Top 10 Countries I Want to Visit: 2011 Edition

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I blatantly stole this idea from Brooke over at Brooke vs. the World, who has been at this travel blogging thing a helluva lot longer than me. I’m going to get a chance to meet her (as well as other members of Sydney’s Massive) this coming Thursday. Pretty excited to meet a few other fellow travelers and travel bloggers.

Anyway, with my travel cut back while Fallon and I save for our upcoming trip to New Zealand and Fiji, I’m left to idle day-dreaming about all of the fantastic places I’d like to go. And since Top 10’s seem to draw a lot of attention, I thought I’d combine the two and do a little writing in the process.

10 – Mongolia

Where four countries meet - Photo by Kit Seeborg

My good friend Byron – who you can read over at the imaginatively titled Byron’s Blog – spent summer vacation in 2009 sleeping under the stars and traveling by camel while Fallon and I were exploring Korea’s somewhat overhyped Jejudo island. The original plan had been for myself, two other mates, and Byron to do Mongolia together – but the lure of beaches and fruity drinks proved too strong for us young whipper-snappers.

But the lure of Mongolia is still there for me. As far as travel destinations go, it’s a little off the beaten track and thus far Byron is the only person I’ve met who has made the leap and spent a considerable amount of time. What fascinates me most about a potential trip to Mongolia is how little I know about the place. It’s this massive country, one that once conquered much of the known world, and we know so little about the history and the culture of the place.

I, for one, would love to experience it without too much prior bias.

9 – Turkey

Cleopatra Beach, Turkey - Photo by ozgurmulazimoglu

My friend Anthony, who hooked me up with my first Korean job, has been living and working as an ESL teacher in Turkey for a few years now and he constantly badgers me to step outside of my Korean comfort zone and take the gamble on Turkey.

I must admit, it’s a tempting prospect. The historical value of Istanbul alone is worth the trip, but this is another country that much of the world doesn’t pay a great deal of attention to unless it’s in the news for the wrong reasons. My friend has told me so many fantastic stories about the friendliness of the people, the beauty of the women, and the quality of their beaches. Fantastic snorkeling, ancient history, and a great night life? I’m there!

And since the rest of the world hasn’t quite caught onto Turkey yet, it’s still an affordable place to visit. Me? I think I’ll spend a year working there once I’m done in Korea and experience it in the way you only can as a resident of a country.

8 – Greece

The Temple of Zeus. Photo by Simon

Like many products of the New South Wales public education system, I had the importance of Greek history drummed into me from an early age. Right up alongside the might of the Egyptian empire, the Greek nation’s role in shaping the world was something we were educated on from the very first day of Year 7 history right until I put down the pen on my twelfth grade Ancient History exam.

My primary reasons for wanting to visit Greece would be to visit these places we learned so much about. I’d imagine I’d get a special buzz from standing near the Parthenon and realizing that this place has known human habitation for millennia. It’s one of the birthplaces of the arts, it’s got amazing beaches (and a weekend spent on Ibiza sounds like a blast), and…. food! Greek food is right up there alongside Italian and Mexican food for me, and eating it the way it was intended sounds like a recipe for me gaining a lot of weight.

7 – Romania

Peles Castle - Photo by daytona_k

Why Romania? It’s the home of Transylvania! As odd a reason as that might be, Romania is one of the few countries left in the world where you can see and experience Europe’s medieval history up close and personal. Not the tourist trap that some of its neighbors are. A lot of travel might be about visiting well known sites and finding the next party, but as somebody who loves photography and history, I think it would be fascinating to take a horse and buggy through farmland and snap photos of these ancient villages and stunning castles.

6 – South Africa

Giraffes at Kruger. Photo by Arno & Louise

For reasons unknown even to me, I’ve always had a fascination with South Africa. That fascination only grew after dating a South African girl in 2008 and spending time with her Afrikaner friends. There’s something enthralling about South Africa’s dark, bloody history. Whether it’s exploring Kruger National Park and seeing some of the world’s most recognizable animals or spending time at beautiful Cape Town; enjoying a traditional Braai or familiarizing yourself with the country’s rich history – there’s just so much about South Africa that captures the far reaching futility of the British Commonwealth.

With friends scattered around the country and a self confessed love of the South African accent, it’s definitely a must visit for me.

5 – Malaysia

The things you find.... - Photo by Adrian Moody

When I ask people where to find the best scuba diving in the world, they almost invariably tell me that it’s going to be found in Malaysia. While I’m still a novice in the world of scuba, I fell in love with it while exploring the Barrier Reef and I have grand plans to see as much of each country I visit’s underwater as I do its surface.

