A bare sakura tree against a concrete wall is the first image that comes to mind when someone asks me about the first time I stepped into a country that was not my own. That was two years ago. Since then, I’ve been to two other countries, tasted Pad Thai, quiche, and fugu nabe for the first time, met wonderful hosts through AirBNB, and discovered that traveling is the greatest way to know more about the world, life, culture, history, people, and yourself.
I don’t know when and where I can travel again and if I will ever get as good a chance when I ticked Kyoto off my bucket list, but just in case I did I decided to make a list of the top ten places that make me curious, daydream, and very excited about life.
1. Chiang Mai, Thailand
What I’d Go: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Wat Phra Singh, Wat U Mong Thera Jan, Wiang Kum Kam, Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple, Lanna Folklife Museum, and Saturday Night Market Walking Street
What I’d Eat: Pad Thai, Tom Yum Goong, Som Tum, Green Chicken Curry
Where I’d Stay: AIRBNB DREAM VACATION ROOM IN THAILAND
2. Mumbai, India
When I imagine India I see a rainbow and it is this image of diversity that draws me to it. When I started hearing news about female tourists being attacked, it made me consider taking it off my list until I befriended a warm and thoughtful Indian woman who told me stories about India and rekindled my interest and curiosity.
When I told her I wanted to visit her country one day, she offered to tour me around and even stay in her family’s house. A local tour guide and free accommodations? I immediately told her I’d hold her to her word. She moved to Germany this year so it’ll probably take years before we see each other in India, but I can be patient and there are 9 other places in this list.
3. Beijing, China
Where I’d Go: Great Wall of China, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Beihai Park, Houhai
What I’d Eat: Peking Duck, Kung Pao Chicken, Egg Tart, Jian Bing, Dumplings, Spicy Crayfish
Where I’d Stay: AIRBNB DREAM VACATION ROOM IN BEIJING
Let it not be said that I watched all 315 episodes of Running Man without learning anything because I did. For example, I learned that I might actually have the guts to try skydiving. I also found out that I have a bit of gaudiness to want to buy gold from an ATM. Most importantly, I discovered that there are beautiful places to see there like Dubai Marina, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, and the Bastakiya quarter.
Where I’d Stay: AIRBNB DREAM VACATION ROOM IN DUBAI
5. Athens, Greece
Where I’d Go: Parthenon, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Erechtheion, Temple of Hephaestus, Ancient Agora of Athens, Odeon of Herodes, Acropolis Museum, National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio neighborhoods
What I’d Eat: Greek Salad in Mpakalotaverna, Saganaki, Fava, Spinach Pie, Moussaka, Briam
Where I’d Stay: AIRBNB DREAM VACATION ROOM IN ATHENS
Number 6 used to read “London, England” but I’m making an exception because a year ago I bookmarked a page and told myself that I would one day go on my own Harry Potter Tour.
It will start at Edinburgh in The Elephant House over salad and lasagne. After that, I will patronize the muggle in me by making detours to Edinburgh Castle, Royal Botanic Garden, Scott Monument, and Princes Street Gardens.
Then I will fly to Northumberland, or rather, in Madame Hooch’s flying lesson in Alnwick Castle (followed by a tour of the castle because I love Downton Abbey too). After the lesson, I’ll take a magical portal to Diagon Alley in The Shambles York where I will certainly bleed my Gringotts vault dry.
When there’s nothing left to spend, I will retreat to Bodleian Library because books and libraries together are a poor reader’s best friend. Since I’m on the topic of books, I will also go to Oxford University to see a stained glass window made in honor of it’s alumnus, Lewis Carroll.
Finally, London: Warner Brothers’ Studio Tour and Borough Market Muggle Tour in the morning, and The Georgian House Hotel’s Wizard Chambers in the evening. And then of course Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Natural History Museum, and London Bridge because the muggle in me will be persistent about seeing everything.
7. Naples, Italy
Where I’d Go: Teatro di San Carlo, Cappella Sansevero, San Gregorio Armeno, Naples National Archaeological Museum, Catacombs of San Gennaro, Parco Virgiliano
What I’d Eat: I just want Pizza in Pizzeria da Michele
Where I’d Stay: AIRBNB DREAM VACATION ROOM IN NAPLES
Once there was woman who went to Finland and told me about her awesome host family who took her to a forest where they picked three buckets of blueberries that they made into pies and muffins. She described the beauty of nature and the comfort in a traditional Finnish sauna so vividly that a story wasn’t enough – I have to go there.
9. Cusco, Peru
Where I’d Go: Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Cusco Cathedral, Coricancha, Plaza de Armas, San Pedro Market
What I’d Eat: Pachamanca, Choclo (with cheese or as soup), Alpaca Burger
Where I’d Stay: AIRBNB DREAM VACATION ROOM IN CUSCO
10. Tanzania, Africa
You get a lot from watching many nature documentary films and National Geographic Channel. In my case, I realized that I wanted to save all endangered animals in the world. While I sort that out I might as well learn as much as I can about animals, and what better way to do that than by going to all the fourteen national parks in Tanzania? ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
What about you? What places do you want to go to because of a big dream? What was the first country you’ve been to, and what is the image that comes to mind when you recall that first time?