My wife has a conference every year with representatives from multiple countries. Each year the conference is hosted by one of the member countries. I have been on seven of these trips with here. The recent trip to Baku, Azerbaijan was the latest of these trips. While in Baku we talked about how it compared to the other locations. Here are my updated rankings of the trips:
- Livingstone, Zambia – We stayed in a resort with access to Victoria Falls. Zebras, baboons, impala, and giraffes lived on the resort grounds. We went on a safari. I walked a cheetah and petted a lion. I’m not sure any other location will ever beat this.
- Helsinki, Finland – This was our first trip with her for the conference, Both kids were able to go. Helsinki is a very nice city with plenty to do. The hosts took me and the kids around to see the sites and on a lunch cruise while the meetings were happening. We spent time in the country after the meetings to travel around to see more places. It will probably always stay high because it was the first and it was the only one my son has attended.
- Seoul, South Korea – This one is a close one. Baku is really close to being in the third spot, but I think Seoul barely pulls out the win. The hotel was in a great location. We could walk to the market street for food and souvenirs. We could walk to the palace for sightseeing. There were beautiful temples in the area. We could take the subway to get to other parts of the city. We didn’t need hosts to take us around the city because we had so much right outside our door. The only downside was the social program at the end of the conference was underwhelming.
- Baku, Azerbaijan – You can go back and read my post from yesterday to see more about Baku. It was a fun city, very walkable. The hotel location was a nice waterfront area, The hosts were great, The social program was interesting with a great tour guide. I think Seoul barely wins because it was a little bit harder to get from the hotel to the traditional shopping in the historic area of the city. Plus it was hot and not a city where it is common for people to wear shorts.
- Santiago, Chile – The best airport experience. We were met at our gate and taken to a VIP customs area where we sat in comfortable chairs and ate cookies while the government got our bags and cleared us to enter the country, It was a nice city with plenty of stuff to walk to around the hotel. They did drive me around the first morning to make sure I saw the sites. The kids didn’t go, so I was able to spend my time worrying only about myself. It falls to this spot because it rained a lot while I was there and most of what I could easily do in the hotel area was eat and shop. I did enjoy the social program trip to a local winery.
- Manila, Philippines – This is now the country in charge of the entire group. They are the ones who set everything up and run the conference. They do a good job with it. We had a driver the entire time we were there. We got there a day early and drove us out of the city to see the sites in the countryside. The social program trip to a cultural park was interesting. The food was good and cheap.. The city was terrible. So much traffic it would take half an hour to drive from our hotel to the conference location. We could walk it in half the time but it was extremely hot and humid and the walk was not fun. The only things to walk to were malls. My daughter and I spent a lot of time reading in the hotel room after a morning of walking to various malls and stopping at small parks along the way. Maybe a smaller town in the country would have been a better location.
- Hyderabad, India – I was so excited to go to India. I really wanted to like it. I hated it. There was nothing to do around the hotel but walk across the street to a mall. Even that was difficult as there were barely any sidewalks. The hosts were not helpful We went from having drivers in cities where we didn’t need them to being told we should Uber if we wanted to leave the hotel area. I was not allowed to go to the dinner. This is the only location that excluded accompanying people from the dinner. They couldn’t tell us where to go shopping for traditional gifts even though there was a large market area we found on our own that was all traditional market. How would they not know this? We were not officially invited to the social program and told if we wanted to go we had to pay exra. It turned out they changed their mind and paid for us anyway. We were made to feel very unwelcome. The food made me sick. I tore open my arm on a tree branch while trying to walk around the area. It was a terrible trip.
Next year sis Bhutan. It will be difficult to go with her as Bhutan is very restrictive on access. She can go because she is a guest of the government, but anyone else would have to pay a lot for an official tour to be allowed in. Maybe the Bhutan hosts will be nice to me and make me an official guest as well. 2021 will be Kuwait, Qatar or Indonesia.