The Favourites of Ric Gazarian
Please introduce yourself
I am originally from Boston but now have been based in Bangkok for several years. I am blogging and podcasting as I attempt to travel to every country in the world.
How many countries have you been to?
142 UN countries.
How many days have you approximately travelled?
A bit tough to estimate, I will say 2700 days.
What are three of your favourite countries and why?
I really love this country. I have been here five times, but it is simply not enough. There is so much to see and discover. Bagan a town of 2000 plus temples is one of my favourite places to see in the world. Yangon, the former capital, has the Shwedagon Pagoda which is a stunning golden temple that must be seen. Burma has some of the best islands in the world in the Andaman Sea. Another great experience is renting motorbikes and visiting the mountainous villages of Mindat to meet the tattooed women of Chin State. And Mrauk U is a more off the beaten path place with some amazing temples.
I have visited this country every year for nearly 20 years. It is my home away from home. It is a compact country but it packs in so much; cosmopolitan capital, beautiful nature, ancient monasteries, and much more. The best is to rent a car and explore the country. It is easy to get around and very affordable.
I had really high expectations for this country and it really delivered. The Silk Road has a fabled history surrounding it. Khiva, Samarkand, and Bukhara have such impressive and well-preserved structures, whether it be the magnificent Registan or the preserved old city in Khiva. I also had a very cool road trip to the dying and shrinking Aral Sea. The price is great, the infrastructure solid, and good food.
Are there any countries you don’t enjoy travelling?
I am not a big fan of Ethiopia. I spent a couple of weeks here and the people were not great. I really had no genuine interactions during my time there. Most people I spoke with asked or demanded money. Some others chased me, threw stones at me, or tried to mug me.
What are three of your favourite cities and why?
Sometimes this city is overlooked, either visitors head off to the islands or up north to the mountains. but Bangkok is a world-class cosmopolitan city. The city offers so much; amazing historical sites, diverse restaurant scene, tons of shopping, and electric nightlife. I also appreciate the mix of East and West as well as developed and underdeveloped in one single city.
Much smaller than Bangkok and very walkable is Yerevan, another world-class capital. This ancient city boasts museums, historical sights, and century-old churches. Expect a lively and fun café scene through spring to fall. The city boasts many restaurants with growing diversity. And make sure you check out the music scene as well. All this and the city is very affordable.
Rio de Janeiro
One of the most breathtaking cities, squeezed between the mountains and the ocean. Rio has Sugarloaf and Wonder of the World, Christ the Redeemer. Don’t forget world famous beaches, Ipanema and Copacabana. Expect to eat a lot of meat and drink caipirinhas. And of course, a never-ending nightlife.
What are three of your favourite hotels and why?
This hotel is on a lesser developed island, Koh Kood, in Thailand near Cambodia. Due to Covid, the rates are substantially lower, and I took advantage of the opportunity to stay there. You stay in a private villa with your own pool. The villa is really quite awesome. The hotel akes its own chocolate and ice cream and guests can eat as much as they want.
InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort
I turned in a lot of Hilton points and spent five great nights here in an over-the-water villa. I think a lot of people perceive the Maldives as the ultimate beach stay and it is hard to argue with that. The snorkelling is awesome there, you just walk out of your villa or right off the beach and put your flippers on.
Hilton Seychelles Northolme
This hotel has great rooms on the side of a hill overlooking the ocean. The breakfast was great, with a delicious home-baked chocolate croissant. I ate like 10 every morning. Snorkelling was fantastic here as well., just walked off the beach into the ocean and admired Cindy the shark and a lot of colourful marine life. A really relaxing stay.
What are the three worst places you have I’ve stayed?
Hotel Casa Khaldi
OK, this hotel, Hotel Casa Khaldi, in Chefchaouen, Morocco is my least favourite hotel. In short, the hotel did not change the sheets and I caught them. Instead of the manager being apologetic or embarrassed, he got aggressive and threatening. I slept with one eye open. You can read about that experience on GlobalGaz.com.
