A Thousand and One Places – Three Must See Places on My Bucket List:
Part of an itinerant family as a child, by the time I was eight years old I’d moved school ten times, lived in four different countries and had over fifteen different places to call ‘home’. My parents carried on moving and travelling so that by my teens and early twenties all I wanted to do was stay in one place. School and University holidays were packed with visits to where ever in the world they happened to be at that time. It was often to places that were simply not on the holiday radar for most of my friends. Just getting a visa to visit places like Libya or Saudi Arabia was a challenge and as a result when I did get there, my experiences were unique. At the time the only other people I knew who had visited Leptis Magna were expat families I met in Tripoli, the fabulous rock formations of the Dirab desert were largely unexplored and the gold souk in Riyadh was an Aladdin’s cave that only I had heard of. My travels were often remote, seldom planned by me and not necessarily to places that I imagined I’d find interesting. Yet, every trip was special.
It wasn’t until later, in my thirties, that I discovered the joy of a planned trip to see a place that piqued my interest. By then I was immersed in my career with limited holiday time and, as a newish home-owner, with a VERY limited budget. I did travel but mostly to Europe – to Spain to see the hanging houses at Cuenca, to Portugal where I stayed in the turret of a castle in Avila and to France, Switzerland and Germany. Now, things seem to have come full circle. I’m writing about travel and I’m lucky enough to have visited some truly fantastic places, in many cases because I’m invited to visit. One of the highlights of last year for me was Sailing Week in Antigua. Whilst it wouldn’t have been on my bucket list before the trip, I hope some of the features I wrote about the island inspire others to put it there now. There are other hidden gems too – the valley of rock carvings in Foz Coa, Portugal, the fortress of Nizwa in Oman, the temples around Chennai in India and the rock palace at Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. I am truly privileged.
The catch, of course, is that I don’t generally get to cover my own bucket list. And, the Northern Lights is a bucket list classic, something almost everyone I know wants to do. Not only is the spectacle of the Northern Lights an amazing natural phenomenon, Intrigue is heightened by nature’s own roulette. No one can guarantee that you will see the Northern Lights even if you pick the best time of year and extend your trip for as long as possible. It’s on my list. I want to see the sky dance and heaven descend. I will get there, if not this year then soon. And I will go with the belief that the lights WILL appear for me because believing in your dream is the best way to make it happen.
Where else? It’s hard to stick to three but if I’m pushed, Malaysia (and in particular Ipoh and Kuala Lumpar) is right up there. Maybe I’m cheating because I’ve already been there. But, I was only five years old when we arrived and what memories I have of the two years we spent there are broken. I remember the sounds and smells of the Chinese market. I remember the snake girl, a tiny Indian girl about my own age. She sat by the pool every day, with her father, the satay man, her neck laden with glistening reptiles. I remember the mint that grew under our stilted house, forbidden territory because of the danger of snakes, spiders and scorpions, but the only cool place to be in the garden and so where I’d gravitate. And I remember my Indian dance classes where, as the only white girl, I was treated like a goddess. I want to go back and visit the places where I grew up.
Finally, I’d love to visit Peru. Specifically to see Manchu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Incas”. Somewhere that those who are lucky enough to have visited speak of with awe it is as much a spectacle as the Northern Lights, though man made rather than natural. Built around 1450, at the height of the Incan Empire, it was abandoned some 100 years later and never discovered by the Spanish Conquistadors who destroyed much of the Incan empire elsewhere in Peru. Then, with the romance of a story book, the jungle grew up over the city and for centuries Manchu Picchu was lost. Just over a hundred years ago, an American archeologist, Hiram Bingham, found the site and, from 1911 to 1915 undertook a major excavation, uncovering a site that proved to be a well preserved showcase of Inca constructruction and stonework. I have an idea that it will be a little like Sigiriya – but much, much larger and with that unique Inca architecture.
Just like the Northern Lights, everyone who has been tells me that photography simply doesn’t capture the magnificence of Manchu Picchu. That I have to see it for yourself. And I know I will.
Have you been to any of my top three? If so, do you think they deserve to be there?