Our most recent travels have been focused on short trips to Japan and South Asia. These experiences offered us two distinct views of Asia. In Japan, the minimalist beauty in fashion, food, and architecture, the strong sense of community and respect to local traditions in villages and urban centres, and the Shinto attitude on harmonic coexistence with the nature captivated our admiration. On the other hand, the pungent spices, mystic incenses, vivid costumes, bizarre rituals, exquisite temples, majestic landscapes, and mythical folklore of Tibet, India and Myanmar offered us some of the last glimpses of truly unique and centuries-long traditions in our ever-changing world. After an invigorating journey to Hokkaido in early summer, we turned our eyes to the exotic dimensions of South Asia once again. We picked the “tear drop” in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka, as our destination for a 12-day trip.
2019 marked the 10th anniversary of the end of the Sri Lankan Civil War, a devastating conflict between the Sri Lankan military and the rebel force of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or simply known as the Tamil Tigers. The conflict lasted for 26 years. 15 years have also passed since the horrific 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the natural catastrophe that has devastated the coastal area of Sri Lanka and claimed 35,000+ lives. In the past 10 years, tourism has boomed exponentially along with the rapid growing economy. 2019 was on track to become another record breaking year for tourist numbers until Easter Day, when Isis terrorists attacked hotels, churches and residences in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa, claiming 259 innocent lives. The incident caused a disastrous blow to the country’s tourism. The government immediately tightened national security, attempting to restore international confidence. Despite of the attack, magazines and newspapers remained affirmative to endorse Sri Lanka as a top destination of 2019. After learning about its diverse attractions, affordability, ease of travel and communication, pristine natural scenery and unique cultural experiences, we were not surprise at all to see why Lonely Planet selected Sri Lanka as their destination of 2019.
As a small country about half the size of England, Sri Lanka has a lot to offer. We planned for a loop journey starting in Negombo on the western coast, then moved north to the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya & Dambulla before heading up to the hill region. In the hills, we stopped by the historical capital Kandy, took the “world’s most scenic train ride” to the tea plantations near Ella and Haputale. Leaving behind the hills of Ceylon tea, we ventured into the wilderness of Udawalawa for wildlife safari, and arrived at the beaches of Mirissa and the colonial port of Galle to embrace the Indian Ocean. Before leaving Sri Lanka, we stopped by Colombo for a delicious crab dinner. This trip was filled with lovely moments: joining Buddhist pilgrims at the 2300-year-old Bodhi Tree, hiking through Sir Thomas Lipton’s tea terraces, facing eyes-in-eye with elephants and leopard on safari jeep, spotting whales and dolphins in the open ocean, candlelight dining on the Mirissa Beach, not to mention devouring delicious curry and seafood, meeting the friendly and curious local people, and taking in the laid back atmosphere that we could always smell in the air.
Our journey embarked from the beaches of Negombo.
At Anuradhapura, we circled the 2300-year sacred Bodhi tree,
and visited several ancient Buddhist dagobas (stupas) where pilgrims burned incenses and offered lotus flowers.
At Sigiriya, we climbed up a rock opposite to Sigiriya Rock to watch the best ever sunset.
Visiting the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy offered us a chance to see the century-old rituals that once symbolized the political and religious power of the nation.
At Kandy, we stayed at the magnificent Villa Rosa Guesthouse overlooking the Mahaweli River,
and visited the famous Royal Botanical Garden to check out the large flying foxes.
“The world’s most scenic train ride” took us up to the hills of tea plantations.
In Haputale, we followed Lipton’s footsteps for a half day hike.
In Ella, we were rewarded with the peaceful and lush green scenery.
Onwards to Udawalawa where we had close encounters with Asian elephants.
Reaching the south coast at Mirissa signified the final leg of our journey.
Mirissa offered us moments of relaxation right by the Indian Ocean.
The seaside resort town is also renowned as one of the world’s top spot for whale and dolphin watching.
We enjoyed every moments by the sea at Mirissa and Galle before heading north to Colombo.
