Thursday, February 3, 2011

Top ten travel experiences.

This list has no certain order. How could it? Every moment on this list was once in a lifetime.

10- Istanbul

I know it's cheating a bit to put a entire city on this list but for Istanbul I will make a exception. It is my favorite city on the planet, heavy with history, indie culture and amazing food. I only spent three full days in the city and I hope to return as soon as possible. Istanbul was the center of the western world for centuries and the mix of roman and ottoman culture has created one prefect world city. The cistern was a personal favorite and managed to stand out in a already brilliant city.

9-1:30 AM at Senso-ji Temple

Stephany and I took the last jam packed subway train back to our Hostel at 1:30 AM after a fast paced yakatori meal. We decided to swing by the Temple before heading back. The temple is usually packed with city dwellers and tourists alike. Yet when Stephany and I walked through the Temple grounds, we had everything to ourselves. The massive straw shoes, the lanterns and the five story pagoda was our playground. We ran around, snapped silly pictures and fulled our childhood dream of sisters traveling to far off Japan.


Ok, I lied. Just one more city on this list of what was meant to be experiences. In my defense Amsterdam was like more a experience than a city for me. I had a ten hour layover in the city after my week in Turkey. Like everyone else on the planet, I fell in love within a moment in Amsterdam. Everyone is young, beautiful and riding bicycles. The city is like my beloved Portland plus the history I find so intoxicating. In the measly eight hours I had in the city I managed to to take a boat tour, eat about 16 meals and fulfill my dream of seeing some dutch master paintings at the Rijksmuseam. If Amsterdam was this exasperating for eight hours just imagine after I move there to work in the Rijkarchive! In my wildest dreams perhaps....


I have done two different DMZ tours in Korea and they both were interesting and informative. Yet one moment stands apart. It was my third weekend in Korea and I took a tour to the northeast province. This was the same trip as the bungee jump of infamy. One night a group of us hiked up a local hill from our middle-of-nowhere home-stay. The hill used to be a genuine mountain before it got shelled into shambles during the war. After climbing to the top of the hill I turned a corner behind a monument and their it was, the DMZ. I saw before and I've seen it seen it since but never like this. It streaches as far as the eye can see in earthier direction. I had gone ahead of the group so I was alone amongst the boundary of steel fencing and spotlights. It was a shocking awaking that this country I was going to call my new home was at war.

6-Dancing at the Temple of Heaven

As self respecting guide book will tell you, the main attraction of the temple of heaven is not the multi-hued round temple itself but the park surrounding it. This is where the residents of Beijing come to exercise, sing karaoke, fly kites and prance will ribbons. Sometime after entering the park and before posing for more pictures (blondes do have more fun in China), I saw a group of older Chinese women line dancing for their Saturday morning workout. I knew if I didn't join it I would regret it later on. The women loved it and were more than patient for showing me the moves. I never thought I would go to China. I grew up thinking of China as the Far East, somewhere as unattainable as the Moon. Yet, here I was dancing the int Temple of Heaven. It made me giddy with happiness.

5-Street Parties and Festivals In Fukuoka

Last year I went for a wildly expensive weekend in Fukuoka Japan. I knew nothing about the southern most island other than I had two days off work and we could take a three hour ferry. We arrived on a Saturday night and I wanted to check out a district known for its night life and street food. I knew instantly that I was somewhere very different the moment I stepped off the subway. Advertisements for Host Bars lit up the sky in neon hues and everywhere the people where dressed in innovated interesting fashions. It was a wonderful change after Barbieland aka Daegu. Street food was everywhere and ranged from the classic meat on a stick to whole lobsters. The place entranced me and I joined the festivities, buying hot cups of sake from local vendors. Still moment alone would have deserved a spot on my list but I was even more lucky. We went during a small matsuri so dancers and musicians joined the festivities with the cross-dressers and street vendors. It was a perfect first trip out of Korea.

Sorry about the rush! I leave in a few hours for Thailand!

4- Riding my bike around Xian City Wall

In the Chinese city of Xian (the city of the terracotta soldiers) there was an amazing old city wall surrounding the city. My friends and I rented bikes and got to a wonderful next perspective of the city.

3-Getting caught in a rain storm in a bamboo forest in Japan.

2- The Great Wall!

1- Balloon ride over Kapidokia

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