Top 8 in 2008

Young Indian Woman - West Bengal, India
Young face of the village – West Bengal, India.

As 2008 came to an end, we reflected on our experiences from the passing year. Best experience? It’s impossible to choose just one, so we share a few of the memories that are likely to remain with us through 2009 and beyond.

Some we’ve written about already. The complete story of others are yet to come.

Where 2009 will take us, no one knows (including us). Regardless, we hope your 2009 finds you healthy and takes you to fulfilling places, be they near or far.

Top 8 Experiences of 2008

1. **Burma (Myanmar)

Burmese Kid - Toungoo, Myanmar
Young generation in Burma (Myanmar).

The country is covered in its share of dazzling gilt Buddhist temples and pagodas, but its people are what make it exceptional.

2. Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

Audrey and Dan at Thorong La - Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Clouds clearing over the peaks along the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal.

This experience will forever remain a highlight. The fact that we unknowingly trekked it with super model Gemma Ward made it all the more rewarding.

3. Chandigarh, India

Samosas and Chole Batura - Chandigarh, India
Breakfast of champions in Chandigarh, India.

The story we wrote is ostensibly about food, but the message is again – you guessed it – about the people.

4. Chengdu, Sichuan Province (China)

Old Chinese Woman, Warm Smile - Chengdu, China
A warm, welcoming smile in Chengdu, China.

The pandas were terrific, but we will remember most the friendly little old people we met in one of the city’s remaining traditional neighborhoods.

5. Guizhou Province, China

Two Chinese Vendors Chatting - Guizhou Province, China
Friendly rivalry between vendors, Guizhou Province.

China’s poorest province, perhaps, but one of its richest in local ethnic market experiences.

6. Udaipur (Rajasthan), India

Audrey, Dan and Shashi, Cooking Class - Rajasthan, India
Cooking with Shashi in Udaipur – Rajasthan, India.

Our overnight bus from Mumbai was an experience for the ages (and one that we need not repeat). Once we arrived in Udaipur we found it hard to leave.

We loved Udaipur’s local markets – Bara Bazaar and Mandi Market. We also won’t forget any time soon our cooking course with Shashi. In addition to teaching us how to prepare masalas and chutneys, she shared her personal story with us. (Audrey quickly put her newfound cooking skills to work in Varanasi. Watch the video to see how she did.)

7. North of Siliguri in West Bengal, India

Indian Woman in a Sari - West Bengal, India
Proud face of Gairkata, India.

The hopeful stories, inspiration, and faces of village women in the self-help and micro-credit groups outside the town of Siliguri serve as a narrative of realized potential. Discussions with the tea pickers in the nearby tea gardens provided the visual highlight to an exceptional set of human encounters.

8. Bikaner (Rajasthan), India

When the song of the morning puja (prayer) at a Hindu temple sends chills up your spine, you know you’ve landed one of life’s unplanned and extraordinary spiritual moments.

Honorable Mention

1. Barack Obama in Berlin: A last minute road trip with friends to see Barack Obama speak in Berlin, Germany in July. His speech arguably may not have been the most fruitful PR moment for his campaign back in the U.S., but the American flags aloft in that international crowd spoke volumes to us.

2. Western China: Although we technically visited this region at the end of 2007, we didn’t include Kashgar (Xinjiang Province) and Xiahe (Gansu Province) in our Top 5 of 2007 because we hadn’t yet processed the photos and stories at that time. But these places are simply too memorable not to be included in one of our “best of” lists.

Excited Little Tibetan Boy - Xiahe, China
Excited little guy in Xiahe, China.

**Note: Scores of people and organizations advocate against travel to Burma (Myanmar) because they feel that tourism money spent there helps to support the military government. We did our research and decided to travel there independently. We spent our limited resources at non-government hotels and restaurants. Upon reflection, we believe that the benefit (financial and otherwise) of our visit to the ordinary citizens of Burma far outweighed any residual fees or taxes the government of Myanmar might have received due to our visit.

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  1. says

    Gorgeous photos and memorable moments. I’d vote for where you should go in 2009, but I know that wherever you go, the journey will be meaningful for you and for the people you meet!

  2. says

    I would love to do the annapurna route….even if there was no supermodel involved…though that would be an added bonus. was she there alone? I would expect a model to go on a big high end tour.

  3. says

    @Julie: Thanks for your kind words! We hope 2009 is as fulfilling as 2008!

    @Matt: Trekking the Annapurna Circuit is an amazing experience. I can’t recommend it enough. Gemma was trekking with an Australian buddy and she had a guide and a porter. Along the Annapurna Circuit everyone shares the same outhouses and simple guest houses no matter how much you pay for the tour.

  4. says

    Loved reading your recap and seeing your pictures. I find the research you do regarding your travel such as in Burma so inspiring. You all are the type of responsible travelers we should all strive to be. Can’t wait to see what 2009 has in store.

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