Raphael Kessler

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Answers to the most frequently asked questions

People generally ask similar questions about my travels: "What was your favourite place?"; "Where were the best views?"; "How ill did you get?"; "Who were the best and worst people?"; "What was the most interesting thing you saw?"; etc. etc. etc.


So here is an inexhaustive list of the answers to the most common questions, based on my experiences only.

As for an answer to "What was your favourite place?" I think you should be able to see that it would be impossible to say, but let the list speak.

Either scroll down to find a section that interests you or click on the heading below.

To return to these contents, click on the section heading.

  1. Accommodation

  2. People

  3. Restaurants and Food & Drink

  4. Transport

  5. Worst Illnesses

  6. Barbers

  7. Wildlife

  8. Great Scenery / Nature

  9. Great History

  10. Great Architecture

  11. Museums

  12. Dead People Observed

  13. Toilets

  14. Folly / Odd

  15. Border Crossings

  16. Airports and Executive Lounges

  17. Animals I have eaten

Countries Visited To Date - 107



Best Food - Gangaur homestay, Jodhpur, India
Best Comfort & Service     - Quyen Thanh, Saigon, Vietnam
Best Breakfast  - White House, Yangon, Myanmar
Best Views - (view of Everest) Rombuk Monastery, Tibet
Best Meeting Area - Amir Kabir, Esfahan, Iran
Most Helpful  - Abdullah at Riadh Hotel, Hama, Syria
Most Expensive - Marriott Hotel, Islamabad, Pakistan (kindly paid by American Express)
Filthiest - Muslim Hotel, Quetta, Pakistan
Bedbugs - Only two, forgot the names - Bombay and Bangkok
Underground - Hotel Sidi Driss, Matamata, Tunisia
Landlord who said wanker most  - Davie Dias, Calidad House, Cali Colombia
Landlord with most comprehensive info. - German, Platypus, Bogota Colombia
Hotels built of Salt    - Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Best Youth Hostel - Vilnius, Lithuania
Best value apartment rental - Colonia, Uruguay



Most Hospitable - Pakistan
Least Hospitable - Kenya
Most Inquisitive - Bangladesh
Most Sombre - Russian
Most Unhelpful - Chinese
Most Annoying Traveller - Michael, Dutch Rent Boy, Chengdu, China
Strange to Meet - President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, my accomplice tracking the Mountain Gorillas
  - Mongolian Olympic Wrestling Team
  - Jorge Mario Garcia, world record-breaking diver.
Surprisingly good-looking women  - Russia
Best looking women - Estonia
Model looking women - Argentina
Moustached women - Cuba
Best dancers - Ethiopia
Sexiest Dancers - Brazil
Party People - Brazil
Deepest singers - Mongolia
Interesting and amusing tribal folk - Mentawai, Pulau Siberut a small island off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia
Maddest monk    - Vien Thuc, Da Lat, Vietnam
Most hospitable people in Latin America - Colombia
Best salsa dancers - Colombia
Most beauty queens  - Venezuela
Party people  - Cali, Colombia
Most on horseback - Venecia, Antioquia, Colombia
Most women wearing pork pie hats - Indigenous folk, Ecuador                  
Most women wearing bowler hats - Chollas, La Paz, Bolivia
Impressive stamina on costumed dancing folk - Oruro Carnaval, Bolivia
Biggest noses on costumed dancing folk - Ollantaytambo, Peru



Restaurants and Food & Drink  
Best Food                                            - Anonymous white tile place, Chengdu, China
Best Vibe                                             - Paul's Oasis, Chengdu, China
- @ Home, Vang Vieng, Laos
Best Coffee - Ethiopia
Best Hot Chocolate - Bambu Cafe, Leon, Spain
Best Snack - Lamacun, Istanbul, Turkey
Best Street Food - Syria (Shwarma or Falafel) India (Samosas, Pakoras, etc)
Best Hamburgers    - Uruapan, Mexico
Funniest and Friendliest Staff - Bel Air Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Worst Food - Kihihi, Uganda
Worst Booze - Any local spirit, Thailand
Worst Beer - Syria
Most Monotonous Food - Ethiopia
Second Best Crepes in the world - Pancake Kingdom, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar
Best Crepes in Latin America - Crepes & Waffles, Colombia
Best Steaks outside Argentina - Lenos & Carbon, Cali, Colombia
Most balanced diet in a hamburger - Street vendors, Porlamar, Venezuela
Biggest burgers - Brutus, Merida, Venezuela
Most roasting Guinea Pigs  - Banos, Ecuador
Excellent Indian food, not in India or UK - Bukhara, Stellenbosch, South Africa


