One question we get a lot is, “What’s your favorite place on earth now that you’ve seen so many?”  We’ve been to so many great places that it’s impossible to single out just one, but we have accumulated a whole list of favorites in a bunch of different categories.  Check it out, and maybe you’ll end up with your next vacation destination!

In order of preference to the extent possible (unless otherwise noted), we’ve listed our favorites from this trip in the following categories: citiesnatural sceneryman-made sightsplaces that no one’s ever heard ofrestaurants, hotels overallhotel values, travel experiences and museums.

Without further adieu:

Our Favorite Cities 

We love cities in general, and these ones most of all:

  1. Buenos Aires, Argentina
  2. Cape Town, South Africa
  3. Krakow, Poland
  4. Paris, France
  5. Bruges, Belgium
  6. Bangkok, Thailand

Our Favorite Natural Scenery

Beaches, mountains, glaciers… You name it, we’ve fallen in love with it.  If you’re looking to escape to the Great Outdoors, here are some fantastic options:

  1. Beach #7–Havelock Island, Andaman Islands, India
  2. Cape Vidal Beach–St. Lucia Wetland Park, South Africa
  3. Atacama Desert–San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
  4. Julian Alps–Northwestern Slovenia
  5. Tiger Leaping Gorge–Tiger Leaping Gorge, China
  6. Perito Moreno Glacier–El Calafate, Argentina
  7. Lake Como–Northern Italy
  8. High Tatras–Slovakia

Our Favorite Man-Made Sights

These sights took our breath away:

  1. The ruins of Angkor Wat–Angkor Wat, Cambodia
  2. Taj Mahal–Agra, India
  3. Potala Palace–Lhasa, Tibet
  4. Terracotta Warriors–Xian, China
  5. Golden Temple–Amritsar, India
  6. The sleeping Buddha of Wat Pho–Bangkok, Thailand
  7. St. Vitus Cathedral–Prague, Czech Republic

Our Favorite Places that No One’s Ever Heard Of 

These places probably weren’t in our guidebook, and some weren’t even on our map, which is part of what made them so wonderful:

  1. Bario, Borneo, Malaysia
  2. Vianden, Luxembourg
  3. Piran, Slovenia

Our Favorite Restaurants

We love food probably a little too much for our own good.  The meals we had at these places are ones we’re still talking about, and probably will be for years to come:

  1. Le Bistro–Buenos Aires, Argentina (a 12-course tasting menu including such delights as a shot glass filled with an omelet in foam form and a dessert consisting of a chocolate base with almond crunch, passion-fruit caramel and a cayenne brownie, along with chocolate-mint ice cream)
  2. A Beauvillier–Paris, France (the most romantic, most typically French meal imaginable)
  3. Beach Club–Thong Nai Pan Noi, Ko Phangan, Thailand (cheap, amazing and right on the beach)
  4. Ginja–Cape Town, South Africa (fantastic, eclectic gourmet food at budget-friendly prices)
  5. Maxim’s City Hall Palace–Hong Kong (the best dim sum we’ve ever had, as confirmed by the hordes of locals eating alongside us)
  6. Li Qun–Beijing, China (in our opinion, the best place in Beijing to get Peking duck)
  7. 1884 Restaurante–Mendoza, Argentina (amazing Argentinian food in a romantic atmosphere)
  8. Restaurante Litoral–Macau (their Portuguese chicken and salted cod–called bacalhau–may alone be worth a trip to Macau)
  9. Cafe Turri–Valparaiso, Chile (some of the best fish we’ve ever had in a seaside setting)
  10. Lord Jim’s Seafood Restaurant–The Oriental Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand (mostly because the appetizer involved dry ice)
  11. Sagar–New Delhi, India (the best, most affordable South Indian food Shanna’s ever tasted)
  12. Alfresco Restaurant at the Crowne Plaza Hotel–Kathmandu, Nepal (the chef made a tasty Thanksgiving Dinner, complete with pumpkin pie, just for us)
  13. El Barroso Parrilla–Pucon, Chile (the best steaks we had on our trip)
  14. La Casa de los Mariscos–Ushuaia, Argentina (plates full of already-picked king crab meat and nothing else)
  15. Firefly–Knysna, South Africa (affordable gourmet food whipped up in style by a mother-daughter team)
  16. Bread & Wine Restaurant–Franschhoek, South Africa (a cheap gourmet lunch in a vineyard setting)
  17. Polo Fried Chicken–Bangkok, Thailand (fantastic fried chicken with sweet chili sauce on the side; Derek has made it a tradition of eating here every time he’s in Bangkok)
  18. Mango Rooms–Hoi An, Vietnam (flavorful Western-Vietnamese fusion meals served in a colorful setting)

Our Favorite Hotels Overall

Many of these were splurges (or else wedding gifts paid for by some wonderful friend or family member).   If money’s no object and you’re looking for the best the world has to offer, here are some great options:

