"So what was your favourite country?" This is THE inescapable question that all your friends will ask you when you come back from a trip around the world. It is a difficult one for me to answer because I had a crush on each country I visited and I could even see myself living several months in each of them. So much that I extended my stay several times (including in Chile, Australia, China and Laos) Every time I struggled to leave a country behind me not knowing if I'll come back one day . In addition to their language, culture, food, I have also associated these countries with the encounters that I made there. These encounters, memories and experiences have shaped the vision that I have of all the countries I've been through.
So you will not find the name of my favourite country in this article but a tiny selection of places and things that have made a lasting impression on me during my trip.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
"Eternity is the sea mingled with the sun." Arthur Rimbaud
The idea of spending hours sunbathing on a beach never really enchanted me ... yet those beaches gave me a true taste of paradise ...
- TULUM, Mexico
Tulum is located in the Yucatan province of Mexico. The beauty of the tropical beaches of the Caribbean Sea is simply breathtaking. Lukewarm water is turquoise and walking on the sand there is like stepping on flour. Between the visit of the Mayan ruins in the archaeological site overlooking the sea and the swimming/sunbathing sessions in an idyllic setting, one can only fall in love with Tulum.
- HERON, Australia
This 800 meters long and 300 wide island where I lived for four months in early 2013 is a little heaven. Discover what life is like in the middle of the ocean HERE
- Koh Rong, Cambodia
Long Beach is located two hours by boat from the city of Sihanoukville. One has to walk through the jungle on foot to reach this sublime beach or take a boat.
"Make the dream devours your life so that life does not devour your dream" St Exupéry
Food is such an important part of the travelling experience. Indeed every day travellers experiment a culinary discovery, they travel through food in each country they visit.
It's impossible to resist the incredible flavour of Mexican spicy dishes. Chilli is indeed the main element of Mexican cuisine. Mexicans love to eat in the street because that's where they find the greatest culinary variety. Tacos are the most popular street food that you can taste in every corner. Another Mexican delight is mole, a sauce that accompanies rice and meat dishes. There are different kinds of mole but I particularly remember mole Pueblano from the small city of Puebla which is made from about 20 ingredients including chocolate!
Indian food is one of a kind, full of flavour but extremely spicy most times. So spicy that I used to drip with sweat while eating! It's possible to find equally tasty milder dishes such as Masala Dosa, a large crepe stuffed with potatoes, onions and spices. Delicious! The Indians do not understand why we use cutlery to eat, to them the fork represents an interference between our bodies and food, so they prefer to eat with their fingers. I actually thought that the food was even more tasty when eating with my hand. Be careful however not to use your left hand that should be used only to clean yourself in the toilets! On the drink side, mango juice freshly pressed on the street are delicious. If you are in India around April it's a great time to enjoy their incredibly sweet and delicious mangoes. The Indians also go crazy for their chai, a very sweet tea mixed with milk and sometimes with ginger. You'll find chai sellers everywhere in the streets.
Much sweeter than the food from the two previous countries. Thai food is simply delicious with exquisite soups (my favourite would be chicken soup with coconut) noodles and curries that would take your breath away.
THE BEST HIKES
“La vie ce n'est pas seulement respirer, c'est avoir le souffle coupé” Hitchcock
Walking is definitely the best way to soak up and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
- The ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT, Nepal
By far the most beautiful hike I've done but also the most challenging. I walked more than 250 km (around 155 miles) in the Himalayas in two weeks. I reached Thorung Pass, the highest point of the trek at over 5400 meters altitude. If you undertake this walk one day, do not hesitate to get out of the circuit to make a detour to the Ice Lake and Tilicho lake, two highlights of this hike.
- TIGER LEAPING GORGE, China
The Tiger Leaping Gorge is known as the most beautiful hike in China, Yunan Province. The trail that goes along the gorge before descending into a canyon is over 22 km (13 miles) and can be completed in two days. The name of this walk originates from a legend that says that a tiger jumped across the river to escape a hunter. We did not seen any tiger when we went down the canyon but the descent was quite spectacular offering impressive views of the gorge.
- Routeburn Track, New Zeeland
The Routeburn is a very popular 30 kilometres hike (18 miles) in the South of New Zealand near the town of Te Anau. The variety of landscapes encountered along the way is amazing (forests, lakes, mountains) and allowed this hike to be ranked as one of the eleven best hikes in the world by the National Geographic. I did this hike with Faye, a French English I met when I went kayaking in the famous Milford Sound. We shared wonderful moments during that time.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SUNSETS
"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page" St Augustine
- HERON, Australia
Wherever you go in Australia sunsets are always breathtaking. The ones I saw on Heron Island were particularly spectacular.
- EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, America
The first sunset I saw on this trip was at the top of the Empire State Building. I was then accompanied by Patrick and Kate, two English friends I started my trip with. The stunning views of the city are unforgettable.
