My travel bucket list- Part 3

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My travel bucket list- Part 3

Australia (Tasmania)

The island-state of Tasmania, located 170 mi/275 km south of Melbourne off the country’s southern coast, is known as “Tassie” by the locals. It is perhaps best known outside of Australia as the home of the Tasmanian devil—the whirling dervish of a marsupial that inspired the Looney Tunes cartoon character. But to Australians, it’s a fabulous place to spend a week’s vacation. Tasmania has long stretches of uninhabited beaches, jagged (and often snowcapped) mountains, slow-moving creeks and rivers, gorges, historical sites, forests and a rugged shoreline.

You can fly to the island from Melbourne or Sydney. But if seasickness isn’t a problem, we recommend taking the ferry from Melbourne to Devonport. Then rent a car and drive to Queenstown for a boat tour up the Gordon River. On your return, drive to Russell Falls (a tropical waterfall decked with wild ferns) at Mount Field National Park, then go on to New Norfolk (eat at one of the restaurants along the Derwent River).

The next stop is Hobart, the largest city on Tasmania. Walk around this early-19th-century city to see old homes and buildings. Visit the Van Diemen’s Land Memorial Folk Museum in an 1836 mansion or the Maritime Museum in the fine Georgian-style Secheron House. Browse through the arts-and-crafts galleries, coffeehouses and restaurants in the old sandstone warehouses of Salamanca Place (Saturday street market). At night, attend a performance at the Theatre Royal (Australia’s oldest “legitimate” theater) or visit the West Point Casino. Take half a day to climb 4,100-ft/1,250-m Mount Wellington for a great view, then drive to Glen Huon (great apples, if they’re in season).

From Hobart, drive 60 mi/100 km past Eaglehawks Neck to Port Arthur, an old penal colony with another attractive view. For 57 years (1830-87), Port Arthur confined nearly 12,000 prisoners. Today, it has a museum displaying captains’ logs that list the crimes of their passengers. Tasmanian Devil Park, located 12 mi/8 km to the north, is a refuge for the ferocious wolverine-like marsupials. Overnight at the Cascades at Koonya bed-and-breakfast in the old penal colony, or return to Hobart. Hike up to Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park for a look at one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches. Next, drive north through the center of the island to Launceston, the second-largest city on the island, to see the gorge and Tamar River scenery for two nights, then fly out.

Nature lovers will enjoy hiking through Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, near the center of the island. (Some 70 mi/110 km of hiking trails cross jagged mountains, moors, streams and gorges.) At night you might see Tasmanian devils, wallabies and other animals. During the day you can go canoeing, fishing and hiking.

Two islands in the Bass Strait between Tasmania and the Australian mainland will appeal to adventurous travelers who aren’t solely interested in shopping, nightlife or the creature comforts of civilization. King Island has attractive beaches, good seafood and tasty cheeses; it rates up to a three-night stay. There’s a variety of accommodations available, primarily in Currie, the main town. Flinders Island, farther east (part of the Furneaux group), resembles King in that it has a rugged coast and good beaches. It’s also a great place to hike and hunt for various precious gemstones (most of these are near the town of Palana).

No matter when you go, take a sweater—Tasmania is cold at night and might only reach the 40s F/3-7 C during the day. The Tasmanian summer in January seems to last for about two weeks.

Non-Preferred Hotels

Cradle Mountain Lodge (Cradle Mountain, Tasmania) www.cradlemountainlodge.com.au

Saffire Freycinet (Coles Bay, Tasmania) www. saffire-freycinet.com.au

The Henry Jones (Hobart) www.thehenryjones.com

Bhutan

Bhutan is the only country in the Himalayas where the Vajrayana Buddhist culture survives intact. However, the fall of other kingdoms that represent this vibrant culture, such as Tibet, Sikkim and Ladakh, and the encroachment of globalization make the survival of this tiny Buddhist nation increasingly fragile and poignant.

In Bhutan, trekkers will find an alternative to the overcrowded trails of Nepal. Serious photographers will be impressed with the country’s traditional architecture and abundant wildlife. (Herds of yaks graze in its high-country valleys, and rare snow leopards, blue sheep and black-necked cranes can sometimes be spotted in its farthest reaches.) Others can find pleasure in the elaborate tsechus(religious festivals) that are held throughout the year at various dzongs (fortress monasteries). Nearly everyone who visits Bhutan will be awed by the unsurpassed majesty of the Himalayas.

But it’s neither easy nor cheap to visit Bhutan, which is tucked in between India and China (Tibet). No independent travel is allowed in the country—all visitors must book their trip through a state-licensed travel office or a foreign travel agent who deals directly with the government. The government charges all travelers 9,000 Nu a day, to which the Bhutanese company may or may not add its own operating costs.

On the brighter side, your trip is usually free of the hassles associated with travel in other countries in this region, as the fee covers lodging, food, tours and comfortable transportation in well-maintained buses, SUVs or cars. The fee also includes a guide with whom you can plan your itinerary.

Preferred Hotels

Amankora – www.amanresorts.com/amankora

Uma Paro – www.uma.paro.como.bz

Caribbean (Jumby Bay, Antigua & Peter Island, BVI)

This private island is quite hilly, and it has several secluded beaches that are worth seeking out—Deadman’s Bay is the most famous. It’s the home of the Peter Island Resort and Yacht Harbour, one of the Caribbean’s most luxurious and exclusive resorts. The facilities are nestled along the edge of the north shore, leaving the rest of this 8-mi-/13-km-long island completely undeveloped.

Nonguests are welcome to visit the island. It’s an extremely popular overnight anchorage for the yachting crowd. You can dine at the beach restaurant or elegant Tradewinds Restaurant (advance reservations required at both) and use the beaches. Just remember to respect the privacy of the hotel guests and refrain from using the resort facilities.

Ferries run regularly between Peter Island and a dock just east of Road Town, Tortola.

Preferred Hotels 

Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort – www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/jumbybay

Peter Island – www.peterisland.com

Iceland

Iceland’s stark, pristine scenery has been shaped by fire and ice: More than 200 volcanoes and numerous glaciers form the country’s landscape. It’s a frozen land that’s always letting off steam. Its U-shaped valleys, jagged lava fields, monstrous icecaps, hot springs and geysers have carved a rugged, bizarre landscape you won’t see anywhere else on Earth. But you don’t need the fortitude of a Viking to enjoy Iceland. In fact, you can experience many of its extremes in relative comfort. During a recent trip, we swam outdoors in a naturally heated pool just feet/meters away from a glacier.

Despite its relative isolation and untillable terrain, Iceland has one of the highest standards of living in the world (with sky-high prices to match). Tourists began to flock there in the 1990s, realizing that it’s actually a destination in its own right rather than just a long layover on connecting Icelandair flights. The country is considered part of Europe, and it is a popular vacation and conference destination for Europeans.

Icelanders, like many islanders, are self-confident and reserved, but once you break the ice, so to speak, they are among the friendliest in the world. Of course, they, too, have their extremes. Although weeknights in Reykjavik, the capital city, are usually quite sedate, the wee hours during the weekends (particularly Friday nights) can get downright raucous as stylishly dressed young people observe a rowdy party-on-the-streets ritual known as the runtur, or circuit.

Iceland is in the midst of an economic boom, with building cranes all over the capital, Reykjavik, though it has slowed down a bit because the country is having difficulty financing the expansion. As Reykjavik becomes more like other large cities, visitors will need to travel outside the city to find the essence of the country.

India (Madhya Pradesh Lodges)

You have been to India, done the usual Rajasthan, or Kerela/ South India trip, then this can be an interesting option.

Preferred Hotels 

The Oberoi (Mumbai) – www.oberoihotels.com

The Oberoi Gurgaon (New Delhi) – www.oberoihotels.com

The Oberoi New Delhi – www.oberoihotels.com

The Taj Mahal Hotel (New Delhi) – www.tajhotels.com

The Taj Mahal Palace (Mumbai) – www.tajhotels.com

Non-Preferred Hotels (Safari Lodges)

Baghvan Pench Jungle Lodge – www.tajsafaris.com

Banjaar Tola Kanha Tented Camp – www.tajsafaris.com

Mahua Kothi Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge – www.andbeyondindia.com

Pashan Garh Panna Wilderness Lodge – www.andbeyondindia.com

Madagascar

Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island, is full of oddities and rarities. If you’re partial to lizards, for example, you’re in luck: You’ll find more than half the world’s species of chameleons there. You’ll also find more than some 70 species of lemur, a family of wide-eyed, long-tailed primates that are exclusive to this one island. Madagascar’s biodiversity also embraces some 220 endemic frog species, while more than half of the 210 breeding birds occur nowhere else in the world. And every year scientists discover new species of plants and animals in its deserts and forests.

