Pakistan to Australia: 5 cool destinations - 1 not so cool is written by Jens Skovgaard Andersen.
The mountains of Pakistan or the beach on a paradise island?
One of the worst travel questions I can be asked is what my favorite travel destination is. It is almost impossible to make up as there are many factors that come into play; the traveling companions, the weather, the season, the mood, the health, the economy and much more.
The most beautiful dream island can become a nightmare if you have to sit on the barrel all the time, and a tourist trap can become the pure slaraffenland if you go with the right friends. Therefore, it is a challenge to make a list of the favorite places, but of course I have some some favorites. We are going to Ukraine and Pakistan, among other places, but we will start with my 'second hometown'.
Beijing - China's capital in constant change
China huge capital is constantly changing and new buildings are being rebuilt, added to and built everywhere. The city is at once very historic and very modern. In the middle of the traffic chaos, you will find small alleys where time stands still and where life is lived at a leisurely pace. At the same time, there are neighborhoods where the future has already moved in, and where futuristic mega-buildings are shooting up at impressively high speeds.
Beijing is different every time I come there, and it has become an attraction in itself to go on a treasure hunt for the places I used to come - and often I have to state that the development has engulfed my favorites. But new favorite places are constantly appearing, and there is an unquenchable drive in the megacity with the heavy history.
I have lived in Beijing for a total of 1½ years, and despite too much pollution, too many people, too many cars and often too many temperatures, Beijing has gone into my blood and dragged me back again and again. The treasure hunt continues the next time I come by.
South Africa - The Rainbow Nation has the whole package
The whole world in one country. That's how I see it South Africa. Nelson Mandela himself called the country the 'Rainbow Nation', and that predicate holds true. The term refers to the many different peoples who live together in a country with no less than 11 official languages and 3 capitals, but for me the rainbow also means that one can find everything under one roof in South Africa.
There are fantastic beaches, wild landscapes, desert, snow-capped mountains, wine, beer, barbecue, seafood, surfing, diving, hiking, cycling, a ubiquitous grim story - and all the animals we otherwise only see on TV. And then the South Africans are a really festive people that you can't help but like.
It is impossible to finish South Africa and I always dream of a new adventure under the rainbow.
Pakistan - wild and rugged beauty
My first - and in many ways last - large expedition brought me from Kathmandu to London. I left as a big teenager and came home as a grown young man. The trip went through mainly Nepal, India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, and especially Pakistan wild beauty stuck in my heart.
I did not know much about Pakistan from home, except that it was where many guest workers in Denmark came from. But I was blown backwards. Of the culture, of the food, of the hospitality and most of nature. For weeks we drove around surrounded by the world's highest mountains on the Karakoram Highway and I could not help but contemplate and sniff the impressive surroundings. When you come from a country without high mountains, there is something mesmerizing about moving in landscapes where the earth is upright.
On a hike in the northernmost part of Pakistan, my traveling companions and I were stopped very determinedly by a small smiling man who insisted that we go in and see his house.
We were put down along the now former swimming pool and asked about where we came from and everything else we could think of to talk about. While we sat there, we were constantly offered tea, apricots, cakes, nuts and whatever else was to be found in the mountainous regions. We were absolutely not allowed to give anything in return - other than handshakes and hugs - and we all left with a big smile.
Here I learned what hospitality really means and I hope one day to be able to reciprocate. Unfortunately, I have not been back to Pakistan since then, but a reunion is always on the wish list.
Australia - long live the good life
To put Australia on a list like this is almost a no-brainer. There is so much to see and do that it is hard to get around. I myself have only been to Eastern Australia and Tasmania and I am not done at all.
The mix of the half-crazy laid-back lifestyle and the half-crazy distinctive nature is simply unbearable, and if only there were not so far around on the other side of the globe, I would never go anywhere else. Almost never, at least.
Lviv - Central European charm in a forgotten corner
It was not in the cards that I should end up putting the western Ukrainian provincial city of Lviv on a list like this. And yet. As a little boy, much of the time was spent flipping through atlases and studying maps, and the city - which at the time was in the Soviet Union and was called Lvov - settled; probably mostly because of the name.
Up until the European Football Championship in 2012, I had an exciting opportunity to get to Ukraine and visit the cities that were to host the final round, and one of them was Lviv. The city has led a changeable life and has experienced most of European history in its own streets.
It bears the stamp of, and it is a melting pot of ethnicities with its own neighborhoods in the medieval city, and most of all it is just a really nice city to explore. The price level is very 'poor-digging', and I enjoy being able to eat well , drink even better and enjoy life in one of Europe's many hearts.
It has been more than a handful of visits, and when a new direct route opens from Copenhagen in the spring, I will leave again; I cant help it.
Bubbles: Copenhagen - adventure right on your doorstep
I know there is no room for 6 on a top 5, but I would still like to strike a blow for the near adventures. As a tourist guide in København I see the city changing from the front parquet, and many fascinating things are happening all year round in our own capital.
While much in the city may seem expensive, there is at least as much that costs nothing. My fascination with my own city grows every day, I roam the old streets, and I can only encourage everyone else to screw up my curiosity and take some walks around the city.
It is far from the high mountains of Pakistan and Australia's endless nature, but Copenhagen is still something special to me.
Not so cool: Amsterdam - created for a different audience
It can not all be as good, so therefore there is also room for a place that is not as high on the list as the others.
Let it be said at once: I have not given up Amsterdam yet. The city is high on many people's lists of destinations, and I understand that in principle well. The city has very good and there are plenty of places to take good photos for Instagram (I do that myself too). But I still can not completely get rid of the feeling that something is disturbing the picture when I am in Amsterdam.
It's hard to find a reasonably okay place to sleep on the cheap end, and I've spent many nights in questionable hostels with relatively questionable roommates. On that front, you do not get much for your money in Amsterdam. And then the city is known for both 'red light district' with overt prostitution and 'coffeeshops' with equally overt intake of fun tobacco. It clearly attracts many to the city and it is simply too much for me.
Sometimes I have to tell myself that I'm just not in the target group, and with Amsterdam that's probably the case. It's not made for me. But I have not given up yet - Amsterdam will get one more chance someday.
I'm sure my favorite list will change in the future and I can hardly wait until I have to go out and find new lovely places to put on the list.
Enjoy traveling - whether you choose Pakistan or Amsterdam. See you out there!