There is much more to India than the golden triangle. Bhubaneswar,
Odisha is the state capital and a city with a 100,000 temples. The city is well
connected – less than 7 hours by train from Kolkata or there are flights from
anywhere within India.
This is my fourth visit to the city and honestly speaking thoroughly appreciated the beauty of this city on this visit. The city and her people are very resilient as they bounce back quickly after every major cyclone. The huge banyan and pipal trees spread throughout the city also caught my attention.
There is something for everyone in Adelaide, South
Australia. Whether you are looking for the best restaurant, hotel, wine, gin or
the beach, it’s all within easy access of Adelaide. Okay, they may not have won
the title best botanic gardens or most scenic, for me, this city has ticked both
those boxes as well. Prior to Europeans arriving on 28 Dec 1838, The Indigenous
Australians called the Adelaide area Tandanya, which means the Place of the Red
Kangaroo. Adelaide was a planned city and it was named after the wife of King
George IV. At first the settlers were British or Irish but in the mid-19th
century many Germans settled in Adelaide and the surrounding area.
Cambodia has awe inspiring temples, a kingdom where the
ancient and modern amalgamate well to give you a truly wondrous experience. For
more than 2,000 years, what was to become present day Cambodia absorbed
influences from India, passing them on to other Southeast Asian civilisations
that are now Thailand and Laos.
Contemporary Cambodia is more than its temples, and returning
to this country after nearly 8 years, I was pleasantly surprised by all the
development and progress. Chaotic yet charismatic is how I would describe the
capital Phnom Penh. Totally revitalised as a city and the promenade area with
its myriad dining options is a vast improvement. Second city Siem Reap, with
cosmopolitan cafes and a diverse nightlife, is as much a destination as the
nearby iconic temples. And up-and-coming Battambang, reminiscent of Siem Reap
before the advent of mass tourism, charms with graceful French architecture and
a thriving contemporary art scene.
Here are my top 5 reasons why you should plan a trip to
Deep in the Indian Ocean, there is an emerald shaped island.
Just 30kms off Kanyakumari at the southern tip of the Indian peninsula, and having
been connected terrestrially for almost half a million years until just 10,000
years ago, one would think that Sri Lanka would be an extension of South India.
Coming from South India, I disagree partially. The roots are there but the
country evolved her own identity and I feel it is an easier to navigate version
of Southern India.
I didn’t know what to expect, so was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at quite a modern Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo. The airport is named after Sirimavao Bandaranike who became the world’s first non-hereditary female head of government in modern history, when she was elected Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in 1960.
Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe and
being from New Zealand we were warmly welcomed as Antipodeans. It is a country
with a unique history and immense geographical diversity. We literally only had
a taste of Spain and I definitely want more. The people are super friendly,
very relaxed lifestyle, excellent cuisine with lots of folklore and festivities.
It is definitely a “must visit again” country on my list.
Madrid is the capital and the largest city with a population of 6.5 million. The streets are narrow but street life is vibrant and very enjoyable. We visited a few weeks before Christmas, there was a carnival atmosphere with music, dance and street performers. We walked around the palace and the cathedral of Almudena. That evening we had tapas at the Elder King of the Wines (El Anciano Rey de los vinos), which is very close to the palace /cathedral precinct and has been at same location for over a hundred years. We also made a reservation to see a flamenco performance and what an outstanding performance that was.
For a few days, one can feel like a multi-millionaire in
Bali. 100 New Zealand dollars gets you almost a million Indonesian rupiah! Of
course I was very excited to visit Bali not to feel like a multi-millionaire
but because the history of how Bali came to be is very interesting. In a
country that is dominated by Muslims, Bali remains to be a Hindu majority
province. Most of the inhabitants are descendants of migrants from other parts
of Asia and there has been a long documented history of Hindu rulers for over
700 years. The Dutch colonised in 16th century and then came a long
difficult colonial period.
