And the Winner Is…
Oscar nominations this week! A big week if you are a movie fan – which of course I am but since I have not stepped foot in the United States in more than 14 months I haven’t seen any of this year’s big films. But instead I have seen a world of real life drama, fantasy, comedy, mystery and animation. Enough to last a life time. So in keeping with the announcement of this year’s Oscar Nominations, I give to you our picks for World Travel Awards, Best and Worst of 2017 and 2018 – My Fab Fifties Life.
And the winner is…
Favorite City – Hoi An Vietnam
By far our favorite destination in Vietnam with it’s colorful old town, beaches, rice fields and fabulous food. We loved this place and the airbnb we stayed in here.
Most Surprising – Namibia
We came to Namibia practically blind, allowing our tour guide from Wild Wind Safaris to hold our hand and we were not disappointed. A spectacular destination I think everyone should visit.
Best Value Destination – Bulgaria
We loved our month in the friendly, beautiful and historic country of Bulgaria where we didn’t
meet any Americans. Put this inexpensive and great country on your bucket list and go!
Best Overall Scenery – New Zealand
Jaw dropping scenery no matter where you go or which way you look, New Zealand is an
outdoor enthusiast dream and is stunningly beautiful.
Most Crowded City – Hanoi
The scooters alone make this wild city that never sleeps total chaos. Then add the cars, trucks, carts, pedestrians, vendors and well – its pretty wild.
Most Beautiful City – Split Croatia
Whether you are perusing the mega yachts in the
harbor or wandering through Diocletian’s Palace, Split is a magical place and my favorite Croatian city.
Most Interesting City – Fez Morocco
Around every corner as you get lost in Fez there is something interesting and amazing and I enjoyed this maze of a city
Most Disappointing City – Tangier Morocco
Getting lost in Tangier is easier but nowhere near as fun as getting lost in Fez. We found Tangier a bit of a disappointment.
Best Airbnb for Service – Asilah Morocco
We adored our “mom” Latifah during our ten days
in Asilah and wanted to put her in our suitcase and take her with us. The food and care she gave us was unparalleled.
Best Airbnb Overall – Koh Samui Thailand
We had a lot of discussion over this one. We have been, frankly, so lucky with our airbnb’s. And even this one had a few quirks. But we loved it for the view, the private pool and the car that came with it. It was however, also our most expensive Airbnb. https://myfabfiftieslife.com/sweet-samui/
Most Authentic Airbnb – Siem Reap Cambodia
Staying in an authentic Khmer home in Siem Reap was a treat in itself, but then adding the wonderful breakfasts and services our host provided us made this place one of our all time favs.
Most Unusual Airbnb – Motueka New Zealand
We spent two nights in a funky old truck/camper with an outhouse and it was a hoot.
Most Rustic Airbnb – Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka
We nicknamed this place Castaway Cottage and it was like living on Gilligan’s Island – complete with lots of critters including rats, snakes, mongoose, monitor lizards, gecko and BUGS!
Best Value Airbnb – Sozopol Bulgaria
We loved this top floor unit with a huge deck and amazing view. We think we might return to this place some day, only $55 a night.
Best Hotel – Luang Prabang Laos
We spent three nights in the beautiful Maison Dalabua hotel in this darling and historic city on the Mekong River and it was one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. From the comfortable and spacious room, the food, the pool, the flowers and the service, everything about it was first class on a budget.
Favorite Overall Cuisine – Thailand
This is the best food in the world. Simple, healthy and so flavorful I can’t get enough of Thai Cuisine.
I’ll never forget the dinner we had at Cervejaria Ramiro with our son Erik and his friend
Salvador who lives in Lisbon. It was a gluttonous evening and I loved every bite. Someday I will go back. In Piran Slovenia with our friends Raymond and Marbi we gorged ourself on the most amazing anchovies in oil followed by spectacular spaghetti
con vongole. We loved it so very much we went twice.
Worst Food Overall – Camino de Santiago
When we really needed the sustenance the most, our 41 days on the Camino de Santiago provided the least inspiring of food.