Best Road for Views - Karakorum Highway, Pakistan - China
Worst Views - I-90, South Dakota, USA
Easiest Road to Drive - I-90, South Dakota, USA
Worst Roads to Drive - Tibet
No Roads - Mongolia
Worst bus - Nairobi, Kenya - Kampala, Uganda
Worst buses - Indonesia
Most exciting and dustiest bus ride - Bwindi - Kampala, Uganda
Best train - Beijing, China- Ulan Bator, Mongolia
Cheapest Flight - 2 hours, Esfahan - Shiraz, Iran, 11USD
Best looking stewardesses - TAM, Brazil
Longest Camel Ride - 3 days, Rajastani Desert, India
Longest Single Journey - Irkutsk - Moscow, Russia, 80hrs, 5185km
Highest Road - Karakorum Highway, over 5,000m
Lowest Road - Kings Highway, Jordan, 400m below sea level
Worst bus companion - Taftan to Quetta, Pakistan, I was feeling ill, sweltering in the bloody hot desert, on uncomfortable seat with bloke next to me trying to hump me and me having to elbow him in face and gut repeatedly and him still not getting the point.
Most impatient to arrive - Tabriz - Tahran, Iran. Chronic Diahorrhea, 16 Imodium in 14 hours and still needed to sprint and fight my way to a toilet on arrival.
Best looking metro - Moscow
Most efficient metro - Singapore
Most interesting metro - Cairo
Most time on top of a train  - "Nariz del Diablo" Riobamba - Alausi, Ecuador, 6 hours
Longest and highest cable car - Merida, Venezuela, 12kms to nearly 5,000 metres at Pico Espejo
Dodgiest cable car - "Pailon del Diablo", Rio Verde, Ecuador, one cable, a truck engine, and a 600m drop.
Slowest bus ride - Cochabamba to Torotoro - 130 kms in 9 hours, first 30 kms on good road.
Most dilapidated taxi    - Trinidad, Paraguay
Comfiest vehicle - My Van in New Zealand, slept in it for a couple of months, like a home on the road.
Endurance vehicle - My Car in Australia, 24,000kms in seven weeks, also off-roading and slept in it.


Worst Illnesses  
Food poisoning - Burger King in Bangkok Airport, even water wouldn’t stay down.
Several weeks of amoebic dysentery / giardia - Picked up in Turkey, gestated in Iran, cured in Pakistan
Bizarre ankle infection -Shortly after a dive, in Thailand it swelled to twice its natural size.


Best Shave - Aqaba - Jordan
Second Best Shave - Sousse, Tunisia
Worst Shave   - Lhasa - Tibet
Worst Haircut - The Tintin cut, Gilgit, Pakistan
Cheapest shaves - Kathmandu, Nepal - 10rupees included massage


