An Apology to the 17 Countries I've Visited More Than Once Without Doing Them Justice
I should start this post by apologizing to Mexico. I'm well aware that it is a country boasting rich cultural diversity, amazing natural beauty, and top-notch architecture. Yet I am forced to admit that in the six times that I've visited, at no point was it my intended destination. I don't say that disparagingly, it's just that my visits (3 times as a day trip from California + three times to the cruise port in Cozumel where I quite literally spent 70% of my time under the water) were never specifically about Mexico and I sort of feel bad about that. It also got me thinking about the other 16 countries I've been to on more than one occasion yet haven't given them the attention they deserve. So to Mexico and you other countries I've failed to show the proper love, this one's for you.
I first set foot in Malaysia back in 2003, and only then because it was a semi-convenient day trip from Singapore. We were brought in to the city of Johor Bahru, where we were subjected to the usual (and quite literal in this case) song and dance put on for foreign tourists. I did get the chance to use a blowgun and purchase a bamboo-xylophone instrument called and angklung, but that was about the extent of my explorations until 2016. In that year I was once again restricted to less than a day's exploration, seeing as my visit was a result of the tourist town of Kota Kinabalu on Borneo being included on my Southeast Asia cruise itinerary. I had a blast whitewater rafting through primeval rain forest in the shadow of the country's highest peak, but in both my visits it was abundantly clear that seeing the country in one day increments is in no way doing it justice.
My first visit to Germany was for just a few brief days while on a whirlwind road trip through Europe. I can say that our stay near iconic Neuschwanstein Castle was most certainly deliberate. However my return was decidedly more a matter of chance. By traveling with Lufthansa to my eventual destination of Zimbabwe, I was afforded a 10 hour layover in Frankfurt, which gave me just enough time to rent a car, compensate for some terrible road directions, and sample the stunning Upper Rhine Valley. I know that there's much more to explore in this beautiful country and I willingly admit that I am open to do so someday.
Japan is a pillar of Oriental culture and history, but alas in my time there I've barely been able to scratch the surface. On my first trip - a three day layover on the way back from China - saw me visit Tokyo, Mt. Fuji and naturally, Tokyo Disneyland. By chance I happened to pass through again a year to the day later, this time on my way to Thailand. However, with my time constraints I could do little more than explore Narita Airport and try to catch a nap on the floor while awaiting my outbound flight. I offer my apologies to you as well, Nippon. I am well aware that you deserve better.
This former seat of empire boasts far more World Heritage Sites than the U.S.A. but aside from a three day layover to explore the plazas and art museums of Madrid the first time around, my second visit was limited to traversing (with much complaining I might add) the entire breadth of Barajas Airport for a connecting Iberian Airlines flight, which was inconveniently parked somewhere near the border with France. I know Spain has far more attractions that deserve additional time and exploration. Next time I just hope they park the plane a little bit closer.
On my first visit to South Africa I spent a delightful week in March of 2009 exploring the animal reserves of the northeast and traveling through the mesmerizing and appropriately-named Panorama Route. My second visit didn't take me beyond the doors of Johannesburg's massive airport. Instead, I spent the time waiting for my connecting flight to Harare shopping at the same airport shops as I did 5 years previously. Amazingly, it all looked like the same stuff. Still, next time Cape Town is calling, even if the souvenirs turn out to be the same.
In 2006 my journeys were exclusively within this Central American jewel - particularly in the scenic central and northwestern regions. My return was limited to a one day port of call when my cruise ship docked at the sketchy Pacific town of Puntarenas. At least this time I was able to see something new by trekking down to idyllic Manuel Antonio National Park. It wasn't the two weeks in the jungle that scenery like this calls for, but it was at least better than nothing.
My introduction to Jamaica was on a familiarization trip (FAM) for travel agents sponsored by Sandals resorts. For $50 a collection of NY based travel agents were flown down from snowy JFK to Montego Bay, Jamaica with the intent of allowing us to experience firsthand the selling points of a Sandals Resort before we were flown back home later that same afternoon. I seized the opportunity to slip away from my group, sit at the bar, and indulge in some pleasurable relaxation before it was time to return. I'm proud to say that my second visit- this time via cruise ship - allowed me the opportunity to visit the touristy but definitely-worth-it Dunn's River Falls, before I was again forced to leave the country after staying less than 24 hours. The same scenario repeated itself in 2018 in Falmouth, though that time all I did was wander the port for rum without further exploration. One of these days I'll stay longer, Jamaica - I promise.
As For The Rest of You
As for the rest of you, Canada, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, US Virgin Islands, Greece, Hong Kong, Singapore, Italy & Vatican City, I may have had my reasons for coming and going but rest assured that I was not disappointed by my experiences there. Keep an eye out for me, as I just may return. But just in case I don't, please accept my apologies in advance and believe me when I say, it's nothing personal.
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