What’s better, an apple or an orange? That impossible question sums up what it’s like to try and determine what country is better or worse than another, invariably the designation is simple difference instead of any sort of linear ranking. So removing any commentary on an overall determination of good or bad, we’ll go with a ranking of what sort of perspective were we shown from our time in any one country. Excepting Peru, every country we visited set us free with a warm heart but some inspired affection just that little more than others. So from the point of view of two ‘professional travellers’, here’s the top ten countries of the excellent adventure.
10 – MEXICO:
Mexico has to be here somewhere and it’s fair to say it’s probably the harshest done by of this list. Our first country of the adventure got us onto our ‘travel legs’ and set us up to see the world. Some of the best food, greatest history, warmest vibe and most unbelievable experiences in cenote diving sees Mexico at the low end of the top ten probably mostly due to our stage of travel more than this fantastic country itself. It may be number ten here but it’s probably number one for countries we want to go back to.
9 – ARGENTINA:
The country we spent the most time in also showed us one of the broadest ranges of experience, from the great wild of Patagonia, thought provoking Ushuaia, fiery Cafayate, drunken Mendoza, cultural Sayta, booming Buenos Aires and more. Ten weeks was a long time in Argentina and although the famously relaxed nature bordered on infuriating at times and the food was pretty one dimensional, the hospitality was warm, the sights were grand and it’s still one of the very few countries that can see ten weeks of travel and still leave more to be seen.
8 – CAMBODIA:
A perfect little nut, that’s how to describe Cambodia. From heart wrenching history, grand history, pristine islands and above all stoic, smiling and warm people, Cambodia has it all. Not so long ago Cambodia was an utterly failed state and although the economy has much rebuilding to do Cambodia is poised perfectly between blossoming new world positivity for a brighter future and warm humility of a people who have their priorities in very good order. We saw none of ‘scambodia’ that some people talk of, maybe we’ve just been on the road long enough to spot the sharks, we just left wanting to give this brave, honest little nation a big hug.
7 – BOTSWANA:
Like Cambodia, there’s something about a small country that’s overshadowed by the tourist reputation of a neighbour, Botswana is a true gem. With the strongest currency in all of Africa, Botswana is far from the troubled, racially divided or outright dangerous cliche of other parts of Africa and with natural wonders by the truckload Botswana remains a gem that needs to go on many peoples lists; not to mention ‘team Botswana’ Heidi And Herman who made the visit all the more than it otherwise would be. On top of it all there’s a population as dashing, confident, warm and downright sexy as any other; Botswana, you got swagger, you got flare, you’ve just got it.
6 – NEPAL:
The poorest country in Asia and one of the most challenged of any in the world, Nepal truly is a travellers dream despite all this. The Himalayas tend to define Nepal in a global conscience and in truth they’re enough to get Nepal into this top ten alone. Add to the mix an amazing food clash between India and Tibet, a gritty captivating capital in Kathmandu and a lively culture that typifies the idea of escape from a developed world and Nepal is another one extremely high on the list of countries we simply must return to.
5 – CUBA:
If Botswana has swagger, then they might possibly have learned it from the Cubans. Havana is possibly the most enlivening city we’ve ever been to with architecture as odd as it is grand, streetscapes that make Paris look tame, a music scene that; well simply has no comparison and a population that defines sexy style. It’s an amazing place to visit before you even consider the time warp. Locked off from the world for so long, Cuba is all vintage cars, retro suave and most of all, no internet. Think about it for a moment, now imagine visiting a real life place that exists outside of the imaginable. Yep, we’d go back to Cuba in two shakes of a maraca.
4 – ECUADOR:
From a range of countries that offer massive shifts in perspectives there’s Ecuador that in comparison seems relatively standard. Less than a decade ago you could say that Ecuador was the basket case of latin America, but in a short time Ecuador is not only on the up, it’s booming. positivity abounds, the famed latin dangerousness is barely perceptible and alongside the avenue of volcanoes that simply need to be more well known, Ecuador has it all. On top of all this, an old traditional way of life is dearly retained while Ecuador bucks the somewhat tacky latin trend with a huge amount of style shown up by great bars, restaurants and architecture to compliment the greatness of the Andes and the Amazon. For how long will this little gem remain hidden?
3 – JAPAN:
The one country that was stamped on this list by me from the beginning was Japan, the country that created an offensive range of influences upon my younger years and I guess I’m not alone. Undoubtedly the best food in the world for this year, Japan also offers a fine balance of alternative culture with unbelievable convenience. Travelling Japan can at times be a little one dimensional, a little too organised but when you’re this beautiful you can pretty much get away with anything.
2 – CHILE:
The one country of this adventure that we both had been to before and it was a no brainer to go back. Undoubtedly the greatest range of experiences, just edging out its neighbour Argentina, Chile gathers pretty much everything you could ever want from travel and effectively scrubs out just about all of the negatives. Outdoors from Patagonia to the Atacama desert, cities like Santiago and Valparaiso, super friendly people and a perfect balance of a few rough edges with an organised and motivated people has Chile permanently on the ‘must visit’ list. We’ve been twice and we’ll go again.
1 – VIETNAM:
In truth this top spot came down to a battle between just two, Chile and Vietnam. While Chile possibly remains a more diverse travel proposition we can’t go past two main things: some of the best food in the world from possibly the greatest food culture on earth, and that road trip. Not to downplay Vietnam at all, it’s an unquestionably immense nation to visit, yet the number one spot on this adventure was sealed by two boys, Rob and Greg. Our shitbox bikes we bought in Saigon carried us all the way to Hanoi via 21 stops at the mechanics, and into a sense of adventure that rarely exists beyond wide eyed childhood. Amazing food, scenery, food, coffee, people, food and two trusty bikes rode, broke down then rode again through Vietnam all the way to the number one spot.
So there’s the long awaited top ten countries. Does this ranking fit with any perspectives you might have? More importantly, what would be your number one?