Michelberger Hotel, Berlin
This trendy hotel despite their tiny rooms would normally be a hotel I would recommend. But, the staff instead earned my ire in 10 quick minutes when I checked out. They added in 3 breakfasts at 16 Euro a clip, despite being informed my breakfast was included when I checked in. When I explained this at check out, they told me it was a miscommunication, and I was responsible for the charge. As they were getting ready to swipe my credit card I realized I had an email from the hotel confirming that yes my breakfast was included and they were erroneously charging me. The conversation got heated and the staff called me rude. There was no embarrassment over their unprofessionalism or that they wanted to overcharge me. I followed up with the manager (Jannick) twice, and never heard back.
Hotel Mercury can be found on the Black Sea in Batumi, Georgia. I was travelling with my friend and we were getting ready to head out for the evening. I came down from the room and he informed me he met a guy in the lobby who was going to take us around for 10 Lari an hour. Our guide took us to a club where we got overcharged. My friend and I were surrounded by the staff after we questioned the bill.
After that, we informed our guide we no longer needed his services. We gave him 10 Lari, but he was livid and demanded 50 Lari. We declined. We arrived back to the hotel early in the morning and we were shocked to realize our guide also worked the front desk at the hotel. He smiled when he saw us, demanded his 50 Lari and if not, threatened to call the police. We went up to the room and barricaded the door with some furniture. Good times.
What are three of your favourite restaurants and why?
I have been going to Lagonid in Yerevan since 2002. And I am not ashamed to say I will eat there five days in a row. The owner is Syrian Armenian and serves excellent Syrian/Lebanese food. I went so often the waitress had memorized my order even when I hadn’t been there in a year. Two lahmajoun, one hummus, and one jajik. It is a casual eatery and a great place to meet up with friends.
Cabana Las Lilas
Argentina has a well-deserved reputation for steaks and there is no better place than Cabana Las Lilas. I had the most incredible filet mignons with a side of provoleta. Of course, expect to have some great Argentinian wine as well. With the strong dollar, expect to find the prices to be rather accommodating.
There are two locations I go to. East Greenwich, Rhode Island and Manhattan. Both have the same great menus and staff. I recommend the burrata cheese, pasta with Bolognese and a meatball, and tiramisu for dessert. The ambience is lively and always crowded. Make sure you make a reservation.
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
This was definitely checking one of the bucket list. I rented a car and stayed at the Lemu Lodge Vaihu, a fantastic hotel. Exploring the island watching the sunrise and sunsets with the Moai is something you will not forget. Another awesome experience was watching the sunrise by myself at the volcano, Rano Kau. Having this solitaire moment was one I always treasure.
Iron Ore Train
This is considered the longest train in the world at around 2.5 km. It brings iron ore from the interior to the coast. The ride is over 12 hours and it brings you through the endless desert of the Sahara. What makes this even more of an adventure is you ride through the night in an open carriage sitting on a heap of iron ore.
Principality of Sealand
This is considered to be the smallest country in the world. It is found in the North Sea on an abandoned WWII British military platform. Today, it is the Principality of Sealand which is ruled by the Bates royal family. It is very difficult for tourists to visit since Sealand rarely issues tourist visas. A truly unique visit.
What are three of your best travel tips?
First, I would encourage you to volunteer when travelling. Two memorable experiences were
volunteering in Yerevan and Phuket both for four months at an orphanage. A truly rewarding
experience. Besides an opportunity to learn the local language you get to build relationships and see real life.
Second, consider renting a car. Driving yourself around gives you ultimate flexibility. You can cover a lot of ground and also get off the beaten path.
Do you have any little known travel tips?
One other thought is participating in a “rally”. These are organized races, where participants drive long distances in inappropriate vehicles. I drove a rickshaw in India for 2000 km and a tuk-tuk in Cambodia for 1600 km. Expect the unexpected.
You can follow Ric on GloabalGaz.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Travel Massive.
Interview: November 2020.