June 11, 2013

Day 11# Wanderlust

Travel!
Now this is what I call exciting content.
Ah, the thought is so refreshing. It has not even been a month that I’ve been back from my American vacation and am already itching to pack my bags and set off on another trip!
In my mind, there are two distinct travel to-do lists. One is the achievable list and the other is the aspirational.  But this post is about the former. With a lot of difficulty, I have narrowed the plentiful options to ten. So here are the places which I intend to cover in the next ten years of my life.
Australia
Its right at the other end of the world from where I am, but watching Masterchef Australia and seeing the Tourism Australia advertisements, and endorsements from a close college friend who spent a good five years there has had me a little infatuated with the island continent. Special focus on The Twelve Apostles -a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park, right by the Great Ocean Roadin Victoria. The majestic structures and the thought of a 243 kilometer stretch of road running parallel to the coastline makes it a definite stay on in my list. And while I’m there, I may as well visit the Kiwis and take a trip to Hobbiton!
The twelve at sunset.


Croatia

The first time that I took real interest in this little jewel of a country in Europe was when I met a student from there during my post graduation years. She told me about how beautiful it was, and in a while I could actually pronounce the name of the capital city – Zagreb, according to Croat standards. Another major city – Dubrovnik, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is being featured as ‘King’s Landing’ in HBO’s Game of Thrones – ensuring that Croatia has shot to fame in the past few years.  Neat stacks of red brick roofed houses, the Adriatic Sea a shade of blue that you could lose yourself in it, sun-kissed beaches, nature’s wonders in Plitvice Lakes National Park – all with a touch of old world Europe. That’s what Croatia promises – and more.
Brac Island

Greece
Endless miles of aquamarine coastline, sun-bleached ancient ruins, strong feta and delicious gyros – does heaven come to mind? Well, this is not too far away. It’s easy to imagine how so many myths of gods originated in this vast and varied landscape. With its wide open skies and a sea speckled with islands, Greece offers endless activities and is a magnet for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors. Wander along cobbled Byzantine footpaths, hike into volcanoes, watch for dolphins and sea turtles or just laze by the stone pools. From the modern streets of Mykonos, to the blue doors of Santorini and up the trail to Mount Olympus – you’ll start to see the world like you’ve never known. Oeppa!

Hawaii
When you think of a string of emerald islands in the cobalt-blue Pacific Ocean, over 2000 miles from any continent, you know that it involves serious commitment, money and time. I know it’s a little far fetched given my meager income, almost like one of the destinations on my ‘aspirational’ list slipped into this one. But think of ocean, sculpted volcanic mountains, drinks with little umbrellas in them and diving in coral-reef cities – I couldn’t resist. Such is my passion for the Polynesian islands that I have scoured through the official tourism website and learned names of the island and bookmarked in my brain, what I would do when I got there. Of special interest is the Molokini Crater – a crescent shaped volcanic crater sticking out of the Pacific – an almost surreal vision and a treat for boat picnickers, swimmers and divers. I can totally picture myself watching whales with a watermelon martini in my hand, and hibiscus in my hair.
The  Molokini crater

Italy & Vatican City
Leonardo Da Vinci. Spaghetti Carbonara. Giambattista Valli. Giuseppe Verdi. How can a place that all of these hail from be anything less than mind-blowing. Be it food, fashion, art, architecture or football – Italy has got it all, in abundance. Drool at the antipasti platters, sample the wine in a quiet corner bistro, be serenaded on board a Gondola in Venice, plug in some classical music and visit the Colosseum and of course, stand in the middle of St. Mark’s Square in the Vatican and breathe in deeply thinking of all the history that the walls have witnessed. And once you’ve done these things – you have probably only just got started. This boot shaped country is flanked on three sides by four Mediterranean seas (the Adriatic, Ionian, Ligurian and Tyrrhenian), making for some of the most stunning beaches where you can get yourself the perfect tan, before being rejuvenated by all the rich culture and art that La Bella Italia has in store.
St. Mark’s Square from the dome of St. Peter’s

India-Tibet
I have no shame in admitting that the first time I saw this was in a Bollywood flick and I couldn’t care less about what was happening in the movie, because I was so taken by the background. Pangong Tso, Tibetan for ‘long, narrow, enchanted lake’ is an endorheic (closed drainage basin) lake in the Himalayas, extending between India and Tibet. It is disputed land, with a LOC passing right through it and at a height of 14,270 ft it might pose serious problems to fellow asthmatics – but it is in a country which I don’t need a visa to enter and I will bloody well visit it, camp by the lake and stare into the nothingness that stretches over the lake. Even if I have to do it on my own!
Pangong Tso. 

Peru
This one is straight out of an Indiana Jones movie – nestled between the Latin American nations of Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia – it is said to be a continent in miniature. When I think of Peru, I picture a place like the popular smart phone game ‘Temple Run’ – forgotten temples entangled in jungle vines, flocks of brightly hued tropical birds, the raging Amazon with all its mysteries and of course volcanic mountains covered with green. Of course the big highlight is the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu – one which even the Spanish conquistadors could never find. But we can visit, thanks to Hiram Bingham who re-discovered it in 1911– and hence has a train named after him, taking you to the cloud-topping heights. In a place that reflects grandeur and mystery, Machu Picchu has been recognised as the best-known archaeological site on the continent with only 2500 tourists allowed each day. South America’s best kept secrets beckon – and I think I might have found a partner in crime!
Machu Picchu
Poland
I know little about the country but for the fact that it was one of the most unfortunately struck by the tragic incidents of World War II and that is what fascinates me about it. More than anything, I wish to visit Auschwitz, home to the infamous concentration camps. Standing in front of the gates of Auschwitz I which read ‘Arbeit macht Frei’ or ‘Works makes one free’, I can only imagine the chills that would run down one’s spine. Modern day Poland has braved the dark days and risen from the ashes to become much more than just medieval hotspots. Remnants of the Renaissance and Baroque ages still exist and in Kraków and Gdańsk welcoming you with crisp air and heartwarming food, while Warsaw is as urban as any European metropolitan city. Must-do with Baba and Ma, given their enthusiasm about WWII and the multitude of movies, documentaries and books we have read among us about that epic era.
Auschwitz I.
Russia
As the largest country in the world, the treasures it holds are vast and diverse. It is nearly impossible to see all of Russia giving each part the attention it deserves, unless one decides to quit their jobs and spend three months in the lands of the Czars. Say Russia and what comes to my mind is the Kremlin Square, Lake Baikal, ‘Rasputin’ by Boney M, St Petersburg, insanely beautiful women in fur coats and of course, vodka. My particular interest is to explore Russia in winters  – when the temperature are way below zero, lakes are frozen solid and the church spires are covered in snow.
Snowy Kremlin.
Turkey
When you set foot in Turkey, you are following in the wake of some remarkable historical figures. What is more popularly known as the Byzantine Empire, stretching from modern day Budapest to Baghdad, these lands have been at the epitome of power and development. From the extrovert locals, the colourful spice bazaars, hopping on a boat across the Bosphorous strait, the elaborate hamams to the food that I have heard so much about – it all seems to be a magical place, bang in the middle of Europe and Asia. Topping my lists is old Istanbul, the amazing Cappadocia and of course, white limestone terraces containing the rock pools of Pamukkale.
From top: Istanbul, Pamukkale and Cappadocia.
One a year, is the plan. If there are any interested parties who feel intrigued by any of these places, company is always welcome!
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