Africa’s most authentic   - Okavango Delta & Chobe National Park, Botswana
Very National Geographic - Mongolia
Best night-time noises - Hyenas, Tarangire National Park, Zimbabwe
Best night time lightning    - Okavango Delta, Botswana - Tropical storms all around
Funkiest Looking - Gelada Baboon, Simien Mountains, Ethiopia
Total Empathy - Mountain Gorillas, Uganda
Also Empathic    - Orang-utans, Sumatra, Indonesia
Very Powerful - Full grown male tiger, Bhandavghar National Park, India
Most Surprising   - Whale Shark, Chumphon Pinnacle, Ko Tao, Thailand
Most Playful - Bernie and Muzza, Lion cubs, Gweru, Zimbabwe
Most Cuddly - Baby giant panda, Chengdu, China
Most Sinister - Marabou Stork, East Africa
Most Elusive - Leopard
Smelliest   - Seal colony during pupping season, Walvis Bay, Namibia
Biggest Boner - Elephant, Tanzania
Most Aggressive - Titan Triggerfish, Ko Tao, Thailand
Impressive moves - Orcas attacking seals on the beach, Peninsula Valdez, Argentina
Most Comfortable - Bactrian Camel, Mongolia
Most     - Voles, Mongolia
Lots of creepy crawlies - Amazon, Brazil
Best land-based whale-watching - De Kelders, near Gansbaai, South Africa
Best Great White Shark viewing - Gansbaai, South Africa
Deadly stuff  - Australia
Wildlife dodging on the road  - Australia
Roadkill - Australia


Great Scenery / Nature  
Hunza, Karakorum and Hindu Kush Mountains - Northern Pakistan
Plateau and Himalayas - Southern Tibet
Himalayas - Nepal
Namib Desert   - Namibia
Steppe - Mongolia
Mojave Desert with snow on the Joshua trees - USA
Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe / Zambia
Iguacu Falls    - Brazil / Argentina
Simien Mountains - Ethiopia
Yangshuo - Ganxi, China
Tian Shi - Gansu, China
Lake Baikal - Russia
Chimaera - Olimpos, Turkey
Beagle Channel  - Argentina / Chile
Patagonian Fjords   - Argentina / Chile
Perito Moreno Glacier  - Argentina
Valle de la Luna - Chile
Altiplano - Chile
Salar - Chile
Easter Island  - Easter Island
Ha Long Bay   - Vietnam
Mount Bromo - Java, Indonesia
Keli Mutu - Flores, Indonesia
Most of the coast  - Ireland (Republic and North)
Giant's Causeway  - Northern Ireland
Omatepe  - Nicaragua
Various National Parks - Costa Rica
Lake Atitlan - Guatemala
Volcan Paricutin     - Mexico
Draa Valley  - Morocco
Atlas Mountains  - Morocco
Sahara     - Tunisia
Orinoco Delta - Venezuela
Gran Sabana - Venezuela
Angel Falls - Venezuela
Canaima - Venezuela
Cotopaxi - Ecuador
Galapagos Islands - Ecuador
Huacachina      - Peru
Islas Ballestas - Peru
Lake Titicaca    - Bolivia
Torotoro National Park - Bolivia
Tupiza    - Bolivia
Laguna Verde - Bolivia
Laguna Colorada  - Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni  - Bolivia
Colca Valley - Peru
Llanganuco - Peru
Huaraz - Peru
Lake Tahoe  -  USA
Bora Bora - French Polynesia
Aitutaki       - Cook Islands
Vava'u - Tonga
Waya Lai Lai - Fiji
Togo - Niue
Savai'i      - Samoa
Milford Sound  - New Zealand
Marlborough Sound - New Zealand
Catlins - New Zealand
Rotorua  - New Zealand
Cape Foulwind - New Zealand
Northland - New Zealand
Cape Le Grand - Australia
Nullabor - Australia
Kangaroo Island  - Australia
Shark Bay - Australia
Karijini NP - Australia
Bungle Bungle NP - Australia
Kakadu NP - Australia
Daintree Rainforest - Australia
Uluru - Australia
Fraser Island - Australia


Great History

Lalibela - Ethiopia
Various - Egypt
Petra - Jordan
Palmyra and Apamea - Syria
Various - Greece
Taxila - Pakistan
Ephesus - Turkey
Moai - Easter Island
Borubdur / Prambanan  - Indonesia
Castles and Abbeys   - Ireland
Copan - Honduras
Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa   - Guatemala
Tikal    - Guatemala
Chichen Itza  - Mexico
Uxmal - Mexico
Palenque - Mexico
Teotihuacan - Mexico
Ingapirca   - Ecuador
Sipan - Peru
Tucume - Peru
Huaca de la Luna - Peru
Chan Chan - Peru
Nazca - Peru
Cuzco - Peru
Ollantaytamo - Peru
Macchu Picchu - Peru
Choquekirao - Peru
Chavin de Huantar - Peru
Torotoro - Bolivia
Trilithon   - Tonga
Uluru  - Australia
Kakadu - Australia
Warwick Castle - England
Stratford-Upon-Avon - England
London - England
York - England