  1. The Oriental–Bangkok, Thailand
  2. The Empire Hotel–Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
  3. Salto Chico Explora Hotel–Torres del Paine, Chile
  4. Santhiya Resort and Spa–Thong Nai Pan Noi, Ko Phangan, Thailand
  5. Sesari Villas–Bali, Indonesia
  6. Apartment in Palermo (Avenida Libertador 2698)–Buenos Aires, Argentina
  7. 18 on Crox–Cape Town, South Africa
  8. House of Shambhala–Lhasa, Tibet
  9. Montusi Mountain Lodge–Northern Drakensberg, South Africa
  10. The Lofts–Knysna, South Africa
  11. Matemwe Bungalows–Zanzibar, Tanzania
  12. Banthai Village–Chiang Mai, Thailand
  13. Villa Tres Jolie–Lake Como, Italy

Our Favorite Hotel Values

Each hotel in this category costs less than $75 a night.  All of them were amazing and, often, just as nice as the ones we splurged on.

  1. La Folie Lodge–Don Daeng, Laos
  2. Kingfisher Ecolodge–Khiet Ngong, Laos
  3. Viroth’s Hotel–Siem Reap, Cambodia
  4. Golden Banana Boutique Hotel–Siem Reap, Cambodia
  5. Thien Thanh Hotel–Hoi An, Vietnam
  6. Gem’s Lodge–Bario, Borneo, Malaysia
  7. White Sands Bungalows–Thong Nai Pan Yai, Koh Phangan, Thailand
  8. Cascina Sant’Eufemia–Sinio, Italy

Our Favorite Travel Experiences

Most make us smile, and at least one makes us squirm, but memories like this are the reason we travel (in chronological order):

  1. Getting $5 massages on the beach and feeling all of the stress that we accumulated during our months of planning for our trip, our move and our wedding evaporate–Ko Phangan, Thailand
  2. Drinking tea for hours with a Chinese family whose store we wandered into–Penang, Malaysia
  3. Pulling a leech out of Derek’s bellybutton–Bario, Borneo, Malaysia
  4. Attending a wedding with medicine man Ketut Liyer of Eat, Pray, Love fame–Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
  5. Volunteering at (and purchasing crib mattresses for) a Chinese orphanage–Yangxi, China
  6. Pedaling bikes through out-of-this-world-looking limestone karsts–Yangshuo, China
  7. Hiking a rural portion of the Great Wall–Jinshanling to Simatai, China
  8. Traversing the gorgeous upper trail of Tiger Leaping Gorge–Tiger Leaping Gorge, China
  9. Walking the Barkhor Circuit alongside Buddhist pilgrims–Lhasa, Tibet
  10. Enjoying the antics of Sera Monastery’s debating monks–Lhasa, Tibet
  11. Floating along miles of backwaters on a bamboo houseboat–Kerala, India
  12. Watching a leatherback turtle lay and bury her eggs–Havelock Island, Andaman Islands, India
  13. Joining in the festivities for the wedding of Shanna’s cousin, Priya–New Delhi, India
  14. Doing yoga with Shanna’s mom at an Indian ashram–Rishikesh, India
  15. Eating langar (free, community meal) at the Golden Temple–Amritsar, India
  16. Watching the India/Pakistan border closing ceremony–near Amritsar, India
  17. Putting our legal and PR skills to work for microlender Cashpor–Varanasi, India
  18. Getting help with our motorcycle’s flat tire from a man carrying an AK47–Between Pakse and Don Daeng, Laos
  19. Buying clothes tailor-made just for us–Hoi An, Vietnam
  20. Learning about astronomy in the best star-gazing location in the world–San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
  21. Watching the sun illuminate a cloud of ash as it set over the Pacific–Vina del Mar, Chile
  22. Playing cards for hours with Derek’s parents at a sidewalk cafe–Mendoza, Argentina
  23. Climbing Volcano Villarica and earning the bragging rights that go along with it–Pucon, Chile
  24. Seeing firsthand that glaciers are actually blue…bright blue–Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
  25. Cooking our favorite meals in the kitchen of our rented apartment–Buenos Aires, Argentina
  26. Cheering on the Boca Juniors as they defeated Maraceibo in a Libertadores Cup game–La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  27. Seeing, for the first time, a giraffe that wasn’t in a zoo–Kruger National Park, South Africa
  28. Risking our lives on the white waters of the mighty Usutu River–Swaziland
  29. Getting to know the amazing children at an orphanage for kids who’ve lost their parents to AIDS–Umzinyathi, South Africa
  30. Watching lions laze in the sun just a few feet away from our Land Cruiser–Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
  31. Getting lessons in Shanna’s family history from the lovely Gelissen sisters–Obbicht, Netherlands
  32. Eating sausages with the locals at a small-town fair–Kreisstadt, Germany

Our Favorite Museums 

This trip has provided us with some excellent history lessons, a few of which came from these great museums:

  1. Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelande, i.e., Documentation Center–Nuremburg, Germany (about Hitler and the history of the Nazi Party)
  2. Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum–Auschwitz, Poland (about the Nazi death camps)
  3. Hector Pieterson Museum–Johannesburg, South Africa (about the anti-apartheid movement)
  4. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum–Phnom Penh, Cambodia (about the 1970s genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge)