Another year has passed. Here is my personal best and worst of 2006 in the categories adventure, discovery, hotel, experience, buy and surprise.
Best adventure – On our trip to Rajasthan in March we visited Ranthambhore National Park, where we had three safaris. Lots of jeeps and canters go out into the park every day but no tigers had been seen for weeks. We were extremely lucky on our second time in the park to see a tiger and her cub pass just a few meters in front of our jeep. We also saw many other animals.
Worst adventure – When we stayed on Key Largo in October we made two dives with Rainbow Reef and had a very bad day with them; the guide and other divers were constantly poking at animals, chasing them out of holes by sticking in their fins and other equipment and even breaking off coral on purpose! We couldn’t believe this! We almost gave up diving in the Keys, but tried again with Quiescence and diving with them was much nicer and no fish were harmed on that trip.
Best discovery – Amy and I started a new hobby of birding this year. On 25 February we went down to Vogelplas Starrevaart, just a few kilometers south of Leiden, and discovered it was a great place to watch birds. There is a very nice hide in the middle of the lake, and throughout the year we have seen many birds come and go as we visited the area. During the summer we saw here dozens of Spoonbills.
Worst discovery – In 2005 I became a fish-eating vegetarian. I’ve always been a fan of Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts, but in September I found out that there is actually beef gelatin in the frosting of Pop-Tarts. In the beginning I didn’t mind and kept eating them, but the last few weeks I am getting grossed out by the idea every time I have one, and now I don’t even like them anymore.
Best hotel – One of the fanciest hotels I’ve ever stayed at was Bhanwar Niwas in Bikaner in March. It was the most expensive accomodation on our 18-day tour of India, but it was well worth the money. The room was lavish, the food was excellent and the service was outstanding.
Worst hotel – By far not as bad as last year’s worst hotel Les Rois, this year’s worst hotel wasn’t bad in the way of bad service or anything, but it was definitely the dirtiest room I have ever slept in. Our first night in Delhi we arrived in the middle of the night and stayed two nights at Namaskar Hotel. Maybe it was the shock of arriving in India and maybe if we had stayed here at the end of our trip it wouldn’t have been so bad, but there were cockroaches in the bathroom, the shower had only some cold dripping water and the toilet — well, I’ll spare you and not describe that filthy thing. The windows also didn’t close and mosquitos flew in freely, which worried us.
Best experience – In March we were in Jaipur in India during the Holi Festival, which marks the beginning of spring. The day before we had attended the wonderful Elephant Festival and we had already bought a few bags of color from a street vendor, so on the morning of 14 March we headed into the city, each armed with bags of colored powder in our pockets. When we got back to the hotel we were completely covered in colors.
Worst experience – On 26 January Oma de Wolf died in Roosendaal. She was my dad’s mom and my last grandparent. The funeral was on 1 February.
Best buy – For Christmas this year I got a TomTom GPS navigator for the car. Wow, it is really nice and very handy to use. I’ve never had one of these things before (besides a handheld Garmin for trekking), but it is very impressive. I like the way it tells you to bear left or right on the highway and how you can avoid roads and how you can use it for walking and bicycling and how you can download GPS roadtrip tracks. It’s awesome!
Worst buy – In January when we were in Chicago I bought a pair of Old Navy jeans that had a hidden security tag sewn into it. For the next weeks alarms at stores would go off when I was wearing the pants. It turns out I’m not the only one suffering from this problem.
Best surprise – Amy took me to Madrid for my birthday in August. That wasn’t particularly a surprise as we planned it together, but it was a great trip and my first time to Spain. What was a surprise was the Egyptian Temple of Debod overlooking a valley near Campo de Moro and Parque del Oeste. Our guidebook didn’t mention the monument, but it has been there since 1972. It is one of only four Egyptian templates outside Egypt!
Worst surprise – After our trip through India I was sick to my stomach for several weeks. My doctor gave me medicine against the nausea, but it turned out I was allergic to the medicine and it gave me Parkinson-like symptoms; for a few days I was shaking and couldn’t move my arms and my whole body felt numb. It was a scary experience.