But if Madagascar is a nature lover’s dream, it can also be a traveler’s nightmare. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world—three-quarters of its 17 million people live on less than US$1 a day. Though warm, wet and fertile, the island produces barely enough to feed itself—one in 10 children there is chronically malnourished.

Politically, the situation in the country has improved since 2001, when a disputed election threw Madagascar into chaos. President Marc Ravalomanana is opening up the country to foreign investment and trying to stamp out corruption and bad governance after years of mismanagement. Plus, the 2005 animated film Madagascar generated a lot of worldwide interest in this country off Africa’s southeastern coast.

So there is hope for Madagascar, especially in the area of ecotourism. It has an exceptional variety of landscapes, from coral isles and virgin coastlines to baobab forests and craters. All of Africa has one variety of baobab tree, for example, and Madagascar has seven, as well as 19,000 species of plants—a world record.

However, Madagascar continues to face ongoing problems—flooding in early 2005, regular cyclones (in 2004, cyclones destroyed an estimated 120,000 structures, left 240,000 people homeless, and killed and injured scores more) and drought conditions in some areas.

The country is also constrained by lack of infrastructure (there are only about 3,700 mi/6,000 km of constructed roads in a country the size of France) and good hotels. So although tourists are heading there in ever-increasing numbers.


Myanmar

Myanmar presents a dilemma. On the one hand, it has a timeless beauty—it feels like something out of a dream. It’s one of the last remaining places where you can catch a glimpse of Old Asia—of men and women in traditional longyis walking beside golden pagodas and dilapidated colonial buildings as horse carts and vintage taxis ply the streets. On the other hand, the group of generals who rule the country have combined some of the worst aspects of Old Asia with some of the less admirable aspects of their more modernized neighbors. Their contradictory impulses—to keep the country closed and tightly under control while desperately attempting to lure foreign investors and travelers—make for a very unsettling place.

The government’s reluctance to admit problems was evident in the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia in December 2004. Despite independent reports to the contrary, the government initially denied that the country had suffered any damage. In fact, though Myanmar’s rocky shoreline was spared the serious damage that killed thousands in Thailand, Indonesia and India’s Andaman Islands, there was some destruction in the Irrawaddy Delta south of Yangon. All told, 86 people were confirmed dead, more than 5,000 people were left homeless, and several fishing villages were destroyed.

We think that adventurous open-minded travelers who choose to visit Myanmar, despite and because of the repression of its people, will find the experience both memorable and haunting. To gain the broadest insight into the country’s people and their culture, we do recommend traveling beyond the capital and the major tourist sites to explore the multiethnic diversity of this ancient land.

Preferred hotels

The Governor’s Mansion (Yangon) – www.governorsresidence.com

There is a trip that the OEH has, by boat, called “THE ROAD TO MANDALAY”. Contact me for details.

New Zealand

Myanmar presents a dilemma. On the one hand, it has a timeless beauty—it feels like something out of a dream. It’s one of the last remaining places where you can catch a glimpse of Old Asia—of men and women in traditional longyis walking beside golden pagodas and dilapidated colonial buildings as horse carts and vintage taxis ply the streets. On the other hand, the group of generals who rule the country have combined some of the worst aspects of Old Asia with some of the less admirable aspects of their more modernized neighbors. Their contradictory impulses—to keep the country closed and tightly under control while desperately attempting to lure foreign investors and travelers—make for a very unsettling place.

The government’s reluctance to admit problems was evident in the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia in December 2004. Despite independent reports to the contrary, the government initially denied that the country had suffered any damage. In fact, though Myanmar’s rocky shoreline was spared the serious damage that killed thousands in Thailand, Indonesia and India’s Andaman Islands, there was some destruction in the Irrawaddy Delta south of Yangon. All told, 86 people were confirmed dead, more than 5,000 people were left homeless, and several fishing villages were destroyed.

We think that adventurous open-minded travelers who choose to visit Myanmar, despite and because of the repression of its people, will find the experience both memorable and haunting. To gain the broadest insight into the country’s people and their culture, we do recommend traveling beyond the capital and the major tourist sites to explore the multiethnic diversity of this ancient land.

Preferred Hotels

Blanket Baywww.blanketbay.com

Sofitel Queenstown www.sofitel.com/Queenstown

The Langham, Auckland – www. auckland.langhamhotels.co.nz

Well, that’s all I have for now.. 🙂 happy reading. Thank you to my friends at Signature, for their support as always.

Contact me to set up a vacation for you.. 🙂

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