Lonely Planet travel awards recognize Tokyo, Barrier Reef, Rio, Reggae, Rum
It's perilously close to year-end, folks. I mean, I hate to say it, but Christmas is only two months and a week away. They're already getting the Christmas ornaments ready at some of the malls, I bet. Anyhoo, year-end also means travel awards are being collected/doled out by a number of publications. Lonely Planet Magazine and lonelyplanet.com just put out their first-ever awards, and it makes for some interesting reading.
Rather than simply listing the top 100 hotels or some such, which is fine, they changed the categories around a bit and got folks to list such items as their "greatest outdoors experience," greatest food experience" and favourite place to relax." It makes for a more interesting read, I think, so good on ya guys. Here's a rundown of some of the category winners and runners-up, with a few thoughts from yours truly.
"Most Incredible Journey": This award, not surprisingly, went to the Trans-Siberian Railroad, followed by driving a 4x4 along the Silk Road from Uzbekistan to China, Cruising the Amazon, Taking an overland truck from Cairo to Cape Town (people DO that?) and driving the Pacific Coast Highway from L.A. to San Francisco. I'm a big fan of the latter, but an Amazon cruise would be far more interesting and incredible as a cultural experience. More than taking a train across Siberia, too, I would think. But likely with more bugs and sharp-toothed piranhas in the water than the train trip.
"Greatest Food Experience" Eating a steak in Buenos Aires. Now, I'm told that they have great steaks in Argentina. My fellow travel department guy, Adrian Brijbassi, is going soon and will report back. But it's still a steak, guys. Can't we be a bit more adventurous? Number two was Pad Thai at a place called Chote Chitr in Bangkok, which sounds more up my alley. I actually make a decent Pad Thai at home, if I do say so myself. After that was sushi at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, which I did for breakfast two weeks ago. It was unbelievably good. And, of course, remarkably fresh. Definitely a memorable experience.
"Greatest Sporting Experience" The Monaco Grand Prix came out on top, and I'm thoroughly baffled. This might anger some friends of mine in the Wheels section, but I can think of almost nothing in the world more stultifyingly dull than watching a car race. I guess if you're gonna do it, though, at least have the common sense to do it in Monaco versus Indianapolis or on the Toronto lakefront. Second was the Rugby World Cup, but I think we have to keep in mind that this magazine is based on England and we all know how crazy they are when it comes to sporting choices. Their number three choice was Wimbledon tennis (blatant homers!), then a football match at Camp Nou in Barcelona (great town) and, finally, The Olympic Games. Not sure that's the message Brits want to be sending out in advance of the London Summer Olympics in 2012, but there you go. And where's the World Cup on the list? They're bidding for the darned thing and it's not in Britons' top five sporting events? I'd take the Olympics over any of those. Camp Nou would be a close second. But I'd personally prefer the British Open Golf, having never had the pleasure. Many folks, of course, would rather watch a toenail-clipping contest than watch golf, so I understand if some of you are reaching for the telephone to harangue me about being impossibly middle-class and boring.
"Greatest Historical Experience" Tops was climbing the Mayan temples of Tikal, followed by touring the pyramids of Egypt, visiting the Taj Mahal, listing to Aboriginal stories around a camp fire in the Australian outback and exploring the Angkor temples of Cambodia. Hard to argue with any of those.
"Event You'd Most Like to Attend" Carnival in Rio topped the list, followed by Chinese New Year in Hong Kong.
"Greatest Cultural Experience" Reggae on the beach in Jamaica topped the charts, follwed by ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. I'm not a ballet fan but I did see a performance once at the Bolshoi in Moscow when I was there for Toronto's losing campaign for the 2008 Summer Olympics. I sat in the audience with Star sports columnist Dave Perkins and Vladimir Putin walked right past us. I was afraid to breathe, to be honest. Truly scary. But a wonderful thing to say I saw a performance at the Bolshoi.
"Greatest Outdoors Experience" Swimming the Great Barrier Reef in Australia topped the charts. Makes sense, although when I did it in 2000 I must've had a bad tour guide as we didn't really see that many interesting fish. Numbers two to five went to trekking to Everest Base Camp in the Himalayas, husky-sledding in Lapland, Sweden, climbing Mt. Fuji in Japan and hot-air ballooning over Cappadocia, Turkey.
"Greatest Place for a Drink" went to drinking a mojito (ugh, nasty things; I'll take a mai tai over a mojito) at Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, Cuba, while "Favourite Place to Relax" was Ko Kood in Thailand, followed by a treehouse in Costa Rica and a farmhouse villa in Tuscany (see photo).
"Greatest Wildlife Encounter" went to watching gorillas at Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, followed by checking out the "big five" animals on a safari in Kenya, seeing giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands, visiting orangutans in Indonesia and...the only mention I could see of Canada in the whole shooting match...seeing the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. A close sixth for greatest wildlife encounter was Rob Ford and George Smitherman in a ring full of jello.
Being a British publication, they asked for the most underrated British day out. Winning that category was "walking Scotland's wild beaches." Next was exploring British cities in August when workers are on holiday, and doesn't that just end any thoughts you might of Brits being dull???
The Lonely Planet folks also did some fun categories, including "You Wouldn't Go There If We Paid You," which was topped by checking out an all-inclusive resort in Benidorm, Spain. (Sounds about right if you've ever listened to the Monty Python travel agent sketch, and if you haven't you should).
Finally, and here's the segueway you've all been waiting for, readers were asked the person they'd most like to travel with. Topping the list was Michael Palin, currently a travel TV guy and formerly a Monty Python guy (who played the travel agent in the sketch I mentioned, I believe). The next four were Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Charley Boorman and Simon Reeve.