When you first arrive, Rio hits you in the face. It is a mix of sensations. First, the brutal humidity. Intense traffic. The journey from the international airport to the city with its unmistakable stench of sewage as a stark reminder of the complexity that lies beneath Rio’s surface. Rio is complicated. Favelas nestled amidst fancy neighborhoods highlighting the social contrasts within the city.Continue reading
Few travelers venture into Cambodia’s remote northern regions. The country has a poor road network and is not fully cleared of landmines (laid in their millions over three decades of war). Instead, the majority of tourists base themselves in the lively town of Siem Reap, gateway to the 155 sq mile Angkor Archaeological Park and its hundreds of majestic restored temples. Unsurprisingly, Angkor Wat – one of the world’s largest religious monuments – remains the foremost attraction in the country and first-time visitors will not want to miss the pinnacle of the Khmer empire. But there is much more to be seen beyond Angkor’s boundaries.Continue reading
I arrive in Bari, a busy modern port and the largest city in Puglia, tired. The many hours on the road navigating the 1,200 km between my home in South Germany and Italy’s heel seem endless. Though most of it is an interesting drive. Traversing the Alps and Northern Italy to land at the edge of Europe feels like moving through different worlds. As we drive south, the change in scenery is extreme. Puglia is like a different continent, a place apart. Caught between the Adriatic and the Ionian seas, it’s the end of something and the beginning of something else.
As I fly over the Indian Ocean, from the sky, I see granite boulders rising like standing stones out of a pristine tropical jungle. Below me, the alluring turquoise Indian ocean and shades of unknown creatures.Continue reading
The last rays of sunshine lengthen over Conceição Beach as I swim just before dusk, birds flying over my head. The warm, constant flow of waves and white fluffy sand feel like velvet on the skin. Glorious “Morro do Pico”, in between surfers, rises above the shrubbery. I walk with bare feet through the long stretch of beach, to end up at Bar do Meio, where a small crowd gathers and dances at the sound of live music.Continue reading
On a map, Sicily is right in the central Mediterranean Sea, south of the Italian Peninsula from which the narrow Strait of Messina separates it. Surrounded by three seas – Tyrrhenian, Mediterranean, and Ionian – it’s not too distant from mainland Italy, and its southernmost Island is astonishingly just a 113 km stretch from Tunisia. Laying between the civilizations of Africa and Europe, Sicily is a world apart. No wonder. A region separated from the rest of Italy not only by the sea but also by centuries of history and cultural experience. Yet, by traveling there, I discover, Sicily is also a vital part of the country.
It has been a long European winter—the coldest in a few years. Add to that the second wave of a pandemic and a strict lockdown insisting on taking away much of the season’s joy. Then, the so expected spring doesn’t show. It’s already early April, I’m in south Germany, and the cold doesn’t let up. I wish for a dreamscape, ideally by the sound of waves, under sublime sunshine.Continue reading
On the edge of North Africa’s desert, I watch nomads shelter from the sun in a camel-hair tent. A man herds his camels with curved daggers hanging down his back, and a long colorful scarf wraps around his head and neck. Mules swing their heads and stare. In the distance, the great stone and snowy caps fold of the Atlas Mountains behind the man, the animals, the tent.
It’s the end of March in southeast Iran, and I am setting up camp where the shifting sands of the Lut Desert, or Dasht-e Lut, forge a living work of art. Over sunset, my eyes get wider. Like in nowhere else, I’m entranced, the golden light unfolding the magnetism of a mystic wilderness. Max, my husband, and I assemble the tends under a gentle desert breeze. I look around and see nothing but infinity and silence in giant dunes framed by alien rock formations. “Lut is my favorite place in the world,” says Hooman, our Iranian fixer in the desert. “It’s the only place where I can have a glimpse of what freedom feels like.”
It’s late October when I am picked up at home in Singapore on an early Friday morning. Unlike most of my travels, this time, I’m loving the idea of a resort holding my hands from the moment I step out of my door until I reach its final destination. Yet I am quite intrigued by the place I’m headed. I can barely find it on a map. My husband points at the waters between peninsular Malaysia and Borneo on Google Maps. I have to zoom it in hard to realize those little dots are actual islands.Continue reading