As the New Year sets in, life is filled with new energy and new hopes which inspires in the minds of people with an itchy foot where to travel in 2023. With hardly any Covid related restrictions in place, travel gurus forecast international travel to take preference over domestic. But the big question always strikes is where to go. Based on my extensive travel experience, I suggest the following:
As the bilateral relationship between the two countries is rapidly expanding, perhaps it’s the best time to visit down under, particularly when there are 22 direct weekly flights from Bengaluru and Delhi to Sydney and Melbourne.
Australia is a vast country and there is so much to see and experience, it’s impossible to cover all of them in one visit. So, beyond the big cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane on the east coast and Perth on the west front, I suggest something off-the-beaten-track but surely placed to offer an experience of a lifetime.
If already down under, it’s worthwhile to stop for a few days in the neighboring Kiwi Land which comprises two islands – the capital Wellington and big city Auckland in the North Island and pretty Christchurch and scenic Queenstown in the South drawing the majority of the tourism crowd. However, I again suggest a location here on the North Island, generally missed by the regular tourism radar but unquestionably extraordinary, different, and pledged to pump the heart. It’s Rotorua – the planet’s geothermal heartland which George Bernard Shaw after visiting in 1934 said, “I was pleased to get so close to hell and be able to return”.
He was referring to a ghostly landscape, gurgling with mud, hissing steam vents, nasty odours, and cavernous craters and collapsing lands that have aptly made the little town a haven for nature enthusiasts.
While in the region, another destination worth visiting is New Caledonia which offers visitors a unique taste of France fused with Pacific odours. It’s a picturesque South Pacific Island discovered by British explorer James Cook in the late 17th century and held by the French since 1854.
The unique feeling of being in a French arena starts at the international airport in the capital Noumea when vocabularies like ‘Bonsoir Monsieur (Good Day Sir)’, ‘Wee (Yes), ‘Non (Non)’ and ‘Merci (Thank You)’ and so on greet ears. That feeling escalates when in town to find all billboards and street signage in French, roads occupied with Renaults and Peugeots, long sticks of baguettes displayed at the bakeries, aroma of garlic dominating in the food, well-groomed ladies walking with their dogs or giving way to a group of bike riders; we all know that the French love dogs and cycling.
If the intention is to travel close to home, chilling out for a few days in Kuala Lumpur, the dazzling capital of Malaysia can be a great option for many. With direct flights from several Indian cities, this cosmopolitan, high-energy city is often touted as a confluence of the East and the West. Ranked as the 6th most-visited city in the world in 2019, it stands today as the nation’s cultural, financial, economic, and political hub, displays a good mix of antiquity with ultra-modernism, and offers a diverse range of things to do and see.
Regular Vietnam Airlines flights from Delhi to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam make legendary leader Ho Chi Minh’s land a rewarding destination to explore for a few days. First-time visitors may spend time in Hanoi with a day trip to the world-famous Halong Bay.
Like any Indian metropolis, the city’s lively atmosphere is full of crowd, chaos and cacophony. It’s perhaps one reason why travel connoisseurs love visiting this friendly city laid with gorgeous French colonial and traditional Vietnamese architecture and teeming with history, culture, and friendliness.
Amongst several, the most lens captured are the Beaux-style former French Presidential Palace, Hanoi Opera House, St Joseph’s Cathedral and the Metropole Hotel. Not to be missed in Hanoi is browsing through the shops in the old quarter and wandering around the Hoan Kiem Lake.