I've just written down the list of places I've personally visited this year and there is only one conclusion - I am a supremely lucky man to have chosen this career a few years back. I realize it's a delicate line sometimes between inspiring readers to go see the world, and really annoying you with a "look at where we are now" blurb. Overall though, I receive great feedback on our ezine, and if just one or two connect with you for any reason then I am happy, whether that means planning with J5Travel or not.
I thought I'd list my own personal top 5 2018 travel highlights this week, before looking ahead to 2019 next week.
Have a wonderful Christmas everyone, and don't forget, it's hard to beat the gift of travel.
TOP 5 J5Travel experiences in 2018
I've written about this more than any other single experience in our travels and deservedly so. I'd viewed hundreds of photos, and watched a TV travel special, and yet nothing prepared me for emerging from the short, narrow stone tunnel to encounter Machu Picchu for the first time. My photos above and below are similar... you just cannot do it justice. Please go!
Runner Up: May 28th Yellowstone National Park (it was a long moment).
2. Hotel (and Beach) of the Year - May 12th to 15th
We spent almost a week in the Maldives back in May and saved the absolute best for the last 3 days. The Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa (above and below) is an exquisite oasis of calm, miles from anywhere in the Indian Ocean. It's own private island with just 50 rooms, the beach is better than any we have seen as yet in the Caribbean, and we were plunged into a relaxation mode that just took all your worldly cares away. I also wish we had thought of their tagline - Luxury is Personal.
Runners Up: Jan 2nd to 4th Milford Sound Lodge, New Zealand.
July 25th JW Marriott El Convento, Cusco, Peru
3. Foodie Experience - May 5th
Oh this was tough. I enjoyed 3 different Michelin starred restaurants in Bangkok, Maido in Lima, Peru (which makes the top 10 restaurants in the world list) and some epic steak and wine in Argentina this year. However, when I ordered a traditional Sri Lankan fish curry at the Water Garden Hotel Sigiriya, I was stunned when the 12 bowls below turned up, all delicious.
Runner Up: very late on Sep 9th Raan Jay Fai, Bangkok, Thailand, where an amazing 72 year-old grandmother cooks Michelin starred street food.
4. Surprise of the Year - Nov 29th to Dec 1st
Hopefully you read about this just a couple of weeks ago, but I am not ashamed to reemphasize just how taken aback we were with the casual luxury of Celebrity's new ship, the EDGE (above and below). From the staterooms to the restaurants to the entertainment to the innovation to the amazing artwork, everything exceeded our expectations to the upside, and that is a very rare occurrence.
Runner Up: Oct 31st to Nov 12th The people of China - incredibly happy, friendly and helpful.
5. Photo of the Year - May 4th
Photography has become much more important to me over the last few years. Obviously, I'm required to take good photos to help promote our travel ideas, but I'm now genuinely interested in the art and I really enjoy thinking about the shot. I believe the Pixel 2 phone I currently employ has helped a lot and I know I'm not ever going to be a serious photographer, but I hope that sometimes the pictures are able to tell a stronger story than my words. My personal favorite photo of the year was taken during a monster thunderstorm at the Temple of the Tooth Relic (above) in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
Runner Up : Jan 5th Queenstown, New Zealand - watching our daughter doing something crazy (below).
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