I try to take a cooking class in most of the countries we visit, and I do it as much for the cuisine
and culture as to meet local people who love their food and want to share it. My classes in Chiang Mai (two full days) and my evening class in the home of our instructor in Cape Town South Africa fulfilled what I am always looking for.
Best Beer – Cape Town South Africa and Honorable Mention Piran Slovenia
Capetown because they had a vibrant micro brew scene and good non-lager beers available in most stores and restaurants, and Piran because here my husband had the single best beer he has had since leaving the USA. Don’t know what brand it was but it was a spectacular Slovenian IPA.
Worst Grocery Availability – Seychelles
Hands down the most difficult place to find decent produce and healthy ingredients for day-to-day cooking, we learned to eat a lot of rice, lentils and beans during our month in the
CULTURE, NATURE AND EXPERIENCES
Best Authentic Cultural Experience – It’s a tie between Hmong Village Laos and Himba Village Namibia
Seeing these two places will stay with me all my life – when you think about opening your mind to understand cultural
differences, embrace and learn from living hand to mouth and become more tolerant of other cultures – visiting these two places had all that and more.
Best Beach for Scenery – La Digue Seychelles
No wonder Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition has shot here several times. This place with it’s unique rock formations, sparkling white sand and out of this world blue water is about as spectacular as they come.
Best Beach for Spending the Day – Meia Praia, Lagos Portugal
It helped that our condo was a short walk to the beach, where we went everyday during our three weeks in Lagos. Golden sand, lots of room to spread out and easy and safe swimming made this our favorite.
Best Day Hike – Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand
An experience I will never forget, climbing the mountain, seeing the volcanic crater and lakes and just accomplishing this feat will always hold a special place for me.
Most Difficult Day Hike – Climbing Down Table Mountain, Cape Town South Africa
We thought down would be easier. It wasn’t. There were times where I literally didn’t think I was going to make it. My body gave it all I had, and it was
more than a week before I didn’t hurt.
Best Outdoor Experience – Able Tasman New Zealand
Our three-day Glamping Tour on the Able Tasman was one of the highlights of our time in that country. We were blessed with spectacular weather, met new friends and were introduced to the wonders of New Zealand.
Best Historic Sight – Angor Wat, Siem Reap Cambodia
It was a lifelong dream for me to see Angor Wat and it was not disappointing. The fascinating ancient story that unfolds in these ruins set amidst the friendly and persevering Cambodia people is not something I will ever forget.
Fewest Tourist at a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Dougga Tunisia
Nothing like having an entire UNESCO site to
yourself, and that is exactly what we enjoyed at the beautiful Dougga Roman Ruins in Tunisia. Not many tourists in Tunisia, but slowly they are returning, and we loved our time in this ancient country, cradle of civilization as we know it today.
Best Tour – Namibia
Our ten-day tour with our amazing guide “Seven” introduced us to this unknown country so full of natural wonders and spectacular animals. I love Namibia..
Worst Tour – Three day bus tour of the Mekong Delta Vietnam
This tour was cheap but it wasn’t worth it still. Terrible traffic, over pitched and very touristy. Sorry we went.
Most Unique experience – Camino de Santiago Spain
Even though the food was bad, the experience is now branded on my soul. It changed me and I loved it.
Best Live Performance – Tie Violin Concert Piran Slovenia and Carmina Burana outdoors in Dubrovnik; Honorable Mention to Kandy Cultural Show, Kandy Sri Lanka
Front row seats in a tiny historic theater in beautiful Piran Slovenia made for a special night as we enjoyed a beautiful violinist accompanied by a guitarist. It was just so pleasant. Just as mazing the spectacle that was hearing Carmina Burana performed outdoors in historic Dubrovnik
town center. Spectacular!
Kudos also to the very authentic Sri Lankan dance, music and firewalker show we enjoyed (also front row seats) in Kandy Sri Lanka.
Best Nature and Animal Experience – Etosha National Park Namibia
I’ve said it before – this country was such a surprise and this National Park was the bomb.
