Three years after I moved out of Singapore, there is something about this little island state that still lingers in my mind. Most of us travel to find solitude in nature or to relive parts of ancient history. But Singapore, with its manmade beaches, solar-powered gardens and city lights glittering almost more magically than stars, is a glimpse of what travel might become in the future. When the world has culturally assimilated and technology surpasses even the wonders of nature, won’t we travel to witness progress?
Years after my brief tryst with the Philippines, I revisited the country in March, hoping to discover its pristine islands. I sampled city life in Manila, rowed into an underground river in Palawan, walked on the edge of Cebu’s tallest building, and went deep sea diving in Negros. But it was with the island of Bohol that I fell in love. This is why:
There are very few places in the world that feel like home to me, and northern Thailand is one of them. I showed up there with a tired soul, on an impulsive trip that I hoped would rejuvenate me (Read: Going Back to The Places we Love). And what can I say? Thailand gave me the time, space and natural beauty to think, write, and appreciate the little joys of life again.
Since my trip to Thailand in March last year, I’ve nursed a longing for the serenity of the Thai countryside and a taste of home-cooked Thai curries. I impulsively decided to give in after a series of not-so-awesome events. When the rest of the world was toasting to 2014, I was standing in the visa-on-arrival queue at Bangkok airport!
Late last year, I visited Bhap village, near Jodhpur in Rajasthan. Despite being one of India’s most travelled states, Rajasthan harbors secrets that take long to find, and even longer to forget. Bhap village, surrounded by a serene village lake, gorgeous salt pans, massive sand dunes, and friendly people, is one such secret. This photo essay is a collection of fond memories from the days I spent there:
A gentle tap on the tent startles me. I reluctantly get up from my cosy bed and lift the flap, to be greeted by a mesmerizing sight. Dark, ominous clouds swiftly cross the sky and settle upon the Knuckles mountain range in the distance. The moon becomes visible every now and then, painting haunting patterns in the sky. A handful of lights glow in the valley below. Fireflies shimmer above the tea plantations. The tap on the tent was just the wind, inviting me for a glimpse of this magical night.
Forget Ravana; Sri Lanka is now the kingdom of nature. It is here that the Indian Ocean turns a crystal blue and gently caresses a powdery white shore, and waterfalls emerge from deep within the mountains and trickle into little streams through pristine tea plantations. It is here that the influences of the west have stayed at bay, the people are genuinely friendly (Read: My First Impressions of Sri Lanka), and culinary goodness is in abundance. So go now, and take my list of the best things to do in Sri Lanka:
I take off my shoes, slip on a sarong, and carefully tip toe into the luke warm water. The village ladies, all clad in colorful sarongs, extend their hands so I don’t get entangled in the weeds and fall. Maulie, our host in Galkadawala, introduces me as “India”; the ladies giggle and say something friendly in Singhala. I wade into the lake with their help, and when my feet no longer touch the soft bed, I start to swim. Maulie points to a tree in the distance, where she spotted one of the lake’s resident crocodiles a few days ago. A soft chill runs through my spine, as brahminy kites appear in the clear blue sky above.
Earlier this week, we boarded the blue train from Kandy towards Ella, hoping for some respite from the rain that had enveloped Kandy. Little did I know then that thanks to the rain, we were going to witness one of the most spectacular train journeys I’ve done in all of Asia. We chugged up the hill country of Sri Lanka, winding along tea plantations, forests, waterfalls, streams, rivers, sleepy villages, and mountain tunnels.
I sit on the terrace of a little budget hotel in Heel Oya, near Ella, penning this. The mountains stretch before me, the surrounding forests are lush green after the light drizzle this afternoon, and the constant chirping of birds has lent a sweet melody to the evening. Three days ago, when we landed on the shores of Sri Lanka, I expected to be swept away by its natural beauty. The cool mountain breeze has done that literally, and as the sun peaks from behind the passing grey clouds, I find myself wondering why I’ve travelled halfway across the globe, but never before visited this pretty little island a stone’s throw away from India.