Ah, Okavango. Itself quite resplendent – with its champagne colored waters in the wet season. Yet a precious haven to an ample & remarkable habitat. A deserving recipient of several accolades, including one of 7 natural wonders of Africa, UNESCO listed. It’s only one of a few delta systems without an outlet. It’s a miraculously intact wetland system.
During the dry season, hundreds of thousands congregate around the life giving delta, among them members of the big five, graceful giraffes, crocodiles, hyenas, zebras, and more you may probably imagine. And you’ll be lucky to glimpse some of the most endangered ones in the world right now – the African wild dog, the cheetah, the white and black rhinoceros.
Okavango is home to more than 150 000 tree covered islands, ranging from mere termite mounds to enormous tracts. Some of them are inaccessible, and whether night or day, you can hear dramas playing out in the far. Either an unsuspecting leopard that’s just fallen prey, or a pack of hyenas facing off with a pride of lions over a carcass.
Birds are aplenty – 530 species, to be specific. Pel’s fishing owl, the world’s only fish eating owl, among them. You can visit Okavango all year round. But if you want to see the gorgeous wetlands in full flood, travel here between July and September.
The world’s largest religious monument, on a normal day, is already imposing in its stature and sheer grandeur. But silhouetted against the red and orange light of 5.30 am, reflected in new dawn, Angkor Wat resembles a creation off a mythical world.
Angkor has an eyebrow raising history: Khmer kings would build temples not for religious congregation but as a dwelling place for the gods. They’d legitimize their claim to the throne by proving they’re capable of making the grandest, most impressive residence for the gods. It’s safe to say King Suryavarman II, the king behind the temple, did a pretty impressive job to this end, although he never lived to see it as it was completed after his death.
Angkor Wat in Khmer literally means ‘City temple’ – a curiously generic name given its obvious spiritual symbolism and local pride for the Cambodian people, and its intricate style symbolizing the zenith of architectural genius of the Khmer empire. Thankfully, its curious bas relief, dramatically depicting wars between devils and demons is still intact from the 1100’s.
Be sure to check out Angkor National Museum, only moments away if you’re interested to know more about this iconic temple. It attempts to capture the spiritual, architectural and historical spirit of Angkor. To see Angkor Wat at sunrise in all its glory, depart Siem Reap at 4.30 am.
The iconic Chevrolet Styleline in the streets of Havana, Cuba. Colorful Antique cars rule in Havana. Their meticulously preserved status since the 50’s has earned them the nickname ‘Galapagos of the car industry’. And get this: there’s no better way to explore Havana than to hitch a ride in one of these classic cars.
In the streets, music pouring out of people’s homes will reflect in your every step. Jazz clubs are everywhere you can set your eyes on, and small bands are playing in cafes and bars. In Havana, infectiously joyous music is the bug that’ll bite you, leaving you planning for your next Havana trip even before you leave.
Malecon, the great wall separating the sea from the city seems to carry on the rhythm of Havana. The tide will periodically hit the concrete wall, and water will bounce back into the ocean in a dramatic surf. Fishing-line holding fishermen will chat you up as they zero in on their prey under the glow of sunset.
It’s not just the classic cars that’ll throw you in a time warp. Old Havana’s colonial legacy is ubiquitous. Check out Hotel Inglaterra, Cuba’s oldest Hotel that played host to Winston Churchill, future UK prime minister when he was a military reporter during the 1898 10-week Spanish- Cuban war.
Fancy visiting Europe? How about Hungary’s capital, a weirdly unique city and turns out, the home of relaxation? Here’s why I fell in love with Budapest!
I always love a religion discovery. Budapest’s home to the biggest synagogue in Europe and 2nd biggest the world over. This place unexpectedly pulls at your heartstrings: countless Jews fled here during World War II, only to later die of starvation. You’ll see a weeping metal willow tree adorned with names of people who died.
But at Heroes Square, you’ll probably renew your faith in human valor again. In the colonnades of the Millennium monument is a statue of the champion who led Hungarians to unprecedented victory in the Carpathian contest way back in 895 A.D. So do former chiefs depicted on horsebacks, in a dramatic, breathtaking manner.
Madrid’s famous for soccer genius, elegant thoroughfares, manicured parks. But you’ll never capture the magic of this city without visiting. Why should you see Madrid soon?
My first impression of Prado was what a magnificent piece of architecture, and that I might get lost in the dizzying number of the artifacts! Like me, perhaps you’ll be arrested by the enigmatic Laz Meninas, a striking painting of Princess Margarita surrounded by a body guard, maids of honor and a dog; with its artist – Velasquez depicted at the back working on a canvas!
Who doesn’t want to see the home of one the world’s most successful football clubs? I gaped at video screens of Real Madrid’s players scoring homeruns, indulged in audios giving interesting tidbits, and toured the stadium walking on trails literally blazed by the club’s greats!
Santa Ana square
Meanwhile, food, culture and nightlife are the charming trio in Santa Ana square, an oasis away from the crazy pace of the district. Here, I’d relax after a wild day and sample the scrumptious tapas of the cafes as I watched children running gaily through the plaza, reminding me of my childhood days.
Fancy time travelling to the 13th century? I can’t think of a better way than roaming Toledo, a place that’s meticulously preserved culture from times far gone. Three cultures coexisted here for centuries. You won’t miss the Jewish, Muslim and Christian influences, all blending perfectly together!