Inconspicuously hidden in a tangle of trees and marked pathways is The Backwaters Lodge. A short drive from the main Wilpattu National Park Hotel Road at Eluwankulama, google maps is spot on!
On arrival, friend and host, Tarique Omar is at hand, with his charming smile and inimitable manner to ensure cold towels and a fresh juice is served, check-in is smooth, breakfast is laid out, and all the visitors are well taken care of.
I feel privileged to be amongst a special gathering of friends who have come to The Backwaters to celebrate the second anniversary of this amazing place!
Santorini is the glowing pendant of Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea it seems. So, last but not least, I am off on the Paros Jet to check out what this island is all about.
Five hours 45 minutes later, I am on this crescent-shaped island, being driven to the Anemomylos Suites.
This comfortable, family-run traditional apartment is just a few meters from the central square of Fira, the capital of the island.
During the 16th century, this island was devastated by a volcanic eruption and hence, the rugged, breathtaking landscape. And like the other islands, this one too, is designed with whitewashed cubi-form houses with its trademark blue trimmings, that cling to cliffs above the underwater caldera (crater). And unlike the other islands, this one is far more crowded, noisier and more expensive.
I’m island hopping again and back at the harbor waiting to board the Naxos Jet (a ferry) to Paros.
I have opted for Paros for two reasons; to give one travel companion a chance to bathe in the sea and to experience a less visited island. Approximately three hours later, we disembark in this tiny island and are immediately caught up in the island’s vibe.
Greece is mostly inspired by mythology and I love it! It romanticizes history and adds a sense of wonderment to a traveler like me.
We get to the Delos harbour on this beautiful morning and settle down for a quick breakfast before departure.
Just about 20 minutes (by ferry) from Mykonos is a small island called Delos. We are dropped off and left to explore this 5km UNESCO Heritage Site.
It’s brown and barren. But look closely and it’s an open museum to the revival of the glory of Greek civilization.
It’s 6 a.m. in Athens and the Piraeus Harbor is buzzing with tourists. Some bewildered, dragging luggage, searching for jetties and boats with romantic sounding names, but there is sense of adventure and excitement.
Our “ferry” (mid-sized cruise ship), Nissos Mykonos arrives at 7:10 am, and a huge gangplank is slowly dropped down from the aft of the ferry. There is a scramble to board and I soon realize why. These ferries only dock for less than 7-10 minutes!
Two hours and ten minutes later, I am in Mykonos, one of the more popular Cyclades islands. And in the midst of the teeming crowds I see the affable Anna waving her arms to attract our attention.
Anna is the proprietary owner of the Diogenis Hotel, a cute studio apartment complex that reminds me so much of the vibe in the movie Mama Mia!
My train gets into Bari, the port city of Italy’s southern region of Puglia located on the Adriatic Sea. It’s late evening and I’m glad to be picked up by friends who then drive me to their rented apartment in Monopoli.
Monopoli is a charming, quiet town about 40 kms southeast of Bari and is best known for its Baroque Monopoli Cathedral also known as the Basilica of the Madonna della Madia or Santa Maria della Madia. This imposing cathedral was erected near the site of a Roman temple and burial site and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
God distributed soil through a sieve and used the remaining stones to build Greece states a Greek legend. So when ancient Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus (643-548 BC) said “the world is wonderful because it is a creation of God” he probably was referring to his own country.
My flight from Bari, Italy touches down in Athens at 12:25 p.m., and 50 minutes later, I check in to the Elegant A1 Apartment in the heart of Plaka.
Plaka is the oldest historical neighborhood in Athens and was originally developed mostly around the ruins of the ancient Agora. It is known as the “Neighborhood of the Gods” and lies beneath the northeastern slope of the Acropolis and stretches almost all the way to Syntagma Square.
I am off to spend my last few days in Nepal at the Chitwan National Park. My wish is to see the elusive tiger. My fingers are crossed!
I get to Tribhuvan International Airport, which also serves as Kathmandu’s domestic airport. There’s a kind of organized chaos at this airport, but I weave my way through and get onboard.
Twenty minutes later I am at the Bharatpur Airport. Read More
Many of Tibet’s monasteries are built on mountains. These sacred mountain monasteries are considered to be home of the deities, where they are closer to the heavens. Of the myriad of monasteries to visit in this highly devoted and god-fearing nation, the Potala Palace is by far one of the most majestic and imposing structures in Lhasa. It has been the official residence of the Dalai Lamas since the 7th century until the present Dalai Lama was deposed in 1959.
Built on the top of Moburi (the Red Hill), the grand Potala Palace occupies this holy site and can be seen from miles away. Situated at an elevation of 3,700m, it is the highest palace in the world and I am ready to face the challenge of climbing 1,000 steep steps to the top.
But first I have to stand in line (that stretches far) to get to the entrance gate. The line comprises of Chinese tourists from mainland China and a sprinkling of foreigners. Our tickets have already been purchased well in advance because visitors are limited to just 2,300 per day. Read More
Fringed by fabulous landscapes of the Himalayan mountain ranges, Nepal has some equally exciting medieval city squares. Located in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, these centuries old Durbar Squares comprise of royal palaces and courtyards, stupas and monasteries, and historical value , decorated in the most intricate woodwork and temple art imaginable.
Although most of these places suffered considerable damage after the 2015 earthquake, there is a sense of relief and gratitude that all was not lost.
I drive over to Patan City in Lalitpur to see its ancient royal palace. It is dusty and hot but thankfully not too crowded. There is a big ‘do’ happening this evening and the outside courtyard is being ‘set up’ with sounds and lights. Some people have already taken their seats along the parapet walls, in the hopes of getting a better view, I guess.
The city is surrounded by four stupas at the four corners, which are said to have been built by Emperor Ashoka. This is one of the most elegant architectural treasures of which Patan is very proud. Read More