Travel. There are so many inspiring quotes, pictures, books and now thanks to the interwebs, blogs that compel you to pack a bag, hop on a plane and explore every inch of this wonderful globe. Indeed, one of my all-time favourite sayings is that
the best stories are found between the pages of a passport
and I often wish that I were a retired gazillionaire so that I could live my passion of travel everyday rather than have my life peppered with trips that leave my wanderlust worse than it was!
But today, dear Wanderlusters there is a different take on this disease known as Wanderlustitis that you and I have been infected with. My fellow blogger buddy and good friend Binny of Binny’s Kitchen and Travel Diaries invited me to take part in a travel link up that I thought would make an interesting WanderInspo post, and after seeing my other blogger friend Aftab of Fresh and Fearless’s post I thought to myself that I would be doing all you, my fellow Wanderlusters an injustice if I didn’t partake in this twist on travel.
You see, travel can be associated with a delicious meal. One that you anticipate for days, then dress up for and savour every mouth-wateringly, sinfully good morsel until your stomach is full to the brim yet you can’t stop eating. The world, fellow travel addicts, is our oyster: or in my case, even though I do enjoy briny delicacies I much prefer to liken the world to a fluffy vanilla cupcake with sel de beurre frosting swirled over it. It just makes it that much sweeter! And so, the mission today is to whet your appetites with destinations that I would liken to a meal that has left a lasting impression in my mind. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it: and thank you Binny for inviting me to partake!
The Starter: Kenya, #theshorthaul
Every good meal commences with a tantalising starter to prepare your palette for the oodles of goodness coming your way in the next couple of courses. And, as I have recently discovered, your own backyard can hold acres of diamonds waiting to be explored. So, where better to start this travel odyssey than with my own magical country Kenya? I am lucky to be born and brought up in what is considered a world class Safari destination, and I was bitten by the Safari Bug as a young lass, thanks to my parents who would pack us up into our four-wheel drive car and head out to discover various national parks over the school holidays.
Despite growing up going on safari, it is only recently that I gained a true appreciation of just how diverse and stunning Kenya really is. I know that when one thinks of Kenya and safari, the knee jerk destination is the Masaai Mara and I am by no means belittling the majestic Mara in this post. Everyone has a favourite, and for me, this spot is held by the Tsavo West National Park, which had me re-bitten by the Safari Bug whilst exploring the diverse ecosystem that makes up her landscapes. Darting between scrubland to bush, lava flows and savannah and the green and pink Chyulu Hills that fringe her borders like the beads of a necklace, indulging in the various flora, fauna and species of wildlife found in this terrain, I could liken this experience to one that tickled my taste buds and set the pace for a world class meal.
The one thing that truly set apart this park for me when compared to others in Kenya was that it feels like a hidden gem and off the beaten path, given that majority of the safari seekers head out to other parks in Kenya. We saw a plethora of wildlife, from common bush game to browsers to leopards, elephants and lions, and the cherry on this delicious fluffy cupcake was that there were so few cars around the animals that it felt like a safari that I would imagine from the yesteryears and even though Kenya has well and truly left her “Out of Africa” colonial days behind, there was some charm in the lifestyles of the then rich and famous that you can’t help but associate with safaris and visiting the Tsavo brought these alive for me.
And, tying up the ultimate experience for me, is Finch Hattons –a luxury tented camp in the heart of Tsavo West, where the rugged plains of the Tsavo meld with safari chic interiors that you would find in the pages of a glossy magazine like Conde Nast Traveller, making this the perfect place to start off my travel inspired menu and leave my palette wanting more.
The Main Course – #longhaul to Myanmar
The wanderlust gene in me ensures that I am as adventurous with my food as I am with my travel destinations, rarely going by the the tried and tested: I am often guilty of choosing the most random dish because it sounds delicious and then eyeing my WanderlustMate M’s plate because his food looks and tastes better than mine! And so it is with destinations as well. M and I tend to look for intrepid places where photography seduces the eye and words fail to capture the magic spell cast over you as you explore its nooks and crannies. We seem to have an affinity to South East Asia that we cannot quite describe, and as soon as we had heard that Myanmar, the land formerly known as Burma had opened up, we planned a trip out there quick smart and though there are many places that have left an impression on me out in this region of the world, none has been as strong as the mark made by Myanmar.
