I love seeking out new places to travel to, whether near or far. My “Must-Go” list is getting longer and longer by the day; Madagascar or Santorini one day, Pulau Tioman or Tanzania the next. It never ends! So, I guess it’s a good thing to sometimes reminisce about the places that I have been to already. It’s easier, familiar, a whole lot more possible and there’s also a sense of renewed expectation.
When the opportunity came about to write about my favourite destinations, I couldn’t be more happier rummaging through old photos and thinking about all the good times I’ve had travelling to these places. Shilpa of Chasing Sunsets and Vlad from Effitimonholiday were kind enough to nominate me for The Top Destinations to Go There campaign by Booked.net, where I need to pick and write about my favourite destinations. My only problem with this is the fact that I can only choose five! *sad face*
So, I have decided to go down the random “close-my-eyes-and-point-at-the-screen” route to select the five destinations I would return to in a heartbeat.
Amsterdam was my first. My first European city, that is. I admit I was a little nervous about my first venture out to Europe – Will I be ok? What if I insulted a local by mistake? What if I irritated a cyclist and got pushed into a canal? Thankfully, none of these things happened.
I may have only had three days but I loved it! The museums, the architecture, the greenery (of all varieties), the cafes and the endless canals. The city had a vibrancy to it like nothing I’ve experienced before. As I sat sipping on what seemed like my sixth coffee of the day in a cosy little cafe by a canal (aren’t they everywhere?), I thought to myself that I could actually live here. There was so much to do, so many things to see and everyone seemed like they stepped out of a creative design magazine.
I will always have a special place in my heart for Amsterdam. Even if it did kill my legs at night when it was 11 degrees, I look forward to the day when I would spend a much longer time in this wonderful city. I’ll just be sure to pack warmer clothes.
Ahh, Essaouira. Stunning, laid-back, full of friendly folk, fresh and mouth-watering seafood and magnificent sunsets. What more can I say about this captivating coastal town? My favourite moments were when I walked about the little lanes without a clue as to where I was heading, finding hidden gems along the way, contemplating jewellery purchases, buying said jewellery, eating crepes and playing with cute little kittens.
I loved nothing more than waking up every morning to the sounds of seagulls, the smell of the sea in the air, a friendly greeting of “Bonjour!” and no specific plans. Essaouira was just the respite I needed after the craziness of Marrakech. On second thought, it was more than just a respite. It was pure magic!
South Africa is, hands down, one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to. And Cape Town is one of the reasons for it being so. The amazing food, the warm and friendly people, the stunning views, the important history, the fantastic signage that made it easy for me to drive around and the lovely home we stayed in made it oh-so-wonderful. We were out and about everyday going off to Table Mountain, Camps Bay, Robben Island, V&A Waterfront; taking in the sights of the city courtesy of the very efficient “hop-on hop-off” buses.
I especially loved how welcoming our hosts, Kris and Linda and their lovely family, were. We had the best home-cooked breakfasts and laughter-filled braais (Afrikaans for “barbecue” or “grill”) while watching the World Cup matches. They felt like the family I needed when I was unsure of how I was going to drive around this great big city or how I was going to get to the all-important football match. Saying goodbye to them and this great city was hard, but I left with hope that I may see them again someday.
Lisboa, Lisboa, Lisboa. Why do you have to be such a beautiful city? I am not ashamed to say that I sigh openly when I think of Lisbon. The cobbled streets, the yellow tram, the historical cathedrals, the delectable pastries and the 342 coffees I had makes this lovely city a must-return for me. I loved how easy it was to get around and yes, the “hop-on hop-off” buses here were great too!
For someone who is not much of a shopper, I went a little overboard at Rua Augusta. The local boutiques coupled with Zara and Mango made it a little hard for me to resist. I suppose you can say, this is where my inner shopaholic came forth. Bairro Alto was an amazing place to check out at night too; the restaurants and bars were teeming with people, melodic music and it was tough trying to decide which place to eat at as the choices were endless.
One of my favourite days was heading out to Belém for some very important history lessons (Malacca was conquered by the Portuguese back in 1511) and the not-to-be-missed pastéis de nata (Portuguese egg tart) at the famous Pastéis de Belém. I now wish I ate 5 or 10 more. Le sigh.
There is so much Luang Prabang has to offer that I think my four days there was simply not enough. It is such an easy-going place where shops close at around 10pm and the only night life you can look forward to is the daily night market and the incredible street food vendors tucked into little lanes.
I visited the fantastically-run All Lao Elephant Camp where we even got to meet the lovely people taking care of these rescued elephants. I only wish I had more time to learn some skills on how to be a good mahout. Well, at least I got to live out my inner Mowgli and connect with a beautiful elephant.
Elephants aside, the people of Luang Prabang were truly wonderful. I don’t think I’ve had a more entertaining massage than I did there – complete with kids running around and a soap opera on full blast (which I ended up watching as it was just so darn entertaining!). A chance meeting with a young monk led us to a monastery to observe the evening prayers and chants; giving me a glimpse into the life of a young Lao monk.
I wish I had experienced Luang Prabang at a pace deserving of its relaxed nature. I hope when I do finally get my chance to return, it would remain as wonderful and peaceful as I remember it to be.
Now, before I change my mind and pick a different destination, I shall go ahead and nominate five other bloggers for this campaign. Take it away, fantastic people!
Pamela Loh : http://www.pamgoestravelling.com/
Ashlea : http://aglobewelltravelled.com/
Reuben Teo : http://reubenteo.com/
DebbZie Leksono : http://www.debbzie.com/
Lesh and Jazza : http://www.nomadasaurus.com/
Thank you, Shilpa, Vlad and Booked.net for this fun, fun, fun campaign. I couldn’t have asked for a better topic to write about. Here’s to more memories and destinations to discover and re-discover. Safe travels to all.