Pastel white, pale crimson, moss blue, bright green, and various shades of charcoal filled up our viewfinder like an Impressionist painting capturing the colour palette of the Japanese spring. It was the second week of April. We set off to the Kansai region in central Honshu Island of Japan for a 9-day vacation. We spent over half of our time at the southern Kii Peninsula, where the century-old pilgrimage routes now known as the Kumano Kodo crisscrossing the Kii Mountains in the Wakayama Prefecture. In the midst of cedar groves, river valleys, bamboo forests, rice paddies, and tea farms lays the legendary Hongu Taisha, the spiritual centrepiece in this part of Honshu, and the charming Yunomine, the nation’s oldest onsen town which had been witnessing 18 centuries of the Japanese bathing culture. Apart from Kumano Kodo, we also had our first ever hanami experience at Mount Yoshino, where 30,000 sakura trees dotted over the hills from foot to summit. Tasting seasonal fruit and indulging in the local cuisines, from seafood in Tanabe and Kii Katsuura, onsen kaiseki in the Kii Mountains, beef teppanyaki in Kobe, to street food in Osaka, also heighten the whole travel experience. The journey is completed with a visit to the timeless masterpiece by architect Tadao Ando. Having a trip started from hiking in the mountains and visiting ancient temples along the way, and ended with some finest contemporary architecture in Japan allows us to appreciate the connections between Japanese minimalist design to the ancient aesthetic and spatial concepts of Shinto shrines and traditional timber houses.
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Read other posts on 2015 Kansai…
Day 1.0 – Kansai Japan 2015
Day 1.1 – Hanami, Mount Yoshino
Day 1.2 – Feast under the Shades of Sakura, Mount Yoshiko
Day 2 – A Day in Kobe
Day 3 – A Day in Central Osaka
Day 4 – Tanabe – Prelude of the Kumano Kodo
Day 5.1 – Takijiri to Takahara, Kumano Kodo
Day 5.2 – Takahara to Tsugizakura , Kumano Kodo
Day 5.3 – Minshuku Tsugizakura, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.1 – Tsugizakura to Mikoshi-Toge Pass, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.2 – Mikoshi-Toge Pass to Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha to Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.1 – Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.2 – Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.4 – Wataze Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.1 – Kumano Nachi Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.2 – Kii Katsuura, Kumano Kodo
Day 9 – Church of Light, Osaka
Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia and Wong Kar-Wai’s Happy Together, along with images of the extreme: eerie salt flats of Uyuni, diverse wildlife in the Pantanal, marvelous cities of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janerio, the enchanted mountains and glaciers of Patagonia have long cast a South American spell on us. To make an extensive backpacking trip in South America has become our dream in recent years.
We will begin our journey in Buenos Aires, the bustling Argentinean capital. From BA we will fly to the Iguazu Falls and continue our journey into Brazil. After weeks of lush wetlands, hill towns, modernist architecture, and magnificent cities in Brazil, we will move on to the cloud forests, colonial towns and Andean highlands of Bolivia. From the Bolivian highlands, we will gradually descend to the northwest of Argentina, and then to the Chilean desert of Atacama. Heading south, we will detour at the Chilean Lake District and Chiloe Islands before reaching the magical Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. At the southernmost land in the world other than Antarctica, we will indulge ourselves with mountain and ice trekking, topped with a feast of southern seafood. Our journey will end with New Year countdown in Valparaiso of Chile.
In the next 80+ days, follow our journey on this blog!
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Day 1.1 – San Telmo Loft, Buenos Aires
Day 1.2 – First Walk in Buenos Aires
Day 2.1 – Morning Stroll in San Telmo, Buenos Aires
Day 2.2 – Cementer de la Recoleta, Buenos Aires
Day 2.3 – Architectural Bennale, Buenos Aires
Day 2.4 – El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires
Day 3.1 – Don Julio Parrillas, Buenos Aires
Day 3.2 – Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires
Day 3.3 – Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires
Day 4.1 – Malba, Buenos Aires
Day 4.2 – Chan Chan Peruvian Restaurnant, Buenos Aires
Day 4.3 – Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires
Day 5.1 – Pasaje Defensa, Buenos Aires
Day 5.2 – Buseo de Arte Moderno, Buenos Aires
Day 5.3 – Cafe San Juan, Buenos Aires
Day 5.4 – Cementerio de la Recoleta (2nd Visit), Buenos Aires
Day 5.5 – Dylan Ice-cream Parlour, Buenos Aires
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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought