Nice one Q. You’ve pulled us away from the nightmare of the apocalypse to the delight of being at a favourite travel destination. Nice smooth transition there from the boss! Not. But to be fair, he likes to push our imaginations and have a little fun.
So my interpretation of the prodigious one’s latest topic creation is as follows: This is no ordinary travel destination, this is definitely no ordinary time and this certainly is no ordinary contest. I have been very fortunate to have traveled quite a lot. I have seen some pretty cool places around the world but a few of those places stand out above the rest. It’s not often that you can visit a new area of our wonderful planet and instantly get that feeling of being ‘Home’. That is my interpretation of Q’s request and that is how I’m going to present my nominations (and maybe a few honorable mentions).
Longboat Key, Sarasota, Florida, USA
My youth may be having an influence on this one. Bear in mind that I’m a Bristolian (Bristol, England) and until that trip had barely left my home city, this was an eye opener and no mistake! Long story short (ish), I had met Jayne 4 months before she was due to move to the US to partake in the Au-pair in America program in Washington DC. We decided that after 4 months we would try to stay together and see if we could get through the year and pick up where we had left off. Jayne was originally planning to make it permanent if the opportunity arose, and I knew this, so I didn’t think we had much hope.
I saved up all my earnings from that year and unbelievably managed to go to visit 3 times. She left in November of 1993 and my first visit was in between Christmas and New Year with a failed attempt at a New Years eve trip to New York because of a frozen runway at Laguardia. I have still, regretfully, never been to The Big Apple. The second trip was an amazing jaunt down to Williamsburg, Virginia. You would have thought that we would have taken the cultural option and visited the colonial sites and taken in the history. No, I was 18 and fairly wet behind the ears at that moment in time. We went to Busch Gardens theme park. Oh my goodness it was awesome.
That brings me to my third and final trip in that year. We were invited down to Sarasota with the family that Jayne was working for. They owned a beach condo in Longboat Key. Wow. For a couple of kids that had never had any real money to speak of, this was mind blowing. The condo and facilities were beautiful, the beach was stunning and the opulence was something I had never before witnessed. The feeling of wellbeing and calm was immense. Whether we were exploring the area or just chilling out by the pool I felt happy. It was also the moment that I realised that staying in the same spot all my life was not going to cut it! We finished off the trip with a few days in Disney and then went back to DC. I will never forget that time and those memories.
Amed, Bali, Indonesia
Whilst we lived in Thailand, a few years back, we managed to see a little of the area. Not as much as we had hoped, but some of it. One of the great places we did get to was Bali. My mum came over to visit us in Thailand and then we flew down to Bali for a week. The fact that this trip features is a miracle because we spent the second half of the week in a hospital and the consequences of that incident had ramifications long after the trip, including the logistics of getting back home to Thailand. I will let Jayne @cryptowidow explain more about this as I am certain that she will write about it.
Koh Lipe, Thailand
Another paradise destination and another traumatic incident. (Is it following me around?) Koh Lipe is a tiny remote island in the south of Thailand. We were coming to the end of our stay in Southeast Asia and wanted to go out with a bang. It’s a big trip to get there but it is so worth it. We flew down to the south, bussed it to the port and then caught the speed boat of a few solid hours to Lipe. It is everything I love about Thailand. The best food, a beautiful beach, a massage every day on the beach, amazing weather systems that are like a light show to watch whilst you’re sat there with a Leo beer, scuba diving at it’s best. We were at total peace. Until the incident!
A Thai guy who worked in the place next door went into the sea. As we found out after he was feeling unwell and wanted to clear his head. I remember watching him jump into the water and swim off rather erratically. I thought nothing of it until Jaime @mono.rosado came back from walking along the beach and said that the guy was in trouble. I looked out and saw a guy already trying to rescue him and dragging him on to the shoreline. It was like a weird dream and I’m normally pretty alert in those situations. Jayne nudged me and I woke up and ran over. He was not moving or breathing as far as I could tell. I immediately started resuscitation from my previous training as a first aider at work and now as a rescue scuba diver.
The incident happened
just after this, right here!
A couple of minutes in I was joined by another British guy, Gavin, and then the scuba school guys came over. We worked on that guy with zero response from him, for over 40 minutes before someone arrived to take him to the hospital. In my mind we were dealing with a dead guy but we carried on regardless. When he left we all stood around talking about it for a little while. We all believed that he was gone and there wasn’t much we could do about it. Jaime had witnessed the whole thing and was even responsible for the initial warning. Unbeknownst to me or Jayne; it only came out a few years later, Jaime was a little traumatised by it, she was only 13. A little later that evening we were informed that the guy was sat up in a hospital bed completely unaware of what had transpired. The enormity of what we had just accomplished hit me like a freight train. I’ll admit to being a little thrown and having a few private tears to myself.
Anyway, enough of that. It again goes to show how much we loved our stay there despite the trauma. I would go back in a shot.
And now for my choices
Number 1. Koh Samet, Thailand
Luckily, no trauma in sight. This place is pretty special. Not only is it a great island with beautiful beaches and wonderful food, but it was our weekend hangout and that tipped it over the scales in the decision making. We used to teach in Bang Lamung, which is an hour south of Bangkok and just outside of Pattaya. As soon as we had finished on a Friday we’d drive down to the port at Rayong which would take about 45 minutes, and then catch a 20 minute speed boat over to Samet. That in itself was awesome fun.
Once we were there we would check in to Semed Villas and then just RELAX!! Samet was anything you wanted it to be. It was lively at night a bit further down the beach but it also had some very tranquil spots. There was lots of beach activity if you wanted it or you could find your own little cove and shut off to the rest of the world. I sampled the best of both worlds in our time in Thailand. We went there on a Sten (Stag and Hen) weekend which was one of our most memorable times in our whole stay in Thailand but we also went there, just the three of us, just to get away from it all and relax.
The food was exceptional as is most of Thailand IMO! The restaurants on the beach all offer excellent food but the piece de resistance was the street seller. She would walk along the beach with a huge bamboo over her shoulder. Either end of the bamboo was a grill and some supplies, in each basket. She would make my favourite meal of Som Tam, grilled Chicken and sticky rice. It would cost around a Pound sterling ($1.35) and be absolutely delicious.
My friend Danny, that I actually know from our time in Bahrain, has moved to Pattaya to work at a nearby school. He posted photos of his stay there a couple of weeks ago! Very happy for him and his lovely family but also a bit jealous. :) @wales (RIP) my old steem buddy; who amazingly, seemed to have followed the same path around the world as me, had been there frequently and loved it too. He had a picture of himself eating a meal and looking out to sea in an exact spot where me and the family had been sitting!
Great accommodation, speed boats, spending time with friends, amazing food, and a place where you can truly unwind, add the fact that the place was so accessible from school on a weekend and you get where I’m coming from.
Number 2. Lohi Fenfushi and Meeru, Maldives
If you have never been fortunate enough to have visited this paradise then stick it on your bucket list. It is a stunning cluster of tiny little islands way out past the southern tip of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean. Be warned though, it can have seriously detrimental effects on your outlook of your current lifestyle! I will elaborate later.
It all started in 1998! Me and Jayne decided to tie the knot and our honeymoon of choice was the Maldives. One of Jayne’s gifts to me that year was a scuba diving course to train up and take maximum advantage of, what I had understood, were amazing opportunities to dive in awesome places. By the way, the PADI Open Water course is brilliant and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone, especially travellers.
We had already spent a week in Sri Lanka which was very cool but we were really excited about the trip to the Maldives. It was a short flight from Colombo to Male, the capital of the Maldives. I say capital, which it is but it along with all the other islands, is tiny. The airport in Male is literally a piece of land with a runway, terminal and a tiny port for all the speed boats and dhoni’s and even a sea plane.
As you fly through the water on one of the speed boats the islands go whizzing by, and there are a lot. All different shapes and sizes but all pretty small. On this particular trip we visited Lohi Fenfushi. It’s a medium sized island for the Maldives but there isn’t much in the way of permanent infrastructure, thankfully! It was mostly tiny little wooden shacks just off of the beach with a few water villas on stilts for the more moneyed among us and a main building with a small reception and restaurant. We had a beach fronted shack and it was all we needed.
From the moment you set foot on the island you start to relax. There is very little there to do other than eat, sunbathe, the odd beach sport and scuba dive but that was just the way we wanted it. You can actually feel your body just slowing down and recovering. It’s a wonderful feeling a bit like permanent meditation.
The scuba diving was incredible and absolutely spawned my love of scuba. My main hope was to see a Manta Ray on that trip but alas, after much searching and choosing the optimum dives, it never happened. But the dives were exceptional nonetheless. On one dive we were coming back up from a great dive where I saw a Green Turtle and a Moray Eel free swimming past my face, I saw something in the distance moving slowly. Being obsessed by the idea of seeing a Manta I was always on the lookout. Whatever this was it was silvery white and moving up and down with a wing like motion just like a Manta. I attracted the attention of the instructor and gave him the sign of a Manta and pointed to the object in the distance. I could see straight away that he looked confused and gave me a sign that said that he didn’t agree. Once we got to the surface, I asked him what this majestic looking creature was and his reply was “it was a plastic bag from the other boat!” Needless to say I had a lot to learn in my Scuba career!
Another special moment among many on this trip was my invite by the hotel staff to play football with them against another island. Note the Football pitch on the main pic! Here’s the thing about Maldivians, they are crazy about football (soccer). They have very little room on their islands but they nearly all have a full sized football pitch. They also have over 2000 registered footballers and an established league. So we started playing in high temperatures and a grassless pitch. This pasty white guy in the middle of all these really fit, skillful Maldivan footballers. I did alright but playing in that heat was a first at the time and I could hardly breathe. I just stayed in the middle of the park and pinged the ball around and ran very little. They are extremely skillful players but they are naturally very small people. Their national team actually holds the record for the biggest ever world cup qualifying defeat. They lost 17-0 against Iran and most of the goals were scored with the head!