Best Free Experience – Free Walking Tours
In nearly every major city you can take what is known as “Free” guided walking tours. These are awesome and we love them because it is always a local guide, someone young and enthusiastic. You tip them at the end – so its not really Free – but it is worth it and we have done this at least ten times. A great value.
Friendliest People – Sri Lanka
Hands down the kindest and friendliest people we
have met – despite all the hardships they have been through; colonialism, monarch assassination , civil war and tsunami. Still they smile. Love them.
Worst Drivers – Vietnam
There are several runners-up here, including Sri Lanka (and we haven’t gotten to India or Bangladesh yet), but still Vietnam takes the prize for the craziest drivers, most dishonest cabbies, scooter
mania and absolute lack of any pedestrian rights.
Worst Experience – Dog Bite Koh Samui Thailand
Hands down the worst day has been the day Arne was bit by a dog in Koh Samui. The one saving grace is it could have been much worse. But still it makes me angry and the overall feral dog situation in Thailand makes me question whether I will ever visit again.
Experience I liked More Than I thought I would – Camel Ride, Erg Cheba, Sahara Morocco
The colors and the light of the desert at dusk, the animals, the other guest from around the
world and having this experience with our friends Sarah and Steve all added up to a very fun two days and one night camel trek in the desert.
Least English Spoken – Spain
Only in the last decade has English been taught in schools, so few adults are fluent. Especially in the small towns and villages on the Camino we did a lot of pointing and hand charades to communicate. It was fun!
Hottest – Seychelle’s and Honorable Mention Doha, Qatar
We saw some rain in the Seychelles but it was never
under 85 degrees and the water was like a bathtub. We only spent one night in Doha Qatar, but it marked the hottest one day on the
trip at 113 F.
Coldest – New Zealand
We were in New Zealand in the fall and we had a few nights were the temperature dropped in the 30’s. Living in the Kiwi Karavan we wore hats and coats and wool socks to bed to stay
Worst Rain Storm – Tie between Hua Hin Thailand and Koh Samui Thailand
After a two hour taxi ride turned into a five hour taxi ride in a monsoon we arrived in flooded Hua Hin Thailand not sure what we had gotten ourselves into.
More than once the sky opened up in Koh Samui, accompanied by flashing lighting and booming thunder.
Best Sunrise – It’s a tie between Napier New Zealand and Galicia Spain
I’m a sucker for a good sunrise, and we have seen
some amazing ones but these two stand out above and beyond for the sheer majesty of the experience.
Best Sunset – La Digue Seychelles (see cover photo)
Mother’s Day Dinner in La Digue we watched the sunset from a beach restaurant and it was a religious experience.
Favorite Airline – Emirates
They know how to treat their passengers, even those of us in Coach
Least Favorite Airline – Air Maroc
The only airline (after 37 flights) to lose our luggage. Eventually it was found. Plus the smell of something (not cigarettes) burning during approach. Ack.
Best Airport – Hamad International Qatar
A very user-friendly and beautifully designed airport.
Teeniest Airplane – Air Seychelles
Eight seats. ‘Nuff Said.
Most Expensive Visa – India
We haven’t even arrived in India yet, but it was hands down the most expensive Visa we have purchased and one of the most difficult online applications. Hopefully when we arrive tomorrow everything will be in order!
Easiest Airport Entry – Capetown South Africa
We breezed through passport and customs so fast in Capetown we were totally surprised.
Worst Airport Entry – tie between Siem Reap Cambodia and Carthage Tunisia
In both cases we got in the wrong line. The line with the guy who was arrogant and pompous and was going to make every passenger know he was the boss. Any sign of dissatisfaction could get you pulled out of line and make your life hell. And so we waited.
So there you have it. The winner of the Fab Fifties version of the Oscars for 2017-2018. But you do know, the real winner is me. Me and my husband. The luckiest people on the planet. Who needs a little gold statue when you have a Fab Fifties Life?
What a fabulous life it is.