- SUGAR LOAF, Brazil
It is a funicular that goes to the summit of the most famous rock in Rio: Sugar Loaf. It must have cost me ten euros to get there but the views of city from the top are absolutely breathtaking.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SUNRISES
"The sun rises only for the one who goes to see it" Henri Le Saux
- BETWEEN SALTA AND MENDOZA, Argentina
I was accompanied by two French girls, Laura and Cecilia with whom I was doing a roadtrip between Salta and Mendoza when we saw this sunrise. We had spent a particularly uncomfortable night trying to sleep in the car. In the morning, Cecile had enough and decided to drive wrapped in her duvet. As we drove the sun was beginning to rise. She stopped the car and we watched the sunrise while eating toast with dulce de lecce,very popular in Argentina. Les Cardinaux en costumes by Francis Cabrel was playing on the radio. At that time our lives felt complete and we realized how lucky we were to be there... A very special moment.
- Titicaca, Bolivia
On the Isla del Sol I spent one night with Lars, a German with whom I traveled for more than two weeks in Bolivia. Our room was facing the lake dominated by a magnificent mountain range. We somehow managed to get up around 4am. The cold was biting but the sunrise we witnessed was just amazing.
- ANKOR WAT, Cambodia
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MONUMENTS
"The Taj Mahal stands on the banks of a river as a tear suspended on the cheek of time" R. Tagore
- TAJ, India
If I had to choose one monument that particularly moved me, it definitely would be this one. This Muslim art masterpiece was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his deceased wife. The construction of this white marble mausoleum took 22 years. One must pass the big gate before finally seeing the palace. It's very moving to see the Taj Mahal for the first time. I literally felt the tears welling up in my eyes when I saw it, it had never happened at the sight of a monument!
- MACHU PICCHU, Peru
What I remember from Machu Picchu is not only the vision of the Inca city and its famous mountain but the whole process of getting to the site. In fact I decided to go there by myself but I met Matthias and Fletcher, a German and an American on the bus. Under the rain we followed the path of the railway on foot to get to the small village of Agua Calientes, located 400 meters below Machu Picchu. It is at night that we started climbing the steep path leading to the Inca city. An incredible experience that I will never forget. Have a look at the detailed account of my visit to Machu Picchu HERE
- ULURU, Australia
The first thing that comes to mind at the sight of Uluru is how a rock of this magnitude has ended up there, in the middle of the desert. This huge rock formation is sacred for the Aborigines living in the area. It takes almost two hours on foot to walk around this incredible rock that has a total circumference of 9 kilometers (5,8 miles). The hike around the rock that seems to change colour at different times of the day is impressive.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CITIES
"There is something in the New York air That Makes sleep useless" S. De Beauvoir
When I travel I try not to spend too much time in big cities. Yet two of them have caught my attention.
- New York
This city has a sentimental value for me as this is the place where it all began on the 29th January 2012, the beginning of my long journey around the world - without luggage as British Airways had lost my bag that was finally found a few days later! - This was also the very first time that I was travelling outside Europe. And what a first time! New York impressed me by its size and its extraordinary buildings. Watch my video about this legendary city: HERE
The stunning setting of Rio between rocky mountains, hills and beaches makes this city extremely attractive. On top of that, Brazilians are incredibly friendly and there's a festive atmosphere that just makes you want to smile and party all the time! Rio was a great place to have a little break in my trip, I stayed there for ten days. I keep great memories of from the youth hostel where I met other travellers but especially from my Couchsurfing experience. Chico was extremely kind, he hosted me for a few days and took me around his hometown.
TOP 3 ACTIVITIES
"To stay is to exist but to travel is to live." G. Nadaud
- THE DEATH ROAD, Bolivia
Youngas road is located about fifty kilometers in the North of La Paz and is better known as one of the most dangerous roads in the world. It is possible to cycle down this road that is now closed to motor vehicles. It was after a long festive and almost sleepless night that I decided to roll down these 65 km (40,6 miles) with my traveling companion, Lars. No regrets, the descent is just amazing and brought its share of cold sweat. Thrills guaranteed!
- DIVING, Australia
Breathing underwater is probably one of the strangest sensations for the human body. My first dive took place in Mexico on my 24th birthday. One year later, I renewed the experience in Australia. The discovery of the colourful seabed of the Great Barrier Reef was simply breathtaking.
- MOTORBIKING, South East Asia
Scooter is undoubtedly the best way to escape the tourist trail in South East Asia. Nothing is easier and more pleasant than getting lost in small remote villages. Renting these vehicles is fairly cheap and allows a complete independence. I traveled solo by motorbike for a week driving on a 600 kilometers (372 miles) loop in the North of Thailand, Mae Hong Son. A few months before I had explored the roads of the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos, a nearly 500km (310 miles) loop accompanied by Markus, my traveling companion in Laos.
THE BEST ROADS
"There's nothing That the road can not heal" Conor Oberst
- ROAD 66, America
My friends and I drove only on a section of the road 66 from Albuquerque. Our 15-day roadtrip by car took us on some of the most beautiful roads I have ever seen.
- QUEENSTOWN, New Zealand
The road between Queenstown and Glenorchy is simply breathtaking. It follows the huge Lake Wakatipu (not less than 84km long!) on which the reflections of the majestic mountains are incredible. A beautiful trip, one afternoon in August with Adela, my Czech friend who had been kind enough to host me during my stay in Queenstown. Find this road and many other beautiful scenery on my video about New Zealand HERE.
- NORTHERN ARGENTINA
Crossing the North of Argentina between Buenos Aires and Mendoza by car in July 2012 was a beautiful experience that allowed me to enjoy some incredible scenery. These wide and multi-colored rock compositions reminded me of my first roadtrip in West America at the beginning of my journey.