Great Architecture  
Temple of Karnak - Luxor, Egypt
Temple of Bacchus - Baalbek, Lebanon
Hagia Sophia - Istanbul, Turkey
Sultan Ahmet - Istanbul, Turkey
Masjid e Emam - Esfahan, Iran
Arg e Bam - Bam, Iran
Potala - Lhasa, Tibet
Samye Monastery - Samye, Tibet
Boudinnath Stupa - Kathmandu, Nepal
Taj Mahal - Agra, India
Khajuraho Temples - Khajuraho, India
Sigiriya - Sri Lanka
Pollonarruwa - Sri Lanka
Bagan - Myanmar
Angkor - Cambodia
Great Wall - China
Forbidden City - Beijing, China
Old Town - Lijiang, China
St. Basil's Basilica - Moscow, Russia
Old Town - Tallinn, Estonia
Old Town   - Riga, Latvia
Prague - Czech Republic
Various - Bangkok, Thailand
Old Sukothai  - Thailand
Perfume River Tombs  - Vietnam
Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Various - Leon, Spain
Barcelona     - Spain
London - England
Venice        - Italy
Troglodytes   - Tunisia
The world's largest wooden structure - Cathedral - Georgetown, Guyana
Largest adobe structure in the world - Huaca Larga - Chiclayo, Peru
Largest mud brick structure in the Western Hemisphere - Huaca del Sol - Trujillo, Peru
Aquaducts - Nazca, Peru
Various - Buenos Aires, Argentina
Nice old town - Colonia, Uruguay
Jesuit Ruins - Jesus, Paraguay
Jesuit Ruins Trinidad, Paraguay
Nice Incan stuff Cuzco, Peru
Nice colonial buildings, built of volcanic stone. Arequipa, Peru
Nice colours, basically a confined eccliastic village within a city. Santa Catalina Convent, Arequipa, Peru
Odd stained glass windows Palacio del Congresso, Lima, Peru



Most ridiculous display of wealth - Jewellery museum, Tehran - Iran
Scariest display of Arms   - Armed Forces Museum, Moscow - Russia
Most boring - Revolution museum, Beijing - China - just photos with no English
Most expensive bibles - Armouries collection, Kremlin, Moscow - Russia
Decomposing stuffed animals - Palace museum, Udaipur - India
Strangest thing - Kunming - China - Trying to sell the exhibits
Oldest person   - Lucy, Homo Austrolapthicus, Addis Abeba - Ethiopia
Art - Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia
Worst Art Gallery   - Museum of Foreign Art, all poor imitations - Riga, Latvia
Thought Provoking   - Holocaust Museum - Washington D.C., USA
Socialist Sculptures - Grutas Parkas, Lithuania
Denial of History - National Museum, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Eye opening  - War Remnants Museum, Saigon, Vietnam
Best Museum - British Museum, London
Most Random Collection - Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala
Best Murals in a Museum    - Palacio des Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Best collection of Mosaics  - Bardo Museum, Tunis, Tunisia
Most impressive selection of gold - Gold Museum, Bogota Colombia
Unbelievably random  - Church mueum, Baños, Ecuador
Shrunken head displays  - Museo Banco Central, Cuenca, Ecuador
Impressive funerary collection - Tumbas Reales, Layembeque, Peru
All about Coca - Coca museum, La Paz, Bolivia
Nice exhibits but repetitive explanations - MAP Pre-Colombian Art Museum, Cuzco, Peru
Nice pottery - Museo de la Nacion, Lima, Peru