It’s not just Malaysia’s underwater beauty I’d be looking to explore though. Malaysian cuisine is amongst the best I’ve ever had, and this is very much a country with the kind of deep, hot jungle/rainforest that I’ve long dreamed about being able to visit. We Aussies don’t get to see a great deal of the jungle, although I did get a chance to explore a portion of it earlier this year in Kuranda.

4 – Brazil

Carnival. Photo by jACK TWO

A country where football is a religion and whose women are reputed to be the most beautiful in the world? Like this wasn’t going to make my list!

My ultimate goal is to be teaching in or near Brazil in 2014 so that I can be on hand for the festival of football that is the World Cup. And if I can’t manage that? There’s hundreds of miles of beautiful beaches; the depths of the Amazon; the action of the Carnival; amazing churrasco; and the not to be forgotten Brazilian culture.

A year wouldn’t be enough time to see it all. Maybe I need to marry a Brazilian?

3 – India

The Taj Mahal. Photo by Trey Ratcliffe

A few months ago I might not have even included India on my list, but following the travels of my friends Katie and Jessie as they travel across the subcontinent has captured my imagination and made a believer out of me. Hitting virtually every known and unknown stop along the way, the girls look like they’ve had the time of their lives. You can check out their travels at Dancing around the World.

In particular their visits to Goa and Darjeeling caught my eye, but there’s so much to see on the subcontinent. Maybe a year teaching there calls to me too?

2 – Thailand

Riding an elephant near Chiang Mai. Photo by Fallon Fehringer

When I first started dating Fallon in 2009, she’d just got back from a five week journey around Thailand and Cambodia. She came back telling stories of zipline tours and white sandy beaches and all night Full Moon parties. She came back and introduced me to fragrant Pad Thai and delicious Panang Curry. It’s been a love affair ever since. A fortnight doesn’t go by without Thai appearing on my menu.

It’s more than just the food though. This is a real tropical paradise with its own rich history and culture to boot. I’m looking at completing my CELTA in Thailand in 2012 and maybe someday teaching there, but at the very least I am determined to explore as much of it as I can. And eat my weight in delicious food.

1 – Italy

Photo by Simon

Food! A common theme with me. I adore good food almost as much as I adore the excitement of a new place. The rich creamy pastas, the traditional pizzas, the fantastic wines, gelato… I’m having a mouthgasm as I type!

There’s history and culture in spades. The Forum and the Coliseum in Rome, the famed leaning tower in Pisa, and the beautiful canal city of Venice. There’s art and music and shopping to be had in plenty. Checking out a football game here would be a pretty amazing experience too.

——

Basically, this list was a nightmare to come up with. I left off so many countries that I’d like to visit, and I’m sure there are a lot of secret places that I’ve never even contemplated visiting. Tony over at It’s Good Overseas has a special love of Yemen and just got back from a trip to Timor Leste that sounded incredible; my friend Brodie spent a year teaching in the Ukraine; and my friend Dave spent the better part of this year backpacking all over South America.

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  • Earthquake

    Hey Chris,

    Some good countries there. India, Greece and Italy I would love to go to.

    But alas my Top 10 is rather boring compared to your exotic list.

    Mine would be (in order of preference) UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong.

    But most of all, I’d like to go around Oz as well because we do have a great country here that a lot of us locals never get to see!

    • admin

      Funny you should mention Oz there. It’s my long term goal, when I’m done seeing the world, to land in Darwin and make my way counter clock-wise around the country and see as much of it as I can.

      The US is still on my list, but I was lucky enough to see a decent chunk of the western side of it last year. Still a lot I need to see!

  • Good list you’ve compiled. I’ve been to 4 of them (Turkey, India, Thailand & Italy) & they were all good. Def agree with you about Turkey – it would be amazingly insightful living there for a year. Creating top 10s are pretty tough, I really need to think about one for myself!

    • It’s funny how a year on this list has changed so drastically. I think an update is in order!

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  • Canada’s not on the list! 🙁

    But I’m glad Thailand (I was there earlier this year — amazing!!) and India are. Especially Goa! I can tell you first hand that you won’t be disappointed by the gems you’ll find there!

    I too want to take some time out and visit India properly. I’ve only been to a few cities… Hopefully this will change during the next visit.

    I agree with you on Turkey, Brazil, Italy… ok… I agree on all of them, and then some! 🙂

    Great post! I’m feeling inspired! 🙂 🙂

    • Canada’s actually grown in my estimation quite a bit, although mainly for the opportunity to explore the Arctic regions such as Nunavut. 

