Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Year in Review

The New Year is here and it's a time of reflection.  Most importantly it's a time for lists.  I'm a sucker for lists, especially those with "Top Ten" in the title.  When Times came out with their Top Ten lists for 2010 I spent the length of two Lord of the Rings movies reading through them.  Lists are great!  This year I'm making a few lists of my own but these will only have "Top Five" in the title.

2010 was mostly a year of traveling and teaching English.

Ryan's Top Five Travel Moments of 2010
5.) Fuguo Monastery (January 2010) - In Yunnan Province, China, there is a famous city called Lijiang.  An ancient city with a maze of stone cobbled streets, waterways, and enough souvenirs to fill Tiger Leaping Gorge.  A few of us rented bikes from Mama Naxi and rode to the foothills of the Himalayas.  There we walked our bikes half way up a mountain road until we reached Fuguo Monastery.  We didn't know what to expect but when we arrived we were greeted by a shabby old Monastery on the verge of collapse.  However, an old Tibetan Monk came running out and insisted that we join him inside.  He was learning English and his favorite saying was, "Have a laugh!"  This of course produced laughter.  He gave us cookies, green tea, talked to us in shaky English, and took us on a tour of his broken down Monastery in the foothills of the Himalayas.  "May you have a long life!" he shouted as we rode back down the mountain on our bikes.

4.) The Drive Between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng (January 2010) Luang Prabang is a city of monks and temples.  The streets are dead by 10pm and monks are walking the street by 6am to gather rice from the locals.  Vang Vieng is a city of river tubing, dance music, debauchery, and "Friends" (yes, the show) bars.  These two places in Laos couldn't be any different.  The fascinating thing was the transportation between the two.  In a van of a dozen people we rode up and down huge mountains.  I didn't know mountains this size existed in Southeast Asia!  For six hours we drove up in to the clouds, then out of the clouds, and only stopped occasionally at a roadside baguette stall.  
3.)  Scooters in Thailand (February 2010) - After riding in the back of a Tuk-Tuk, driving a scooter is my favorite mode of transportation in Southeast Asia.  On the island of Koh Phangan, we spent a couple days driving all over it.  We drove to beaches, elephant hang outs, huge trees, a mexican restaurant, and through a drug check point.  "No officer, there are no doobies on my person."

2.) Trekking the Great Wall (May 2010) - I've wanted to see the Great Wall of China since I can remember.  Something about it just attracts me to it.  Maybe it's the sheer massiveness, the beauty of seeing something stretch from mountain top to mountain top as far as you can see.  Maybe it's the history, the years and man power it took to accomplish it so long ago.  Maybe I have a fascination with walls, I don't know.  Anyway, I finally got to see it when I hiked a 6km section where tourists are barely seen.  I hiked from newly restored sections to rundown and untouched sections.  I got see what the wall must have looked like back in its heyday and what it looks like after hundred of years of existence.  I loved it!

1.) Angkor Wat (February 2010) - This massive area of ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples in Cambodia is a clear winner for number one.  There are so many amazing structures that I barely got to see all the ones I wanted to see in three days of exploring.  My favorite temple was Bayon, known as the one with all the faces.  I think my mouth was hanging open for the entire time that I was walking around this temple.  I also enjoyed Ta Prohm, known as the one with all the trees.  I wish I could have spent several more days in that area and I would love to go back one day.

See more pictures here.

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