Being just 8 degrees south of the equator, Bali has a fairly
even climate all year round. Tourism is now the largest single industry and cruise
ships are starting to see the appeal and they have been docking close enough
Chennai, Gateway to South India, is the fourth largest city in India with an approximate population of 9 million people. The city and the greater region has served as an important economic, military and cultural centre for many centuries. Chennai is the state capital of Tamil Nadu and Tamil is the official language here. Tamilians (people belonging to the State of Tamil Nadu) are very parochial and as a visitor it could be frustrating that most of the signs are only in Tamil. Tamilians stand tall and proud as true custodians of their language, culture and customs.
Tokyo, Japan has recently
been voted as one of the top ten most welcoming cities in the world. Everything
in its place for its purpose – you can’t stop marvelling at Tokyo’s architecture,
history, heritage, culture, systems and infrastructure. We did a three day
stopover here and while we clocked up over 20,000 steps each day, we barely
scratched the surface of Tokyo.
Founded nearly 1200 years ago, this ancient city in the
north of Laos is a delightful mix of Buddhist temples and French colonial buildings.
Since 1995 Luang Prabang has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage city for
its unique blend of architecture and religious culture. Our guide explained
that the city has been called such because of the gold image of Buddha, Phra
Bang that was gifted to the people of Laos by Cambodia in 11th
century. This is on display at the Royal Palace Museum.
With a population of around 6 million people, Kathmandu is
the capital city of Nepal. Kathmandu stands at an elevation of approximately
1400 metres above sea level. The multi ethnic population of Nepal are primarily
Hindus or Buddhists. Nepalese are very obliging and always smiling so it’s easy
to overlook the dust and traffic congestions. Later, I learned that they live
by the prayer “Om Mani Padme Hum” and in a nutshell it means to achieve
perfection in the practice of generosity. Whilst tourism is vital for their
economy, with the earthquake of 2015, the country is simply struggling to keep
up with infrastructure demands that come with tourism. I was pleasantly
surprised that the visa on arrival process was quick and easy. There isn’t a
distinct downtown and no high rises, just a lot of businesses and people going
about their lives.
Going to any city, like everyone else we did the touristy
things and visited the Patan Durbar Square, Swayambhu Stupa, Baudhannath Stupa
and Pasupati temple. Religious and cultural festivities forma major part of the
lives of people living in Kathmandu. Wherever we went, we saw priests
conducting prayers of some sort. We went
mid-December so our views were somewhat obscured by fog, but on a clear day our
guide told us that one can get a panoramic view of Kathmandu from ascending the
365 steps leading to the Swayambhu temple. Our last stop was the Pasupati
temple of Lord Shiva. This is a sacred site and busloads of Hindu pilgrims from
India are queuing to go inside the temple. This was a culture shock to me and I
walked to a nearby park as I could not bear the open cremations.
The weather gods didn’t oblige as we were looking forward to an Everest scenic flight, so we cut short our stay in Kathmandu by a day and headed for Pokhara. We have extended family in Pokhara so our family arranged for a taxi to take us there. On paper, it is about 200 kilometres and it took us almost six hours to get there with half an hour pit stop for lunch. While navigating the traffic within city limits was tricky, and to put a positive spin being a passenger in the vehicle was exhilarating! It looked like a one way steep road but there were three unmarked lanes! There were no barriers to the cliff face!! However the vistas and the deep valleys were remarkable.
Pokhara was amazing and well worth the journey. The Annapurna trail begins here. It is pristine and picturesque and lots of activities for the trekkers, mountain climbers and paragliding. My husband’s uncle who lives in Pokhara did paragliding at 72 years so I took inspiration from him and was glad I did – this was truly amazing as you fly like a bird you can feel that you can touch the mountains. The crew from Team 5 Paragliding were awesome as I was nervous as hell and they made me feel comfortable.
We flew out of Kathmandu and if your flight is during the
day, ask to be seated on the right side of the plane as you can have really
good views of Everest if it is a clear day.