  • Hey! I opted to put my creativity into my writing not the title of my blog. When I shift it over to a website maybe I’ll change the name then, is that possible?

    A fine list to be sure, I’ve been to 3 of them and through a forth (I don’t count a 12 bus ride to Bangkok’s airport to count as having seen a country) but Mongolia, Greece and Italy I’ve all checked off.

    I think I might have trouble listing only 10 places I want to go.

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  • Ian

    Look forward to seeing you at Sydney Travel Tribe tomorrow!

    Cheers,
    @aussie_ian

  • Oh man, now I’m going to have to make one of these. Having been to South Africa, Brazil, India and Thailand, I can vouch for how awesome they are.

    South Africa is such an interesting mix of European and African…its not like any other place I’ve ever been. So much history, and so much natural beauty. I would consider the District 6 Museum in Capetown and the winelands (Fraanschoek, Paarl and Steelbosch) must sees. The winelands outside Capetown rank among the most naturally beautiful places I’ve ever been. And, of course, a visit to a township is absolutely necessary to actually have any chance of understanding South Africa.

    If I had to describe Brazil in a word it would be “vibrant.” I started in the colonial town of San Salvador, and then headed up to Manaus and the Amazon. Spending six days on a riverboat, floating down the river, swimming in the Rio Negro, fishing for piranhas and sleeping in hammocks was 100% unforgettable. Spending time with kids in the villages, trekking through the rainforest, and getting soaked during an INSANE quarterfinal soccer playoff (complete with riot police, smoke bombs, and attack dogs) was incredible. One of my favorite memories was the afternoon I set off with two friends determined to get our shells read (fortune telling) and ended up in a little old woman’s house being told our futures in Portuguese…which none of us spoke.

    India is amazing. Everything about India is loud- the traffic, the colors, the smells, the emotion. It is incredible and overwhelming and fantastic. Risk “Dehli-belly” and eat street food or from little mom-and-pop restaurants. The only time I got sick in India is when I was forced to eat at Pizza Hut by my tour group! Of course the Taj is breathtaking, but so is spending an afternoon volunteering at a Missionaries of Charity orphanage started by Mother Teresa or zipping around the town in a rickshaw, completely sure you are going in the wrong direction but loving the ride. Or watching a local Bollywood movie sans subtitles and realizing, when the house lights come up, that though you’ve sat through two hours of dancing and singing already, its just INTERMISSION.

    Thailand…wow. I went to Koh Phi Phi last winter and it was just about as close to paradise as I’ve ever come. A bungalow 10 steps from the beach, the ocean made up of vibrant gem tones, long tail boat rides that bring you to fantastic restaurants…its bliss. There is nothing like walking out the front door of your bungalow, down to the beach, and about 10m straight out into the ocean for fantastic snorkeling. Couldn’t have asked for more. And the food! GOOD GOD THE FOOD. I think I could be happy with green curry being injected directly into my veins.

    I gotta say, Mongolia, Turkey and Greece are also on my top ten, and Romania would be a close runner up. I am planning to go to Malaysia this winter break for a few days and I am seriously looking forward to it!

    • I’m jealous that you’re able to describe some of my dream destinations in such detail! Hopefully someday I’ll have checked a few of these off (still at 0 a year on).

  • Turkey’s the only one on your list I’ve been to, but India currently tops my own, and Thailand and South Africa were in the 1st “top 5” list I ever made (7 years ago?). Very nice list! I always think it’s cool to learn how countries become important and/or interesting to different people 🙂

  • Thanks for the shout, and I’m glad I could spark a post idea for your blog as well 😉 Great list! I know it’s hard to whittle such an amazing amount of possibilities down into just 10.

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  • You’d love Brasil, especially during carnival! I spent 2 months in Brasil and totally loved it. if you ever need any tips. just let me know! P.S Mongolia is also top on my list…

    • Someday. Hopefully the Socceroos make it in 2014 and give me an excuse to go, haha

  • Matthew

    Chris, all these countries are great destinations. Come and visit us in Greece! We are a beautiful country. Have you seen pictures of the Greek islands? Do you like Greek food? I have enjoyed visiting your site.

    Matthew (the Greek)

    • Greece was actually an early contender for a place on the list. I studied Greek history in school and have always been fascinated it. Couple that with the islands and my bucket list dream to someday spend time in a house on the beach in Greece, and it’s definitely one I’d love to visit someday. Greek food (especially feta cheese and olives) is a favourite of mine.

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