Abashiri, Carcassone, Cerbere, China, Cuba, El Nido, Hokkaido, Huang Shan, Irkutsk, Japan, Koh Tao, Paris, Philippines, Russia, South of France, thailand, Tiger Leaping Gorge, tokyo, Trans-Manchurian Railway, Trans-Siberian Railway, Vinales, Yellow Mountains, Yunnan
Inspired by my previous list, I decided to make another. The Top Ten places I’ve been this decade. In no particular order…
El Nido, Philippines
What to say about El Nido? A bizarre place where I spent Christmas of 2006, with my friend Pete. We met Philipino friends, snorkelled, beached it up and had the unique experience of Christmas day spent on a beach with beer and several pizzas. What makes it so memorable though was the bizarre, bizarre vibe of the place- strange, and strangely memorable.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Koh Tao is paradise. Pad Thai, Chang beer, cushions, a good book, a beautiful sunset- what more can you really ask for in life. Yet not only did I get all this, but also dirt biking across the island to isolated beaches, and learning to dive. I want to go back, now!
Starkly and shockingly beautiful, Abashiri is the north-eastern most town of Japan, and for a month a year the Sea of Ohkotsk that surrounds it is covered in drift ice, the most glorious and other-wordly site. One of the few places I visited where it felt like I was seeing a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
Yellow Mountain / Huang Shan, China
The greatest of the mountains I climbed in China in 2005, Huang Shan exposed me not only to beautiful Lord of the Rings-esque mountain views, but also the kindess of a Chinese family from Shanghai that took me under their wing.
If isolation is what you want, then Irkutsk is the place to come. Breaking up our Trans-Manchurian train ride from Moscow to Beijing in 2005, Irkutsk, perched on Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world, is a bizarre place. I was there in August, and I can only imagine how otherwordly it becomes in the dead of winter.
Harajuku, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ebisu, Ueno, Asakusa, Akihabara, Akebonobashi, Sushi, Sashimi, Yakitori, Nomihodie, Karaoke, Love Hotels, Robots, Pachinko, Part Hyatt, Hibiya Park, Meiji Jingu, views to Mount Fuji, Yamanote-sen, Shinkansen, Obento, Japanese shops and Japanese people. Sugoi.
Cerbere and Carcasonne, France
2004? I’m not sure. But sometimes all you need is bread, wine, cheese and the company of two good friends, in the south of France in the summer. Magical.
Vinales exempified many of the highlights of Cuba in 2003- natural beauty, but above all the kindness of the Cuban people- Carlos and his casa who welcomed us into their house, fed us fantastic feasts, including lobster and mojitos, even after we’d told them how low our budget was and how we couldn’t afford it. Also memorable was Javier and his immortal deal-sealing line, “My meal…include a cigar”
Tiger Leaping Gorge, China
The unspoilt south-west of China won’t stay unspoilt for long, and in 2005 was already wide-open for tourism. Outside of Lijiang is the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge. Remembered for a lot, including this photo.
Ah, Paris. Nostalgic in the extreme, a place for the old, not for the young, yet having been at 17 it will forever exert a power over me for reminiscing (as if I needed an excuse). The most beautiful city I’ve been to (I think), not a city like New York, London or Tokyo, but one trapped in time, in a sad and beautiful way. Ultimately its not about the place but the feelings it conjours up inside of you, and for that Paris definitely makes the list.