Best beach: Finalists – Costa Rica (Caribbean side), Providencia Island (Colombia), Croatia, Cayman Islands
Winner: All of the beaches were fantastic, but the fact that this little known island called Providencia had beautiful and clean beaches with no one there, was a bigger winner in my book. Very few tourists and a spectacular barrier reef (3rd largest in the world), also makes for an incredible snorkelling and diving experience.
Travel technology category:
Best electronic appliance used whilst travelling: Finalists – Kindle, international adaptor plug, flipit! usb charger
Winner – International adaptor plug. It worked for every country I visited and I used it every day.
Best Travel App: Finalists – What’s App messaging, TripIt (which makes a master travel itinerary and keeps all of your travel plans in one spot (offline on my mobile), Oanda Currency Converter (converts currency offline), Spotify Premium (stores all your favourite songs offline).
Winner: All of them – I could not have travelled comfortably without them.
Best free wifi: Finalists: Guatemala, Cambodia, Iceland
Winner: Guatemala & Cambodia (yes I bet you didn’t guess that?). I was highly impressed that every café there had wifi and even on intercity buses in Cambodia.
Worst free wifi:
Winner: New Zealand (shame on you NZ, but you make it very difficult for a tourist to stay connected online).
Food & Drinks category:
Best food: Finalists – Norway, New Zealand, France. I love home cooked food, and I was lucky enough to have home cooked food in all of these destinations.
Winner: France – the food was simply sublime. Everything from the food at my local pâtisserie, to the home cooked duck, to the clams cooked in a delectable butter and garlic sauce. Exquisite.
Worst food: There doesn’t need to be any other finalists…
Winner: Guatemala. It’s the only country where I had to cook for myself because the food was so bad. Yes, you know the food is bad when I have to cook myself. God, it was tasteless, gluggy and put me off food for the longest time. On a plus, I lost a lot of weight!
Best Urban Bar: Finalists – Gaira (Bogota – dancing with crazy Colombians – loved it), Bajo La Luna (The greatest hipster bar in Xela, Guatemala), Delano (South Beach, Miami), Red Red Wine (Hvar, Croatia), Vertigo & Moon Bar, Bangkok.
Winner: Red Red Wine in Hvar, Croatia. Of all the bars I have been to in the world (and I’ve been to hundreds if not thousands), this one had the best service. I loved chatting with the bartenders, trying the exquisite local wine, and meeting some new friends. And the music – I LOVED the retro music. If you like small bars, this is the ultimate bar experience.
Best Beach bar: Finalists – Rolands Reggae Bar (Providencia Island, Colombia), Coco’s bar (Cahuita, Costa Rica – where you can listen to live music while watching a sloth meandering past), Laganini Lounge Bar (Palmizana, Croatia), Cafe Buza (Dubrovnik, Croatia)
Winner: Roland’s Reggae Bar. I love a bar that is so chilled, they let you go and get the beers by yourself, they call you by your name when you are a return customer, and when you ask for ceviche, they get the fishermen out in the bay to catch a fresh one for you. And did I mention, when you go up to pay your bill, the owner tends to you from his hammock. True rasta style. These guys are legends.
Best land transport:
Winner: Iceland’s tourist buses. Always on time, and their offices are open till very late to accommodate tourist’s last minute plans. And on top of that, they have free wifi onboard the buses!
Worst land transport: Finalists – Guatemala’s Monte Verde shuttle bus (thought I was being kidnapped when I had to suddenly change modes of transport – by myself – in the middle of a deserted highway to a small car with bullet holes in the window), NSB (Norwegian Rail).
Winner: NSB Norwegian Rail. I don’t know how a Scandinavian Rail company can have worse service than being potentially kidnapped in a third world country, but yes their customer service was atrocious. I stupidly used them three times. The trains were late by on average 2 hours. People were so jam packed like sardines on the trains that it was a health and safety issue, and when they decided to have trackworks, they replaced trains with Taxi’s – yes even for long distance trains. WTF???? And, there was never any accountability by any staff to know what was happening and communicate clearly with passengers. There are some very serious systemic issues with this company. Let’s just say I will not be a shareholder (or a passenger) of this company any time soon.
Best airline: Finalists – Iceland Air, Swiss Air, Lan Colombia
Winner: Swiss Air – punctual (of course), good service, good food, and great selection of arthouse/international movies
Worst Airline: Finalists – United (goes without saying, it’s one of many bad US airlines), Avianca
Winner: Avianca (Colombia). I’ve never been on an airline where none of the staff speaks English and the announcements are not in English. Especially if you are flying to the US?
Ciao for now people. It has been a pleasure sharing my travel escapades with you.
Ms Scandinasia xxx
Note: the awards are my own views from my experiences, I was not paid to promote these products & services (I wish).