Best Night's Sleep
The Tulip Inn, Amsterdam. Our first night's sleep out of India had all the perfect elements: crisp clean white sheets, good mattresses, soft pillows, warm blankets and each of us with our own beds. We had a clean room with a great bathroom and coffee and tea and drinkable water. It was all the sweeter with the trust and hospitality extended to us by the staff at this fine establishment and the overwhelming fatigue and gratitude we felt on our arrival.
A close second was the Angel household in Fujimi, Japan. The warm wood of this ancient farmhouse creaked as we found our way through the cool darkness after an evening of warm companionship around a warm fire. We slipped into our traditional tatami mats and thick quilts and nestled in our own cocoons, dreaming the dreams of . . .well, angels. Best of all, George didn't snore.
Worst Night's Sleep
The night train between Alwar and Jodhpur, India. We poured on the train after midnight and peered through the cramped dark to find a few spots among the many loudly snoring men who had boarded earlier. Because of our backpacks there was little room to stretch out on the hard wooden benches. But then again it was too cold to stretch out. Even our sleeping bag liners and jackets afforded little protection from the damp chill wind that whistled through the broken windows from the winter deserts of Northern India.
Best Commercial Lodging
The Dai Ichi Ryokan in Hokkaido Japan has, without doubt, the most elegant, serene rooms we had the privilege of using on our journey. From its well-appointed rooms (complete with computerized toilet) to traditional baths, it was perfection.
Worst Commercial Lodging
Hong Kong. The worst lodging was a guest house so bad that we left. It was a number of rooms in a high rise "mansion" (meaning a crumbling concrete multi-story building with health department warnings, rat traps, roaches, hanging electric wires, etc.). As we settled in to our quarters Salli noticed pubic hair and dirt in the rumpled bed, slime and trash on the floor. When several roaches scuttled across the floor, she almost wept. But then she asked for clean sheets (which we grudgingly got), and changed the beds. Meanwhile, George--sensing her almost desperate dismay--had gone in search of a better situation. When he found it, we moved on over the protest of the screaming landlady. What the heck. She got changed sheets out of the deal!
Ireland. Go ahead, guess which one. That's right, Guinness.
Most Expensive Place
Japan. Because of the dollar to yen rates while we were there, it was expensive--but thanks to the kindness of Fuji Television and our friends we were able to enjoy much of this remarkable country and people.
India. We had heard it would be the cheapest place to travel, and while it was cheap we found that Thailand was not much more and we got better value for our money. Many hotels in India had doubled or even quadrupled their prices in the six months before our arrival. Even the hotel owners were mystified, but people just grumbled and paid.
The Netherlands. Their folding money is art. And Hong Kong's coins were a joy.
Most Impressive Man-Made Structure
This was a tough one for us to answer because we all generated a long list. High on this list was the Pearl Harbor Memorial, the royal gardens of Tokyo, the Reclining Buddha of Bangkok, the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon, the walled city of Avila, Spain, and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, CERN, the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Stonehenge, Avebury, and New Grange. But the majority of us agreed on one place, a place that took our breath awayThe Great Pyramids of Egypt.
Most Impressive Natural Structure
Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Biggest mountain in the world, although much of it is wet.
Japan. Oh, so good, so fresh, so well presented. France, you're a great second place.
The Natural History Museum, London. But so many others leap to mind as well: The Cairo Museum, Salvadore Dali's museum in Spain, The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, the Bishop Museum of Hawaii, the Jomon Museum in Japan, the Museum of Cretan Ethnology, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, Spain, and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
The Highlands of Scotland. However, close in second place includes rides through Hokkaido, Sarriska National Park and Tiger Preserve in India, Hawaii, England, the French Alps, western Ireland, and our own, America's Southwest.
Most Memorable Drive
The bus ride into China.
Most Favorite Moments
Bangkok. Dropping coins into the metal pots in the temple of the Reclinning Buddha. But then there was also the May Day celebration in Wales, Evensong in Westminster Abbey, the King's Birthday in Thailand, the Kentwell England re-creation, and July 4th in Chicago.
Most Frightening Moments
Northern Thailand, when Cassidy was almost run over by a motorcycle and we all saw our lives and foolish journey flash before us. A very close second was Samantha's blindness at the Taj Mahal.
Crete, Greece. Although we found people all over the world extra friendly and wonderful, the people of Crete win the award for the second straight millennia.
Worst Moment of our Odyssey
Getting off the crowded bus and stepping into crowds of touts in Jailsmer, India.
Most Exotic Moment
Jodhpur, India. It was a special moment as we tried to cross a street of streaming life, herds of sheep, grunting camels, a naked holy man, bikes, trikes, putt putts, and most of the rest of the living and non-animate world.
Where We'd Return
First of all, we want to go new places. High on the list of places we missed are Nepal, Bali, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, Vanuatu, and New Zealand. But we'd return just about anywhere we visited. Thailand was a favorite for its diversity, exotic charm and ease of getting around. We just scratched the surface of Egypt and India, and wanted more. We think we could easily live in Greece, Amsterdam or the English countryside. Scotland held our hearts in its hands. Paris was wonderful. And Japan was a special chapter, with so much more to be explored. Although we loved Ireland, we were there at the wrong time: there were far too many American tourists for our liking.
Where We Wouldn't
None of us would repeat the China trip we took. George says he wouldn't return to China at all, but the rest of us feel like giving it a second chance, especially the more sparsely populated north. India produced a real love-hate relationship. Much of the time we could hardly wait to get out because of the filth, pollution and culture shock. But we also would love to go back for its wonderful exotic cultures and friendly people. And we'd be a little more savvy this time.
Most Important Discovey
Us. We discovered ourselves and our family, and we're really pleased. But running a close second are these: A fool and his money are soon parted; and all travelers are fools. And, one year is not enough.