A colleague of mine recently asked me to come up with a list of my most favourite places in the world that I have visited, he is planning a world trip.
I really enjoyed writing it, so I thought I would offer it to you my readers as well ;-)
(Not that I am encouraging you to expend lots of CO2 flying around or anything)
The Yemen may not be currently possible to get a visa for, but it is an incredible country.
The Old Souk in the capital Sanna, is like walking back into the middle ages ... a canon-ball dent in the main gates; buying frankincense, myrrh, saffron, local woven fabrics. The only other tourists we saw in the Yemen were architecture students on a field trip. The mountain villages outside the capital are incredible.
Kotakinabalu, Sabbah, Borneo.
We ate at the Philippines Market in Kotakinabalu, the capital of Malaysian Borneo.
On the surface it looks squalid and dangerous, but in reality while alien it was warm and welcoming. You can take trips to Kinabalu National Park, to see wild orangutang and climb Mount Kinabalu, at 4101m the highest mountain in Borneo, reach the summit at daybreak!!
Near Osaka, a mountain village of over 100 Buddhist Temples, you reach it via vernicular railway. Stunningly beautiful architecture and setting, amazing food, very peaceful. Some of the Temples act like hotels (Shukubo). We stayed in a traditional room, sliding doors, tatami mats, etc. We were served the most exquisite vegetarian food I had ever had. You must of course also visit Kyoto!!
You really must see Australia, it is an astonishing place, I was in Queensland in the winter, lovely climate. The whole Queensland coast, flora and fauna are incredible. These two islands really stuck out in my mind:
Fraser Island, Queensland.
A small sand island just off the coast, wild dingos, beautiful pockets of tropical rainforest. You can take a day-trip on a wacky amphibious vehicle from the mainland.
Lady Eliot Island, Queensland.
A tiny island at the southern end of the Barrier Reef. Just large enough to land a light aircraft on. Flew there on an old Otter 7 from Bundaberg, we saw migrating whale pods below us.
The island has a bar a canteen and a dive shop, no phone, no net. Perfect! My first snorkel and I was mixing it with Manta Rays!!
I spent 6 weeks sailing from Antigua to Grenada, we went off-season in July, far more peaceful. As for the locations, a very difficult choice to make .... all of the islands are beautiful, avoid the resorts. You could island-hop via ferry or light aircraft.
Les Saintes, Guadeloupe.
In the French Caribbean, the most memorable place I visited was Terre de Haut, Les Saintes, a small island just south of Guadeloupe. A wild and beautiful French-speaking islands (lovely walks, amazing beaches) with a gorgeous laid-back ambience and very mixed culture. Ferry from Basse-Terre.
St Vincent and The Grenadines.
My all round favourite of the ex-British Caribbean. Beautiful, relaxed, relatively undeveloped, lovely food. Try to get a sailing trip in the Grenadines! My favourites were Bequia and Union Islands, then you have the outstanding Tobago Cays in between.
My list for Europe would obviously be massive, I'll just add a few places in the Mediterranean and Ireland .... off the typical tourist map.
An ancient port in the south of Sicily. Unbelievably warm, sophisticated, fantastic cuisine, some of the best Roman and Greek remains in Italy. The market is sublime, wandering the streets of the old town at night, gives you a real impression of warmth of Italian culture.
Isola Di Ponza, Italy.
You get there by hydrofoil from the port near Rome, or from Naples (Both of which you ought to visit). Very beautiful, excellent sea food, very popular with Italians, busy on the weekend. I spent an utterly glorious week there many years ago. Wonderful place, lots of history, beautiful buildings and people.
The Skelligs, Co Kerry, Ireland.
An 800 ft pinnacle in the Atlantic. Used to be the home of monks and hermits in the Dark Ages. Fascinating place and history. You get there by boat from the mainland, only in good weather, there are no facilities, you need good sea legs. If you can dive, this was in Jacques Cousteau's top 5 dive-sites of the world.
Cahersiveen, Co Kerry, Ireland.
Cahersiveen on a Saturday night, I've never seen anywhere else quite like it, one road through a small village with something like 20 pubs. Good fun, good music, lots of Guinness. Both Kerry and West Cork are full of friendly places and beautiful scenery, hospitable and surprisingly cosmopolitan, your waitress will just as likely be from Normandy or Galicia as be a local.
(Islands seem to figure very highly on this list, must be all of my diving and sailing trips)
(I should probably add my local pub on a Friday night, but TBH it is getting too crowded already)