The Gappies

So, that´s the end of our year around the world. By way of celebration, please don your black tie / party dress for the announcement of the Gap Year Awards “Gappies”.

Best Outdoor Activity

In 3rd place:  Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos

In 2nd place:  White water rafting in Buller Gorge, New Zealand

And the Gappy goes to…kayaking in the Abel Tasman Sea, New Zealand

Best Hike

In 3rd place: The Pinnacles in Mulu National Park, Malaysia was technically the toughest hike.  So steep, that you have to climb virtually vertically

In 2nd place: The Inca Trail

and the Gappy goes to… The Narrows in Zion National Park, Utah.

Best Educational Activity

In 3rd place: Cooking class in Hoi An, Vietnam

In 2nd place: Batik class in Chiang Mai, Thailand

And the Gappy goes to…Star-gazing in New Zealand

Best Cultural Event

In 3rd place: Chinese New Year, Malaysia

In 2nd place: El Gran Poder Festival, La Paz, Bolivia

And the Gappy goes to…O-bon Festival in Nara, Japan

Best Historical Monument

In 3rd place: The Great Wall

In 2nd place: Machu Picchu

And the Gappy goes to… Angkor Wat

Best Beach

In 3rd place: Hot Water Beach, New Zealand

In 2nd place: Varkala Beach, Kerala

And the Gappy goes to… Nam Cat Island, Ha Long Bay

Best Hostel

In 3rd place: Giggling Tree, Yangshuo, China

In 2nd place: Treetop Lodge, Ban Lung, Cambodia

And the Gappy goes to …El Tesoro, Elqui, Chile

Best Mode of Transport

In 3rd place: Sea Plane, Taupo, New Zealand

In 2nd place: Bamboo boat, Li River, China

And the Gappy goes to…Bamboo train, Battambang, Cambodia

Best Food

In 3rd place: Shaved ice with adzuki beans, Japan

In 2nd place: Tim tams, Australia

And the Gappy goes to…Pho, Vietnam

Best Museum

In 3rd place: Natural History Museum in New York

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In 2nd place: Buddha Park, Laos

And the Gappy goes to…Pinang Peranakan House, Penang, Malaysia

Best Animal Encounter

In 3rd place: In a strong category, third place goes to Madidi National Park in the Amazon.  As we were fishing for piranha, we turned around to see a mother and baby tapir (usually nocturnal) crossing the river.  Our guide was even more excited than we were.

In 2nd place: A dusk hike in the Malaysian island of Langkawi.  Langkawi is more of a beach resort / duty free haven so expectations for wildlife spotting were low.  We got about two feet away from a buzzard pinning a lizard to the ground.  Then we saw flying lemurs (with tiny babies clinging to their bellies), flying squirrels and flying lizards.  All either inside or about ten minutes walk from a big hotel complex – unbelievable.

Flying Lemur & Baby, Bohol

And the Gappy goes to…snorkelling in the Celebes Sea off Mabul Island, Borneo.

Turtle

Best City

In 3rd Place: Singapore. Many people find Singapore too sterile, too controlled, too boring. It probably wouldn´t have made my top three if it had been the first place we went to, but it makes the list for two reasons: (1) after a month in India, sterility, order and a bit of luxury really hits the spot and (2) it had Elephant Parade! Plus it has great museums, a nice waterfront and all the home comforts you could want.

2nd Place: Hoi An – beach, mini Angkor Wat, amazing food and everyone there tells you that you’re beautiful.

And the Gappy goes to…Tokyo, big, full, colourful, insane.

Best Country

In 3rd place: Bolivia, salt flats, street parties, amazing wildlife in the Amazon and the picture-perfect Isla del Sol.

In 2nd Place: Japan the craziest place in the world.

And the Gappy goes to… Malaysia, which takes the crown because whereas we only spent two weeks in Japan and Bolivia, Malaysia kept us entertained for six whole weeks and was fabulous throughout. Apart from the time we nearly died on Mt Kinabalu. And the mosquitos in Kinabatangan. And Kuala Lumpur’s town planning department. But apart from that, amazing.

So that’s it from my fantastic year off. Back home now, job-hunting and and that. All subscribers to this blog please feel free to unsubscribe now, because it’s going to get a lot duller from now on.

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American Food

So many American foods to try, so many of them disgusting.

Hot dog from Skoobys in Hollywood

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3lb breakfast burrito

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Steak for me, ribs for Mr Beet

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Blueberry pancakes

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Meatloaf and mash

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Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.  I also sampled the highly-recommended cheesecake from Junior’s in New York.  I still maintain that I make the world’s best cheesecake.

 

 

 

 

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Reese’s pieces – bleurgh

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Inspired by BeetFan – taco soup in an edible bowl

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A triumvirate of retro-sounding American snacks.  Pretty grim all round.

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Barbecued chicken, corn, beans and potato salad.  Consumed while listening to a country band on 4th July.  As American as it gets.

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More barbecue – pulled pork, beans, potato salad and corn bread.  Corn bread is essentially sponge cake.  I can’t understand why they think it goes well with pork.

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Philly steak and cheese sandwich.  Look at the calories on that.

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Gumbo – but from the shores of Lake Michigan rather than New Orleans so of dubious authenticity.

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Chicago deep-dish pizza.  Basically, it’s not a pizza.

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Huge NY deli sandwich – pastrami with a pickle.  Its appearance delighted me more than its taste.

 

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Frozen yoghurt.  They charge by weight.  That tub cost about $12.

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Bagel with a shmear.

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I should be on a big diet now, but there is so much nice British food to eat: Mum’s shepherd’s pie, full English breakfast, fish and chips, pie and mash, roast dinner.  They’ve all been ticked off in the five days since my return.

 

 

McDonalds World Tour

Couldn’t resist the South-West chicken salad when I was in South-West USA, in Kanab, Utah.

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Followed by s’mores for pudding

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Wasn’t planning on getting another Maccy ds, but it seemed to be the only option in Tonopah, Nevada (aka the middle of nowhere). I ordered a cheeseburger meal, and apparently in the US or at least in Tonopah it comes with two cheeseburgers as standard.

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New York

We’ve arrived at our final destination for a bitter-sweet few days in New York. I’ve been to NYC before, but Mr Beet hasn’t, so we have to hit all the main tourist attractions, including:

A trip on the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and great views of the Manhattan skyline.

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A trip to the top of Empire State Building

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Times Square – where the heavens opened to relieve the heat and humidity that had been building up over the past few days. There were great big hailstones and everybody got soaked to the skin.

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Grand Central Station

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Flatiron Building

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Natural History Museum

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We crossed over the Brooklyn Bridge to watch an open-air showing of Slumdog Millionaire in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and thankfully it stayed dry.

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We saw some open-air improv comedy in Central Park.

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And we were going to see another open-air film in Bryant Park, but rain stopped play again and we retired to a local bar with my law school friend Chris, who is now a fancy schmancy New York lawyer.  We haven’t seen each other for about 8 years so we reminisced and agreed that we both feel simultaneously very old and yet still not quite grown up.

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Most of the rest of the time was spent enjoying the beautiful weather (it was beautiful in between downpours) in Central Park

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On our final evening, we went up to the top of the Rockfeller Centre at dusk to see great views across the city as the sun set on New York, and on our unbelievably brilliant year circumnavigating the globe.

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More pictures from New York on Mr Beet’s flickr page.