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10 Most Beautiful Places of Around the World, 2009!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

May these (totally-unrelated-to-the-article) photos from climbing the Duomo in Florence with my sweet family put you in a good mood for 2010!

Now… I resolve: For as long as the savings hold out, and perhaps longer, I will see this thing through. Travel! Writing! Connections! Crafting a career that will contribute positively to society, while keeping the passion going!

A giant THANK YOU to you for reading this blog. Indeed, it has been just as incredible to tour this grand Earth as it has been to finally have the chance to sit down and write about it, and to share and discuss the experiences with folks like you.

In the meantime, this is the perfect moment to step back and reflect on the first five months, seven countries, three continents, and one hundred and seventy-six blog articles of 2009, before I travel on Sunday to Ghana.

So without further ado, here is Part 1 of my multi-part reflection on the 2009 leg of this journey.

(Click the links next to the numbers for the accompanying photos and articles.)

The Ten Most Beautiful Places of the Around the World journey in 2009:

10. Bangkok’s Grand Palace.
We’ve all traipsed through famous buildings and grumbled, “Why is this supposed to be cool again?” But the gold, glitter, and giant blue men holding up walls of Thailand’s royal home make Bangkok’s Grand Palace truly worth the entrance fee.

9. Tokyo at Night!
Japan’s capital is nutso neon rainbow insane, especially when you wander through it at after dark! It is also crazy safe, so keep on wandering until four in the morning, if you wish.

8. Michelangelo’s “David” in Florence.
No photo can do justice to this incarnation of human beauty and potential. Click the article for some of the quotes this hunk evoked… or just stare at his rippling abs and smooth jawline.

7. The Hidden Beaches of Ko Phangan, Thailand.
Ko Phangan is known for its psychotic Full Moon party each month, but beyond the urine-soaked Sunrise Beach, a longtail boat can transport you to hundreds of hidden gems of Thai sea paradise.

6. Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
The largest temple on Earth! Take at least three days to explore the miles and miles of this ancient religious complex. Make sure to reserve some time for the AMAZING and inexpensive cuisine of Siem Reap, while you’re at it. Mmm…

5. Ko Lanta, Thailand.
I obsessively sampled every beach I could find in Southeast Asia, and Ko Lanta emerged as the most delightful combination of stunning sea, some tourists and tourist amenities (but not an overwhelming amount!), convenient location, and big enough size for variety.

4. Halong Bay, Vietnam.
Stay on tranquil Cat ba Island and take a boat tour all around the mystical mountain humps rising from the blue water. Make sure to opt for the extra kayaking option to delve into the azure caves! Stunning.

3. A Two-day Mekong Riverboat!
Laos is gorgeous, and gliding on a honey-colored wooden boat up the most famous river in Southeast Asia is gorgeous squared. It’s relaxing, social, and fascinating. Don’t worry: you pull in to shore to sleep in a hotel mid-way!

2. Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
It was truly amazing to get far off the tourist trail and delve into the rolling green mountains of Western Vietnam. The local children waved and grinned like crazy as they biked past us on their way to school, the hills were covered in silk farms, coffee, paprika, and strawberries, and waterfalls cascaded down rock faces by Cambodia’s border. There were some really awful elements of this trip, but the good FAR outweighed the bad, and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to see this other side of Vietnam.

1. Luang Prabang, Laos.
Emerald green mountains, orange-clad monks, glittering golden temples, blue and tan rivers, charming architecture… this place has not been called “The Most Beautiful City in Southeast Asia” for nothing. It’s absolutely glorious. And yummy, too!

So there are my votes. I look forward to hearing YOUR personal thoughts on the most beautiful place of 2009!

Coming next in the Year-End Reflection: Most Intense, Delicious, Funny, and Loving moments of Around the World 2009… and the Epiphanies!

(P.S.- In answer to your questions, I may be six feet tall, but my little brother is 6’6″!)

Touring Florence 2: The David!
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