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)
The country is covered in its share of dazzling gilt Buddhist temples and pagodas, but its people are what make it exceptional.
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
The story we wrote is ostensibly about food, but the message is again – you guessed it – about the people.
4. Chengdu, Sichuan Province (China)
5. Guizhou Province, China
China’s poorest province, perhaps, but one of its richest in local ethnic market experiences.
6. 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
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.
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.
**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.