From the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda in its capital Yangon, known back in the day as Rangoon, to Bagan, the land graced with the spires of a thousand pagodas literally as far as the eye can see, to the misty waters of Lake Inle graced with its Intha Fishermen that use wide nets for fishing and where novice monks learn the art of monkhood, and the road to Mandalay with the U-Bein Bridge, the world’s longest teak bridge, indeed, Rudyard Kipling was apt in his deduction that THIS is Burma, and it is unlike any other land you will see.
Her people welcome you with open arms and warm smiles, her land seduces you so that when you think about this region the first thoughts that come into your mind are the shimmering pagodas of Yangon, the sunrise over the gilded spires of Htilominlo as you soar above the endless plains graced with temples, and the wonderful adventures you have had in this land, watching a fisherman in awe as he balances his net with one foot and steers his boat with the other. Myanmar is a dish that you will choose, and not eye your WanderlustMate’s plate with greedy eyes because your own tastes so good that you want the meal never to end, and if you ever go back to that restaurant you will want to savour that taste all over again!
The piece de resistance: Dessert! Tuscan Dreams….#thelastingimpression
They say you save the best for last, and dessert has to be the swirly frosting on the cupcake of life, adding sweetness to an already delicious meal. The one place that has left a lasting impression on me and has ignited my wanderlust more that it has satiated it has to be Tuscany. I have been infatuated with Italy for eons now, and I must have been Italian in a previous life because I could happily eat pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner and ride a vespa along the Italian coastlines without a second thought.
Imagine my sheer delight when I was finally able to live the dream and head off to this gorgeous region of Northern Italy to explore the winding lanes amidst the rolling hills studded with grapevines and olive groves, unfurling before me like a carpet of green! Indeed, postcards DO NOT LIE and the landscapes you see on Pinterest and the pages of glossy travel magazines are not photo shopped. The panoramic vistas really are that gorgeous, leaving you speechless by the spell cast over you by this region.
Though I spent some time sauntering along the Chianti Wine Route and exploring all the picturesque, fairy tale like towns dotted around this and the stunning Val d’Orcia region, just like I cannot ever have too much Molten Chocolate Cake with a dollop of Salted Caramel Ice Cream, I don’t think I could ever have too much of Tuscany. I would love to return, but to stay a while in a villa, spending an endless summer under the Tuscan sun, indulging in my favourite dessert over and over again.
Like most travellers, I too have a WanderList of places that I would love to set footsteps in. For short haul options, I would love to explore more of Africa and the Middle East. My long haul options include setting footsteps in Europe but top of my dream list is the elusive continent of South America. I say elusive because M and I have been planning our footsteps in this part of the world for over 4 years now and it just isn’t happening! So I have just left it to the Universe to deliver the perfect timing for us to make this adventure happen! My dream is to spend a couple of months exploring this continent’s diversity. From searching for jaguars in the Pantanal, to exploring the Amazon, seeing the Iguasu and Iguazu Waterfalls, to exploring the streets of Buenos Aires and seeing Christ the Redeemer, to exploring Patagonia, the Perito Moreno Glacier and the heads of the Rapa Nui on Easter Island, to seeing the salt flats of Salar di Uyuni to heading up to Peru and hiking Macchu Pichhu, to seeing blue footed boobies in the Galapagos Islands. This, my dear Wanderlusters would be the ultimate trip for me, akin to eating at the Chefs table in a much coveted restaurant! I hope you have enjoyed this post inspired by a menu, and I would love to hear from you in the comments below: what are YOUR ideal starters, mains and desserts when it comes to travel, and what are your WanderLists? Tell me, tell me!!