Choosing a new place to visit is not that easy anymore as I’ve mostly covered my original bucket list of travel destinations. As of now, I’m compilling my new list which I plan covering in the next 5 years or so. What were my favorite travel experiences after visiting all these places? What were the highlights in my vast list of places I’ve visited? There are some that are pretty obvious and others that have even surprised me. Remember each trip reminds me that each one of them was special in their own way and choosing the very best, most enlightening and memorable experiences is more difficult than I initially though. After many days of thoughts here are my favorites in no particular order.
Cruising the Ganges in Varanasi
This has to stand as one of the most surreal events in my life. As I’ve said in previous articles, Varanasi is a city that needs to be experienced to be understood. No explanation anywhere can prepare you to the sensation you get once you stand in front of the ganges and witness the events that occur here. Not only was I perplexed by what I saw when I cruised by boat at the ganges, but the journey there was as troubling and full of tension. Without going much in to detail imagine being harassed on your way to a touristic site only to find out that the place is creepier and stranger than you ever imagined it would be. It is difficult to grave a hold of what is going on in your head as you watch the rituals presented to you in the Varanasi Gaths. Just think of it as spirituality taken to the most extreme levels. If you thought things were strange wait until you come back to the second part of the visit early in the morning as you watch people bathe in the same water where cows and humans corpses were thrown just the night before.
Standing at the Edge of La Garganta del Diablo in Iguaçu Waterfalls
As I reached the famed Garganta del Diablo in Argentina’s Iguaçu Waterfalls I couldn’t hear any sound of water falling. It was strange as this was supposed to be one of the fiercest falls in the world with millions of galons dropping by the second. I knew I was near but strangely I couldn’t hear a thing, just 50 yards before I got there I started hearing something, each step I took was like 10 Db higher, and then it got really loud! Here I was at night with the only light available being the reflection of the moon watching a sight that will forever stay in my heart as magical. I was fortunate enough to visit the waterfalls in the days that the “cataratas bajo la luna” tour is available, a visit that is only featured when there is a full moon. Wow, nothing in the world can compare to the feeling I had in that brief hour or so that we had in front of this natural wonder. Surely one of the most memorable ever in my traveling days.
Having a cup of wine with friends at the Jingshanling Great Wall
Many have visited The Great Wall of China, most of you have gotten to see the Badaling section of the wall, an overcrowded place where visitors are shoulder to shoulder with each other trying to get a picture of one of the wonder of the world. Forunately for me, I took the time to investigate and found myself going to a section of the wall that is a little further away, but worth the trip as there is merely a soul visiting. Imagine yourself all alone in one of the most popular tourist attractions in our world. A place that many would love to have the time to experience let alone take their time to walk it with no one pushing you and being able to take a picture all alone. We did just that and were a little greedier as we even brought some munchies and wine to make our experience whole! We took our time to choose the right spot as we opened the bottle and felt the wind hit us in pleasure. This may be the greatest picnic i’ve ever had and it couldn’t been better than to enjoy it with great friends and a good laugh with The Great Wall as our background. Incredible!
Gazing at the sheer beauty of the Taj Mahal
As I walked through the main gate of the Taj Mahal site, nothing could prepare me for the sight that I was about to witness. The Taj Mahal is as close as a living postcard as you’ll ever get. Trust me, amazing would be an adjetive that could never describe the beauty of this monument to love. Staring at it from the main gate is one of the greatest moments in my travel experiences as the place truly exceeded all my expectations. The Taj Mahal has always been near the top of my bucket list and as many of you may have experienced, some of these so called top attractions don’t live up to the expectations. Well, let me tell you that the Taj Mahal is one the short list of the ones that exceed it. Even as you walk and get closer to the actual building, it never seizes to amaze you at the grandeur of the whole project and much more when you know the story behind it. Call me a Romantic but walking inside the white marble building and seeing the tombs themselves makes you believe that love moves the world. I wouldn’t change that moment for anything as it was a special as anything I’ve witnessed. We had a really rough time getting there as our train took 14 hours to get from Delhi to Agra. Even though we didn’t get any sleep were pissed off and didn’t have an ounce of energy left after the disappointing train ride that night, The Taj Mahal managed to make us forget at least for three or four hours of all our hassle. The monument of love is at the top of my list of best historic monuments in the world.
Having a stroll through Okunoin Cemetery in Koyasan at midnight
This has to be the oddest of my selections as I hadn’t really thought about the experience as a whole for a while. When we made the plan to visit Koyasan, it was with the purpose of staying at a Buddhist temple. As it turned out it was way more than that. Part of traveling is meeting interesting people, and we got to do that during our meal at the temple. As we had a chat with our new Venezuelan friend we decided to have a night walk at the nearby Okunoin Cemetery, a local tourist highlight. The Cemetery is a mile and a half long walk in the woods of japanese style cemetery. Its really creepy and is light up during the night beautifully. What made this walk special was that the setting fit the conversation in a strange way. Talking about life changing experiences and what drew us to this place was our theme each of us giving our input of what made us choose this place. All three told stories that motivated us to visit Japan while we strolled the dark creepy cemetery. We took our time to stare at the tombs which in some case had special offerings including clothes for little children. As we walked back, rain started to pour making it a memorable experience more special. We ended our walk back in the temple sitting outside chatting a little bit more of experiences that changed our lives. Very suiting.
Standing on the top of the World Trade Center in New York City at Night
One of my childhood dreams was to visit the Twin Towers in New York City. After years of dreaming about this it finally came true. In August 1999 my dad finally took me to New York. We landed in Newark, as the taxi cab took us to Manhattan, the clear sky let me gaze at one of the most impressive sights in my life: The New York City Skyline. Wow! Watching the World Trade Center tower over the rest of the buildings was amazing. I never thought in my wildest dreams that they were so tall. It even made the Empire State Building look insignificant by its standards. A couple of days later we finally visited the buildings. As we made the line to go to the observatory my heart was pumping fast, I couldn’t hold my excitement. Elevators were faster than any other. We finally got to the observatory and it was a sight that I will never forget. My dad then told me he had gotten tickets for the top of the building. That was great news! Getting up there, feeling the wind of the top of the world and looking at Manhattan was something that I will always carry with me. What a sight! It remains my favorite building in the world even after visiting a taller one with the Shanghai Financial Center last month. Even though its taller, nothing can compare to the amazing sights of the Manhattan streets. I will always have that moment in my heart even if the buildings aren’t here anymore. They may be gone, but they will never leave my heart.