The Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic has affected lives all over the globe, including ours and millions of people wishing to travel and visit iconic travel locations and wonderful destinations.
While the pandemic definitely had the most devastating impact on informal economies (particularly “no work, no pay” jobs and hand-to-mouth income brackets), the global aviation and tourism industry has also taken the economic brunt.
To get us through our collective travel deprivation despair, here’s some iconic travel locations (some quite obvious and some less known) you might want to add to your post-pandemic “revenge travel” bucket list (or even “religious places to visit”, as it turns out) once we take to the skies as borders reopen and the world is safe again.
The Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel in French) was named after Gustave Eiffel, the engineer who built it (with his company of course!), from 28 January 1887 to 31 March 1889 — a 2-years 2-months and 5-days feat of architecture! The Notre Dame Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris in French) is a 4.6km walk or 20-25min walk-metro-walk combination from the Eiffel Tower. We took the metro (from the cathedral to the tower) but if you have about an hour’s spare time and don’t mind the walk while seeing more of Paris, that could be fun to try. We visited Paris for only 8 hours back in 2015, transiting from Brussels to Copenhagen, so the spire of the cathedral which burned in the fire in 2019 is still pictured here. Make sure to visit the back of the Cathedral for a nice garden stroll.
The bronze The Little Mermaid statue is based on famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s book of the same title. Called “Den lille Havfrue” in Danish, The Little Mermaid statue was sculpted by Edvard Eriksen, showing a mermaid during her transformation to a human (forming legs and shedding her tail). It was first shown to the public in 1913 and almost a century later, traveled to Shanghai, China in 2010 with thousands of gallons of water from the same Danish harbor! Now that’s what I call traveling in style!
The Taj Mahal sits on the banks of the Yamuna River, in the same place where Mumtaz Mahal (after whom the mausoleum was named) was buried. The Taj Mahal was ordered to be built by Mumtaz Mahal’s husband, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The carvings, drawings, and colors (though not visible from afar) are quite ornate and a real masterpiece of artisans. You can see more detailed photos of the Taj Mahal, including the interiors and the actual tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan in a previous post here.
When I planned my travel to Darjeeling as part of my “Great East Indian Journey”, I didn’t know about this Shanti Stupa, or any of the other peace pagodas spread around the world. It was only coz of my travel buddy Julie that I learned about it. It’s a very serene place, even if it’s in touristy Darjeeling. It’s also quite different from all the Hindu temples and Muslim mosques around–probably owing to the fact that Buddhism is widely practiced in the neighboring countries of Bhutan and Nepal. I went to Darjeeling to see the Himalayan Mount Kanchenjunga, the 3rd highest peak in the world, and for some good old-fashioned Darjeeling tea (yes, that’s where it’s from)! I’ve created a video playlist (top right of the page for my vlog, before vlogs was invented!) in case you’re interested on the journey, including the jam-packed train from Mumbai to Kolkatta and the winding and rising roads on and old 4×4 jeep from New Jalpaiguri train station (closest possible) to Darjeeling.
There are many old, historic, and spiritual locations in India (which I absolutely loved about this subcontinent!) but Mahabodhi Temple stands out for me as one of the most solemn and interesting. Not that I ascribe to any religion, but Buddhism is one that I feel kind of relating to, or at the very least, one that fascinates me. It may be because I didn’t know much of Buddhism until I traveled around South East Asia in October 2011 wherein several of our neighboring countries practice Buddhism. So it was a great experience to see where it began–with the Mahabodhi Temple as among the first places with such significance. Apart from the centrepiece Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya was also filled with different Buddhist temples designed after the countries they represent.
I don’t remember exactly what made me decide to visit the Golden Temple in Punjab. It may be because in my growing up years, the concept of “Indian” means these men wearing turbans, on their motorcycle, lending and collecting money. Of course that notion is now disproven as India is made up by 1.2 billion people of different religions, culture, appearances, and beliefs. In any case, I am glad I visited the Harmandir Sahib, even if I was close to freezing as it was winter and I didn’t have appropriate winter clothes. I could also remember eating at the Langar Hall and volunteering to shell green peas while my hands froze! I’ve never seen that many chapatti pans and daal cauldrons in my life!
I embarked on a 4-week journey around Southeast Asia back in 2011 and the Thailand and Cambodia leg was full of amazing Wat or temple in every style, design, shape, and colors! The Wat Phra Kaeo is undeniably among the most popular to visit and photograph among all the temples in the Royal Palace complex. The central base of the Ubosot (ordination hall) is decorated with 112 golden Garuda, a symbol of Thailand and of great strength (check out my blog banner on top for a close up of the Garudas). The Thailand Royal Palace complex is quite vast, so some people don’t venture anymore to actually see the Royal Palace! But it’s there, and it’s a magnificent display of Thai architecture so make sure not to miss it!
Brunei does not lack of mesmerizing mosques and intricate Old Malay architecture and culture, much like its neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia. No visit to Bandar Seri Begawan, the nation’s capital, will be complete without visiting the Sultan Omar Ali Saiffuidien Mosque (SOAS), for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The gold domes and the marble minarets make for a great visual display of Brunei’s wealth, religion, and architectural prowess. The waterfront location also provides a great stage to showcase the 16th century traditional Royal Barge.