The Antarctica One Is Really Cool
We asked readers of BudgetTravel.com to show off a little and send us photos of their exotic passport stamps. Here's a slide show of our favorites, plus the stories behind them.
The stamp: Sri Lanka
The backstory: Jean Christiansen went to Sri Lanka in August 2003, with her daughter and some friends.
The first-person account: We flew into Colombo, where my passport was stamped, and then toured Sri Lanka for a week. We visited Sigiriya, Dambulla, Kandy, and Nuwara Eliya. We stayed in local places (not chain hotels), and had wonderful food. Our guide was great, but his name sounded like "Dummy," and we had a hard time calling him that!
The stamp: Burma
The backstory: Jean Christiansen has been to Myanmar (formerly Burma) many times, but this stamp is from her trip in February 2006.
The first-person account: At that time I was living in Texas, but I went back to visit friends in Thailand and Myanmar. I spent several days with a friend in Yangon (Rangoon), and several days at Lake Inle, which is one of my favorite places in the world. As the sun went down, I hired a boat and took pictures of the fishmen--the famous leg rowers.
The stamp: Nepal
The backstory: Jean Christiansen has made several trips into Nepal. This stamp is from her trip in August 2003.
The first-person account: I was traveling with my son, daughter-in-law, grandson (10 years old), and granddaughter (8). We flew into Kathmandu, where my passport was stamped. We spent several days touring sights in Kathmandu, including the Monkey Temple, the pilgrimage site Pashupatinath, a Bakhtapur, and Patan. We then drove overland to the Chitwan Jungle, where we went on safari on elephant back and saw rhinos that looked like they were armor plated. The highlight of the trip was riding the elephants bareback into the river and bathing them. We also got a bath, as they continually used their trunks to spray us. The kids still talk about it!
The stamp: Brazil
The backstory: Chelsea Wald of Silver Spring, Md., visited Brazil when she was a Fulbright Fellow in Chile in 2001.
The first-person account: The Brazil Fulbright Commission decided to invite all the South American Fulbrighters to Brazil for a conference in the spring of 2001. But they didn't seem to realize what a hassle (not to mention expense) it would be for us to get visas! In the end, I went to the Brazilian consulate in Chile to apply for the visa, and I was granted one.
The Fulbright conference was in Brasília, the capital city. From what I understand, it's a planned city that was basically hacked out of the jungle in order not to favor any of Brazil's other cities with the seat of government. The architecture there is phenomenal--everything is larger-than-life and utterly symbolic. But my biggest impression of the place was that it was empty. No one was walking down the streets (in fact, the sidewalks were falling into disrepair), the restaurants were lonely, and, in some cases, those monumental buildings were kept company only by our small group.
The stamp: Bangladesh
The backstory: Chelsea Wald was invited along with her husband, to join their close Bangladeshi friends from Baltimore as they visited their families in Dhaka in the fall of 2006.
The first-person account: It was a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, so we dropped everything and went. But the logistics of the trip weren't easy. Besides getting many vaccinations (ouch!), we had to apply (and pay handsomely) for tourist visas. It still boggles my mind that a country that desperately wants tourists would want to put up such a barrier to tourism, but I suppose it's only fair, since we require Bangladeshis to jump through hoops to visit our country. But everything went smoothly, perhaps in part because the official at the embassy had grown up in the same middle-class neighborhood as our friend, and he could hardly believe that it was our destination.
Highlights of the trip? There were so many! The greatest privilege was getting to stay in the home of our friend's family. We became close with the four children of the house and their cousins and friends, playing the Bangladeshi version of Sorry for many hours and waging dozens of thumb wars (a game we taught them, to their delight).
We also visited the beach resort of Cox's Bazar, staying in the finest hotel there for the price of a Motel 6 and eating frequently in what's possibly our favorite restaurant in the world--the Angel Drop, which stands bravely but precariously on stilts over the surf and provides diners with both total privacy and an expansive view of the Bay of Bengal.