Dead People Observed  
Most gruesome burial style - Tibetan Sky burial, Langmusi - Tibet
Most public cremation - Burning Ghats, Varanasi - India
Left to be sorted later   - Quetta - Pakistan
Embalmed   - Ho Chi Minh -Hanoi, Vietnam
- Mao Zedong - Beijing, China
- VI Lenin - Moscow, Russia
- Various old Egyptians - Cairo, Egypt
Ice mummies    - National Museum, Bogota Colombia
Lots of shrunken heads - Museo Banco Central, Cuenca, Ecuador
Various mummies - Peru and Bolivia
Necropolis   - San Juan, Bolivia
Lots of Bones - San Francisco Catacombs, Lima, Peru



Worst Toilets - Tibet
Least Hygienic - Tibet
Smelliest - Tibet
Filthiest   - Tibet
Least Convenient   - Tibet
Most encrusted    - Tibet
Most bizarre  - Hundertwasser Toilets, New Zealand



Folly / Odd  
Sesfontein Fort - Namibia
Crazy Horse Mountain      - South Dakota, USA
Crazy Hotel - Da Lat, Vietnam
Hill of Crosses - Siauliai, Lithuania
Nazca and Palpa Lines - Massive drawings in the ground and geometric figures and lines. Peru
Torro Muerto  - Thousands of Petroglyphs, Peru
Big Things - All over Australia, big banana, croc, pineapple, merino, gala, etc.


Border Crossings  
Most spectacular - Pakistan / China - Going over the Karakorum highway and its spectacular scenery.
Most physically arduous - Tibet / Nepal - scaling down a waterfall with backpack on as the road had collapsed.
Most helpful people - Turkey / Iran - Mr. Mohammed the Iranian official gave us more information than we had asked for.
Most bribes demanded - Venezuela / Colombia - Most of the Venezuelan police wanted a backhander.
Dodgiest border bridge - Panama / Costa Rica - Walking over a disused rail bridge with numbers of the sleepers missing or broken.
What border? - Most of the Shengen States - Europe
Stupidest and most racist border guards - USA
Most ridiculous questions on immigration card - USA
People living in between the borders - D.R. Congo / Uganda
Pedantic Officials - Trinidad and Tobago
Underwater Border - UK / France
Not an Official Border - Cambodia / Laos - Although with a visit to the local immigration official and a ten dollar bill, suddenly we had the letter that made it an international border.
Backdoor borders - Guyana / Suriname / French Guiane
Can't Find the Border - Greece / Albania - Spent ages driving through mine fields looking for the Albanian side.
Disabling Border - Albania / Greece - In another place getting to the immigration window involved a level of aerial dexterity usually reserved for the circus.
Most Flies at the Border - Macedonia / Greece - for some reason they were not in Greece but stopped at the border.
Fluctuating Rules - Almost anywhere in Africa, where rules sometimes changed on a daily basis.
Most insults traded at a border - Tibet / Nepal - Many of the people once having crossed the red line hurled insults, made gestures and showed lower body parts to the Chinese representative on the other side who generally seemed unimpressed.
Did we do immigration? - Argentina / Uruguay - Had to go back to confirm that the Uruguayans had stamped us in.


Airports and Executive Lounges  
Most basic airport - Lalibela, Ethiopia - a shed, a table and some scales to weight the baggage.
Worst baggage security - Miami International, Florida, USA - anyone from the street can just walk in and take baggage from te carousel.
Least practical design - Charles De Gaulle, Paris, France. Getting anywhere involves at least one bus ride.
Least helpful staff - Charles De Gaulle, Paris, France. - Gallic charm
Always making me late for flights - Frankfurt, Germany
Most fun executive lounge - Heathrow Terminal 4, London, UK - Playstation, Internet, Air Traffic Control information and a viewing tower, milkshake machine, TV, Personal Music players and all the usual bits too.
Best Sofas in an executive Lounge - Madrid, Spain
Good Food - Hong Kong


Animals I have eaten that are as yet not on sale at Tesco
Too many bloody flies and probably a lot more that I was unaware of at the time.



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