The second trip to the Maldives was in 2004. This time, baby Jaime in tow, we visited the island of Meeru. It is slightly bigger than Lohi Fenfushi but, of course, has the obligatory football pitch. We had another incredible time there and this time we got to share it with our beautiful little daughter. That little monkey was a bit of a hit too. The hotel staff were infatuated with her and constantly gave her attention. They even started to take her off and show her around and, Jaime being Jaime, was very comfortable with it. We were a bit unsure at first but soon got used to it. Sordig was one of the guys that would pick her up and take her around.
I went on some unforgettable dives. I was focused on seeing Mantas again but time was running short. I was told that this certain dive site gave me a great chance to see Mantas at their feeding station but it was a fair distance off and the weather conditions needed to be right. We had the all clear from the dive team one morning and off we went. The Dhoni took a few hours to reach the site and the anticipation was building. The dive was proceeding nicely, not particularly interesting but any Maldivian dive is awesome. Suddenly we reached a ridge and there in front of us was not one but three Mantas at the feeding station. My heart was racing and my buoyancy was all over the place but I was totally captivated. They were actually showing off in front of us. Whirling around and around, doing a little dance looping in and out of each other. It was such a privilege to witness and another of those memories that I will never forget.
Some people that we met had a wedding on the island.
Our wedding anniversary meal on the beach.
The trip was so wonderful but here is the warning that I promised to give you at the beginning of this section. Our lives changed forever. We returned home and we couldn’t re-adjust. Our bodies had slowed right down and were in a state of relaxation. Now we were unhappy with our previously contented life. Don’t get me wrong, our trip to Longboat Key (see above) had set the groundwork for an eventual work/travel experience but the second trip to the Maldives pushed it to the forefront of our minds. We were in a complete funk and immediately started formulating a plan to escape the confines of our ‘normal’ life. It took 5 years and a change of career from banking to teaching from Jayne but we eventually did it. You have been warned!
Number 3. Le Borg D’Oisans, The Alps, France
This place, quite simply put, is my second home. I love some of the other places that we have travelled to over the years, some of which are mentioned, but this little piece of heaven on earth was a place that we instantly felt like we belonged. The main reasons for our love of this area go on and on. I’m not sure this already huge blog needs to get any bigger than it already has but I will endeavour to encapsulate the feeling it gives us in a few paragraphs.
The legend that is Peter Sagan.
The Tour De France. Ever since I was a small lad, me and my father would be absolutely hooked on the race and all that it represents. The colours, the challenge, the teamwork, the history and last but not least, the scenery. The tour regularly goes through this area and has always left a mark on me and lured me to it. I have always wanted to see the tour live and especially in Bourg. It took me a few years to get there but eventually we did.
Old blogs on the TDF Here https://hive.blog/cycling/@cheese4ead/our-tour-de-france-adventure-part-1
The glorious struggle!
The mountains, or should I say THE mountain. Alpe D’Huez is an iconic TDF mountain. The stage finish at the top of D’Huez is a cherished and prestigious event. It’s history is held in special regard, for instance, all previous winners of D’Huez have been given their own spot on each of the famous 21 virages (hairpin turns) that make the climb so special. To climb the great Alpe D’Huez has always been a very special goal and I’m very happy to say that I have accomplished this goal a number of times and plan to attempt it a few times more yet. Here are some previous blog posts of mine that explain my feelings towards D’Huez and climbing those turns even better.
Le Rencontre de Soleil.
Website here This is the campsite that we stay at. It is right at the foot of Alpe D’Huez and is a prime spot for the Tour coming through. As a keen cyclist it is also in the center of cycling ‘Mecca’. Patricia and Thierry own and run this wonderful campsite and we have frequently returned, especially when the Tour De France passes through. We have a nice relationship with these guys and they always make booking and staying with them easy, which can’t necessarily be said for other people!
Cycling. You couldn’t want to be in a better spot for recreational cycling, with one proviso! You need to want to climb mountain roads. They are everywhere! The highest point in the area is The Galibier at 2860 meters but there are lots of others. Les Deux Alpes, Le Ornon, Le Croix De Fer, Le Lauteret, La Berarde, Notre Dame and the list goes on. I am in cycling nirvana.
Another thing about France that is exceptional is the food. Fresh bread, some many varieties of cheeses and the best wine at very low prices. My favourite beer, Jenlain, is readily available in the alps even though it’s from northern France. The fruit is ridiculously good. Peaches, Nectarines and apricots are all locally grown and are incomparable to any others that I have tried, especially in the UK. We eat very well in France, that's for sure.
The biggest compliment I can give this place is, that if there was a place I would like to settle down and finish my days on this beautiful planet, it would be in this beautiful place.
I hope you enjoyed my Choices. Don't forget to enter and tell us your choices. You can find the main post Here
Delegate to @yourtop3: