The enterprising folk over at tripbase (thanks to Rob for letting me know) are busy collectively picking the brains of people with an affinity for different-looking scenery, exploratory bus rides and otherwise off-the-well-paved-path travel. They are looking for three travel secrets from anyone who has them – places you were completely wowed by, would love to return to, but are pretty sure that most people haven’t realised exist yet.
It’s hard for me to condense the last few years to just three places (damn you, rules), and not to be able to use things like Angkor Wat, which are popular precisely because they are just so fabulously interesting. Drat. That said, the first three places that come to mind that are well enough off the busy circuit to be admissible would be these:
I am not entirely sure what its name was – or whether that name has yet been reliably transliterated into English, but the halfway stop point between the capital city of Laos, Vientiane and the popular backpacker destination of Luang Prabhang is definitely a favourite. The full story of ending up their in transit is covered here, and while it is not a place to really explore or to overnight in, I have not since been through a scene which more powerfully drove home the realisation of being a million miles from home, in an utterly fascinating and new world.
So if you take the Vientiane-Luang Prabhang bus, be sure to get off wherever it stops and look around. Take in your surroundings deeply and see if they look anything like the masthead of this blog (the photo I snapped quickly before boarding again and have treasured ever since).
It was the place that I first realised that those experiences in the glossy magazines of hammocks, a pina colada that you made yourself and the sound of wind on palm trees, do in fact exist. It’s also not easy to get to, with a 9-hour no-stops bus ride from the country’s capital Maputo, to the town of Vilanculo where these shores await. But the bath warm seas and dhows just down the road for a bit of Caribbean-style exploring, when heaped upon the bit about pina coladas and hammocks make it so very, very, worth the work you put in to arrive.
I count this as a destination, because anywhere that you have to remain for 45 hours (up to 88 if it breaks down allegedly) can surely be thought of as a destination. During the course of your travels, you will see some the most beautiful and un-touristified views of Southern Africa and have no choice but to start the conversations with your cabin-mates that you will remember years down the line.
So those are mine. Well, some of them anyway. Have you ever found yourself in a place you have since held onto as a special memory, fairly sure that the rest of the world has no clue about it?